Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confit and Loathing in Omaha (the conclusion to the Duck Confit Chronicles as told in the style of Hunter S. Thompson)

3am.  Omaha.

The effects of the evening's festivities are beginning to recede and reality is slowly encroaching.  Once upon a time (a lifetime ago it seems) they flocked to me like motorists on a stretch of highway where a horrific accident has taken place.  Necks cranked to gaze at the heaping wreckage of their own sobriety.  Goddamn vultures choking down huge wet clumps of their own willpower, squawking at me like Tea Partiers at a Glenn Beck rally.  Where once there were my comrades, there is just strewn-about carnage.  Casualties of a night of substance abuse, and too much time between visitations.  The dizzying highs now replaced by a sinking feeling that I've been neglecting something for far too long....and the blog reaper has come to collect his due.  Once filled with the warmth of kinship and home, I look at the collection of empty bottles and vials perched precariously on the counter top and can't bring myself to make the cliched metaphor. Where there was once the sound of laughter and bawdy jokes spat out at the tops of lungs at a machine gun pace, there is only the sound of cicadas outside in the god-forsaken heat.  The heat....God is playing some sort of joke on us, I just know it.

No, it's 3am and my mind is beginning to clear.  I hate this.  Nothing to do now, I thought, but write as the lines and edges become steadily and irrepressibly more contrasted.  No....nothing to do now but write.

And eat.

My god, I'm hungry.  I was able to stave off the dreaded beast while in the throes of debauchery.  But now that the hedonistic fires of excess have smoldered into ash, it returns like a vengeful shark with the scent of human blood hibernating in it's nostrils.  I look in the fridge.  It's a barren wasteland of derelict to-go boxes and condiments.  But there, beyond the 3-day-old Lo Mein and and cardboard box of pizza crust I see it.  Shimmering like a mirage to a man dying of thirst.  My duck confit.

"You magnificent bastard" I couldn't help but mutter.

I pulled it forward and looked at the label.  Scrawled in primitive caveman writing: 'Open on 3-17.'  My god.  Had it been that long? Had I forgotten?  Was it still even good?  I pried off the lid to expose a landscape of pillowy fat, as unblemished as an airbrushed 50's centerfold.  The smell conjured up a million sleepless nights in Paris and the hint of sweet and sour decadence was enough to make my head reel.  They say war is hell.  But there's nothing worse than a man in the throes of a confit addiction with nothing to knock that horrid monkey off his back.  Luckily for me, that wasn't a concern of mine.  Here it was.  My prize.  My desire.  My duck.

After a few minutes in a hot water bath it was ready to go into the pan.  With a great sputtering of duck fat like a radio set to a channel that doesn't exist,  like a madman's thoughts, I set about my work. Meticulously browning one side and then the next; a mad scientist scurrying about with the creation of life stopping only to bellow at the top of his lungs "It's ALIVE!!"

Botulinum Clostridium is the little beastie responsible for what's commonly known as Botulism poisoning.  This tenacious little bastard loves airless environments where it waits, poised to infect the first hapless fucker who comes along.  Exactly the environment created by the production of duck confit.  Botulism is a neurotoxin, the first effects of which are a dryness in the mouth.  Followed by a difficulty in swallowing and speaking....often accompanied by a characteristic drooping of the eyelids indicating the toxin has done it's nasty work destroying the inner musculature. Next the extremities become paralyzed until finally the victim finds the muscles responsible for breathing becoming infected.  When caught early, months of recovery are needed often requiring physical therapy.  Death is the result in most untreated cases.  So why would anyone subject themselves to this sort of risk for the simple act of eating duck legs?  

That's a question only asked by those who have never had duck confit.

I wolfed down every morsel while my knife looked on, useless.  With nothing left but a pile of bones and a guilty conscience (mostly because of how little guilt I felt over the death of several ducks for my own carnal delight), I retired to bed.  Full.  Sober.  Unrepentant.

That night I 
 dreamt of large insects terrorizing small villages.  I awoke to the green light of morning pouring into my bedroom windows.  Head pounding I surveyed the damage.  It was for lack of a better word extensive.  But nothing a good wrecking crew and paper towel or two couldn't fix.  As I cleaned up the glasses and not-so-vivid memories of the previous night's events I caught a glance of the derelict jar where my duck confit once lived.  Empty.  I'd almost forgotten I'd had it.  Or had I?  Had it been a dream?  Was I dead?

No time for that, I thought as I poured myself a glass of scotch.