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November 21, 2005

Why I Love America (Reason #344): Turducken

Breastofturducken_1Being the son of immigrant parents, I certainly had my fair share of unusual Thanksgivings.  Attempting to "fit in", my family always tried emulating the festive poultry-based celebrations that we saw around us but, most of the time, it was just too damn hard.  Instead, we simply ordered in Chinese food, headed over to the TV set, and stared longingly at those succulently-basted golden turkeys surrounded by corpulent excesses of chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauces, and sweet potato pies.  It was always a remarkable sight. 

After our family's afternoon meal, I would always sit down to watch some Thanksgiving NFL football with my father.  Now, most of my regular readers know that I've always been a huge sports fan.  And I'm sure I'll post about it again in greater detail sometime but I just want to briefly explain exactly why sports were so important to me as a child.  See...being a minority kid in a predominantly white town, sports were my great equalizer.  Sports were always an arena for me where I could prove myself, excel beyond the norm and become accepted for who I was.  Nobody gave me shit on the ball field or on the court.  As long as I kept scoring goals, throwing touchdowns, shooting 3s and winning matches?  Nobody really cared that I was "different."  That's why I've always believed it's true when they say that sports is the last true dominion of a color-blind society. 

But, for me, there was more to it than that.  Sports also provided a bridge over the enormous generational and cultural gap that separated me and my father.  Watching sports together and talking about the games was often the only bond that we ever had.  Sure, it was superficial.  But you know what?  Many times, it was all we had to cling on to.  So, every Thanksgiving (no matter how strange and dysfunctional), we'd sit down and watch football together.   And listen to John Madden. 

And that's when I learned about Turducken.  Listening to Madden discuss the gastronomical beauty of a turkey stuffed with a duck, which itself is stuffed with a chicken, was beyond reality.  As a young boy, having just finished his Thanksgiving entree of Moo Shoo Chicken, this was mind-boggling.  Holy crap, this was a great fucking country!  As if eating a giant turkey wasn't enough, someone actually invented something even greater...Turducken!  Only in America would this happen.  And in a strange way, Turducken came to symbolize everything that was great about this country. 

So, ever since I was a little kid, I've been obsessed with Turducken.  I think about it every Thanksgiving.  I'll go to restaurants and talk to chefs about it.  I'll call up butchers in the South and discuss the latest variations (like pig turducken or more recently, osturducken.)  I'll discuss it with my friends so much that they'll leave the room whenever I bring up the subject!  I just can't help myself.   

I seem to be the only one who realizes the symbolic importance of Turducken.  What other country could ever invent this perfect meal?  Sure, nobody else celebrates Thanksgiving quite like we do but think about it!  The French would probably eat a Cornish game hen.  The Russians would serve vodka-infused pheasant.  And the Japanese would eat thin slices of Teriyaki chicken.  Fuck that!  Us Americans?  We're not satisfied with the giant fucking turkey stuffed with various cornucopias and surrounded by enough side dishes to give the whole family a heart attack!  No, as a nation, we strive to be better...and bigger!  And for me, it's Turducken that symbolizes that inquisitive desire to soar higher.  After all, who else would think of deep-frying a Mars bar?  That's right, baby.  U.S.A.!!!  U.S.A.!!!

So it's with mixed emotions that I witness the growing popularity of Turducken.  On the one hand, I'm glad that this dish is getting the long overdue respect that it deserves.  On the other hand, I'm getting that strange feeling when something subdued and special that belonged in a special part of your soul becomes exposed to a mass audience...mixed emotions all around.  But thinking about it now?  I'm glad Turducken is getting more and more popular.  Because aside from opposable thumbs, the societal quest to soar to ever-greater heights is what separates us from the animals. 

Amazing what we can learn from poultry, isn't it? 

God bless Turducken!  And God bless the good-old U.S. of A. 

(P.S. For those of you who really know what a dork I am, I'll leave you with the additional fact that this method of cooking is actually quite ancient. The technical term is engastration, from Greek words meaning “in the belly”. A well-known English example of the nineteenth century was Pandora’s Cushion, a goose stuffed with a chicken, which was stuffed with a pheasant, itself stuffed with a quail.)



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