23 November 2007

are there turkeys in russia?

Lauren called me and asked for this post. I am always happy to oblige a request for a post.

Readers who remember last year's Thanksgiving adventure can answer this question. Yes, there are turkeys available to buy...but they're expensive, scarce and not native. (A visiting Russian friend and I were telling another friend that animals in Russia make different sounds. Roosters say koo-koo-ree-koo and dogs say koff-koff. She asked what turkeys say. Deadpanned, the Russian friend answered. "Nothing. Turkeys are not popular in Russia.")

This year, I didn't order a turkey. While I was shopping at Okey, I went to the deli and located fresh turkey breast. I asked if they had any whole turkeys (I know the word this year), whole birds. They replied that they did but they were very big. I asked how big. They said very big. I asked to see one. They brought out a turkey. I said I'd take it. Surprised, the butcher went back to wrap it up.

While we were waiting, the deli workers asked why I wanted turkey. I said (in English) "Thanksgiving?" hoping they'd have heard of it. They hadn't. I said (in Russian) On Thursday is American Day for thank God and turkey. (Hey--I was impressed with that explanation. My Russian is obviously improved from this time last year, but I have no idea what the word for Pilgrim is in Russian...)

My wrapped turkey was HUGE. The worker wanted to come to the cashier to ring it up, but I told him I had shopping to do. (Aside: a friend tried to tell another worker the same thing in English and failed miserably when she picked up turkeys. She had to go and check out immediately. I, however, was allowed to shop on. Score!)

My 14.8kg (32lbs!) turkey barely fit in my 'fridge. But, I managed. All was well until Wednesday night. I arrived home ready to cook my turkey in preparation for the next night's festivities. I needed to cook either it or the pies in order to be ready to eat Thanksgiving dinner after school. Surprise! No electricity. I rummaged around for some candles and eventually cut off half of the turkey (so it would fit in the oven) and prepared it for roasting. I thought I might put it in early the next morning.

Early the next morning I decided that was a ridiculous plan. Instead, I'd wait until I got home. Surely there would be time to cook half a turkey. Admittedly, it was a very large turkey. But, eating fashionably late is fashionable. The turkey could wait until after school. And the pies...well, they didn't really need to cool.

After school I took the turkey out to roast it. I gave it a sniff...and discovered it was rancid. I had to throw out all that turkey. Fortunately, I had a frozen turkey breast in the freezer. I took it out, defrosted it, and roasted it. My guests (S, her dad, her translator and my friend N who used to teach here and now teaches in India) were infinitely patient.

At last the turkey was finished! The potatoes, carrots, green beans and the not-cran-but-close-berries were all waiting. I took the turkey out...and dropped it on the floor! I was mortified. I'm really tired (report cards, remember?) and my co-ordination is a little compromised. I could see it happening and thought, "That's going to fall out." as I watched it fall in slow motion. Not good. Really, so not good. My guests in the living room pretended not to notice as the juices splashed 15 feet across the room and into the hall. My friend N hissed, "Just rinse it off!" as she grabbed a towel and started mopping up. I picked it up, dusted it off, fervently hoped the cleaner had been thorough with the floors that day, and plopped it on a plate.

Everyone was very, very gracious. As my friend Lara says about my simple food, "Kate, it's the only common thing about you but you really do have a peasant's palate." I take no offense! I really do like simple, hearty food best. And, that's what we had. Fortunately, everyone seemed happy to just spend the evening together. I was disappointed not to have pie for everyone, but there just wasn't time or room in the oven. We'll have pie at the school friend's celebration tomorrow. (One is just finishing as I type. My flat smells yummy! Forget putting bread in the over when you're selling your house. Put in a pie--or even just a pie crust.)

During the evening we heard from B that her court was l-o-n-g but ultimately successful! She'll be back in two weeks, since her ten days weren't waived, to bring her children home.

So, Lauren--yes. There are turkeys in Russia. But getting them on the table is more involved than one might think!


Tami said...

I'm sorry. I had to giggle a little at your turkey story. If it makes you feel any better, I cooked ours with the giblet back still inside! ;) And my cousin, who is a missionary to India, sent her husband out this week to find a turkey...he came home with a live bird! The last I heard, she wasn't sure she was going to be able to eat it. I guess there's something to be said for looking dinner in the eye...even for a farm girl.

Tami said...

Giblet bag...that's supposed to say giblet bag. Honestly, I'm not even sure that's what it's called...but you would think I'd be able to type the word 'bag' without totally messing up the whole story! ;>)

Rachael said...

Well, you can't say you didn't try -- A for effort! I hope your pie fares better than your turkey did. (Love your explanation to the sales-clerk too! Another A for effort!)

Hope your Thanksgiving was happy -- it sounds like you were in good company at least.

Lisa said...

Oh my, I'm really glad my turkey cooking was less exciting than yours!! And good grief, I don't think I've ever seen a 32# turkey! The biggest one I've ever cooked was 23#.

Oh man, I just realized I'm not getting turkey for Christmas... I'll have to come up with a Moscow substitute!

Maggie said...

Rancid turkey -- not a popular dish is Russia or anywhere else!

p.s. I know what you mean about the different animal sounds. When Vladimir was here I loved to hear the different sounds -- like kvaa, kvaa for ducks.

Anonymous said...

Oh Kate, you couldn't settle for some nice, hot and happy chicken rolls? You had to go for the 32 pounder! You show off...I got a 12 pound freebee from ShopRite in my freezer. That's as exciting as it gets.

Anonymous said...

We had to get 3 turkeys to make up a total of 14 or so kilos to feed our Thanksgiving group. Evidently they just don't grow them very large in Ukraine - or at least, the lady in the village where we get them doesn't grow them that big.

Happy Thanksgiving!

votemom said...

oh what a pathetically sad but hysterically funny story. i felt guilty laughing as i read it!

tami - i cooked my first turkey with the giblet bag inside too. sadly, it was discovered by the carver (my FIL) as we all sat around the table watching. oy!

Anonymous said...

Oh - I know you must have felt terrible while it was happening but what a great story to read - I'm sorry that I laughed at your misfortune - but only because worse would happen to me.

I don't think anyone ever has the perfect meal at Thanksgiving - but I think that's the fun in it.

thanks for the update on your friend - I'm glad court is over for her...Hopefully the 10 days will give her time to sort out the passport!

Maura said...

Sorry to laugh, but oh my! The picture in my mind of you cutting that 32 pound turkey in half so it would eventually fit in your oven puts me in stitches! Sorry the turkey didn't work out, but you get major points for the successful transaction. Hope the pies fare better. :-)

Jenni said...

Such a funny story! At least you attempted to cook the turkey. I don't even try. Glad you had the back-up turkey after the big one you bought went rancid.

TulipGirl said...

This made me laugh! And reminded me of my miserable flop of a "Traditional American Thanksgiving" for Hubby's English language students in Ukraine. (The worst part of it for me, though, was having to lop of the turkey's neck midway through cooking, because it was still attached and curling up to touch the roof of the oven. . .)

Debi said...

SO the fact that you lugged a 32 lb turkey home had me in stitches and then that you found it to be rancid a few days later made me sad for you and your desire just to have a little bit of what you would have had at home...

I will eat turkey for you this week...thinking of you as I finish off our 15 pounder

Calico Sky said...

wow, what a post!
Laughter & tears rolled into one!