Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Brief History Of Turkeys In Cambodia

Image courtesy of papaija2008 at

I don't exactly know when the first turkey arrived in Cambodia, but when my family arrived here 13 years ago, frozen turkeys cost $70 to $80. Missionaries would gather in large groups for Thanksgiving and pool their resources to buy a turkey. The amount each family paid depended on the size of their family. The host had the unenviable task of collecting from his friends and blocking people's cars in so they couldn't leave without paying. Even for those who opted not to eat, there was usually a $5 surcharge just for sniffing. Every bone was licked clean. Leftovers were out of the question. Those were some dark days.

After learning the Khmer language, we came to the realization that a very important word had been overlooked in our lessons. That word was "turkey." I decided to show a picture of a turkey to some people and discover what the Khmer word for turkey was. After polling numerous Cambodians, they all said the same thing..."moen barang." Moen is chicken; barang is foreigner. And as in many languages, the adjective follows the noun. So...a turkey is a foreigner chicken. Foreigner chicken? Oh, brother! Such a miscarriage of literary justice! But old habits die hard, so "foreigner chicken" it remained.