Monday, December 27, 2010

Gobble gullible

Add to Google Reader or HomepageThere are cars and then there is Rolls Royce.
There is caviar and then there is Beluga.
There is turkey and then there is “dinde de Bresse”

Ellen read these phrases as she was trying to find special recipes and information on the turkey (the expensive turkey) that I had bought from one of the butcher shops in town.

I had gone to a butcher shop on Wednesday wondering if I would be able to order a turkey for Christmas. We had invited a friend to come for dinner and we wanted to cook an American-style dinner. We thought it would be fun to repeat the wonderful menu we had in Paris at Thanksgiving. I was relieved when the woman behind the counter said that I could still order a turkey and that I would need to pick it up on Friday before they closed. I gave her my name and left the shop.

On Friday, I went to the grocer to get Clementines and then to the butcher shop to pick up the turkey. I told Ellen that I was also going to stop at the barbershop if they weren’t busy. When I got home, Ellen noted: “You didn’t get a haircut.” I replied: “No, I got fleeced! I picked up our turkey and it cost almost as much as our apartment!” Ellen opened the package and showed me that the turkey was tied with a cute red bow. Not only had it arrived with the head still attached, it was numbered and had an “AOC” tag.  AOC stands for “Appellation d’Origine Contrôllée” and is a guarantee that the product – be it wine or cheese or even this turkey – comes from a specific region and in that region, one obtains the “AOC” tag only if one meets the defined standards. One of our friends said that at the butcher shop, AOC really means “American is coming. Raise the price!”

I have calmed down since Friday morning. Time permits perspective and mine has permitted me to think about how humorous (ludicrous?) the episode was. I will never again place an order at the butcher shop – or any store – without asking the price per kilo/price per pound. Had I taken the time to do that, I would never have ordered the turkey I felt compelled to purchase. I would have willingly purchased one of the fresh birds available at the supermarket. (Turkey is not #1 on the French Christmas dinner menu. Our friends said that they would more likely have duck or lamb but would rarely think of having turkey for Christmas.)

As I calmed down and Ellen read a few recipes to me, I began planning the cooking of the turkey. At this point, I was no longer blushing about my error, but I was still upset enough that when I unwrapped the turkey again, I had to cut off the head (while thinking to myself: “I paid for this!?!”) The turkey came with the cavity filled with sausage stuffing (“I paid for this!?!”). Turkey in France is generally leaner with less white meat and less fat but this bird from Bresse was at least 10% fat (“I paid for this!?!”) We started talking about finding ways to use the bones after we made stock out of the carcass so that I could begin to think that I got my money’s worth.

I told my sister Sue about the turkey-purchasing episode and before the bird was even done, she had sent the following poem.

Turkey in the barnyard, what does he say?
  Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble all day.
Turkey in Vaison, what did he say?
  I got here but you're gonna pay.
Turkey in our tummies, what did we say?
  We could've gone to
Paris for a day.

She then added: What can you make from leftover turkey BRESSE?  Turkey hash, turkey casserole, turkey soup, and, as they do here in the south, don't forget the turkey feets!!!  We hope you enjoy every golden bite.”

I hope your holiday meal was as joyful and tasteful but less expensive than ours. 


  1. I never had a turkey so beautifully dressed (as in all those stickers) in my life - but I must say, I bet the wine you drank with that turkey made it worth the while. Maybe we could send you turkeys and you could send us wine - now that would be a great trade! Love to you both and happy new year!!

  2. You never said how your turkey turned out; I hope the turkey was at least as good as turkey can be (I'm not a huge turkey fan) especially given the cost.

  3. The turkey was good, but not five times better than an American bird... As you know, it is tricky to cook a turkey. The outside was crusty but it was not completely cooked on the inside.

    Ellen said that a turkey that costs at least five times what a bird in the states costs ought to at least have a pop-up thermometer.

  4. Your story reminds me why we skipped turkey in favor of a beef easy to prepare. Beef was paired with a 2000 Amarone della Valpolicella (thanks to our guests Liz and Brent)Can't wait for the month of May to arrrive. See you soon. Happy New Year, Mark and Ellen.