Someone stole my sister's turducken.
Her text message, sent from her apartment building's foyer in Cobble Hill, was straight to the point: "I'm livid! Call me!" Two questions raced through my mind: Who steals meat out of a mailroom? And how the hell could my little sister screw up Thanksgiving this bad?
For you -- ahem -- Yankees, besides being a point of endless pride for most Louisianans, a turducken - pay attention here - is a semi-boneless turkey stuffed with a deboned duck that is stuffed with a deboned chicken. Yes, that's right. It's three birds stuffed inside one another. Think of it as a Cajun matryoshka doll that you can eat.
But there's more. While the three birds give the turducken its structural integrity, six layers of cornbread stuffing and Cajun seasonings make it a feast for a couple dozen diners - or just about enough for my family of 10. To some, the appeal is a matter of convenience. In one serving, you get your duck, your turkey, your chicken and stuffing. But for us, the flavor is sublime: the duck fat radiates into the more lean turkey and chicken, making it altogether more juicy and decadent.
And from what I hear, some New Yorkers are catching on. A woman I know went to a turducken party in Williamsburg. Carpetbagger.
So I called my sister right off. She blamed the baby.
"Well, I was carrying Luca, and came home from buying groceries and couldn't carry him, the groceries and the turducken upstairs. So I left it," Elliotte said, her voice cracking. From her description, it was just sitting there, packed in its neat carton of dry ice, among the discarded newspapers and odd packages in her building's mailroom. Her husband, Jose, would surely get it on his way in later that evening. That assumption cost her. It cost us.
I suppose it's only fair to Elliotte that I let you know that a turducken weighs about 17 pounds, or in this case, slightly more than her 9-month-old. But you should also know that a quality turducken costs about $90 or more, depending on delivery and level of stuffing quantity. They're not cheap. And Cajungrocer.com usually makes a big point of that on the packaging, essentially slapping stickers that read "HEY! IN HERE LIES EXPENSIVE MEAT" all over the Styrofoam icebox. By the time Jose got to the mailroom, the turducken was gone.
"What do I do?" she asked. She checked first with the super, and then with the building manager, who, while knowing little about our particular bird, did know a thing or two about meat. "Oh, those are expensive," she offered.
My sister then taped a desperate plea in writing near her mailbox. The note read: "Whoever took my turkey (what I was giving to my family for Thanksgiving day!!!), please return it here. Stealing a Thanksgiving meal is SHAMEFUL!! - 4B." I agreed with her that it was probably best to put "turkey" instead of turducken for the uninitiated.
Finding a replacement turducken was just too much for our budgets. With emergency delivery, plus the cost of the stolen one, we were looking at a $250 bird. I can tell you with pure Cajun pride that we honestly weighed that option, but could not in the end stomach the cost. The idea of buying a traditional turkey was a woeful substitute, but it might just come to that. The only thing to do now, we agreed, was to wait, and perhaps strategize on how to break the news to our father.
But never underestimate the power of a public shaming. Thirty hours after it first went missing, our turducken came home to roost. My brother-in-law found it in the mailroom, directly under the note, just before midnight the next day.
Upstairs, my sister, holding Luca, and her husband crowded around the ice chest. They sliced through the layers of packing tape and pried it open. Inside, they marveled at the frozen rock of bird within bird within bird, and gave thanks to the thief that had a change of heart this Thanksgiving.