Note to self / Lesson for the Day: Be careful what flippant remarks you make, because you may have to explain them in greater detail than you ever intended.
Tossing out a casual, glib, and somewhat crass remarks based in your home town culture, can lose all potential comedic value (however small that may have originally been) and cause wasted time and energy, if there is no local reference for your clever remark.
I give you first the pop-up turkey timer. This simple and revolutionary plastic device has ensured properly cooked birds for decades now in the factory-farmed U.S. poultry industry. The timer was originally invented by Eugene Beals, a member of the California Turkey Producers Advisory Board, in the early 1970’s, in an effort to improve everyone’s holiday turkey experience by avoiding burnt and dried-out turkey.
(good article on him here: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Eugene-Beals-inventor-of-turkey-pop-up-timer-2603566.php) .
Mr Beal’s simple and brilliant invention has become a commonplace part of cooking poultry for the last 40 years in American kitchens. When the bird is cooked, the plastic timer pops up, and “Turkey’s Done!” Poultry in the Philippines has a much shorter journey from barnyard to table. There is no big turkey consuming holiday here, and I’m fairly certain no turkey producers advisory board. Turkeys here are small farm or backyard raised and the person selling the bird is likely also the one who raised it and dispatched it. The pop-up timer is not a part of Filipino kitchens or society.
Fast forward now to a recent trike ride here in Olongapo on a side street full of trike and pedestrian traffic. Watching the flow of people and vehicles swirl and mix is always an interesting scene from the almost street level view of a trike seat. A girl moving towards us stands out to me for having made a daring or questionable choice for undergarments, or lack there of, and an even more daring or questionable choice of a dress and fabric, considering her previous decision. As she walks towards us, standing out from the crowd, I can’t help myself. “Turkey’s Done!”, I say out loud. Irene, who has been paying less attention to the crowd and is half awake sitting next to me, perks up immediately.
“What mean that?” she asks in a suspicious way that makes me realize I have made a mistake.
I attempt to explain very briefly the remark, without drawing too much attention to myself and my observant nature. After a few minutes of explanation, highlighting the basics of American poultry and Mr. Beal’s revolutionary timer, I succeed in creating only a more curious scowl. I now begin to mentally coach myself on avoiding this mistake in the future while trying to remain positive and helpful. I carefully try to string together the connection between what I saw and what I said, increasingly feeling like I am tying my own noose for the gallows. She is not understanding or not impressed. Either way, I am happy when the road begins to open and the trike pics up speed. On the clearer road we leave the pedestrian swirl and failed humor behind. I am grateful for the whine of the trike, and every moment it moves us closer to Barrio Barretto.
If you are one those people that occasionally tosses out this remark, I urge you to consider more strongly your audience, and to think as well of Mr. Beal’s real contribution to properly cooked turkey. Did you know as well those timers are re-usable? Maybe I’ll save a couple to bring with me to the Philippines next trip.