The goose is a strangely inelegant bird. It waddles. It is the only thing that comes in gaggles. It has a harsh raucous voice that frequently carries a frightened and fierce warning. The goose has idiomatically invaded our language like no other creature. Before we can read, we are introduced to Mother Goose and inexplicable little rhymes and tales such as Goosey, Goosey, Gander and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. Mother Goose is usually depicted as an old woman riding a large white goose. Is she tiny and the goose giant-sized? It is never explained and so we learn early to accept impossible things. Sometimes as many as six before breakfast.
We are reminded often that what is good (originally sauce) for the goose is good for the gander, that is for the male of the species. We understand this to mean that whatever is good for one is good for the other, that gender has no innate entitlements. Nice thought. Come to think of it, how did the gander become a look at something? Many a child or even a playful adult or two has been called a silly goose. We have goosebumps, a condition of the skin when cold, afraid or excited. Goose down signifies the ultimate in luxurious warmth. There are goose-necked lamps and tools, for use in situations where an awkward bend is helpful. One has to wonder about how a type of inappropriate touching became known as a goose.
Goose-stepping, however, does not conjure up any goose personally witnessed by me. It is a stiff-legged march used primarily by military groups usually in ceremonial conditions. One origin theory holds that it reminded British soldiers of a goose standing on one leg. It appears that only after it became associated with the Nazis, did the rather silly march take on a pejorative aspect. Back to more modern times, the 2019 video game of the year is the Untitled Goose Game. No matter the timing, idiomatically, when your goose is cooked, you’re in a heap of trouble.
While those icy lands of Russia, Poland and Sweden brought vodka into being, the French developed a luxury vodka aimed specifically at the American market and called it Grey Goose. There is another Grey Goose, it is a set of 13th C Iceland laws said alternatively to have been written with a goose quill or on goose skin parchment. In another bit of goose symbolism, the Trans Canadian Highway completion was commemorated at its terminus in Wawa Canada with a huge statue of a goose known as the WaWa Goose. Wawa is also cited in The Song of Hiawatha as the Ojibwe word for a wild goose. While no one holds wild goose chases dear, the call of the wild goose and the image of unfettered freedom have captured many an imagination.
In the 18th C the British formed an early version of the Christmas Club. By paying a small weekly amount throughout the year, you would be guaranteed a well-fattened goose for your Christmas or New Year’s dinner. We do ourselves a disservice by relegating this bird and its delicious meat to a few times a year. This week’s recipe is Roast Goose with Pear Thyme Glaze and Pear Onion compote. Remember that, technically, it is still the holidays through Twelfth Night, so you’re allowed to continue feasting as long as you can handle it. Happy New Year.