What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck - Advent Calendar, Holiday Foods

(This is a re post of a piece written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2010.)

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) "God Bless Us, Everyone." So says Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens' famous tale, A Christmas Carol. A fitting wrap up to a heart-warming story. Feast and food play an important part in the tale--the giant turkey, the plum pudding, the roast goose. I get the tingles just thinking about it. But not in a good way.

I read A Christmas Carol for the first time in eighth grade English class. Oh, that story made such an impression on me. One of the other English classes, not mine of course, actually got to stage a Dickens-style feast, complete with costumes, in our junior high cafeteria. Why couldn't my class do that? No Salisbury steak, instant mashed potatoes, and gray green beans in the cafeteria that day, but a real honest to goodness Dickens-style feast. I was so jealous.

I must have mentioned my disappointment to my mom. She came up with a brilliant idea. Why couldn't we stage our own Dickens feast right at home? She would make a goose and a couple of the other traditional English dishes for our celebration. Sounds good on paper right?

Well off mom went to the grocery store, but apparently back in the mid-1970s goose was hard to come by in Worcester, MA. No luck on the goose front. She did find a duck though. Mom figured that would be acceptable. I agreed. Mr. Dickens would most heartily approve. So home we went with our duck ready and willing to prepare our feast.

Mom, not knowing anything about duck, decided to prepare the duck the way she usually prepared turkey. This was back in the day when those turkey cooking bags were new to the grocery market. Mom was all for making things easier in the kitchen, so in went the duck, into a cooking bag. Mom also had heard that ducks can be kind of greasy, so she decided to put a trivet underneath the duck, inside the cooking bag so the grease could drip off into the bottom of the pan. Mom tied up the bag, and put the entire bag and it's contents into a pan, and faster than you can say Bleak House, the duck was in the oven. Our Dickens of a feast would be on the table in no time.

There was one fatal flaw in this plan. You knew there had to be one, right? Mom forgot to cut holes in the cooking bag to let steam out. Oops. While the duck was cooking away in the oven I was in the kitchen helping mom to prepare the rest of the meal. All of a sudden boom! An explosion! I looked over to the stove. Through the glass oven door I saw the duck, bag, trivet and all, blow up, hit the top of the oven, and plop back down in the pan! Being the nervous type I went for the kitchen fire extinguisher. Mom, not being the nervous type, told me to put away the fire extinguisher. The duck was fine. I wasn't doing so well.

Later on that evening, we did have our feast. Duck and all. Even after it blew up it turned out fine. I know this may come as a surprise, but we never had duck again. Lesson learned. NEVER forget to cut holes in the cooking bag.

Aah, those warm holiday memories of Christmas Past. Now let me tell you about the time my mom set fire to the turkey...

God Bless Us, Everyone.

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Michelle Goodrum said...

Glad you posted this story again. I was thinking about it the other day and laughing to myself. Its a classic. Thanks for brightening my day once again!

Joan said...

Ohk, my, you would fit right in with some of our cooking escapades. My mother was fondly known as "old scorch", but it became a family joke when we started naming other cooks by number, "old scorch 2. 3. and so on/

Thanks for the holiday laugh.

Kristin said...

Looking forward to reading about the turkey your mother set fire too. I like the way she was so cool and you all still got to eat that turkey.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Thank you all for your comments! I was at the grocery store the other day and happened to look in the frozen turkey case. What else did I spy in there next to the turkeys? Goose and duck. I bet you can guess what's not going to be on my holiday menu this year...

Michelle - I'm glad you enjoyed it the second time around!

Joan - I love the title "old scorch!" And to have more than one in a family, wow! I bet meals were lively at your house!

Kristin - Mom was cool about it. Nothing much fazed her. Funny you mention the turkey. Make sure you check back later in the month... ;>