Turkey Travails

We are currently on Thanksgiving break, our very last official Thanksgiving break for a while! From next year we will be getting a break in last November, but it will coincide with a full moon holiday here in Myanmar which may or may not match up with Thanksgiving. This makes much more sense as our school only has about 15% of its population celebrating Thanksgiving, so it’s much nicer and more culturally relevant to observe the national holiday.

I realized earlier this week that I have now definitely celebrated more Thanksgivings outside of the US than I ever did inside! Despite the fact that I haven’t been home for the holiday since 1999, I have managed to celebrate by cooking and eating with friends every single year. Sometimes the meal is not on the actual day, and lots of times there have been more non-Americans than Americans in attendance but every single one of them have been fun in their own unique way. I was reminded earlier this week of our celebration the first year I lived in Paraguay-it was too hot to sit down and eat properly so we had our feast next to the pool while we swam! There is always a bit of improvising that has to be done as all the traditional ingredients are not always readily available, and that year if I remember correctly we couldn’t find a turkey, so we made a few chickens on the grill instead.

I thought we were going to have to do something similar this year as finding a turkey turned out to be quite the challenge. The past two years frozen turkeys (from Utah! and Halal!) started appearing in the supermarket at the end of October. This year I kept checking, but nothing arrived. I started to wonder if this was because the supermarket figured there were not a lot of expats back yet so they wouldn’t be big sellers. Gav and I enquired around about whether the commissary at the American Club had any, us being far too cheap to purchase a membership that would give us the rights to shop there. A few people said they would keep an eye out for us, and lo and behold a few Sundays ago the phone rang and the director of the school said he was there and they had turkeys, what size did we want? As Gav and I were doing the calculations, the director suddenly said “oh, wait. I actually just bought the last one.” Ok, next!

Then I started digging around in earnest trying to find where we could get a bird. I saw that a local restaurant was advertising pre-made Thanksgiving dinners to be delievred to your house. So I messaged them and asked if I could just get an uncooked one delivered and after much hemming and hawing they said sure, for the low low price of $130! What? Come on. I was actually considering it because come on, there is not a lot we are spending our money on at the moment and a turkey is kind of central to the whole meal. But then I remembered that this summer I had seen turkeys in villages outside of Yangon, wandering around like chickens. At the time I made a mental note that maybe you could buy a local turkey in a market somewhere. So I asked my friend Greg if he could ask his art assistant if she knew of a place we could buy a turkey.

Wah Wah, his assistant, has been so helpful to many foreign members of staff. She has all kinds of knowledge about how things work here and has helped us do things in the past like get clothing made. We just take the fabric and what we want copied to Wah Wah and a week or so later she comes back with the finished product! Anyway, Greg put Wah Wah on turkey duty. At first she came back with bad news:

We were a little confused about the “only have baby” part, but the message was clear that she didn’t think we could find a local bird. So we soldiered on, thinking we were going to have to cough up the cash for the restaurant turkey. But then! Greg got a text that she HAD for a turkey. In a village. The first one she found was a little small but she kept at it until she said there was a 6 kilo one for about $30. Well that would be $100 less, SOLD! Then Greg gets this text, enquiring about exactly how we would like our bird:

Wah Wah! We can’t even find our own tailor, NO we don’t want to “kill by our self.” Though the thought of that turkey being sent to us live in a taxi was very amusing. Greg very nicely gave explicit instructions that we wanted the bird with no feathers, feet or head. And on Wednesday I got a text that “the eagle has landed” and sure enough, there was our bird, wrapped in newspaper and sitting in the staff room fridge waiting for the big day.

Greg came home with me to do the big unveiling. He (correctly) surmised that perhaps the butchering was not done completely to our expectations and he has had some experience butchering chickens. Sure enough, when we unwrapped the bird, it has some extra parts (neck, craw) that had to be dealt with. Also, obviously the people who sold us this bird could not believe we ACTUALLY didn’t want to head and feet so those were included in the package. I will spare you the photo of that.

Let’s just get rid of this neck

In the end we had something resembling a turkey, although the breast was weirdly caved in, I think they removed some part of the sternum that is usually left in. No worries, the next day I stuffed some lemons and onions in there and propped it up and it more or less looked like a proper Thanksgiving turkey!

Nothing a little internal support, butter and bacon can’t fix!

We were all a little suspicious about how it would actually taste, but consensus was…pretty good! The dark meat was much darker than turkeys I am used to but I think we can safely this was a turkey that probably lived a good, free range life and came with zero air miles, which cannot be said for our Halal Utah turkey of yore.

I think some turkey grease might have gotten on Gav’s camera

So our little group of friends (2 American, 1 Brit, 1 Aussie, 1 Venezuelan) had a lovely meal and a great story thanks to Wah Wah. We did all talk about everything that we are thankful for this year, which is so much despite the insanity that is 2020. We were also thankful to be able to reuse our matching outfits from Liz’s birthday! Very Burmese.

Gavin and I are also thankful for the latest addition to Chateau Ailberto. We have been longing for some time for a second refrigerator to give us some more space in our main fridge. A few weeks ago we were speaking to one of the new teachers and he mentioned that he had purchased a dedicated beer fridge in a store not far from us! So off we went and found a very reasonably priced small fridge. Quickly we came to the decision that the most convenient place for it would be outside so that we could get our beers without having to go through to the kitchen.


The luxury! I was so proud of our purchase and told the new teacher we had matched him in the convenience department. THEN he tells me that actually, they are getting a second beer fridge for their balcony! Watch this space…

2 thoughts on “Turkey Travails

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  1. Yay Wah Wah! I’m so impressed that you went to such lengths to have an authentic Thanksgiving meal. We couldn’t be bothered to buy a turkey here — we wound up eating duck breast. (But it was just the two of us, so no social pressure to follow through on tradition!)


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