Chinto: “More rum!”
Me: “…ummm…are you sure…?”
Chinto: “Siiii! Claro que siii!”
Me: “Ok, but that seems like too much rum…for a turkey…”
Drew: “…Is there such thing as too much rum on the last day of your life...?”
I gingerly take the plastic solo cup from my friend Chinto’s hand as he gives me an encouraging grin. His girlfriend, Drew, is standing next to me, clutching a freaked-out 15-lb turkey, prying it’s wrinkly beak open…ready for me to pour 5 shots of Nicaragua's finest "7 Year Reserve Flora De Cana" rum down it’s throat.
Ok…REWIND…what’s this about forcing a turkey to chug half a cup of rum…? Should I be calling PETA?? Please don’t…I promise I wasn’t torturing a turkey just for fun…
So here I was in rural Nicaragua (which is becoming more and more my home than Toronto in recent years), spending the holidays with my boyfriend, Oscar, my American friend, Drew, and her boyfriend, affectionately known as “Chinto”.
However, Christmas was probably the last thing on my mind. Nicaragua, being the land of endless summer, does not exactly put one in the “festive spirit”. There is no snow, no giant pine trees lit-up like the fourth of July, no smell of gingerbread wafting through every room, and no “Jingle Bells” ringing incessantly in your ears. As a result, I hadn’t really put much thought into preparing something special for Christmas dinner.
Below is a photo of how kids imagine Santa delivering presents to them...I'm kidding, they don't actually think that...
In a spur-of-a-moment decision, Drew (who I suspect was feeling a bit homesick) and I came up with the rather poorly thought-out, hair-brained idea to cook a traditional Christmas turkey dinner. The idea of making turkey dinner for Christmas dinner itself is not hair-brained…it was more the fact that we did not actually have a turkey to cook.
Reminder: we are in RURAL NICARAGUA.
*below is a photo of the incredible surf break right by my house (not a single commercial building in site)...rural Nicaragua looks pretty good, eh?
It’s not that you can’t get a turkey at the grocery store in the city in Nicaragua. The problem is that I live about a 35-minute drive from the closest grocery store, don’t have a car, have no access to public transportation, and given that it was the evening of December 23rd, the chances of scoring a bird was pretty slim. I mean, even in Toronto it would be difficult to find a turkey that last minute.
That being said, being in rural Nicaragua also meant that there was bound to be a wild (or semi-wild) turkey running around somewhere!!! All we had to do was find it….which turned out to be more of a wild-goose chase than I had anticipated (pun intended).
However, God must have decided to amuse himself that day and after a few phone calls, and the help of Drew’s 17-yr old gardener, we managed to find someone who owned a turkey, and for $40 USD, was willing to part with it! #extortion
Now, if you had asked me when I was about 8-years old, “Lesley, where does meat come from?”. I would have promptly and proudly retorted, “The grocery store!” (#facepalm) And that would be because I grew up in a concrete jungle and cannot even recall laying eyes on any sort of live farm animal until I was nearly 20-years old (yes, I am hanging my head in shame).
So, Christmas Eve morning rolls around (culturally, the locals celebrate Christmas on the 24th), and Drew’s gardener (Brian) cruises up to my house, on his motorbike, with an LIVE 15-lb turkey stuffed in a potato sack. He tosses me the sack, flips me an “adios” and motors off….So there I am…standing on my front porch…holding a sack with a 15-lb turkey in it.
*see photo below
Anxiety sets in immediately so I frantically throw the turkey (sack and all) into Oscar’s sister’s kitchen (she lives behind us) and lock the door. Then I promptly call Drew and demand that she come over as soon as humanly possible to help me assess this turkey situation that is currently cowered in the corner of Oscar’s sister’s kitchen. Drew…non-plussed at all by this very much ALIVE turkey, that is to be our dinner in about 8 hours, drives up, bare-footed, on her dirt bike with Chinto and a giant baking tray in tow.
I suppose my assumption was that one of the boys would kill the turkey and it would just magically clean itself and we would feast on its juicy, tender, free-range flesh until we fell into a food-coma. Unfortunately, Oscar was out of commission as he was recently in an accident, and Chinto was scheduled to fix a water pump at Drew’s house. So that meant, it was up to us gringo city girls to turn this ALIVE turkey into a scrumptious Christmas feast. After all, it was our genius idea to get a turkey for Christmas, and I’m sure the boys just wanted to see us try and wrangle this turkey into an actual meal.
I consider myself a fairly liberal, open-minded adult. Theoretically I know where my food comes from and I have always been an advocate of responsible eating. Therefore, killing, cleaning, and cooking my own meat should consecrate my liberal-hippie beliefs.
So, how exactly does one "logistically" go about this…?
Below is a step-by-step guide (for dummies) on how to kill, clean, and cook a turkey (or any kind of fowl for that matter):
LESLEY’S GUIDE TO KILLING, CLEANING, & COOKING A TURKEY:
1. INTOXICATE THE TURKEY WITH ALCOHOL
Why? Because apparently, if the turkey is stressed out when you kill it, it releases a hormone that spoils the meat. Oscar very specifically told me to give it ONE shot of rum and let it wander around the yard like a drunken freshman, enjoying its last day in the sun.
Chinto, on the other hand, believed that this being a Nicaraguan turkey would need more than one-shot of rum. So he pours me 5-shots of 7-yr Reserve, Flor de Cana rum and instructs me to pour all of it down the turkey’s throat. It goes down surprisingly easy…maybe it is a very Nicaraguan turkey after all.
*see video below of turkey guzzling rum
In case you’re wondering, 5 shots of rum is too much rum for a turkey. WAAAAY too much. This turkey ended up so piss-drunk that it wasn’t feeling the sun or wind ruffling it’s feathers for the last time…I’m pretty sure it wasn’t feeling anything at all. It couldn’t even stand-up. This was no tipsy Frosh…think suicidal drug-addict…completely passed out…
2. KILL THE TURKEY
Initially, I had negotiated with Drew that I would hold the turkey down, and she would chop of it's head with a machete. Because in our minds, that’s how you would kill a turkey.
Apparently that’s not how you kill a turkey in Nicaragua.
You string it up by its feet, tie it to a tree, sharpen a knife, and slit its throat and let it bleed out. YUCK! #cringe
I gave the “Chamcheepae” (Nica slang for turkey) one last cuddle and handed it to Drew, “It’s all yours girl!”
Drew is not a wimp like me. I wish I could claim that I killed my own Christmas bird, however, that glory belongs to Drew. I chickened-out. It took a couple slices across the throat before the blood started gushing out. I know that sounds gross, but it really wasn’t that much blood…and it was over pretty quickly. Also, those 5 shots of rum pretty much knocked the turkey out, so it barely flinched...
*see video below (disclaimer: I am not responsible for any turkey-centric nightmares that you may have after watching this)
2. DE-FEATHER & DE-GUT THE TURKEY
This is a rather simple process. I thought we would have to spend hours yanking every single little tiny feather out. Instead, what you do is dunk the turkey (very quickly) into a vat of boiling hot water. Then the feathers pretty much just fall out as you tug them off the turkey. The whole process took less than 10 mins.
De-gutting it was another story. This was DISGUSTING (yet oddly fascinating). Oscar’s sister did most of the heavy-lifting on that one. I wish she would have explained in greater detail what she was feeling for as she shoved her hand up the turkey cavity and started yanking out it’s intestines, stomach, heart, kidneys, etc…you get the picture….Drew and I mainly picked at the insides once they were out and tried to identify what each slimy piece was…
*disclaimer: some slightly gross photos below...
3. COOK THE TURKEY
After the turkey is de-feathered and de-gutted…you rinse it out with water and it pretty much looks like any old Butterball that you get at the grocery store.
Cooking it was easy. Well easy for me...Again, Drew pretty much prepped, basted and cooked all of it. I made some salad. In my defence, Drew is actually a professional chef – and I can barely make canned soup – so it was in everyone’s interest that Drew prep the turkey – I would hate to ruined the turkey after all that work...
We had decided ahead of time to cook the turkey at my place. However, after the turkey was prepped, we realized that it would not fit in my tiny “easy-bake” oven. We would have to take the turkey to Drew’s house (where she had a normal-sized oven) to bake it. Once again, easier said than done, as Drew had come over to my place on her motorbike and would now have to balance a raw, basted, and stuffed turkey with all the fixings, on her motorbike while driving back to her house. In the end, the turkey made it to Drew’s house to cook, and then back to mine, to eat,, all without being dropped or attacked by wild street dogs (a highly plausible scenario).
The turkey looked and tasted DELICIOUS!!! Did I feel guilty about the fact that this "Chamcheepae" was rolling wild and free, sunbathing in my yard just hours before? No. It had a good life. Better than any frozen Butterball turkey could have even dreamed of.
Christmas Eve dinner was traditional as you could get. We even had sweet potato mash! If it weren’t for the mosquito’s feasting on our dirty Nica feet, and the eight random Hawaiian surfers that joined us for dinner that night, you wouldn’t even have known that you were in Central America.
So I guess, all is well that ends well...well, maybe not for Chamcheepae....lol....
I hope everyone’s holiday was as joyous and educational as mine! And if not, at least you learned how to kill, clean, and cook a turkey just from reading this blog!
Stay tuned for more Nica style adventures!
*photo below is of sunset from my doorstep on Christmas Eve...no filter...beautiful!