Food Stuff

Feb 24, 1999 at 12:00 am


Seems there was this old geezer in Maurice, La., who ambled into Hebert’s Specialty Meats one day in 1985. He had a turkey, a duck and a chicken, all recently deceased at his own hands, and he asked co-owner Widley Hebert Jr. to debone the birds and stuff one inside the other. Duck inside turkey, chicken inside duck. No one knows why.

Hebert did it, and the turducken was born. Later, celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme came along and trademarked the name – "claimed the fame" – says Hebert, whose old-time Cajun accent is worth listening to.

There’s now a booming turducken industry, with a slew of little companies shipping triple-birds in dry ice all over the country.

This phenomenon falls in the category of: To what lengths will people go to experience a new food sensation? Actually, to eat a turducken, all you have to do is order and pay for it – about $110 including shipping. Someone else has to remove all those bones, make three different stuffings, and insert the birds.

Interviewing a handful of turducken makers, I asked why it was worth the trouble. They mentioned the novelty; the "pretty presentation"; the easy carving; the lack of a carcass afterwards.

The main reason, as I know from experience, is that a turducken is delicious. There’s a layer of stuffing between each two birds – say crawfish and rice, or alligator, or eggplant and brown rice. In each slice you get at least two kinds of meat and a dressing, expertly spiced the Cajun way, and each serving varies as you go deeper.

On his Web site, Prudhomme recommends you make your turducken yourself – it takes 12 hours to cook, and even longer to prepare. He gives detailed deboning and stuffing instructions.

But Hebert says a beginner is bound to mess up. He starts his new employees on the chickens, which can be hidden deep inside.

The turducken craze took off in 1996, after a Wall Street Journal story. John Madden eats one on his TV show each Thanksgiving now.

Hebert’s branch in Tulsa estimates that it shipped 1,200 turduckens last holiday season, with another surge for Super Bowl Sunday, and the All Cajun Food Co. in Breaux Bridge, La. says about the same.

When my brother heard we were going to have turducken for Christmas, his first thought was, "Great opportunity for limericks."

I reproduce here one of his four efforts:

One day I was makin’ a turducken,

Bones removin’, feathers a-pluckin’.

As the duck entered the hen

And the gobbler joined in

I thought, "Hmmm, those birds are funny."

Meanwhile, one Prudhomme fan claims that the "traditional South African version" uses four birds, producing an osturducken. Big Bird, look out!

To order a turducken, call Hebert’s Specialty Meats’ Tulsa branch at 918-298-8400. Owner is Ed Richard (ree-shard). Or contact the All Cajun Food Co. at 800-858-3211. Or check out several other possibilities at the Gumbo Pages Web site. Gobble-gobble, quack-quack, cluck-cluck.– Jane Slaughter


Smoke it up at Mac & Ray’s (30675 N. River Rd., Harrison Twp.; 810-463-9660, ext. 429) this Thursday, Feb. 25, at a classic cigar dinner. Food includes peppered beef tenderloin, stogies are by Davidoff Family, cognac is Martel, tickets are $115 per person. ... Kids from the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan are participating in the Annual World Vision 30-Hour Famine this Friday, Feb. 26. They’re hoping to raise money to fight world hunger and poverty. To pledge a donation, call 313-833-7543.