amazing and cool shit, horrific mistakes, potentially useful information, sketches say it all, things I love, tom being tom

…flower pot duck…


Sometimes things are best illustrated in analogy. Years ago, long before I started writing this blog, I always thought somewhere, somehow, I would share this particular culinary experience. I realized that I had never gotten around to it…

Of course before I do, I’ll talk first for a moment about the Ford Pinto. It’s similar in so many ways. So many good intentions, influences and ideas, which somehow came together into a perfect and synergistic black hole of absolute crap. An inexplicable combination where the sum of the parts become worse – in orders of magnitude – than any of them could ever be on their own. Each one adding to some harmonic frequency which, instead of creating a higher tone, creates a perfect brown note.

There’s not much to add to the tale of the Pinto, other than to whet your conscience and frame the story in the proper context.

As with all truly great ideas, this one didn’t come out of nowhere. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, after all. I’m not blaming them – it’s our choice which direction on the horizon we look.

Some background. A neighbor of mine procured a commercial grade Tandoor oven at some point right before I began entertaining this idea… Not long prior, I watched a show about nomads cooking a goat in some sort of giant pot, buried in the sand out in the desert… I found a big terra cotta pot at the side of my house which had sat unused for some number of years. It had a base piece which also flipped over and fit perfectly as a lid… I watched another show where people cooked ducks in a wood fired oven… I bought a duck and was looking for something different to do with it…


I had the brilliant idea of using my Weber BBQ to set the pot in. I had the brilliant idea of mounding charcoal (a full 10lb bag) around the perimeter of the pot, tapering it up the sides as high as I could. I set it on fire while I prepared the duck…

In hindsight, it really doesn’t matter what I put inside the duck, but at the time I didn’t know – so I stuffed it with some orange, onion, and ginger and rubbed the skin with some soy sauce…


I came up with a really nice way of trussing it, too. I found some wire and fashioned a sort of support to span the diameter of the opening.

I remember as I was lowering the duck into that pot, which was almost glowing red, I had no idea what the temperature was/is of burning charcoal briquets (apparently they can get up to 1800 degrees fahrenheit…). I remember thinking I’d perhaps used a few too many coals…

I’m not certain which actually happened first – it really doesn’t matter because it was a perfect cascade of poor conception and execution all bearing their fruit at one moment in time. The pot cracked and spewed boiling duck fat into the coals which ignited into monstrous and rancid flames. The trussing twine evaporated – along with the support wire – which caused the now blackened (yet raw) duck to settle into a layer of terra cotta shards and flaming duck fat.

I remember wrapping my arm in a towel, grabbing the longest pair of tongs I owned, eventually pulling the duck out of the inferno. I remember how frighteningly ugly it looked after a few scant minutes… I remember the fear of thinking I might very well set my house on fire…

I think back on it now and realize that the best gift that life has to offer is time and distance from the past… It’s the magic element that turns almost everything mistake into something worth laughing about…


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