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Many of us have heard of this gastronomic marvel, which in the USA is associated with Thanksgiving and to a lesser extent with July 4. A chicken is stuffed inside a duck inside a turkey — the inner two deboned first and themselves stuffed with such delights as sausage, cornbread, or oyster.

A culinary chimera, the turducken might be thought to stand on the same level of gustatory invention as the notorious Glaswegian deep-fried Mars bar, though those who have tried it say it’s quite tasty. Some chefs draw away in horror from it, citing the excessive amounts of skin and fat and the high risk of bacterial problems because it is so hard to ensure that all three birds are properly cooked through.

This method of cooking is actually quite ancient, with recipes from medieval times that were often much more complicated still. The technical term for the process is engastration, from Greek words meaning “in the belly”. A well-known English example of the nineteenth century was Pandora’s Cushion, a boned goose stuffed with a boned chicken, which was stuffed with a boned pheasant, itself stuffed with a boned quail.

If the turducken were not enough, a news article from 1997 said that a store in Louisiana was experimenting with a pigturducken, though nothing has been heard of it since. And a rumour has reached me via the Internet that South Africans have gone one better, producing an osturducken, in which the whole concoction is stuffed inside an ostrich. However, this may possibly be an urban legend, because the only reports come from somebody who has heard of it from somebody else.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 09 Jul 2005