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  • Writer's pictureAmy Kraft

Mystery Meat

We tried really hard to avoid buying food at Disney World, or at least my sister Melissa did. She had portioned off bags of snacks for each kid to bring into the theme park, and a selection of food items for the adults in our party. Also, water. Lots of water. I grabbed an extra piece of fruit and a muffin from our breakfast buffet in the hotel, which didn't last very long.

By 10:30 my stomach was grumbling. So I succumbed to the high prices for food throughout the Magic Kingdom dining on coffees, gummy worms, and ice cream. I stuck to the small snacks and junk food to tide me over, but by lunch time I was ravenous. I remembered seeing a turkey leg stand in Adventureland earlier that day. So while the kids were riding the Goofy roller coaster I took my leave to forage for food. I had never eaten an actual turkey leg before, although I'd seen them at places like Medieval Times, and I imagined they would taste something like the Butterball turkeys I ate growing up.

But when I bit into the flesh of the hunk of meat the size of a squirrel head, my mouth was assaulted by the salty taste of ham. Or at least that's what I thought. I pushed my suspicions aside and continued gnawing into the food like a wild animal.

When I rejoined my group, I offered a bite to Sebastien.

"it tastes a bit like ham," he said.

"Yeah that's what I thought," I said.

For a moment I wondered if the happiest place on earth was trying to get away with serving subpar meats. But then I chalked it up to an honest mistake. In fact, something similar happened to me once.

Years ago I invited a group of friends and neighbors over to my house for Thanksgiving. I was a grad student at the time and living on a tight budget. But I knew I had to have food for my guests (who were also instructed to bring a dish). I went to Fairway Market, an iconic grocery store on New York City's Upper West Side, to get a turkey and stuffing. But I was dismayed by the prices for turkeys. It was like $15.99 a pound. I didn't even know how many pounds I needed for myself and all of my guests, but it seemed like a lot. I quickly did some calculations in my head and if I got a whole 8-10 pound turkey, I'd have enough money left over for approximately half a can of cranberry sauce.

My dinner guests deserved more. I wandered the aisles trying to come up with another solution when I came across the packaged meats along a brightly colored cooler behind the fish counter. Perusing the selection of meats, my eyes zeroed in on packages of turkey pieces for a lot less than the cost of the whole bird. I figured if I bought 3 or 4 packages of already broken up turkey, I would save someone the trouble of cutting it up and have enough money leftover to buy stuffing, cranberry sauce, and possibly even a pie.

The afternoon of Thanksgiving my friends and neighbors arrived to find a wonderful spread of including green bean casserole, piping hot stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and broccoli, surrounding a large platter overflowing with crispy, seasoned pieces of turkey. Once we dispensed with the pleasantries, I passed out plates for guests to fill with the bounty of food that stood before us.

Like a good host, I waited for everyone to fill up their plates before getting my own food, and sat, quietly waiting and watching as everyone took their first bite of this delicious meal I managed to pull off. My moment of pride was cut short though as I caught a look of disgust on my friend Brooke's face as she bit into a turkey leg. Then my neighbor Mike made a similar face, although his was more confusion than disgust.

"Are you sure this is turkey," Brooke said.

Mike responded with his Tennessee drawl, "That don't taste like turkey to me."

"Sure it's turkey," I said, defending the dead bird.

Sebastien walked into the kitchen and looked at the plastic wrapping on the discarded containers in the trash. "It says ham hock," he said.

"No it doesn't," I said grabbing the foam meat tray from him. I don't know how, but sure enough when I looked at the price tag it said ham hock.

Brooke pushed her plate away. "I don't eat ham."

"I swear it said turkey when I bought it," I said, apologetically. "I was just trying to save money."

Everyone laughed and those that didn't care continued to eat the mystery meat. For the rest of the party, I had enough side dishes to go around.

Finishing off my turkey leg in Disney World several years later, I was finally able to forgive myself for that Thanksgiving Day mishap. And I could forgive Disney World if they in fact made the same mistake. Accidents happen. Which I suppose is OK as long as your belly is full in the end. Except if, like Brooke, you don't eat ham.

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