THE CHRISTMAS GOOSE – A LOOK BACK (December 23/08)

People of my generation often speak warmly of the old fashioned Christmases they enjoyed when they were kids. For the most part they were country Christmases, replete with sleigh rides, carol singing and that fondly remembered Christmas day dinner, roast goose.

Looking back to the days when I was a kid, I’d say that goose, for the most part, was the traditional Christmas dinner. The now ubiquitous yuletide turkey hadn’t made its appearance, and you could count on every barnyard having a goose or two that was being fattened for Christmas.

I don’t know how some of you seniors feel, but I’m glad the goose, the domestic goose that is, has practically disappeared from the Christmas menu. Good riddance, I say. Bring on the turkeys. They may not be as traditional as the goose; but from what I remember of Christmas dinners some 50 years ago, I’d say the goose wasn’t worth all the effort required to prepare one for dinner.

Rendering the goose, for example, was a tedious – and necessary – practice that was time consuming. I remember my mother spending hours at the oven Christmas morning while the goose was slowly roasting. The fat had to be removed as it dripped from the bird into a pan that was set under it solely for the rendering process. Domestic geese are more fat than meat, and without the rendering they are greasy and hardly palatable.

Never mind that the goose fat was saved and was used later that winter as a chest rub when mixed with Minard’s Liniment, and if my memory isn’t faulty, with oil of wintergreen. I had more than my share of this mixture daubed on my chest when I suffered from colds. Seems to me it worked, too, so you could say the traditional Christmas goose had more than one use.

I must admit that that the geese we feasted on in Christmases half a century ago had something other than medicinal going for them as well. No other fowl, domestic or wild, has the unique flavor of roasted barnyard goose. But the flavor alone wasn’t enough to keep the goose as the traditional Christmas dinner. The turkey replaced it for the simple reason that it was easy to mass produce and a lot simpler to prepare for the table.

Rather than the taste of roast goose, however, what I remember most about those long ago Christmas diners was the stuffing my mother prepared for the goose. She used a recipe she brought with her from England; it was strong in summer savory, high in celery and onions, and tops in taste. Like roasted goose, homemade stuffing has disappeared from the Christmas dinner as well. Nowadays, you buy it in a box.

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