I don’t know where to begin really. Dinner last night and breakfast today mark the end of a ridiculous chapter for me- Meat Mike Campbell.
To even call myself that seems weird, but then it’s essentially become part of my identity over the last 12 months as I’ve eaten my way through a good chunk of the planets animal species. 52 to be precise. In all reality i have doubled up on a couple of animals from time to time with varying offal inclusions; the lamb liver & kidneys, lamb hearts, lamb brains & testicles, veal sweetbreads and ox tongue. Although there has been some meat double ups, such as the two mentioned above, as well as sea urchin & abalone (kina & paua) and mussels, pipi’s, oysters & scallops.
So if we group the lamb offal with lamb and the veal and ox offal with beef then count those different seafood animals, let’s call it 51 animals with 58 actual meats included. Wowsers…
Not only that, but I have eaten a heap more fish throughout the year that I haven’t covered in this blog, because let’s face it, that would be a bit boring to include, but this alone would take me well over 60 different animals this year.
I’m pretty awesome at eating animals it turns out.
This seems ridiculous– it’s the first word that comes to mind and it seems the most apt. However, to me it’s not as though I have done some outrageous things. I haven’t eaten dog, or whale, or panda, or koala, or human… I may have joked about all of these on plenty of occasions, and I certainly have tried to source some just as outlandish as these, with no luck unfortunately. Of course to some eating horse or possum is beyond imagining, for me it’s just another week. This is because as a society we are largely trapped deep inside our comfort zones with everything, let alone food and the animals we eat. We are full of contradictions and double standards about not eating some animals we deem cute and cuddly when it’s more than fine, no, encouraged to slaughter en mass as many cattle, chickens, lambs and pigs as possible. It’s hypocritical.
So for me this has been a showcase of what is possible and what isn’t taboo, it’s just that we’re a bit scared of some things because we grew up with such banality in our diets. I can guarantee that if our ancient ancestors saw a donkey lagging behind its herd, they would have put some spares into it and eaten well for the next while. Well, I can’t actually guarantee that, but it makes pretty good logical sense, you know.
Picking and choosing is the way of modern man, most of the time to no real logic, just prejudice and convenience.
So, I would hope at the very least out of this challenge of mine you will take away that dinner doesn’t have to be same old again, your food option beliefs don’t have to be moulded by the masses and that your comfort zone is there to make you boring- get outside of it, it’s where all the good stuff in life happens.
Of course this challenge was more than just eating heaps of different meats, although that was pretty sweet. It was a way for me to talk to a whole bunch of different people, regularly, and share my views on the world, and more specifically about health and meat. It was also a vehicle for me to encourage and prove that sometimes setting preposterous goals that require a whole lot of work and many many moments of wishing it was over shouldn’t just be left to the Steve Jobs’ of this world.
With most people I come across, and during the decade I’ve been working as a trainer that’s heaps, I’ve seen the same issues come up again and again. They vary from person to person, but the overwhelming issue is that people cannot commit properly to a big goal. They can’t apply themselves long term and usually they’ve mind-f**ked themselves before they even start. They know they want to ‘drop heaps of weight, tone up, get ripped and sexy blah blah…’ but they are really looking for an easy option, the soft answer. Knowing that a shit load of work is involved has got them before they kick it off and it invariably fails. Sure they might see some results, and that’s awesome, but sticking with it, maintaining what they achieve and then rocking past it onto bigger and better things is rare.
What people need a lot of the time is real conviction, a dig your heals in attitude and some f**ken balls to embark on something that isn’t going to be easy, it will be in parts, but in others and most of the time it will be hard. Very fucken hard (to curb my swearing I’ll call this VFH from now on).
For the most part, this is what this 52 meat challenge was for me, VFH, but instead of dropping off, or fading away to try again another time I dug my heals in, put my determined as all hell hat on and got the job done. And might I add, if you hadn’t picked it up already through my self-indulgent spiel here, I’ve mighty proud of myself. And so I should be, because achieving something great, which this is… is worthy of celebration and a bit of ‘Hey everyone, come see how good I look!’ All the more so because I know just how VFH I worked for it.
And through doing this myself I hoped to provide you with an example of what it takes to achieve something grand, which for most people as we’ve seen is getting lean and ‘toned’ (not my choice of word, but seems to be burnt into everyone’s idea of a goal).
Then this is what my message is for you- if you really want to get in great shape, be healthy, lean, strong, have defined muscles, great energy, sleep well at night and essentially look smoking naked and feel awesome most of the time then you can get there. You just have to set your mind to it, apply yourself with determination and commitment and work your arse off to get there. Sacrifices will have to be made, you can’t keep boozing heavily and expect to drop the kegs from your ever expanding belly, or you can’t just keep walking with your ‘bestie’ and expect to have the smoking hot legs you actually want.
Set an over the top goal, apply yourself and then do the VFH work to get there.
Ok, now I hope you can sense my passion when you read that because it’s well and truly in there, in fact I’ve never quite sat so bolt upright and intensely over my computer as I am right now. If those words aren’t for you, then that’s cool, just do us both a favour and don’t come asking me for ‘the best exercises to lose weight’, or ‘what foods make me shredded?’ the answers don’t usually have to be too complicated, they’re quite simple in fact, what it needs is the VFH work that most people avoid.
Right, so on that vein, and with the culmination of my VFH work from 2012, I bring you my Piece de resistance…….
What on earth is a Turducken I sense many of you say?
This is my gift to you. It is by no means my creation; however, I feel like maybe in a past life I did invent this. Maybe I was King James I of England, or someone so influential.
The Turducken my awesome readers is a combination of birds, sometimes done with as many as 5 birds or even more, but as my understanding of it goes, traditionally it is a makeup of the name:
A chicken inside a duck inside a turkey.
Yep, it’s a monstrosity of domesticated birds.
In order to do this each bird is lovingly removed of its bones, once dead, and laid out flat then covered with some stuffing, then the next bird the same and so on until they’re all in a nice stack ready to be rolled up and tied into what looks like a super sausage and tastes like bastardised poultry heaven.
That would be most normal butchers, perhaps ones that aren’t as passionate about meat as both me and my very talented butcher Tom.
What Tom made was no less than a true piece of art. Let me explain what he did to make my Turducken (and my year):
- He de-boned the chicken and the duck
- He laid the duck out and covered it with the stuffing of pork, cranberries, macadamias, parsley and garlic
- This then had the chicken laid onto it and this was rolled together
- Instead of doing the same with the turkey and having the fat sausage appearance of so many, he kept the legs and wings in tact so the finished product would still look like a turkey
- In order to do this properly so as not to destroy the turkey skin he had to de-bone the turkey through its arsehole cavity. Yeah- he cut the bones out through its arsehole!
- This left the duck-chicken roll and more stuffing to go into the boneless turkey to form the Turducken that still had the shape and form of a turkey. Albeit a pretty full one!
- This was then tied together to hold it all in and keep the appearance of a turkey, which is of course the one bird I haven’t done yet this year and therefore technically what week 52’s meat is!
How cool is this?!
Tom’s handy work was a gracious use of his time and I consider myself lucky and fortunate to have met him and have him involved in this challenge, as well as supplying my meat for a while now and acting as part of the spark that started this challenge. Not only did he so carefully make the Turducken in this manner, but he put all the duck skin and fat into a bag for me to render down the fat, he made a ‘monster duck neck sausage’ with the left over pork stuffing and the skin from the duck’s neck, he trimmed the duck and chicken wings for a tasty little side dish, and put the full carcasses into a bag for me to make what will be a Turducken stock.
I am truly grateful!
Now to the main event- the bird(s)…
Would you like to know how on earth you cook a combination 3 birds plus pork stuffing- yes that’s 4 animals- it’s really quite simple. You get the oven to the desired temperature, this was 160° for me. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil and rock salt onto the skin of the turkey, poured 500ml of chicken stock into the pan, covered it loosely with foil and into the oven it went. For 4 hours. Yep, this hunk of meats was in the vicinity of 4.5kg!!
At this point you may be thinking I had a large group of eager bird eaters coming over for dinner. I did not. I had NN, me and two friends. I’m going to do some math- that’s around 1.1kg of Turducken each.
We were all keen though, so that’s a good start.
As this was cooking NN and I got to making our apartment guest ready (mostly NN), new furniture sorted and art hung. I then rendered the duck fat down in order to dress the purple kumara later in the piece.
The meal was to be: Tom’s master piece Turducken, smashed sweet potatoes and a simple green salad. Doesn’t sound like much work… trust me, it was!
As the moment of truth drew near, our guests Raph and Ranya arrived. Just in time too as I was due a glass of celebratory bubbles, and the much needed refreshment it brought, having been in a piping hot kitchen most of the afternoon. Take note time poor folks- this is not a meal to just ‘throw together’.
NN and guests enjoying the pre-dinner view
I took the bird out of the oven, cranked up the heat for the kumara and became nervous that the birds would be cooked well whilst being simultaneously jazzy in the pants about tucking into it.
The moment of truth arrives….
The photos taken and calm restored, I carved the birds to reveal the combination of colours and meats inside.
Then after a short toast from yours truly in which a heartfelt ‘thanks for your amazing support and I couldn’t have done it without you’ to NN exited my lips, we clinked wine glasses and dug in.
How was the Turducken?
The thing with a Turducken is its size, really. So you might get a large chunk of turkey and stuffing, or just duck, and so on. However, regardless of what ended up on the fork, this was immense.
Satisfying on so many levels- taste, hunger, cooking, closure….
With some of the meat juices drizzled over it this ‘birds’ was absurdly good. The mishmash of flavours from the birds and stuffing was superb, yet ridiculous. Undertaking this as a meal to eat was an attack on the senses. My mind was racing and my thoughts were many and varied.
I fucken loved this meal! The smashed kumara roasted in duck fat, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes are possibly the best way to eat anything that has come from the ground. The salad was a nice leveller from the richness of everything else and a nice aged Pinot Noir made this complete.
Now let’s not forget that this collection of birds and pork was over 4kg…
So I of course ate some for breakfast today, as well as lunch and I dear say it might just feature again before the sun hits the horizon. It’s the meal that keeps on giving, and giving. Especially to a meat geek like myself.
Bubble n squeak, meat & pesto
Not only that, but it obviously signals the end of this challenge; a mission that tested my will, my patience and my character. Probably. I am incredibly happy to be done with it. Proud, as I mentioned earlier, and looking forward to not having to search out a new meat every week. There is more undertakings like this in me, but not right now. There’s also more to life than different meats, I’ll acknowledge that.
Right now I’m going to enjoy the rest of this beast and finish my book. While I’m partaking in this slightly self indulgent rant I will say that my book is going to be awesome! I cannot wait to get it done and out to the world, it is going to help so many guys, and also be a great tool for many women to help their guys and get a better understanding of us men.
That’s a different story though. Right now I have to conjure up an Oscar speech like thanks (ruffles through pocket).
To NN, the secret (ish) power behind this whole thing. A true inspiration, tutor, friend, sounding board, editor, support and overall legend. I could not have done this without you. Not only that, it would never have existed. I will be eternally grateful to you and can never thank you enough for your amazing and endless support, patience, encouragement and advice. I love you.
Take a photo already- let’s eat this thing!
To my family- you guys have been amazing this year, as all years… your support, feedback, advice and encouragement has been crucial to me getting through this. I look forward to cooking you all many more awesome and meaty meals. Maybe Turducken next Xmas…
To my friends- it’s ridiculous things like this when you find out who actually cares. Especially to the ones that played a vital role in this journey and sourced me meats and shared meals with me, chur!
To Tom, Kristy and the guys at The Butcher And The Chef– you guys have been so enthusiastic about my journey and it has been and always is a thrill to come in and share stories with you! Tom especially- as above.
To all the random folks I had conversations with, either email, phone and in person, about this challenge and sourcing meats. There were many many random as hell chats this year. It’s been weird, but enlightening and fun!
To my clients- who have invariably heard a lot about this as we’ve moved through the year, and always shown great interest in what I’m doing, eating and writing about. Cheers for putting up with me!
And lastly to you guys, the readers and fans- this started as a bit of fun and to see where it would go. The response and reception was awesome and flattering. That is how this continued and became much bigger than intended or thought possible. Without that I may not have continued through the toughest times. Your interest, feedback and support helped me through this no end. Thank you sincerely!
Ah, and to this pretty sweet guy called Mike- well done champ. Get this on the information superhighway to Bill Gates and his mates, share the word and kick back. You my friend have earned it. This was an astonishing undertaking and you fucking nailed it. Go get a beer.
To all, I will be laying off the meat posts for a while, clearly, but I will continue to operate this blog. I have a heap more information, education and entertainment for you. My facebook page is charging along and I love hearing from and interacting with all of your there, as well as twitter. Get on there and chat with me, just in less than 140 characters. Short sharp chats with Meat Mike Campbell, it’s the way forward…
Keep the comments and feedback coming. I’m here to help and chat.
Bye for now,
The master of all things meat,
Michael Anthony Campbell
Love to all