Why Aren’t You Having Duck for Dinner?

Image of a platter Peking duck
Photo Credit: Héctor Tabaré

I enjoyed my first taste of the unbridled joy that is duck in my early twenties, while attending a gathering at the Manhattan apartment of an acquaintance and writing companion. I found intrigue at the refreshment table in an award-winning New York horror author who, having tasted a portion of grilled meat from a platter positioned before us, exclaimed “My god, this is so evil.”

He delivered the assessment between lip smacks, his face telling blue food tales on which his mouth could not expound because although I stood awaiting further exposition, he refused to empty it. This was endorsement enough for me. At that moment, I had never in life wanted or needed anything so badly as to know what evil tastes like, since the virtual out-of-body experience that I stood witnessing told me it was likely to be delicious. So I selected and bit into a smallish piece of grilled, boneless duck, and in so doing, discovered evil’s true face.

Although I’ve forgotten many events and conversations of that evening, I recall distinctly how I spent the remainder of the gathering: seeking, in avoidance of embarrassing myself with open repeated visitations to that platter, to covertly enjoy as much of its content as I possibly could without being observed in acquiring it. Because evil is tastiest when enjoyed discreetly, when its edges are crisped to seal in its juiciness, when its fat is blackened by grill fires that lick the aroma of hickory smoke into the meat.

For clarification’s sake, that’s “evil” as in compellingly delicious as only things believed to be bad for us can be or ever are. “Evil” as in having deftly, and from first tasting, dominated all other game birds to have before or since touched my palate. And although people like my author friend may continue to equate perceived nutritional detriment with its somewhat high fat content, duck becomes very easy to enjoy with minimal guilt once one realizes that duck consumed in moderation also carries benefits. According to data available from the USDA Agricultural Research Service, duck is a generous source of such vitamins and minerals as iron, selenium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and zinc. If that isn’t enough to draw one to the dark side, then its high content of protein and amino acids should massage the tortured conscience of the most health-conscious taster.

This is not to advocate irresponsible behavior, however, when making decisions about what we eat. But certainly one’s attention to intake of fat, calories, and cholesterol should not be solely confined to those foods we regard as tasty-but-malevolent saboteurs of our well-being. These are levels best monitored daily in a balanced diet encompassing a variety of foods. Given that duck, despite its lean variety possessing a nutrient composition comparable to other lean meats, is generally consumed with lesser frequency than beef, pork, or chicken, its occasional addition to one’s menu can make for an exciting change of dietary routine without utterly compromising one’s priorities regarding healthy eating. Maintaining one’s nutritional standards doesn’t have to remain forever separate from enjoyment of evil’s deliciousness. By taking measures as simple as adjusting the amounts of other menu items to be served with it, or favoring leg portions and skinless breast over whole fowl and fattier sections, one can enjoy the succulence that is well-prepared duck, and do so with minimal sacrifice.

It should be obvious by this point that only facetiously do I persist in referencing “evil” when speaking of duck and its consumption, which I hope will continue to grow as people discover that not all spectacularly delicious things are necessarily as bad for them as previously believed, and needn’t be avoided like the proverbial plague. On the other hand, knowingly depriving oneself of enjoying one of life’s tastiest and most versatile edible pleasures: now there’s some evil for you.

Food Value of Duck, W.F. Dean, Ph.D: http://www.duckhealth.com/foodvalu.html
USDA Agricultural Research Service: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/index.html

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