*This may or may not be based on a real story. Your experiences may differ slightly.
Step 1: Obtain an oven. These appliances are not common in China, as many dishes can be cooked in a wok on a burner. You’ll have to be prepared to shell out more than a few yuan, though, so save up. Some stores do sell them, with incredible mark-ups, but your husband might be able to find one online for less than half of that price. He’ll also have to have a little cupboard built to house the oven, which you’ll worry won’t fit through the kitchen doorway in your apartment if it is fully assembled, but eventually your oven will be installed and usable. Cook a few things with it to familiarize yourself with how it works and so that you are aware of its tendency to blow out the extensions cords used to plug it in.
Step 2: Find whipping cream in your local supermarket. Think to yourself, “Wow, we can never buy whipping cream here, so I should definitely buy it. What can I make to use whipping cream? Pumpkin pie. Mmmm, I love pumpkin pie. What goes with pumpkin pie? Turkey. Hey, I have an oven, I could make a turkey dinner!” Realize later that, as with so many other things, these ideas are much harder to carry out in practice.
Step 3: Barrage your mother with emails requesting recipes for her pies, stuffing, and turkey preparation (because your mother’s turkey always tastes better than anyone else’s, right?!). Start making a list of ingredients and utensils you need to track down in order to successfully make this meal.
Step 4: Send your husband on a wild turkey chase (it’s a lot like a wild goose chase but, you know, with turkeys) in China, land of pork, mutton, duck, and chicken.
Step 5: Talk up your upcoming turkey dinner to a couple of friends and even invite them, despite not actually having confirmed that you can get a turkey (and, in fact, never having made a turkey dinner before…ever).
Step 6: Have your wonderful mother supply you with some key items you require to actually pull off this feat. This may include a roaster, rack, baster, skewers, a pie pastry mix, and a couple of spices.
Step 7: Breathe a huge sigh of relief when your husband reports home that he has found someone with a turkey on their farm that they will sell to you for a good price. Slap your forehead with your hand later when you discover that you can actually order frozen turkeys on Taobao (THE online shopping site in China).
Step 8: Answer the following questions that your husband then asks you regarding the turkey: Alive or dead? (Dead.) Male or female? (Uh…not sure, but probably female because they are smaller.) Any other requests? (Um, yes. No feathers, no head, no feet, and no insides. Oh, and please weigh it after all this is removed so I can establish a cooking time.) Feel proud of yourself for remembering to specify those things because this is China and they eat everything!
Step 9: Set the date for your dinner, tell the friends you’ve already invited that it is confirmed, and continue gathering the items you need for the dinner. Make desserts, including pumpkin (which you’ve never made before and are worried won’t set properly or cook through because it is really runny) and apple pies (hey, a girl’s got to find some way to use up all those apples from her students for Christmas!), and chocolate fudge. Feel relieved that even if the turkey is a failure, at least you can all gorge on desserts.
Step 10: Panic one day before your scheduled dinner when you receive the following text message from your husband, who has gone to the farm to pick up the turkey and take it to be slaughtered and prepared: “I got the turkey done. It is about 15kg or 33 pounds heavy. Now I’m on the way home.” Know that there is no way a 33 pound turkey will ever fit into your oven.
Step 11: Return home at lunch to be greeted by two stiff, curled turkey feet sticking out of the bag holding said bird. Decide to temporarily bypass asking why the feet are still attached when you had clearly asked for them to be removed in order to assess the size of the turkey. Pick up the bag and try to get a feel for the weight. Think to yourself that the bird doesn’t actually appear to be that large, but continue to worry nonetheless about just how long it is going to take to cook the thing.
Step 12: After teaching classes all day and attending a friend’s birthday dinner, return home and begin cleaning the turkey. Ask for your husband’s assistance to cut the feet and more of the neck off and shake your head a bit when he tells you that the man at the slaughterhouse thought you were nuts to not want such a “good, thick neck” and “big feet” for your dinner. Tell your husband that if you ever decide to do this again, that the guy can keep the neck and feet for himself. Your husband will just chuckle when you say this. Watch as he puts the feet and neck into a bag into the freezer so he can eat them later.
Place the turkey in your sink with cold water and clean it. Call your husband for help again when you realize that the insides are still present. Help him gut the turkey. Finish thoroughly cleaning it and try to pat it dry with toilet paper (because you forgot to buy paper towels and don’t want to use a real towel on a raw turkey) but give up because the paper flakes off onto the skin. Remember that you have nothing large enough to hold it until the following day, nor will it fit in your refrigerator, so help your husband wrap it in cling wrap and place it in an empty box to leave in your unheated kitchen overnight, hoping that the room will be cold enough to prevent you from giving anyone food poisoning the next day. Continue wondering about the weight of the turkey the entire time you are cleaning it, since it doesn’t seem overly large or heavy, but know that you have no scale to verify the weight, so keep stressing.
Step 13: While researching turkey cooking times on the internet, begin to worry when the largest bird any site has listed is 24 pounds. Start to wonder if you should be putting the bird in the oven immediately. Panic internally, but say nothing to your husband, who has worked very hard to get you this turkey and you don’t want to seem ungrateful.
Step 14: When your husband out of nowhere suddenly says, “Wait, not 15kg. 15 jin, 15 jin! So that’s only about 8 or 8.5 kg, so maybe 15 pounds,” breathe a huge sigh of relief and calculate that you should be able to put the bird in the oven around noon the following day to have it ready for dinner.
Step 15: The next day, get up and make the stuffing, stuff, close, and roast the turkey as you would in any other country, all the while worrying that your oven may short out the circuit and cause you to end up with a raw turkey at dinner time. Relax as the day wears on, the bird starts smelling oh-so-good, and the oven continues to work.
Prepare the other food, take out the turkey, make the gravy, and set the table. Sit down with good friends and enjoy the first turkey dinner you’ve ever made, and your first in several years. Bon apetit!