The Turkey Office, or How To Buy Christmas Dinner Ingredients in Bolivia

Although I spent Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere this year, many external elements were similar to what I was used to in the cold North – Christmas lights, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in shopping malls, reindeer and Santa Claus everywhere (well ok, sometimes they were replaced by llamas), and turkey for Christmas dinner.


And what a moist, delicious, tender turkey it was.

Getting the turkey to the table, however, required a little more than a trip to the frozen meats section of the supermarket and was one of those fascinating insights into local culture that I love and that you only really get when you’re a guest in someone’s family.

My fiance R. and I were given the mission to purchase the turkey a few days before Christmas. We made a mental note of the address, one of the town’s larger streets, and headed out. Parking was plentiful and we walked down the semi-residential, semi-commercial street. I kept my eyes peeled for a market or store of some sort so I was a bit surprised when R. waved me over to a building and into the ground suite of… an office.

Granted, there was a large red overhanging banner with a turkey protruding from the front of the building, but the line inside, spilling onto a few office chairs and out the door, was more reminiscent of a post office at lunch time. As R. took his place in line, I marveled at the bureaucratic yet efficient process.

Once it was your turn, you would sit down across from an employee at his computer. He would ask you for a tax ID number, look you up in the register of clients, and only then ask you how many pounds of turkey you wanted that year. When you answered, he would input the amount into his software program, tell you the total price, and yell across the line to another employee manning the freezers. She would pull out a turkey approximately matching the requested turkey weight, and once you had paid and received your invoice, out you marched with your turkey kit, complete with a thermometer and a book of recipes.

Only then would you have the presence of mind to marvel at your visit to The Turkey Office.



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