Turkey is traditional, but the bird is no bargain

Need a quick turkey to complete the Thanksgiving menu?

This is a pricey purchase in Costa Rica even though the turkey was a traditional food of the pre-Columbian peoples.

A 14- to 16-pound U.S. Butterball turkey at PriceSmart goes for 14,495 colons. That’s about $29. For something less, shoppers can pick up a three-pound Butterball turkey breast for 5,195 colons. That’s about $10.50.

The prices at PriceSmart compare favorably with what can be found at other supermarkets. Automercado has frozen turkeys for 2,995 a kilo or about $6 or about $2.73 a pound. That price is just 60 colons a kilo more than the Butterball premium at Walmart in Curridabat. Walmart sells Honeysuckle White brand at the same price.

For those who might be challenged in the kitchen with tackling the holiday turkey, Walmart also sells pre-cooked birds for 5,085 colons per kilo or $4.63 a pound. Other meat speciality stores also sell pre-cooked or smoked turkeys, but shoppers need to bring their Visa card.

Shoppers also will find variations on the usual turkey. Flavored turkey breasts can be found with cajun or herb spices in some of the supermarkets.

Of course, one of the downsides of being an expat in another land is missing the loss leaders put forth by U.S. supermarkets where the holiday bird sometimes is priced at pennies a pound. Not so this year. Walmart sold birds in the United States for 40 cents a pound in 2010. But short supplies boosted prices this year to more than $1 a pound there.

There’s always the chicken, which is the staple of the Costa Rican menu.

Plenty of restaurants are offering Thanksgiving meals. Some of the local expat bars are combining the big dinner with football spectaculars.

Unfortunately turkey is not a usual meal here, and some Costa Rican chefs confront a big bird just once or twice a year. Even in a multi-star hotel-restaurant in Escazú, reporters have found birds undercooked because the chef was deceived by the crispy, glowing skin.

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