Julius Caesar and the Peking Duck

 A Roman suit of armor.

A Life Forever Altered

What history of famous ducks would be complete without mention of “Orange” Julius Caesar, (July 13, 100 BC to March 15, 44 BC).  Typically known more for his deeds as both a general and ruthless statesman, old Orange, as all his friends called him, was forced to give up his desire to be the head chef at the famed Crassus Bar and Grill in downtown Rome, when his two brothers, Parsley and Sage, and two sisters, Rosemary and Thyme, were all killed by a freak meteor that fell on the family villa and destroyed the family’s wine cellar and all within.  (Some may recall this story since it was retold in the popular ballad “Roman Wine Fair” as sung by a pair of famous honkers of the era, Simone and Duckfunkle).


There’s Something Wrong With This Fish


Alas, had it not been for the annual family wine tasting or the fact he was suffering from severe food poisoning in the family’s two-story outhouse, Orange might be little more than a web-footnote in duck history.  Though the food poisoning episode (caused by eating rotten fish) nearly did him in and might have ended a long line of Caesars, it turned out otherwise.  Indeed, as events developed, poor Orange was forced to waddle along throughout the rest of his days wearing the feathered mantle of his father and older brothers.  His duty was clear: He would fulfill his familial obligations and suffer interminably as he was sucked into one political intrigue after another, all aimed at overthrowing the Republic of Rome.


Another famous duck of history.

Click on drawing to enlarge.


I Just Want To Cook


Though most are well aware of Orange Julius Caesar’s more famous deeds in battle and his deft maneuvering in the Roman Senate, the sad truth is he never wanted to be anything but a cook.  Orange loved food and was the creator, writer, editor, and producer of the very first live cooking show, “Eat Too, Brutus”—a show he named after a close friend, and one he would often perform in a specially rigged booth set up in one of  the crowded public markets of Rome.  Because the show was a new form of entertainment, attracting a good-sized audience was initially quite difficult.  To overcome the problem, Orange eventually paid several associates to toss a net over those wandering aimlessly past.  He then had them bound, gagged and dragged in to watch him prepare food.  An exhausting, yet decent paying job for his associates, this captive audience strategy was soon recognized by the Roman Department of Labor as “foodnet work”.


Success Breeds Success


Later, as his show became more successful, Orange’s many job titles kept multiplying until he finally broke down and hired two dozen assistants.  It was about that time that his fame really took off.  So many came to see his show they had to camp out overnight in front of his booth to buy tickets which, were often sold for him by his good pal, Harry the Hawk.  That lasted until someone discovered Harry was buying tickets on the side and then turning around and “hawking” them for double or even triple their face value.  Orange finally solved the problem by making a lovely Spiced Hawk stew.


As his success continued to skyrocket, Orange tripled his staff again.  It was this sudden hiring spree that historians refer to as the turning point which brought Rome out of a decades long economic depression.


Where Are Those ‘Tators?


On an otherwise nondescript day as Orange was preparing for the show, he asked Dick, one of his Key Grips to hand him a bucket of ‘taters.  Unfortunately, some petty thief had quietly run off with them and all Dick could do was throw up his hands.  Orange was under pressure to get his show going and started getting really mad.  Soon he was jumping up and down and shouting, “Where’s Dick’s ‘tators?  I want Dick’s ‘tators!  Hey, I’m talking to you!  By the power invested in me as the exclusive creator of this show, I demand Dick’s ‘tators!”  While linguists have long argued over whether or not the case of the missing spuds was the precise moment in history that the word “Dictator” was coined, all we can say with certainty is Orange’s outburst was enough to send several subordinates in search of the thief.  As a side note, once they caught up with him, Orange carved him up with his favorite knife and then stuck his head on a skewer for all to see.  The crime rate in Rome plunged to zero immediately after the incident.


Innovative Cooking


Not only did Orange love to cook, but he was famed throughout the growing empire for his original recipes such as the drink he named after himself “Orange Julius” and especially for his salad dressings,  including, 1000 archipelagos (which was later later rechristened to 1000 Island since it was so much easier to say), and his even more famous Julius Caesar Salad. Though many others, including an Italian chef living in Mexico claimed credit for inventing Caesar Salad, the credit really belongs to Orange.


Look Up!


For some demented reason, Orange’s best friend Brutus loved teasing Orange about the demise of Orange’s family.  Knowing that Orange had developed a fear of things falling from the sky, Brutus would often look up, point and then yell at the top of his voice, “Hail Caesar!” which, of course, was meant to be taken as a joke, but soon became the manner everyone greeted the rising cooking star of Rome.


‘Twas But An Accident


Many historians have wrongly reported the true details of Orange’s death.  Though it’s true he was stabbed in the presence of his good friend Brutus and also true the wound was mortal, it was all a terrible accident, not an assassination as so many believe.   In scene 3 of the 5th episode of Orange’s 4th season on “Eat Two, Brutus”, there was supposed to be a cooking demonstration by this amazing Chinese knife-throwing, chef sensation, a man by the name of Bennie Hana (no relation to Benihana, an American company owning nearly 80 Japanese cuisine restaurants).


A Man Of Knives


Of course, Brutus was fascinated by Mr. Hana’s knife technique and begged him to demonstrate a few basic juggling moves.  All was going just peachy until Brutus picked up Mr. Hana’s biggest carving knife, tossed it ten feet over his head; it sliced the ropes holding up the canvas covering the booth, and then fell back and landed point down in the back of Brutus’s hand, pinning it to a table.  The pain, of course, was excruciating.  So much so, that Brutus went straight into some sort of delirium, which caused him to believe there was actual hail falling from the sky.  Out of habit, I presume, he raised his voice to shout, “Hail Caesar!” and attempted to point upward.  The ensuing series of events can only be described as chaotic, for by this time the canvas covering the booth was sagging over the top of everyone’s heads.  As it did, both Mr. Hana and Orange rushed to Brutus’s side, though the crowd was tripping amongst themselves as they scattered in a hundred different directions.  Through some fluke of dumb luck, as Brutus finally yanked his hand free of the table and reached for the sky, the knife dislodged, flew into a nearby kettle, and ricocheted off of it straight toward Mr. Hana.  Showing his considerable knife-wielding talent, Mr. Hana was just able to deflect it with one of his own blades before the tip reached his left eye.  Unfortunately, the still flying knife flew straight at Orange and ended up buried to the hilt in the middle of his chest.


Caesar's ultimate fate.It’s All In The Cooking


And that, my dear friends turns out to be the sad, but true story behind the very first “Peking Duck” ever served on Brutus’s new cooking show, “Hail, Mother Mary.  Look What A Mess I Made Of Caesar.”


For other startling duck history, you may also want to visit our
Famous Ducks Of History page.



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