The Frankenstein monster, that crude assemblage of body parts stitched into an ill-fated attempt to recreate life, has at least one counterpart in our nation’s kitchens—the “turducken.”
More than mere portmanteau, the legendary dish comprises a whole turkey, stuffed with a whole duck, which, in turn, is stuffed with a whole chicken, all in a manner that recalls Russian nesting dolls. It is, in a word, “fowl.”
The turducken has at least two potential fathers. Cajun-Creole fusion chef Paul Prudhomme proffered turducken as early as 1983 in Duvall, Washington, and none other than venerable journalist Calvin Trillin attributes the origin of the beast(s) to Herbert’s Specialty Meats of Maurice, Louisiana, which likewise has produced commercial turduckens since the mid-’80s.
No matter what caché being the father of the turducken may confer upon these pioneers of gastronomy, neither has come anywhere near the nested-bird-extravaganza known as the Rôti Sans Pareil, or “Roast without equal,” which transpired in France during the early 19th century. All tolled, 17 birds were stuffed, one within the other, in a gustatory orgy that has yet to be repeated on civilized plates. A bustard was stuffed with a turkey, stuffed with a goose, stuffed with a pheasant, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a guinea fowl, stuffed with a teal, stuffed with a woodcock, stuffed with a partridge, stuffed with a plover, stuffed with a lapwing, stuffed with a quail, stuffed with a thrush, stuffed with a lark, stuffed with an Ortolan Bunting, stuffed with (finally) a garden warbler. The warbler is so petite it could only be stuffed with a single olive. Whether or not that olive had a pimento lodged in it is lost to history (where it belongs).
A related, if less taxidermic, trend is the annual carving up of what are known as “heritage” turkeys. Like the “heritage” trend in everything from tomatoes to radishes, the turkeys are likewise rarer, weirder-looking and more expensive. They also look like dinosaurs. The Dinobuzz page at the University of California Museum of Paleontology elucidates:
“Ask your average paleontologist who is familiar with the phylogeny of vertebrates and they will probably tell you that yes, birds are dinosaurs… and (strange as it may sound) birds are technically considered reptiles,” it reads. “In fact, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of birds being the descendants of a maniraptoran dinosaur, probably something similar (but not identical) to a small dromaeosaur.”
Yum. Kind of makes one’s appetite go the way of the dino, or dodo, or whatever? Pass the Tofurky.
Daedalus Howell is thankful to give it all away at DaedalusHowell.com.