Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A most memorable Thanksgiving…

Turkey merchant in Istanbul.

Turkey merchant in Istanbul.

Tarik Ayasun

Thanksgiving 1975, will remain as one of the most memorable and strange Thanksgiving holidays for my wife and me. We were living in Istanbul, Turkey while I completed my compulsory military service in the Turkish Armed Forces. My wife and our one year old son lived in the first floor of my childhood home while I was stationed in the small western town of Bornova. Since I could not communicate directly with her from our base, we had to wait until weekends when I could call her from nearby hotels where I spent short weekends.

Thanksgiving was approaching and I was coming home on leave. Celebrating Thanksgiving with my wife in Istanbul, Turkey sounded unique and intriguing to say the least. We planned to have a complete turkey dinner with all the fixings; home-made stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and of course pumpkin pie! We decided on the menu and she was put in charge of ordering everything.

We also came up with a brilliant idea to invite three other officers and their wives to our Thanksgiving turkey dinner. They had all lived in the USA as students at various times and agreed readily to join us to have a nostalgic holiday dinner.

As a young man growing up in Istanbul, I had occasionally seen men in the streets selling live turkeys around Christmas or New Years so I told my wife to look out

Roasted chicken is no turkey.

Roasted chicken is no turkey.

for one of these “walking merchants” and purchase a big turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner. She wanted to know who would have the “rather grotesque” job of butchering the live turkey for us to cook. I was sure the man who sold her the beast would also cut it up for us! She was semi-convinced but told me she would try anyway.

While I was playing soldier, she went to work doing the real work. After searching all over town asking many people if they had seen the “walking turkey merchant” and being told over and over again that it was not close enough yet to Christmas or New Years Eve, there would be no turkeys available; she settled on going to the neighborhood butcher to order our Thanksgiving turkey. From the butcher’s description, she was a bit worried that a turkey would not be big enough for eight; she decided to order two turkeys to be delivered to our house a day before Thanksgiving Day. The rest of the items were easy to find and she was all set, just waiting for the arrival of the two turkeys.

The day before Thanksgiving Day, the turkeys did not show up. Her various trips to the butcher were not fruitful and she started to get worried and frustrated. The butcher was sure we would get the two turkeys on Thanksgiving morning and she would have plenty of time to cook them. I

Turkey sales in Istanbul.

Turkey sales in Istanbul.

arrived from Bornova on the eve of the “big day” and helped with getting the house prepared for our Thanksgiving Dinner in Turkey with our friends.

Early in the morning of Thanksgiving Day we both walked over to the butcher who met us at the door with a large package. The turkeys had finally arrived that morning, butchered and cleaned up and neatly packaged in white wax paper according to our friendly neighborhood butcher. We walked home with our prized package in hand, picking up some fresh bread from the local bakery along the way.

We were going to have Thanksgiving turkey in Turkey. Or, were we?

Opening the package in our kitchen, we were shocked to find two good size chickens, partially covered with feathers; necks intact and not looking anything like USA supermarket chickens at all. We looked at each other in disbelief and broke into laughter. We were not going to have Thanksgiving turkey in Turkey after all. We got to work immediately; cleaned, dressed and roasted our chickens in our “thankfully” gas fired oven (electricity was cut off later that morning due to a mild snow fall in the City).

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day 1975, in Istanbul, Turkey with our friends and two large chickens.

I wish all Coastal Breeze News readers a happy Thanksgiving Holiday.

Tarik Ayasun is President of the Marco Island Charter Middle School Board of Directors and has given many years of service of community service to various organizations.

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