Monday, August 24, 2009

Roast Duck-

No, this is not a recipe. I suppose there is a philosophy of cooking, perhaps even a philosophy of recipes, but this is not a blog on that aspect of cooking. In fact, it is not about cooking. Not really.

I like to watch the Travel Channel when I watch television. That, or Food Network. I like travel, and I like eating. The shows that combine these things are my favorites.

Anthony Bourdain has a show called No Reservations. I really like his style. He does a lot of the writing for the show, and his narration is a bit cynical without being harsh and unpleasantly caustic. He is also willing to be surprised by positive aspects of his experiences as he travels, meets people and eats a lot of different foods.

In one episode he is sampling roast duck in the backwaters of China. The video shows the roasting pit, and the ducks, and the man doing the roasting. Anthony quips about the extended experience of the man roasting the duck. His observation is that a man who has roasted duck for forty years will probably produce an excellent roast duck.

If I recall correctly, Anthony did indeed find the duck to be excellent.

It caused me to wonder, however, about a man who would roast ducks for forty years. A man who probably received the duck roasting recipes and techniques and even the business as a family legacy.

Forty years. Roast duck. Probably duck done by time honored techniques and tradition. Generations of duck roasting.

Part of me wants to be such an expert at something. Part of me is horrified by the prospect of roasting ducks for the whole of a lifetime.

Granted, in much of the world a man (or woman) who received a successful family business and the skills to run that business would consider themselves lucky. Though the work is long and hard and ever so much the same, it is also valued and skilled and allows for a good life without too much suffering. Perhaps even a very good life, relative to the context in which it is being lived.

This should give me perspective on my own life. I have lived very well, and in the context of human history I am a man of great wealth. I have more than enough to eat, and eat more than I need all too often. I live indoors when I wish. I have family, and steady employment. I, in company with a major bank, own a home. I own land, a thing coveted by generations of humans.

My health is pretty good. It is great, most of the time, and even when it hasn't been it has not brought about long-term adversity. I do not struggle against those who would take my wealth or freedom or health, except in a very general and extremely indirect way.

I have not been compelled to roast ducks for forty years of my life. In fact, I have never roasted a duck, though I actually would like to do so. I have chosen to do some things I have not found fulfilling in order to fund the balance of my life, but no one thing for forty years. I perceive this as a price I pay for a relatively good life.

Is a roaster of ducks for forty years a man fulfilled? Anthony Bourdain may speak with admiration for such a man, but Anthony moved on in his chosen field and then moved out into related broadcasting. He paid some serious dues, but he was never a roaster of ducks for forty years.

In thinking on the roasting of ducks I find more questions than answers.

It also leaves me hungry.