Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkeymenistan Day


As followers of this blog may remember, last year I spent Turkey Day in Turkmenistan with Della Mae.  Our cultural diplomacy adventures coincided with culinary diplomacy outreach, as the Thanksgiving meal was prepared by Chef Jim Leahy of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York.  Chef Leahy, who had made the delicious baked good for the State Dept's Diplomatic Culinary Partnership kick-off in Foggy Bottom, was brought out to discuss American food traditions in conjunction with the U.S. Cultural Days and the State Dept's culinary diplomacy initiative.

Since Chef Leahy knew he wouldn't be able to find the instruments, utensils and ingredients needed to prepare the huge feast for the Turkmen dignitaries, Embassy staff and bands involved in the festival, he brought knives, thermometer and frozen turkeys with him on the long journey.  Except...the Turkmen customs officials at the airport didn't know what to make of all these strange utensils and metal instruments that looks like they could be used for uranium enrichment.  The shipment promptly got quarantined in customs at the Ashgabat airport.

Well, after some culinary diplomatic wranglings, eventually Chef Leahy was able to get all his instruments and accouterments for the feast out of quarantine...but not before the turkeys had all unfrozen.  After letting the turkeys unfreeze, the Turkmen officials promptly refroze the birds.  Well, this promptly caused half the guests and bands to get food poisoning from the salmonella that leached onto the re-frozen birds.

Amazingly, I did not get sick.  My cast-iron stomach is apparently stronger than salmonella.

Anyway, I always say that I can spend 364 days abroad, but Thanksgiving is the only day I want to be home.  From turkey feasts at a hostel next to Hagia Sophia in Turkey to eating yak meatballs and fried potato croquettes in Tibet to ex-pat thanksgiving in Buenos Aires to a steak dinner after a 55 hour bus ride from Jakarta to Bukittinggi in Sumatra, I have had some interesting Turkey Days, but I am always thankful for those I can spend at home.

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