It’s hard to cook a whole turkey in Japan

Today I helped a Japanese friend of mine clean a turkey. She and her family are moving back to Japan in two weeks after three years of living in the U.S. She’s not too thrilled with the move since she fits well into life here. Plus, there’s the turkey.

As we pulled off the left-over meat from the bird she cooked for us as a good-bye lunch, and I explained how to make turkey stock from the bones, she said this would be the first and last turkey she’d cook. It’s not that she didn’t like cooking the turkey, but in Japan she won’t have an oven big enough. There she’ll have a microwave/oven, possibly not even big enough to cook a small chicken.

This got me thinking about the foods we enjoy when we live in another country that we either can’t cook or don’t cook when we arrive back home. For me, it’s the chura gerte (pounded peanut and rice porridge) I used to eat for breakfast in The Gambia. I don’t have a large wooden mortar and pestle for pounding the peanuts and rice together. I suppose a food processor would do, but there was that thwack, thwack thwack sound of women pounding grain in the early morning that added to my chura gerte experience. Perhaps, it’s the aesthetics of how it’s cooked that makes a dish a so special when we travel elsewhere.

After I put the bones in the pot, filled it with water and turned on the heat, I cleaned off the wishbone and gave it to my friend explaining the tradition of making a wish. In her case, the wishbone is going to Japan with them, intact as a souvenir. If you want to cook a turkey Japanese style, stuff it with sticky rice and put it in an oven bag to cook it. Yum!