(the rest of the story…)
“Huh?!? Are those really turkeys in China?? in Harbin??” On closer inspection, we decided they most certainly were! The only other place I’d heard of turkey being spotted in Harbin (I haven’t seen it myself) was in the frozen food aisle at Metro … and people say it’s been there for a long long time.
The low October sun cast cast dark shadows, shadows that you might say, foreshadowed this turkey’s fate. Lindsay and I went inside the storefront to inquire about the turkeys. It was worth a shot! Having lived in China for 5 years, she did most of the talking, but together, we came to understand that the shopkeeper would sell it to us for some 300 kuai (a pricey deal, but well-worth it, we thought, as our mouths watered) He would butcher it, clean it etc. etc. He also told us that they were his pets; he liked to see them strut around with their feathers furled. He’d never eaten turkey before, but he didn’t seem reluctant to sell it to us to eat. He was quiet the entrepreneur!
Over the course of the next couple of weeks we hemmed and hawed over whether or not to buy the turkey. We all agreed that it would be a grand adventure AND a grand feast if we did, but was it worth the 麻烦 (ma fan – “trouble”)? The week before our Thanksgiving dinner … we decided to go for it!
Sadly (Thankfully) I did not get to witness the next part of the story. My weekly teaching schedule didn’t allow for many long blocks of time off of campus. (photos credit of Erika)
The day was gray and cold. A light dusting of snow covered the ground as Erika and one of her students returned to purchase the turkey. But the change in weather had meant a change in storefronts. Things looked different this time, and there were no turkeys in sight!
But they didn’t give up. Into each store they went, inquiring: “Do you have turkey?” “Yesssss, of course!” was often the reply they got,but then the shopkeeper would point to the cigarette lighters. “No, not 火机 (huo ji – “lighter”), 火鸡 flap flap（huo ji – “fire bird”)… do you have any?” “No.” Store after store, there were plenty of lighters for sale, but no turkeys. Finally, one storekeeper told them that it was the one next door!
Little turkey prints dotted the snow outside … they’d found the turkeys!
After Erika picked a turkey, agreed on a price per jin(unit of weight), the lady shopkeeper simply picked up the turkey (or 宝贝儿 bao ber “baby” as she called it) and put it in a bag to hand to Erika and her student. What happened to the butchering? Erika later related to us that at that point, she was beginning to wonder if there was a return policy. But after a bit more hard bargaining, the shopkeepers agreed to take it to be butchered the next morning for 10 kuai.
The next morning a larger contingent of students and teachers went to witness the deed (still no me … I was teaching class!).
As soon as they arrived, the storekeeper grabbed his bike and and the turkey in a sack and was off with a quick “Follow me!”
They stopped walking when they arrived at this hair dressers, and it was here that our 宝贝儿 turkey breathed it’s last!
There was an older couple that lived behind this hair dressers that expertly did the deed. It was over before he knew it!But he still had all his feathers on… those there started to worry again because of our general lack of experience when it comes to cleaning and gutting turkeys.
Well, not exactly ready to be cooked.
He didn’t fit into our tiny ovens, so first he had to be hacked up into more manageable pieces. We soaked him in a brine over night and then divvied him up to be baked the next day. I took care of the legs.
We then reassembled him for a picture before we disassembled him onto our plates and into our stomachs at a gathering we had with some 40 friends and acquaintances.
A mighty-fine looking turkey, don’t you think? He was quite tasty too! Not just the best turkey that I’ve ever had in China … but one of the bests I’ve ever eaten. There wasn’t much of anything but bones left by the time the 40 of us got done with him. So, in the end, you could definitely say he was worth the 麻烦!