Kage Baker did not eat ducks. Ever. In fact, she preached against it.
She had a moral objection to eating ducks, having known one little white duck socially as a very small child. All her memories of Duck were good, and so she would never eat his kin afterwards. I think The Story About Ping, that tale of our childhood, had some influence there, too. She loved that story.
The fact that ducks are all dark meat had nothing to do with it, Kage always maintained. True, she didn’t eat the dark meat of chickens or turkeys; but she had consented to try goose – when we were adults, and I was on a 16th century cooking binge – and admitted that dark meat, per se, was not objectionable. Besides, geese are wildly unpleasant people, as anyone who grew up anywhere near Griffith Park or its Zoo, Ferndale, Echo Lake or the L.A. River can testify. Years at the Renaissance Faire, which was often lousy with enormous bad-tempered grey geese, only reinforced the impression that a goose’s best moment was while steaming on a platter.
Kage’s fondness for the China Towns in both Los Angeles and San Francisco also contributed to her refusal to eat ducks, I think. All those windows and shop fronts with golden, dried, dead ducks swinging gently in the breeze – complete with heads and feet – were too much for Kage, culinarily. She admitted their cultural importance, and the ambiance they gave the streets – but she was wont to go off into dark speculations about whether they were actually dead and ready for the table, or … zombie ducks. ANGRY zombie ducks.
Anyway, she wouldn’t eat them. I, lacking Kage’s finer sentiments, got an occasional mouthful of pressed duck at other people’s Chinese food feasts, but mostly went without.
However. Kimberly has no such compunctions. She roasted a beautiful pair of ducks this week, which were hailed as a triumph by the gentlemen of the family (including Harry). Kim goes on the theory that the main attraction of a roasted duck is crispy, crackling, savoury skin, and these were perfect. However, there is actual meat on a duck; and so tonight the tidily trimmed remains of the ducks are simmering on the stove to produce a good broth.
Kimberly’s husband Ray is an alumnus of Fredonia University, you see. Yes, there really is a Fredonia University, in upstate New York, and that’s where Ray got his degree in physics. The place’s tenuous connection to reality may be why he’s a theoretical physicist; all I know is, he’s claimed for the last 30 years that that’s why he can’t use power tools … anyway, in his honour, we are making duck soup.
And if, Dear Readers, any of you don’t understand this reference – don’t tell me! Go Google it and educate yourself, if so. It would break an old woman’s heart to think anyone would not understand how Fredonia U. and duck soup go together.
Anyway – the ex-ducks are simmering into a lovely broth right now. We’ve added a generous amount of sage, and a soupcon of poultry seasoning; onions, celery and carrots have gone in, as will fresh leeks very soon. Wild rice will seethe in it all eventually. It will be rich with savoury dark meat, and I think will be a triumph.
Kimberly has the soup-making gene, thank all the gods. Our mother did not – while otherwise an inspired cook, her soups were like something out of the Necronomicon: not one of the incantatory recipes, one of the inhabitants. It stemmed from her inability to discern what sort and how much of any given noodle was appropriate in a soup … and I think, to her insistence on adding beans that looked like eyeballs. Anyway, not even the dog would eat that stuff.
This, though, is a clear golden broth with wholesome grain and veggies in it, and no trace of noodly evil. There is a time and place for noodles, and duck soup is not one of them.
I think even Kage might eat this. Maybe not. But she’d have to admit it’s an exemplary soup; especially on an evening when a late storm is bearing down on Los Angeles. Kage could always get on with art for art’s sake – even if she insisted on eating peanut butter toast to honor little Duck’s memory.