Roasted duck was on my mind when I went off to the library in Chinatown. In all of my years of living there, I’d bought tons of roasted pig and some chickens too, but duck always seemed too  indulgent and too expensive. 

I wasn’t quite ready to give up the feeling of Thanksgiving and what better way to end the festivities than with some poultry? At the Uwajimaya fast food counter, the sign said that half a duck was $18, so I ordered one, repeatedly asking that it be left in one piece. 

Cooked food is taxed so this bit of culinary delight clocked in at an even $20. Definitely a treat–I was ready to abandon the day’s rain and savor the joy of something warm and delicious. I took it out of its plastic zip-lock bag, put it on a plate, and began to sever its leg from its body. I failed. Ducks are obviously creatures with bones that aging women can only dream of.

Deciding I’d tackle the breast, I searched for that body part with little luck. This duck was flat-chested. When my knife penetrated its armor of skin, what I found instead was a substantial layer of what looked like blubber. Under this thick white mass was a thin strata of meat that clung stubbornly to its bones. 

I pulled away every tendril of edible duck and ended up with not quite enough to make a decent sandwich. The skin that looked delectable before I explored its hidden depths glistened with fat and it held much more blubber than it did hints of duck meat. 

Life’s little ironies are nasty and cruel. I’d bought the duck as a kind of antidote to all the butter I’d eaten in the past week’s baking frenzy. Never one to have worried about cholesterol in the past, recently I’d heard my arteries scream “Help! We’re drowning!” Now here they were, faced with twenty dollars worth of fat. 

After polishing off my scanty heap of duck, I turned to the sainted Laurie Colwin, who devoted an entire essay to the joys of that particular barnyard resident. Her advice was to put the carcass and all its scraps into a pot of cold water with a couple of crushed garlic cloves and let it simmer for six hours. Supposedly the strained broth, removed of all its fat, would make a lovely stock.

Somehow I expected more of my twenty dollar purchase than a brief taste of meat and a pot of broth. As I stared at the congealed fat that covered the submerged and refrigerated skeleton this morning, I began to wish that my scant number of domestic talents included soap making. But with my luck, anything made from this blubber would have me delicately scented with eau de canard.

I’ll settle for a decent version of stock and call it good.