Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tweezing the Turkey- A Christmas Tale

We wanted turkey for Christmas dinner this year. Enough of grilled chicken, cornflake chicken, and roasted chicken. It was Christmas and we wanted turkey.

Way back in November, Don Oldenburg made a special request to the manager of the supermarket in Choma to get us some turkeys. Last week the call came that turkeys were in, so Don drove to Choma to claim two rare, prized, and expensive birds for our holiday dinner. Because Namwianga is such a great customer of the store, the manager graciously gave us one turkey free. (Otherwise Don might have had to float a loan to pay for them.)

Don and Laura took one turkey to cook at their house, and I kept one. On Christmas Day I took my turkey out of its plastic bag and made a grim discovery: this was not a Butterball. No smooth, white skin on this bird. No nifty little pop-up timer. No legs banded together neatly with a specially designed leg wire. No neat little packet of giblets tucked under the skin. This bony, blotched hunk had a breastbone that resembled a craggy mountain peak, and I double-checked to make sure that there was indeed some meat under the sagging skin. Even worse, this turkey was not well dressed, and I don’t mean poor fashion sense. There were black pin feathers over much of the skin and gross stuff still hanging from the inner cavities. I cleaned up the stuff as best I could and then tackled the pin feathers.

I grew up on a farm where we raised chickens and turkeys, so I thought I knew what to do. I got a candle and held the flame on the feathers to singe them off. This worked marginally well. I was doing this outside on the back veranda, so the wind kept blowing out the flame. Then the sheer magnitude of the job caused another problem: the flames were starting to cook the skin in places. Plus the candle dripped wax onto the bird, and that didn’t seem too appetizing either.

My next brainstorm came from my extensive life knowledge—not of poultry, but of plucking. I got my eyebrow tweezers and started to work on the turkey. With a little wrist action and determination, this technique was quite successful, I must say, and before long the turkey was sufficiently clean-skinned for the roaster pan.

In spite of its poor initial impression and the paltry portions of actual meat, the turkey turned out to be tender and quite tasty. Or maybe the sheer effort of getting a turkey cooked in Zambia would have made anything taste delicious. I’m not sure. But next year I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to grilled chicken for Christmas dinner.


Anonymous said...

It is so much fun to "adjust" to differences. I miss those times. Looks like you are both doing well.

Michelle (Bush) Simpson

just me said...

I must say you did one heck of a job on that "bird"LOL. After the ice storm we opted for just chip and dip and snacks. I give you a standing ovation for whatever you did to make that look like a butterball. Maybe you should send in this picture and they will send you a butterball for free. Yeah, your right, that ain't gonna happen! I am just too much a dreamer. Hugs and Love cj

Anonymous said...

Okay, now you realize that the harder you work for something, the sweeter the reward, so that turkey should have been the best meal you've ever had from what you did to not only get it, but prepare and cook it as well. But it looked wonderful and the story is great, one to tell future generations. :-)

David & Linda Gregersen said...

Great to hear from you! Yes, we are adjusting to differences all the time--but that's just life, isn't it? I hope you are doing well and adjusting to all life has to offer you right now.

David & Linda Gregersen said...

The turkey did end up looking pretty good in the pan. It actually weighed around 15 pounds according to the label. I'll bet we got less than three pounds of meat out of it. When you count your blessings, remember Butterball turkeys on the list.