American Thanksgiving Abroad: The Quest for Turkey

There is a herd of turkeys running loose in my backyard. There are about twelve of them, of various ages, that run around squabbling and gobbling for control of the grass. Generally, we maintain a respectful distance from each other. Sure there are times when we’ll both emerge (humans onto the patio, them out from the woods) and there’ll be a bit of a stare down. Mostly though, there is an unspoken agreement that they can run around freely as soon as they have determined all human are safely tucked inside the house. Despite this peaceful accord , I’ve noticed that during the month of November the Turkeys disappear. I’d like to think they retreat to their turkey caves for a little “Turkcation” but really I think they are trying to avoid the time when they are in such high demand. I like it this way since I don’t like to associate these ugly creatures—and boy are they ugly—with one of my favorite* foodie holidays.  But of course you can’t prevent all associations.

Scotland 2007

It was my first thanksgiving abroad, and I was very keen on celebrating American Thanksgiving. This was made significantly more possible considering I was living in a flat with nine Americans who shared the same sentiment, and the other three European flat mates were always up for eating. A week before the big feast, our flatmates gathered around on the floor of my room—standard operating procedure. We had 18 people coming to thanksgiving, which meant proper organization needed to happen. Sarah was put in charge—which was good since she is the primary reason I had any “home-cooked” meals in Scotland*— and I was tasked with getting the cheese and investigating the Turkey. The cheese I had covered. At that point, I had pretty much been making weekly trips to my favorite cheese mongers, Albert and Marie, on Victoria Street. Each visit involved copious cheese tasting and anecdotes from Albert and Marie’s adventures growing up in the Scottish highlands.

 Finding Turkey in November in Scotland, on the other hand, is a far more difficult task—since Scots don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and generally only cook a whole Turkey for Christmas. Several of us needed to investigate potential Turkey suppliers before honing in on the right bird or risk ending up with a frozen Turkey. That evening, I went to Albert and Marie’s to get the cheese. In the middle of a lengthy debate on the right time to serve English stilton (10 minutes or a half hour after being taken out of the fridge; never directly after), I realized that Albert might have a good lead on Turkeys. He was always telling me stories of how he got so-and-so farm to supply him a rare cheese; he must have an idea on a fresh Turkey. I asked, and with a distinct twinkle in his eye, he told me that he actually had a fresh Turkey in the back, would I like to see? 

 

Now I should have known from experience that a twinkle in Albert’s eye was dangerous. He was very fond of the “wee lil” joke – whether it was selling a three legged haggis or pushing for the “whiskey and cheese pairing.” Actually, the last one might not be a joke. Marie who had forty three years experience with Albert’s twinkle usually quashed any pranks. However, during our Stilton-Turkey discussion, Marie was distracted with another customer.

“Well here ya go. Fresh as can be.”

The next thing I know, Albert comes back from the storeroom with a full Turkey in one hand. And by full Turkey—I mean beard, feathers, everything. I am by no means a vegetarian -my animal rights feelings generally extend to no fur/minimal leather fashion- but this was a bit much. Startled, I jumped up and gave very embarrassing little shriek. Gone were the images that I was an “adept” traveler- ready for everything. At that moment, I was a typical suburban girl- used to my Turkey in non-turkey form. Albert got his chuckles— and a good story to tell other customers every time I came back to the shop. And it was worth it. Because Albert— being a very kind prankster—had also come back with a block of his finest Stilton “on the house” for their favorite “easily scared” American.

*No seriously, Sarah or “Mama Sarah” as we called her was an unbelievably kind and generous roommate. Early on she realized that Steph and I were pretty much deadweight in terms of cooking so she instituted family night dinners. We’d all head over to TESCOs (the local grocery store) stock up on food. She would then cook it (Mexican night was my favorite) while Steph and I would sit around the oven. Now the deal was that Steph and I would, after the meal, clean up. But somehow, Sarah would pour an extra glass of wine or shove grapes in front of us, and then sneakily run off to do the dishes. To this day, I’m not sure how this happened. 

 

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The Final Table

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Our Turkey

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The Thanksgiving Miracle: The Boys Cleaned Up Everything

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