Gobble, Quack, Cluck

If the Pilgrims had been multitaskers, someone might have hatched the idea of turducken long ago

November 23, 2006|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,SUN REPORTER

Remember when we were thankful for the turkey?

Sure, we liked our side dishes, and the more the better, but for the Thanksgiving entree we were content with one big, stuffed, golden brown bird. It was, in itself, a bounty.

Nowadays, it seems a bounty is not enough.

In many homes, when Thanksgiving dinner comes to the table this year, it may not be merely a bird that guests "ooh" and "ah" over, but a bird within a bird within a bird - specifically, a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey, or, as it has unfortunately become known:

Turducken.

It's poultry cubed; a fowl trifecta; it's three, three, three birds in one - and, according to Yahoo!, it was the most sought out recipe on its Internet search site the week before Thanksgiving, topping the favorite of previous years, deep fried turkey.

An immodest merging of meats, turducken originated in America (where else?) at least 20 years ago - although who invented it is a matter of dispute.

A National Geographic article last year traced its origins to Hebert's Specialty Meats in Maurice, La., where a customer in 1985 made the special request. New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme, meanwhile, claims he was making it back in the 1960s.

Whatever its genesis, the recipe - simply debone all three birds, fill each with a bread and/or sausage stuffing, then place the chicken in the duck, the duck in the turkey, sew it all up and pop it in the oven - is growing more popular each year.

And while critics (rest assured, it doesn't have the PETA seal of approval) see it as typically wasteful American overindulgence, turducken is proving to be more than a just a flash in the roasting pan. The idea of three birds in one is catching on.

Why?

There are, appropriately enough, three reasons (not counting John Madden, the football player within a coach within a broadcaster who has been touting turducken on the air for years).

First, humans seem to have an instinctive fondness for things that come in threes - from the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; from name, rank and serial number to no hits, no runs, no men left on. There were three blind mice, three little pigs, three wise men, three bears and three rings in P.T. Barnum's circus. Three has rhythm. Four's too much. Two's too little. The third time's the charm. Our brains, our eyes, maybe even our bellies, like things in threes.

Second, as a species, we like putting things inside other things. Perhaps it's Freudian. Perhaps it goes back to childhood. We hammered the round pegs into the round holes (well, at least most of us did), then watched cartoons in which a fish gets eaten by a bigger fish, which in turn gets eaten by a bigger fish yet. As adults, we like cup holders, and pretty much anything that comes in a case.

Third, and most important (and third is always most important), we are a country of multitaskers - partly because we're busy, partly because we're easily bored. We need near-constant stimulation, bigger kicks, new combos.

Some mergers - peanut butter and jelly, the clock and radio, to name two - were OK, but now we're overdoing it. We're going to extremes. In the 21st century, it's not enough for something to be functional; it must be multifunctional, preferably to the power of three. If we have two good things, we merge them, slap on a third for good measure and call it "innovative," "revolutionary" or "state of the art."

Fusion is the trend and the future, which is unfortunate - once again, for three reasons.

One, the more functions something has, the less likely any of them are to work well, such as those tiny scissors on the Swiss Army knife.

Two, the more purposes something serves, the more difficult it is to figure out, whether it's your telephone/camera/television, your DVD-playing, Internet-accessing, video-game playing Playstation 3, or even yourself.

There's a company in California (where else?) called Three-In-One Concepts, that specializes in the latter, offering a "gentle, non-invasive and remarkably effective system to assist individuals in integrating body, mind and spirit." (Apparently, up to now, they've been attending separate schools.) It will be offering three-day seminars in Burbank in December, with a discount if you sign up for all three. (I know this because I looked it up on the Internet, then printed it out on my printer/scanner/copier.)

The third reason? It is this: As we venture deeper into the sea of multifunction, we, as a society, are in imminent danger of losing our appreciation for the "one good thing."

Taco Bell, for instance, took its taco - a perfectly fine combination of meat, lettuce and cheese in a crispy taco shell - and encased it, shell and all, in a pita (Mexico meets the Mediterranean) that is covered with yet more cheese (three kinds) to create the Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

With the "three-in-one" claiming everything from our turkeys to our souls, there's no telling where it's headed next.

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