Celebrating the Unnatural: Churkeys


Image via Wikipedia 

Only in Transylvania.

Perhaps I should start, as Bram Stoker did, at the beginning: which found me wandering around dazed in a New year’s Eve supermarket.

We ate elsewhere on Christmas Day, and Phil did not get his favourite elements of this traditional repast: forcemeat, and bread sauce. He never complains: but I said , Dear, do not fret. I shall cook you a Christmas Dinner with your favourite trimmings on New Year’s Day.

So there I was, up and down the aisles and in and out of the freezers, collating an approximation of a decent Christmas dinner.

When I saw the price of the turkeys I blanched. Visibly. And my ire rose: for how could anyone justify asking a king’s ransom for a turkey, however big, when the chickens next door were a third of the price? Did they feed the turkeys caviar in life, and afford them four-poster beds?

So I bought a magnificent chicken and bore it home, and this morning it was put into the oven with infinite care and attention.

We walked into the house after it had been roasting a while. “”Mmmm, roast chicken,” Phil said appreciatively.

“Not chicken. Honorary turkey,” I told him.

Every time someone called it a chicken I upbraided them. It was turkey for the day. No negotiation.

But this resulted in many a discussion about the fact that it was not, under any circumstances, to be called chicken. Finally Felix intervened as we tucked in to the feast. “It’s churkey, Mum,” he announced, clearly pleased with this amalgam.

Inventive, if a little onomatopoeically unfortunate. I held my silence and resolved to turn Google to my advantage a little later.

It took 0.21 seconds to obtain 22,500 results.

Clearly my son was not the only one who had been pleased to employ this strange word. It was being used to describe a mysterious breed of bird indeed.

It is lamentable that chickens are unable to write, and thus document, their lineage with data backed up by wild, extravagant chicken ancestral folklore. This we must fill in for ourselves, for chickens are of limited brain, when all is said and done.

However what is undeniable is that a strange hybrid chicken has been living in Transylvania for some considerable time: a chicken with a turkey’s neck. Did Vlad the Impaler himself take a little time out from slaughtering infidels to do a little heinous chicken breeding? It is doubtful. Such toying with biology does not have quite the same rush as either the battlefield or dastardly hellish immortality.

Yet someone, out there in the wilds of the Carpathian Mountains, has been warping nature to create churkeys. Or Turkens. Or whatever.

The Transylvanian Naked-Necked Chickens were imported into the UK in the 1920s and now they have their claws under the British table. Scientists at Edinburgh University’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council are getting hot under the collar about the possibilities of mass production of chickens with no feathers at the neck. it’s all about mutating chromosome 3, I believe.

Research leader Dr Denis Headon told the BBC: “Not only does this help our understanding of developmental biology and give insight into how different breeds have evolved, but it could have practical implications for helping poultry production in hot countries, including those in the developing world.”

Churkeys might be cooler in hot countries, and thus lay more eggs than their humble chicken cousins.

It sounds so logical, doesn’t it, in the cold light of day?

But without being chickenist: I wouldn’t be breeding any more of these Transylvanian imports, myself.

They’re just too weird.


Feature picture source here


50 thoughts on “Celebrating the Unnatural: Churkeys

  1. Odd looking, that’s for sure. But I found the black chickens on the Food Network to be much more off-putting. The chickens are beautiful fluffy white birds but their meat is a very dark bluish black. Ugh!

  2. There is something very unpleasant about the look of the sad churkey. As most people don’t associate food with any particular animal that hardly matters. If it can be produced cheaply, they’ll be a lot of them. QED.

    1. You are very sensible, Roger. There is no debate. Doesn’t stop incredibly well-grounded bloggers like me getting the wobblies about Dracula’s minion chickens, however.

    1. Ha! We have a weekly chicken, Rosemary. It gives us two dinners: roast chicken, followed by chicken stew with herby dumplings. MIght intersperse them with a pizza or two this week though 😀

  3. Crikey – a fearsome beast. Not sure I’m curious enough to wonder what they taste like. Beef and pork roasts have more appeal after the last week of turkey, turkey, turkey and more turkey! As always a pleasure to read. Happy New Year to you and yours x

  4. You’re very good, going to such trouble to feed your man. I did a ‘little Christmas’ here as well since we were planning to be elsewhere on the big day, and just bought the largest monster chicken I could find since the turkey’s were also really pricey. However, since Christmas is past they are all much cheaper now so I have one in the freezer ready for a post Christmas turkey dinner 🙂 Honestly I felt like I was stealing from the supermarket! Happy 2013! 🙂

  5. When it comes to breeding churkeys you are chicken? 🙂
    Logically, leaving the pronunciation the same, they should be chirkeys. I’m sure that’s what Felix had in mind.

    1. I’m sure you are right, Col. He’s playing around with lots of compound words right now, sawing words up and sewing them onto others like some kind of gleeful Dr Frankenstein.

    1. Lou, I first read this on my phone in the middle of Windsor and laughed out loud, much to the amusement of passers by. Can you imagine? Reminds me of the mediaeval tradition of sewing together different roast birds to create fantastical new creatures….

      1. Turducken is all the rage these days . . . a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey to be eaten by a silly goose or two.

        Honk Quack Cluck Cluck. 😀

  6. Whatever is this world coming to, Kate. What’s next? A turken? Pheaskey under glass? Duckens ala orange? At any rate, I am sure your dinner was most excellent and pleased Phil. Happy New Year, dear friend from across the pond.

  7. As usual, I learn something new from your posts, Kate, and entertainingly put.

    Myself, I’ve heartily disliked turkeys, both the look and the taste of them, and have always welcomed the chicken option at this time of year. Occasionally we’ve had pork, which is even nicer, and this year we had duck for the first time as it was at an attractive price and even provided tasty cold dishes in the after-Christmas wind-down. Turkey? It’s over-rated, often over-priced, easy to overcook and usually too dried-out for those cold sandwiches.

    Maybe we’ll try the even more traditional goose next time, and though I’ve been warned it can be a little too fatty roast potatoes in goose fat are something else!

  8. There was a time, not very long ago, when there was always the option of a large chickenish. It was called Capon! I haven’t seen one on sale for years….

  9. They certainly are weird-looking. I wonder how they taste? More like chicken or more like turkey? Are they bigger than your average chicken? They look like something Vlad might have used to scare the bejeesus out of his victims before impaling them. Hope your churkey dinner was wonderful!

    1. You can just see Vlad with a particularly stubborn recruit, wheeling out the churkeys to finish them off 😀 I wondered about the flavour. Is it governed by chromosome 3 as well, I wonder?

  10. Mutating chromosome 3? Gah! Sounds delicious…!
    Kate, chickens around here were inflated to four times their normal price in the days leading up to Christmas – I didn’t even look at the turkey prices. Daylight robbery!
    I’m quite fascinated by the idea of a vampiric churkey however!

  11. I love the play on the words, but that photo is off putting. Then, again, if I’d seen what sea bass looked like before it was reeled in, I might never have tried that either.

    Kate, maybe turkeys, which are a very wise bird in the wild, have caught on to ways to make themselves less appealing to us. A strategic move to preserve their kind.

  12. There was a wild turkey (we call them bush or scrub turkeys) that had his evil way with one of my chickens resulting in a number of fertilised eggs – it must have been the turkey as there were no other males around – if we hadn’t eaten those eggs, a churkey would have resulted – yikes!

  13. I agree with calmgrove, you’ve added points to my otherwise impoverished I.Q. by introducing churkey into my headspace. I also much prefer chicken to turkey. I am also wondering if the mash-up of the turkey with the chicken was the precursor to the Frankendog crossbred dog craze that has been so popular on this side of the pond?

  14. That is indeed strange. I’ve never seen it nor heard of it. I move in and out of vegetarianism being someone who can’t eat meat when I think about it too much. This post may have set me back a bit! I have some tofu in the fridge! 🙂

  15. Chunkeys — never heard of those. And, they look so strange. Looks like you were able to make do rather well with the chicken instead of the turkey. Wish you a Happy New Year.

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