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Sat Dec 22, 2018, 10:07 AM

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 22: Whatever happened to the Christmas Goose?

Most people won't have a Christmas goose for dinner this year, but once that goose was the most popular meal.

Long ago in the old country, roast goose was the centerpiece for Michaelmas, a popular feast day in the Middle Ages, and before that, tradition says, it was offered as a sacrifice to the gods Odin and Thor.

So a Christmas goose is just a goose by any other name, right? Not exactly. Domestic geese are most delicious at two times of year—when they’re young in the early summer and toward the end of the year when they’re fattest—the second being precisely why they were such Christmas commodities. Similar to a Thanksgiving turkey, geese require a couple of hours to fully cook and are usually roasted in a pan filled with spices and citrus. They are all dark meat, rich and flavorful, and some prefer the flavor and moistness of the bird.


You may remember the Cratchit's in Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" and their Christmas Goose:

"God Bless us, every one!" is the famous benediction that Tiny Tim Cratchit pronounces over what is perhaps the most famous holiday meal of all time, in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. On the Cratchit family's holiday table are potatoes, gravy, applesauce, a pudding "like a speckled cannon-ball" blazing with ignited brandy. But at the center of the meal—and the heart of Tiny Tim's prayer—is a glorious roast goose.

That goose has always stuck with me, and no wonder: It moved Dickens to a culinary rapture unparalleled in the thousands of pages he wrote. The Cratchits rush to take their places at the table with their spoons crammed in their mouths "lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped." The family says grace, and a breathless pause ensues as Mrs. Cratchit prepares to plunge the carving knife into the goose. "Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by the applesauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet everyone had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits, in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows!"

There's lots to love in this passage: the atom of leftover bone, the children sauced in sage and onion. But what's always most delighted me is the vision of the little Cratchits politely sucking their spoons so as not to clamor out of turn for their helping of goose.


Why did serving goose go away?

While there’s no official reason behind its decline, we do have some theories. Believe it or not, many people blame Charles Dickens. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens associated goose with the struggling Cratchit family, turning it into a poor man’s supper. Another hunch is the rise of agricultural technology in the 20th century made it easier and more affordable to buy other meats. Which brings us to…

the turkey

Not only were there tons of turkeys for Christmas and Thanksgiving, they were cheaper, too. A 10-pound goose ordered online today can cost over $15.00 a pound, more than most of us want to pay. Compared to spiral ham, which cost $2.91 per pound in 2014, turkey clocked in at a cool $1.28. In 2012, Americans ate an estimated 22 million turkeys on Christmas Day; we suspect the number has gone up.


Whatever you have for Christmas Dinner, Enjoy!

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

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