Losing My V-Card
Not that V-card, perverts. I’m talking about the vegetarian card, which I proudly carried around for seven years of my life. The food that ultimately made me turn in my badge of meatless honor wasn’t bacon, or fish, or any of the normal things that make meat loathers revert to their carnivorous ways. For me, it was duck.
I became a vegetarian before I really got food. I grew up knowing that my little Italian grandmother was the best cook in the world, but never had much opportunity or inclination to venture beyond the red sauce and burgers that came out of her kitchen, or the restaurants that mimicked the foods cooked within. A late 90s article on mad cow disease and factory farming in the Metroland further limited my food choices, serving as my impetus to give up meat altogether.
Then I moved to New York City, and discovered sushi. I quickly downgraded my status to pescatarian, and stuck with that for a few years, until I started dating a hardcore foodie. Suddenly, what was or wasn’t on my plate was more interesting than the politics behind it.
We dined out constantly, and I watched with interest as he ordered tongue, venison, and all types of meat that I had never even tasted before, both due to my family’s fussy food preferences, and my years of eschewing it. On one fateful night, we found ourselves at a fancy French restaurant in New Jersey, and the pan-seared duck on his plate smelled and looked irresistable. I impulsively took a bite. Then I took another bite. Then I suggested that we share entrees, and nearly licked his plate clean. In the weeks that followed, I became a pescatarian that ate duck, frequently. Finally, I had to admit that I was no longer a former carnivore. Pork and beef quickly followed that admission, and as I made up for lost time on the meat front, I forgot about my beloved bird.
Fast-forward to this past Friday, when I fired up the DVR amd watched a recent episode of No Reservations, where Anthony Bourdain travels to the Ozarks and teaches some duck hunters how to enjoy a freshly caught breast. My mouth began watering, and my love affair with duck was rekindled. The only difference this time around was that I actually knew how to cook.
The photo above is an improvised dish I made for myself last night: pan-seared duck breast with pomegranate sauce and braised baby artichokes. The sauce definitely needs a bit of tweaking, but I’m proud to report that despite the fact that I’ve never attempted it before, the duck was perfectly cooked, and the artichokes were restaurant-worthy. I served it with a simple salad of mixed greens with a balsamic vinaigrette.
It’s true what they say: you never forget your first. And by first, I mean post-vegetarian carnivorous enterprise, perverts.