There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. It's tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple sauce 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 bone upon the dish), "they hadn't ate it all at last!"
This Christmas, as there's only going to be four of us, we've decided to have a shot at goose, rather than turkey. I'm looking forward to this immensely: there's just something terribly Dickensian and Christmasy about our old friend the goose, isn't there?
Up until the 1890's, most people in England didn't eat turkey because it was too expensive. That's why it's such a big deal when Ebeneezer Scrooge orders the massive prize turkey for the Cratchits, who normally would be huddled round their scrappy little goose come Christmas Day.
Coming to think of it, I've got a slight problem with all of this. Scrooge sends the prize turkey round to the Cratchits on Christmas morning. By the time it's been ordered, delivered to Camden Town from Clerkenwell, stuffed, and roasted at the local baker's shop, it's going to be way past the Cratchits' bedtime, and poor old Bob's got to be up the next day at the crack of dawn to toil away in Scrooge's counting house. Heigh ho.
But which one is better? The goose or the turkey? I like turkey, I do. But it has a tendency to become dry and stringy, and by Boxing Day most sane people are fed up with it; even when it's turned into our notorious Boxing Day Turkey Curry.
There's no doubt that a fresh turkey is preferable to a frozen one. If you do have a frozen one, for God's sake make sure that it's thawed properly, otherwise you could find yourself into serious trouble. If you can, try and get the gamey tasting English Black Norfolk, or the American Bronze variety. And some more advice if you'll allow me: stuff the bird at the last minute, rather than the night before.
The immediate problem with goose is that there just isn't going to be enough meat on the thing. If you've got lots of friends and family coming round, then some of them are going to go hungry. It tastes delicious, and has a rich and gamey flavour, but there's also going to be lots of fat. I'm fine with that, but there will inevitably be some poor souls out there who'll run for the hills. Paul Levy also reckons that the goose is really at its prime come Michaelmas (ie September) rather than December.
So my advice on this one: if there are just a few of you- go for goose, and sit back and enjoy the rich and subtle flavours; if you've got a horde coming round, go for turkey, but try and get a properly reared and decent variety, and cook it with care. I know this is expensive, but as it's only once a year, I think it's going to be a good investment.