Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Christmas sparrow

An expat friend of mine living in France told me how his efforts to support the local community caused him a catastrophe last month.

Apparently near his house is a local poultry farm. He and his family had always purchased their Christmas turkey from the local butchers or supermarkets, but in 2008 they decided to do the ‘community thing’ by buying a turkey from their farmer neighbour.

So a few weeks before Christmas they called and ordered a 6-7k turkey as they had family coming to stay. Collection was arranged for late Christmas Eve.

On the day itself, my friend went over to collect the turkey. He went in, and shared a drink or two for the season with the farmer. After a little time had passed, thinking it was time to be moving, he asked for his turkey.

“There it is” said the farmer. My friend looked around, struggling to see where.

“There!” said the farmer – pointing to the dinner table of his living room.

To my friend’s horror, he realised the farmer was pointing to what he had assumed on entry was a very small chicken on the table that looked to be not much bigger than a large sparrow.

After a few minutes of rising panic, it became apparent the local farmer had used his judgement to provide a smaller bird as he’d assumed 6-7k would be too large and must have been a translation error. A nice and considerate thought to save a foreigner some money perhaps, but he hadn’t grasped my friend had several family visitors coming to Christmas dinner.

After desperately asking if another turkey was available, much to the farmer’s puzzlement, my friend left in a panic, running out into the darkness with the tiny turkey in tow. When he arrived back home his wife literally screamed when she realised that they were going to have to feed a house full of people the following day with a turkey that they discovered weighed less than 2 kilos.

The next hour was spent frantically driving around trying to find a shop still open and another turkey – totally without success.

The following day their guests arrived and the mini-turkey cooked. My friend told me they had to carve every single piece of it just for the one sitting and still really didn’t have quite enough with the plates looking a bit ‘thinly populated’ with turkey and empty spaces filled with yet more Brussels sprouts. Fortunately their guests understood and took it with good humour though several played the Oliver Twist role and held their plates up asking plaintively “Please could I have some more?”

I asked my friend what lessons he’d learned from this miserable experience. Had he gone off the idea of helping neighbours by buying locally?

Apparently he hasn’t but he has learned that collecting the turkey on Christmas Eve is a little risky...

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