In the grand spirit of capitalism, new fridges occasionally come with complimentary frozen birds (and warranty). Last December, my grandparents bought a fridge from Bing Lee and received a giant Steggles turkey.
Naturally, they donated the turkey to us and it proceeded to sit in our fridge for many months because no one could be bothered to cook it.
Being Chinese, we get our roast meats straight off hooks hanging in the windows of Asian BBQ shops. Whole roasted ducks, crispy slabs of pork belly and shiny soy chickens dripping with sweet glaze, are deftly butchered in 30 seconds flat and packed with supreme Tetris-like-tightness in plastic takeaway containers. Sure, we could make turkey with all the vegetables, gravy and trimmings, but did we really need to?
However, the turkey just took up too much space in our fridge and was causing all our ice-cream to melt, so we drove 20 minutes unannounced to an elderly family friend’s house. We hoped to surprise 72-year-old Yeung Poh-Poh (all-round legendary cook who makes a mean chicken and potato curry) with a turkey shaped gift that could potentially break someone’s skull if it was dropped with good aim from a two storey building.
Yeung Poh-Poh opened the door and took a step back as we unveiled the bird from its blue cooler bag. As gracious as she was, she was also slightly aghast. Fear settled across her face as she remembered the last time she made a turkey that no one touched. “No one likes to eat turkey,” she whispered as she ushered us into her house. Before we knew what was happening, we found ourselves holding a newly harvested winter melon, some coriander and a plate of satay skewers as we drove home with turkey still in tow.
I fell into a void of questioning more disarming than any existential crisis I had previously encountered. Is turkey actually an unpopular meat? Is it just a vaguely festive food?
The penny dropped. Why has turkey never been used as “the hero of the dish” on Masterchef?
Consulting Google was the next logical step but typing “turkey recipe” into the search bar proved to be less fruitful than I hoped. The results failed to take me much further than your standard whole-stuffed-bird-for-Christmas-or-Thanksgiving-day-lunch.
Aside from the aforementioned consumption-based holidays, turkeys are not invited to a great deal of parties. Whole legs appear at the Easter Show for novelty purposes and pale, infirm-looking processed turkey meat may occasionally be found sandwiched between some cold butter, tomato and grain bread. Sometimes, turkey is sought out as a healthy, lean, alternative protein for people who buy activewear.
It also dawned on me. Have I ever seen a turkey egg? Do people eat turkey eggs? Do turkeys even lay eggs? Upon further research, it turns out that turkey eggs are uncommon because they are ridiculously expensive, we’re talking $3-4 a pop.
So the bird, in its sheer monstrous semi-defrosted state, sat glistening on our kitchen bench. It was grotesque. It squelched as I pressed it on top of the chopping board. Frost fell out of its cavity when I held down its legs and wings.
Mum hacked at it with a giant meat cleaver and carefully placed the turkey parts into separate sandwich bags and into the freezer in the same way a serial killer might dismember a corpse.
Yesterday, we had turkey, garlic and eggplant stir fry with fish sauce. The turkey carcass was used in a Chinese soup several days ago (Yes paleos, you did not discover bone broth, my ancestors have been making it for centuries). Last week, we cooked Teriyaki turkey and turkey congee with lettuce and chicken giblets for my grandparents.
And so, I have come to accept that the remnants of this beast may continue to materialise between my chopsticks, gambol in my fried rice and hide in my omelettes forever. Eight months after infiltrating our household, the frozen bird, deemed socially unfit for reality TV and the weekly meal cycle, remains an obnoxious squatter.
There is still turkey in our fridge.