Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gobble Gobble Moo

You must understand I have not participated in the festivities otherwise known as Thanksgiving since 2003. The last thanksgiving I had was here in Korea with Sam, McGylnn, Wolf*, someone McGlynn worked with, an office base G.I. and his Philipino wife, and some random people that came for food who I cannot remember.

McGylnn called me and told me that I had to brine the turkey.

"I have to what?"

"Brine the turkey."


"I won't eat it if you don't."

"So how is that my problem?"

"It will be," he says as he hangs up on me. Fine, it will be my problem. I will figure out how to brine a turkey to satisfy McGlynn's whims. You see the reason for the last Thanksgiving was because by lucky chance Sam had found a school that had provided an apartment with an honest to god oven*, and he also worked with someone who had PX privileges* and could get us a turkey.

There is no turkey in Korea. You think you know what turkey is but I have seen the dark side of turkey. The dark side of turkey is the sickly strung out half dried over dead bird that you will find if you try to get a turkey. It's practically inedible and there is no real meat to be had on it. America, land of the free home of the genetically modified mutant foods, knows how to make a turkey, a chicken, and a cow. You pump those beasties up with as many products as you can find and sit back and enjoy the deliciousness. Having seen the Korean turkey, I can't really be all that against it.

However, for this feast we managed to get our hands on a real turkey imported from the great waygookistan*, complete with a can of cranberry sauce from the base. I'm almost positive this was black-market turkey. Since it's the last honest to goodness turkey I have had in almost five years I remember it as being the best turkey I have ever eaten.

But I had to brine it.

How do you brine a turkey? Mind you I live in Korea. Finding these things is not always simple. I got on the internet at a PC bong and looked up various instructions.

Then I called McGlynn back.

"Fuck you, I'm not brining the turkey."

"You are going to brine the turkey."

"I don't know how to brine the turkey."

"I don't care. Figure it out." Click.

Fine. I called Wolf.

"Have you ever heard of brining a turkey?"

"Don't tell me you forgot to brine the turkey."

"No, I don't know how to brine the turkey and McGylnn says he won't eat it unless I brine it."

"McGylnn is a wise man." Click.

I called Wolf back.

"I hate you."

"I hate unbrined turkey, figure it out." Click.

So here I am the night before the scheduled dinner party with a dead bird, a garbage bag, half English, half Korean instructions, something that calls itself salt, and what I believe that hajumas had sold me in the form of something like herbs. I'm not sure what herbs but they were supposed to be herbs.

In the end I ended up filling a bag with cold water, dumping in the turkey, dumping in a lot of salt and herbs, whispering prayers to the goddess and sat up fretting all night about whether or not my friends would eat the food I was preparing.

The next day I found the bird was still in the bag that I had hung off the bathroom door. It's a small apartment and the only door I could hang the bag from was the bathroom door so that is what I had done. I drained the turkey and found that it was mostly thawed and still a little frozen. I did what I know how to do at that point. I clean it out, started to prepare the oven and get ready for the fun of cooking dinner for a bunch of people.

The turkey went into the oven and was set to bake at something like 150. It was only an hour in that Sam asked why the oven was so low.

"What do you mean?"

"It's 150."

"Yeah, The oven is in Celsius."

"Um, here's calculator, figure that out again." And so I did, and turned up the oven to the proper temperature and started to make other foods. I had dried out bread for a few days to make stuffing with. I walked in three different markets to find broccoli. I made sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. I made green beans. I made a salad. I went to the best backed goods store in Daegu and found the tastiest pies (I'm simply not that domestic). People arrived at the pre-appointed time and I had to excuse myself for a small nervous breakdown.

However it went well. The bird came out as I expected it to come out. I grabbed knives and McGlynn and Wolf both looked at me at the same time.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going to cut the turkey."

"You don't cut a turkey. You carve a turkey. Put down the knives and step away from the food."

And so, after all the prep I was shuffled to the back while Wolf and McGlynn discussed the scientifically approved quality method for desiccating the carcass. Food was eventually served much to the happiness of everyone present. I had in the end done a good job.

"I can tell you brined it."

"I did something to it, hopefully whatever it was, was brining."

We watched a traditional Thanksgiving film, something that would make us all feel thankful. Dr. Strangelove.

It was fun, it was the last Thanksgiving I had here. I was invited to a Thanksgiving last year but they were having a Luau and I don't eat pork. There was one a few years ago at the Village but I couldn't go because I was on shift the weekend of the dinner and had to work.

It doesn't really bother me. Somehow lying around and watching McGlynn and Wolf have an eating contest while movies were watched with good company is something I don't think will ever be topped. It was just a slight bit better then the last Shimer thanksgiving, maybe because it captured the spirit of that in this far off foreign land where turkeys are unheard of. It was just the right amount of home.

Happy Happy to those of you having it. If you have a vacation and wanted to write me a note to make me feel all warm and fuzzy and full of thanks, I'd appreciate your sharing.


*Three boys I went to college with. You could not find three more different people if you scoured the planet for an age. They are each oddballs in their own way. Two are still in Korea, one is in China, and if you want to know about what that one is doing you will have to write me and ask.

*There are oven's in Korea, however they are considered a toy of the wealthy and so many people in Korea do not have an oven. Those who do have an oven, particularly Koreans who have one, don't know what to do with it since backing is not a part of the traditional culture. New apartments being built as luxury places will have ovens, however these are generally quite small, about large enough to compete with an easy bake oven, but not by much.

*PX Privileges means you know someone in the military who can go on base and buy you something and give it to you.

*Waygook is Korean for American. Waygookistan. You figure it out.


Jill said...

Good story! I spent a long time trying to figure out what blog I had just seen that brine thing on, finally gave up but left you a turkey cartoon on my last post!!! :-)

kodeureum said...

My last Thanksgiving was in Canada five years ago so that would be October, 2002. Turkey is also a Christmas tradition with my family - I guess because it's easier to come by than the traditional English Christmas Goose. I was home for Christmas in 2003 and 2004 and the second year I roasted the turkey myself, but I've never heard of a brined bird. Sounds tasty, though.

Saradevil said...


I liked that cartoon, thanks. Brining is an art that I have not really aquired.


It wasn't bad. Mostly it is supposed to keep the juice in the turkey. I'm still not really sure that I actually preformed the operation correctly.

Christmas Goose, huh. I don't think I've ever had that one.