Armed & Christian

The rantings and musings of a student of life, the Bible, & the Constitution. Pour yourself a Scotch on the rocks, have a cigar, and pull up a comfy chair by the fireplace. It looks like we're in for a long, rough night...

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Location: Indiana, United States

27 December 2012

The Christmas Goose

I’ve never been a fan of Charles Dickens. The whole “poverty-stricken, Industrial-Age, Cockney orphan” thing just never appealed to me. Blame it on my English Lit teacher from Middle School, Mrs. Yonke. She made us read “The Great Gatsby” and John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” three years running. After being subjected to dreck like that, one tends to develop a suspicious view towards any further literary recommendations from that person. The sole exception to my dislike of Dickens, however, is his “A Christmas Carol.” This exception is probably because I recall enjoying the George C Scott version as a child. The Ghost of Christmas Present is larger than life with his goblet, festive wreath, and massive, furred, kinglike robe, and the Ghost of Christmas Future is just creepy as Hell. Good stuff. Very wholesome. Why do I tell you this? My daughter came home one day several weeks ago, very excited about her class’ upcoming field trip to see this play performed at Butler University. Afterwards, she was telling me how great it was, and how much fun she had experiencing this bit of haute culture with her mom. She then asked me why people ate goose for Christmas. Around here, geese are mostly the nasty-tempered, rude, and aggressive non-migratory breed of Canada Goose that has become indigenous to Indiana. Why on Earth anyone would have anything to do with such a beast was beyond her comprehension. We discussed the economic context of Dickens’ story, and surmised that a goose must be a fine feast; this in light of Scrooge’s repentant condition and newfound generosity, and the fact that it seems to be mentioned only in the context of special holiday occasions. Furthermore, I reasoned, a goose must be fairly fatty—like a duck—and my daughter and I both covet any opportunity to feast upon roast duck. In the teachings of my grandfather, and as any Southerner knows, fat=flavor. Armed with these factual details, inductive reasoning led us to the conclusion that a roast goose would make this Christmas particularly special. My family was coming over, and had never been treated to succulent roast goose. My mom would be bringing her tasty chicken with homemade noodles. My sister would treat us to her delicious corn casserole. My princess, as usual, would be treating us to her amazing slow-cooked macaroni and cheese, her spectacular sweet potato pie, and fantastic green bean casserole. A juicy ham and delicately browned roast goose alongside these culinary delights would make this Christmas feast a memorable one, indeed. I spent the best part of the next week scouring the local supermarkets in search of a goose. Capon, duck, turkey, and ham were plentiful. Goose, not so much. In fact, I had bought a largish ham as a backup, just in case I was unable to locate the succulent waterfowl we were by now dreaming of anxiously and eagerly. Finally, just two days before Christmas, I located a store that stocked our quarry. The pricetag of $5 per pound spurred me on to acquire the largest one rather than gave me pause. After all, meat at that price *must* be prime eating, indeed. I was almost too excited for words. Visions of a Christmas feast beyond the imagination of Norman Rockwell danced in my head. I could almost see my children wearing knickers and chauffeur caps, raising their glasses in unison to little Tim Cratchit’s sweet benediction, “God bless us, every one.” Smiling as proudly as if I had hunted and cleaned the beast myself, I marched victoriously into our house and stuck the goose in our refrigerator to thaw. The goose was still somewhat frozen when my princess tucked it into our electric roaster. When I came home from running errands, I almost gagged. The smell of melting plastic permeated our entire kitchen all the way out to the garage. It overwhelmed the delicate bouquet of my wife’s sweet potato pies. It smothered the delicious aroma of her outstanding green bean casserole. Unconsciously, I moved the crock pot of mac and cheese a few inches away from the electric roaster. “Honey,” I asked my wife, our eyes burning from the thick smoke, “are you sure there weren’t any bits of plastic or something inside the goose?” She assured me that she had checked and double-checked the body cavity after wrestling out the bag of giblets and the long, greasy neck. When the roaster isn’t being used for cooking, which is most of the time, we keep it in the cupboard with the freezer bags and sandwich baggies. “Was there maybe a plastic bag that got left in the pan?” I asked, thinking it smelled more like several plastic bags. Again, my very capable wife assured me that the roaster had been clean and free of any foreign matter prior to the insertion of the goose. She suggested that perhaps it was just the vast quantities of melting fat that produced the noxious fumes now threatening to overwhelm our entire family. Even Gus, our ever-ravenous dog and our perpetually-mooching cats—normally stubborn fixtures when there is cooking going on—were nowhere to be found. Unbelievable! “Surely,” I told myself, “for $60, this greasy beast is going to redeem itself come dinnertime.” Another, more cynical, part of my brain wondered if people ate goose solely as a Christmas tradition because it took the rest of the year to eliminate the smell from their homes. Truth be told, as the fat rendered, the smell of melting plastic decreased. At least it seemed so. As I write this now, it occurs to me that we may have merely become slightly desensitized to the stench over the course of the next several hours. As my family arrived and so did dinnertime, I offered a prayer and blessing for our feast. My mother, brought up with an avid outdoorsman for a father, excitedly announced that she had never before eaten roast goose. The look on her face did not match the tone of her voice, however. My sister, less adventurous—and tactful—than our mom, merely wrinkled her nose. My daughter and niece covered their faces with their shirtsleeves. My poor wife looked sick. Flourishing the carving tools with the forced, almost manic enthusiasm of Clark Griswold, I attempted to slice the breast meat away from the ribcage. I muscled the knife tip a full quarter-inch through the tough, stringy meat before it encountered bone. Refusing to admit defeat at this point, I withdrew the knife and began slicing from the drumstick inward. The gorgeous, browned, crispy skin sloughed off, carrying an impressive layer of fat along with it. Once relieved of the vast quantity of fat, there was surprisingly little meat. This disappointment was overshadowed, however, by the realization that the mysterious smell of melted plastic thoroughly permeated every single bite. My wife and I were only able to choke down a couple small scraps of dark meat off one of the scrawny drumsticks, but the persistent aftertaste of burnt petroleum ensured we did not essay a second attempt. Even my mother, her taste buds dulled and seared by a half-century of cigarettes, could not manage a second mouthful. The rest of the family graciously declined their portions of roast goose in favor of the ham. Thank God for that ham. I cannot think of a time in which I was more grateful to not be Jewish. After dinner, I proceeded to strip the meat from the goose. I ripped open the carcass, certain that I would discover a shriveled and blackened chunk of plastic—perhaps a doorstop or water bottle—that had escaped my wife’s detection and poisoned our feast. Nothing but meat, bone, and fat. LOTS of bone and fat, and very little meat—and every molecule reeking of charred polyurethane. From an eleven pound, sixty-dollar goose, I managed to slice off a quart-sized freezer bag of inedible, plastic-flavored, tough, stringy meat. Up yours, Charles Dickens. I hope that the Ghost of Christmas Past gives you a spinning roundhouse kick right in the ‘nads.


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