National bird

It’s probably unwise for me to post another unfavorable review of a beloved cultural food item. Yeah, well…

I have to do it. I have to talk about the Disneyland Turkey Leg. Forgive me. Please don’t call me names like you called me after the Jollibee review. That is all I ask.

It started out simply enough, you know. My friend Tori and I went to the Happiest Place On Earth™ last Tuesday, and the weather forecast said it was going to be cloudy with highs in the high 60s to low 70s. Of course, the day before the forecast had been for sunny weather with zero percent chance of rain and it had turned out cold and rainy, so I figured I would play it safe and wear a long-sleeved shirt and pack a sweater. But when we got to Disneyland, it was sunny. And sort of warm.

By about 11 am, I was pretty uncomfortable and wished I had worn a short-sleeved shirt. Thankfully, Disneyland is the right sort of place to be if you want to be wearing a short-sleeved shirt but don’t have one. I very quickly found a t-shirt that amused me:


And I guess that’s when the trouble started. Tori asked the cashier, “Does she get a free turkey leg if she wears this around now?” and the cashier said rather sourly, “I guess you could try that… if you wanna make ’em laugh at the turkey leg stand.” Now that’s another thing. This visit to Disneyland, most of the employees (oh, sorry; CAST MEMBERS) were really grouchy or they were extremely obese. In some instances they were both. But more on that later.

So I had my turkey leg t-shirt, and I promptly changed into it, and what do you know? Tori and I decided that it was about lunchtime. Where do you suppose we went? Yes, we went to the turkey leg stand. It was like I had been hypnotized by the shirt. And yes, I asked if I got a free turkey leg for wearing my shirt. And no, the kid didn’t even laugh. He just said, “Nine dollars, please,” and thumped a rather heavy thing wrapped in paper on the counter.

I picked up the package, was surprised by the weight of it, and went with Tori to our favorite little picnic spot by the river. There was a family with a laughing baby there, both Tori and I had frozen lemonades, and here I was with a giant smoked turkey leg. It was time to unwrap it.

Several layers of paper, an insulated hot bag, several more layers of paper, and then…


Hm. Well, there was meat, and it was wrapped around a bone, but there was really something wrong here. It looked like several different layers of meat had been stuck together somehow and held in place with the glazed “skin.” The meat was very pink. The skin didn’t look like delicious smoked poultry skin is supposed to look. There was a hank of cartilage near the bottom that I couldn’t quite pull off. And there was lots of fluid.

“What do I do?” I asked Tori.
“Just pick it up and eat it like a caveman,” she suggested.
“It’s really heavy.”
“Maybe they have forks or something.” Tori ran off.

I frowned and fretted as I tried to pull off the skin and that cartilage knob, and then wiped my hands with the paper napkins I already had. And then something very strange happened: the napkins stuck to my fingers. Like really stuck. Like when you get superglue on your fingertips stuck. I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed my fingers, and the napkin stayed stuck.

Tori came back with a pile of napkins. “They only have utensils at the restaurants,” she said. “Look at this,” I said, and I showed her my napkinny fingers. “It’s not like it’s grease, it’s glue or something. They glued this thing together.”

“Just eat it.”

So I took a bite.


It was the saltiest thing I have ever tasted, and that includes Swedish licorice toads. I like salt. I like salt a lot. I could not eat this thing. “I can’t eat this,” I said. I stared at it for a while. Nine dollars. “It’s kind of stinky,” Tori observed. The baby at the next table started laughing at me. I kept picking at my fingers, and finally thought to put some frozen lemonade on my fingers, which worked to unstick the napkins. I had a couple of internal debates about wastefulness, stared at the turkey leg a little longer, and then I wrapped it up and threw it into the nearest trash can.

After that, Tori and I took to the iPhone to see what exactly I had just eaten. Searches for “turkey leg disneyland” came back with four-star Yelp reviews. “Turkey leg disneyland ingredients” resulted in an estimated calorie count of approximately 1,000 calories, but no clues about the actual makeup of the meat club in front of us.

Finally, a search for “turkey leg disneyland disgusting” took us to a brave soul who had also been sorely disappointed by the fowl shank. Of course there was a requisite U R STOOPID comment, but many people supported him. Tori and I finished our lemonades, happy to have found another sane person in the universe, and went to find some corn dogs. We had a fine day, all in all. We visited the live presidentially pardoned turkey in Frontierland and marvelled at his relatively small legs. We encountered more angry and obese cast members, but Tori said maybe they were like that because the Park only gave them turkey legs to eat.

The next day, Tori commenced her research about the turkey leg. Now, one thing I have not mentioned about Tori before is that she could be a detective if she wanted to. She is really good at research, and she is very tiny so she could hide in a dresser drawer or under a sink if she needed to spy on someone in their house. The last part is not necessary to the story at hand, but for some reason I feel compelled to bring it up.

Anyway, she found some people talking about turkey legs on some Disney discussion boards:

  • “it is ham. My daughter is a chef for them and it isn’t turkey. Come on have you ever seen a turkey that big:secret:.”
  • “It’s actually not turkey. It’s compressed ham in the shape of a turkey leg with a film on the outside then smoked. I found this out from a major supplier to sports (college/NFL) arenas. If you ask for the ingredients or ask if its kosher they will have to tell you no. Sorry to burst your bubble.”

It’s true that the meat was so pink and salty that it could have been anything. Okay, okay. Anonymous internet discussion boards. Not exactly irrefutable evidence. Disney supporters quickly dismiss the “it’s ham!” claim with a roll of the eyes and a “poor things don’t know what smoked, brined poultry tastes like.” But nobody is bringing up the fact that the napkins stuck to my hands like nobody’s business. It was not grease. Grease is not sticky like that. Grease is greasy. It was not “turkey juice.” The turkey juice that collected in the folds of the paper wrapping was not the cause of my glued-together fingers. It was something on the meat. What was it?

Tori sent me another link, to a news story about meat glue. According to Dan Noyes at KGO-TV in San Francisco, “Meat glue is a powder officially known as transglutaminase. Originally, the natural enzyme was harvested from animal blood. Now it’s primarily produced through the fermentation of bacteria. Added to meat, it forms a nearly invisible and permanent bond to any other meat you stick it to.”

Well, then. I think we need to stop our research here. I just don’t want to know any more. Tori, if you happen to find an ingredient list for the corn dogs, please don’t share it with me. Otherwise, I don’t know what we’re going to do for lunch when we go back to Disneyland next month.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sounds very much to me that the moral of the story is steer well clear of Turkey Legs at Disneyland! Thanks for the heads up! :-)

  2. Don’t they sell old horses for glue? Maybe that’s what you had. Turkey leg shaped horse ham.


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