The Christmas Goose
| Ancient * UK |
“There never was such a goose...Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration” – Christmas Carol
Although this is a month of love and generosity for everyone around us, the Goose will spending it with one eye over his shoulder. Ever since ancient times, Europeans have been chasing the Goose to put it on the Christmas dinner table. Older than the Christmas tree, older than crackers, potentially even older than a Terry’s Chocolate Orange at the bottom of your stocking, this is a tradition that has survived for centuries.
But why the Goose? As a common farmyard bird the Goose (like the rest of us) put on extra chub around autumn because it foraged for all the scattered grain which the farmers used during harvest time. They were plentiful in England, unlike the Turkey which was actually considered exotic a few hundred years ago seeing as it came from the New World, and they also have softest fat of all the Roast Dinner players.
During the Victorian era you even had ‘Goose Clubs’ where the working-class breadwinner of the family would pay in a certain amount each week to be able to afford a goose at the end of the year. Because Geese were so common in Britain, especially when more were being imported easily from Germany and France, people could stop by at the local bakers who would cook the bird in their ovens and hand it over to the families. The shift to Turkey as the Christmas choice only came after the Second World War, when refrigerators and ovens became usual in the home, allowing us to ship our food from further away and cook it ourselves.
The Goose started to be domesticated with the ancient Greeks, both as a winter solstice delicacy but also as a companion, a pet, and a guard-goose. In Britain the animal was domesticated by the 3rd millennium BC. But the goose is now in a tricky spot. About 250,000 geese are eaten in Britain at Christmas, but it’s nothing compared to 10 million Turkeys in the national oven. Geese, alongside all their other poultry friends, are being blamed for ruining the planet, and its true that the carbon footprint of Christmas is high. Going Vegan or Vegetarian for Christmas would obviously help, but if you’re not willing to give up a centuries-old tradition just yet, there are plenty of other options for a low-carbon Christmas. It's all about balance.