The Gutta-Percha Duck

December 25, 2015

The story I am about to share is a Morrow family heirloom; rolled out every Christmas season alongside the linen table cloth, details polished with the silver tea service, served to the familial audience with a side dish of humour.

It was our first Christmas in the country; Kettleby Village, King Township.

As newcomers from Toronto, we were adjusting to the rural environment, the people and their ways.

I was the eight year old observer to the festive preparations, while I had my chores and responsibilities, in hindsight I believe that the one I handled best was as official “observer and recorder”. I took memory selfies to file away for future viewing and sharing.

One day while driving along Jane Street my mother noticed a sign stating “fresh ducks”. As hostess of the holiday feast, confident with her culinary skills, now inspired she proceeded along the dirt lane into the farm and placed her order. In hindsight the statement from the farmer’s wife “oh by the way, they are live”, might have been heeded as a warning. Mom realized that as we were the new folks in the area, the farmer’s wife likely just wanted to see her city slicker reaction to this news, so she responded with a straightforward “that’s all right, my husband knows how to kill a duck”.

As Christmas drew near, dad went to pick up our dinner guest and was handed a wriggling fowl filled burlap bag. When he took out said bird, it promptly bit him; needless to say, my father had no problems dispatching the beast.

I was greatly distressed by the preparations; this city child only knew my poultry from nursery stories or covered in gravy with cranberries on the side.

The plucking of the outside feathers wasn’t a problem apparently but when dad brought the bird into the house, still wearing it’s soft down and placed it on the kitchen table; I burst into tears and shouted out “Oh Mother Goose, I can’t eat her”. I was banished from the kitchen while my parents continued the work. The down was removed with waxing and it was decided that a chicken was to be readied for me, the duck, apparently turned out to be a drake. Another warning.

Come Christmas day Mom’s culinary creativity shone; golden brown roast duck surrounded by orange cups filled with cranberry sauce on the platter, the table dressed for company. Proudly she called us to the table to admire her photo-op moment.

My grandfather’s contribution to dinner was his expert carving ability; with honing steel in hand the marvelous silver knife was sharpened to a fine edge, then with matching fork raised, he prepared to carve the feast.

Problem, the fork wouldn’t pierce the golden skin, nor the knife cut through it. As glorious as this bird appeared, it was impenetrable. The adults were dumbstruck. How was this possible?

My sensitive nature and underdeveloped palate in refusing to eat “Mother Goose” saved us from a poultry free dinner, as we all shared “my roast chicken”.

After dinner, persistence prevailed; dad took the roast beast to his workshop and there used a saw to quarter the bird. Mom had decided to put it in a pressure cooker, where it was bombarded with moist heat for thirty minutes, left to cool and put in the fridge.

My grandfather was working part time at Sears; he decided his Boxing Day lunch special would be a duck sandwich, when he went to take a bite, it was still impossible to chew the meat.

That is when he named the fowl beast the “Gutta-Percha Duck”, as in latex, rubber, early golf balls and root canal filler, all of which are inedible.

The guileful plot by country farmer and wife, selling off an ancient old drake, far past the point of roasting, boiling, or pressure cooking, to the city slickers, may have ruined our Christmas dinner, but they fed our souls for years with this story.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Peaceful Wishes for 2016.



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