Quack Quack

When I was in 4th grade, I came home sick from school one day to find my mother slaughtering our gaggle of ducks. To be fair, I knew in advance that she was going to do this. But, being nine, I did not really understand the scope or consequences. I went in through the back gate on the advice of my in-town grandma, Nana, who had collected me from school. The first clue was the little rope hanging from a redwood tree, the feathers ringing the inside of the noose. Apparently, that did not work out so well as I found out when I entered the sliding back door off the back patio, an overwhelming stench greeting me and permeating the whole house.

Stunned, I sat in a chair in the family room watching my mother singe feathers at the kitchen sink. After about 10 minutes I asked Nana to take me back to school. She obliged. For a year or two, I would gag every time I went to the freezer in the garage and saw those tiny oblong bodies lying next to the ice cream. Under protest, I never ate a bite then or since.

Today, however, in the capital of Peking Duck, I was cured.

Ty, our tour guide, took us to the “hot and noisy” (a Beijing term to describe the atmosphere) the flagship restaurant of Guang Ju De, a three story restaurant in the center of town, nicknamed Big Duck. There are several other locations, one near a hospital called Sick Duck. We were the only foreigners or Big Noses (da bis?). The ducks are force fed at a ranch outside of town to get them big and fat. “Cruel!” Thing 3, my nine year old, proclaimed.

We ordered the set meal and a few other items, nicely labeled in English, along with our one big roasted crispy brown duck. The duck was a far cry from the pale and puny imitator my mother served up in the early Seventies. Robust, it fairly gleamed with confidence, knowing it would satisfy all comers. The duck slicer, if he is worth his salt, can slice the duck into 186 slices of crispy duck skin and meat. Bundle a few slices in a pancake with some plum sauce and scallion and you have a tasty little packet of duck love. Things 2 & 3 abstained from the duck fest. Thing 2 had had two duck sandwiches the day before which did not settle well with his tummy, the contents of which came rushing back at him at 11:30 at night the day before. Thing 3 balked on grounds of cruelty. Sigh. That is the sound of history repeating itself.

We received a certificate in an envelope with the trillionth duck number served since 1864 which I think I will frame for posterity. On the one hand, I am glad my mother is not tromping everywhere with us. The sights here involve a lot of walking. Today, for instance, we saw the Capital Museum and the Temple of Heaven and a group of Chinese families with adopted Chinese babies, a sight the tour guide had never seen before. Maybe we can just go on a food tour instead?



Filed under Family, Fine Dining, Travel

7 responses to “Quack Quack

  1. gamamãe

    Dona Meire Cat – Estou com saudades. This entry reminded me of 2 things –
    1)Watching my vóvó getting poultry drunk with cachaça before chopping their heads off (yes they do run around without them). Aparently being drunk diminishes adrenaline levels and doesn´t make the meat tough when you cook it. I have a hard time making a dish known as drunk chicken, even if it is super easy – because of the images it conjures up.
    2) In Boston/brookline there is a great chinese restaurant( take note for july) called Chef Changs. There is a special guy( it may be chef chang himself) , who might be 103, who comes out with The Duck and slices it table side with great flourish and fan fare. Clapping when he is done is, expected. When pregnant with child 1.0, I wanted duck man to ” bless me”/touch my belly with his perfect, wrinkle free hands( must be the duck fat), for I was sure he had/has some mystical power. Perhaps I was just impressed with his 186 slices of duck fanned out on the platter with scallion brushes and plum sauce?
    I am envious of your certificate!

  2. klab


    Love the image of Radish plucking duck!! Quelle fortitude!

    And the story thing reminds me of fois gras. The fact is that there is some gore involved in many delicious things. Especially when duck are concerned.

  3. What I want to know is why if you can get on the computer, Mr. Radish can not. I am missing the food. But I have had my own food experiences here in Houston. And in support of you, we ate at P.F. Chang’s yesterday.
    The duck story is only topped by my honey story. I and two other women harvested honey from my friends honeycomb, and we put it in machine which withdrew the honey by centrifical force. It was hot, we were in our bras and the honey flew everywhere in my friends kitchchen. This is the same friend who talked me into ducks. She was my friend because she had a swimming pool. On the way home Margaret who was stupidly told by me to hold the gallon of honey on her lap dropped the honey jar, and I had a gallon of honey on the seats and the floor. I still feel very bad about getting mad at Margaret. If there is a time where a kids psychic gets hurt. This was the time.

  4. Mood Ring Momma

    Mom – This explains everything. No wonder I’m so neurotic – it was the honey incident. 🙂

  5. Tom

    Just how bad is the smog in Beijing? I’ve seen pictures on the news that make it look like you could choke to death within minutes.

  6. expatprincess

    Greetings! There must be lots going on in the news because I cannot access my email. Hmmmm …. We arrived in Xi’an today. Princess Ai Lin is here too, although in much swankier digs. This is a city of 4 million + 4 more in the ‘burbs. There was no smog when we were in Beijing – it was really windy but it started raining lightly today and the air quality was bad. But not as bad as you’d think. Will try again tomorrow.

  7. Pingback: Jesus IS Bigger Than Football (and Tom Brady’s Deflated Balls) | Memoirs of an Expat Princess

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