As an atheist, I love Christmas. It combines three of my favourite things in the world: family, not working, and an excuse to consume copious festive amounts of alcohol.
But alas, celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is never the wholly joyous occasion depicted in movies, books, and anime.
How can it be, when we have to suffer the abomination-unto-god that is Turkey?
Turkey is, without a doubt, the worst meat in the world. It is dry, stringy, and completely without taste, aroma, or merit. It is the one animal which deserved to drown in Noah’s flood, but inadvertently escaped to inflict misery upon the future. Close your eyes and search your feelings—you know I’m right; eating turkey often feels like chewing on a pair of old flip-flops.
The only difference is most slippers are better seasoned with sweat, and thus more flavourful. Eating the dessicated, rubbery breast of a Turkey always feels like swallowing evidence to hide it from the police.
From sale to excretion, the bird is an ‘ordeal’ with many painful detours:
Firstly, Turkey is quite expensive. A 8 lbs (3.62kg) Turkey costs about $49.90 from Cold Storage, which works out to about $13.80/kg. Granted, it’s not as expensive as pork belly or sirloin, but it costs at least twice as much as chicken ($5.32/kg)—an infinitely superior bird.
But that’s not the main issue. The real issue is size. Buying Turkey is like buying an American SUV in Singapore.
I hope you have your microwave-safe Tupperware ready, because even the smallest Turkey is too much for the average Singaporean family. Unless you’re feeding the multitudes who’ve come to hear you preach, I honestly cannot recommend it. Even if you’re a weirdo who likes the taste of turkey, you will repent your decision after 3 days of leftover Turkey. You will gag at the Everest of pale flesh in your fridge.
Its size also makes it an absolute bitch to carry and prepare. The thing feels absurd in my arms. I don’t know whether to cook it, or to load it into a Mortar and fire it at Malaysia—who will no doubt fire it back with a note attached saying: ‘Thanks but no thanks’.
As a result of its gargantuan girth, the Turkey takes about 5 hours to properly thaw and another hour of ceaseless rubbing to season. Body positivity may be en vogue, but Turkey’s thicc-ness is really not a point in its favour. Even if you use extra salt and fondle it with the vigour as befits a Hentai villain, there will be areas untouched by seasoning.
After 2-3 days of sitting around, taking up space in your fridge, and generally being a nuisance, your Turkey is finally ready for the oven, if you’re lucky enough to possess a large oven to roast it.
Even if you do, there is no guarantee your dinner will turn out edible. Turkey’s problem is twofold. 1) The bird is so large that heat cannot reach all parts of it, resulting in an uneven done-ness 2) The meat has so little fat that any amount of overcooking is unforgivable. You have to walk a precariously thin line between indigestion and diarrhoea—in short, to pray for a thermodynamic miracle.
This is the reason why most commercial brands (Butterball, Norbest) inject their Turkey with a sodium phosphate solution to keep the flesh moist. It is also the reason why many home cooks, finding the saline injections inadequate, shingle their Turkey’s breast with a layer of bacon to protect it from direct heat.
I hope I don’t need to point out how ridiculous this is. If I invented a type of bacon that is only edible when wrapped in veal and injected with botox, I will not be celebrated as the next Gordon Ramsay.
Meat that must be wrapped in another, more expensive layer of meat to be cooked properly? I will be forcibly ejected from the VC meeting without a cent.
So why do we make such allowances/privileges for Turkey, I honestly do not know. Especially when the end result is so disappointing. Even if you baste it every 15 minutes, cover it under 2 layers of aluminium foil and brush its skin with clarified butter like Michelangelo touching up the Sistine Chapel, Turkey will never reward you for your blood, sweat, and tears.
The result is, at best, a slightly tough chicken. Impressive to look upon but otherwise undistinguished. If you fuck up, however, your family will spend Christmas trying to eat an ILBV.
Turkey-lovers—mostly those who have confused American tradition with christian-liturgy—are no doubt making outraged noises.
They will argue something along the lines of, “Turkey is great! You just don’t know how to cook it!”
Oh, is that so? Then where are the fast food joints specialising in Kentucky Fried Turkey? Where are the tasting menus where Turkey is paired with Hokkaido Scallop and served with a puree of wild garlic, cod sperm, and provencal flowers?
Its absence from everyday eating and its sudden appearance come December betrays the truth: Turkey is not something enjoyed, but tolerated. Not unlike the overpriced weddings of distant friends, or Chinese New Year questions from tactless relatives who want to know why you are unmarried at the ripe old age of 27.
As for those Turkey-ultras who insist that they can prepare a perfectly delicious Turkey, I don’t doubt their sincerity/honesty. Yes, with time, ingenuity and the right blood sacrifices to Cthulhu, your Christmas turkey might turn out wonderful.
However, the amount of maddening effort that is invested into such rituals is itself indicative of a deeper flaw.
I refer them to Professor Ian Bogost’s famous video game criticism essay ‘Shit Crayons’, where he compares Facebook games like Farmville to crayons made from poop. In the essay, he uses the example of Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka, who was imprisoned by the authorities and forced to write on toilet paper. Despite the circumstances, he wrote many fine ‘prisonettes’ and went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.
It is tempting, in the case of Wole Soyinka, to conflate the constraints he suffered with the creativity he produced. However, we should not celebrate the shackles, because he produced great literature in spite of the conditions, and not because of them.
“No matter what shit we throw, nevertheless people endure, they thrive even, spinning shit into gold,” Mr Bogost says.
Turkey is the perfect example of a ‘shit crayon’. That we have managed to make it edible is not because turkey is a good meat, but because resilient humans have always triumphed over adversity, making sandwiches out of shit. Delicious Christmas dinners exist in spite of Turkey, rather than because of it.
Let us celebrate human ingenuity, not Turkey, which tastes awful, costs a fortune, and is impossible to actually cook. Express your culinary creativity on chicken, fish, or lamb (probably the apostles’ last supper). Liberate yourself from the Nigerian prison which is Turkey.
Do you want to defend Turkey? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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