There is an American Thanksgiving tradition that each year, the president in office pardons a turkey. One lucky turkey gets a chance to live another year or at least until someone’s other meal. Although in this picture, it is difficult to decide if the turkey is getting pardoned or last rites. In Hungary, it seems many turkeys are getting a pass for us American ex-pats who want to celebrate the holiday in a traditional way.
Finding turkey parts is easy. It just takes a walk into just about any supermarket or butcher shop. You can find turkey legs, wings and breasts. The latter are usually skinned already. Whole turkeys are as rare as hen’s teeth. Each year it becomes a treasure hunt to find a whole turkey, rather than an assorted assembly kit. This year was no different.
It seemed logical that if asked, a butcher shop would be able to order a whole turkey before some axe happy assailant chopped it to bits, so with this thought in mind, I went from butcher to butcher. Just for assurance, I had our friend Gabor write it in Hungarian so there would not be any misunderstanding. Each shop, I handed over my paper with the question on it. Each attempt had the same result. NEM, nem, nem! NO, no, no! The looks that accompanied this phrasing was enough to make me feel like I wanted something exotic like zebra steaks or something. Yeesh!
The next logical step was to ask the Budapest Ex-Pat Facebook groups for suggestions. Thank goodness for Canadians. They have their Thanksgiving in October, so they have paved the way already. Three extremely reasonable suggestions were made along with the usual ones that should have been deleted by the moderator. One of the online shopping venues that we use on occasion had turkeys for 2,900 Huf a kg which translates to $6.50 a pound. Now I want a whole turkey as much as the next traditionalist, but I am not willing to pay $6.50 a pound for it.
Other ideas were to order the ready-made dinners from Marriott or Intercontinental Hotels. We did that one year, spent over $150 for a meal supposed to feed six and were sorely disappointed. Ron managed to find a butcher who has some sense of sensibility about the situation and promised to order the bird. Now, we are moving the celebration from this Thursday to this Friday. Most of our six dinner guests have to work on Thursday and Friday, so they would not be able to arrive until later Thursday and have to leave earlier.
In preparation, yesterday I experiment by making Gluten Free and Vegan Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bars since one of our guests is gluten intolerant. This was a real challenge. Not only are whole turkeys a rarity here, but pie pans are totally unheard of. I went to twelve different stores that sold housewares and kitchen goods, but not one had anything close. Flan pans are not pie pans. To make sure there was no miscommunication, I had pictures of various pie pans on my phone so show. Nada! Then there was the expedition trying to find coconut milk (easy), coconut syrup (extremely difficult), coconut flour (medium difficulty), and then a long list of spices that I was not sure of the Hungarian name for and was too rushed to Google translate them. Eventually, I found myself at the Asian Market next to the Great Market where I found all that I needed and a nice man who spoke English too. The coconut syrup is artificial, but after going to 8 health food stores including 6 of them that sold paleo diet products, I gave up and went artificial.
Guests are each contributing other goodies to make the meal like a traditional celebration. I am planning a crustless apple pie too. Gratefully, I now have a closet full of just about any spice I could need. I am all set to go.