Volume 18
An Online Literary Magazine
April 14, 2024


My Goose is Cooked


Vicki Lindner


Did sensible shoppers get the word, "Whatever you do, don't cook a damned goose," leaving ours to become a freezer-burned holdover from some Christmas past?



was about to roast a Christmas goose, stuffed with prunes and paté de fois—an act of hubris to quell holiday blues. The last time I undertook this feat in a New York kitchen with no counter and a teeny oven, I was 25. And now I'd reached my mother's age the year that she died.


For old time's sake, I decided to use the same recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.


Before I go on, I'll admit to being an enthusiastic goose-watcher in Denver's Washington Park, where I admire the heavy birds' arrogant wobble as they cross busy streets, singing hoarse songs, and the rushing flights that streamline their bulky passage through CO2-drenched sky. Last year, the park "culled" the wild geese, citing their exploding numbers in the irrigation ditches and reedy lakes, and the kilos of gooey green goose poop that sullied the grass and runners' Nikes. To fool animal rights' activists, they trucked the culled birds to an undisclosed butcher, who vowed to donate the meat to "the poor."


But the ten-pound goose I bought at Safeway ($49) bore little resemblance to the park's wild Canadas. Stripped of white plastic shrink wrap, our bird's pimpled skin and bony limbs, frozen akimbo, resembled a stillborn infant who'd lingered in the womb too long. We started the job on Christmas Day at 2 p.m.— not early enough. I forgot about the forty-five prunes that Julia declared I must tenderize in simmering water, then in a mix of broth and wine, then stuff with the sautéed goose liver, shallots, port, and paté de fois gras. (Our goose got a cheap Costco brand.) Soon my back muscles cramped, an aftereffect of poor posture and a minor knee surgery I'm sorry I had. And still there were sticky fat globs to pull from the carcass, prunes to sew into the cavity, and wings and legs to skewer with special steel pins. Finally, we lugged the heavy waterfowl to the 400 degree oven in its heavier pan. Time to assess the relationship of hubris to goose with a glass of wine!


But the ordeal had barely begun: Every 15 minutes for two and a half hours, commanded Julia Child, we must douse our goose with tablespoons of boiling water to melt its subcutaneous fat, then tip the pan to spoon off the hot grease. (I surely skipped that part at 25.) As I slumped on the couch, sipping a stiff Old Fashioned, Richard cleaned up, dumping the prune soaking liquid down the drain. "That was the gravy!" I screamed hoarsely as he yelled back, "But it was just SLIME!" Then as our goose shed more boiling fat, the microwave fan that roars when it senses an emergency began howling and never stopped.


By seven-thirty, the table was set with my deceased mother's sterling, the potatoes were mashed, and we lugged out the roasted bird, as golden as the goose in Dickens' "Christmas Carol," inspiring Tiny Tim to cry, "Hurrah!" Bob Cratchit expertly carved his goose, cheaper than turkey in Victorian London, but we could not. This crafty poultry, we learned, conceals a complex leg joint buried deep in its breast, which only releases its meat when hacked with a cleaver, or torn asunder by an eagle or wolf. And after all our labor, the flesh was dry and what was that taste? Fish? A dead frog? Whereas Canada geese gobble fresh water edibles, svelte white domestics, like ours, do not. Did sensible shoppers get the word, "Whatever you do, don't cook a damned goose," leaving ours to become a freezer-burned holdover from some Christmas past?


Finally, Richard roused himself to wash the dishes, "skating on goose grease," as he put it. And when we set the oven on "clean," oil-drenched smoke roiled out like a forest fire. But hubris kicked in: I allowed myself to miss my mother, as fiercely perfectionist as Julia Child, and fondly recalled my youthful goose, gorged on by friends in my $75 a month slum apartment on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Screaming at Richard and the microwave fan flushed my free-floating angst. And when he exclaimed, half-jokingly, "We were lucky to escape that goose with our lives!" I laughed till I cried. As we pitied the "poor," whose bad luck now included a Christmas gift of tough, froggy Canadian, we transformed our carcass into rich, fragrant stock.


And I'm happy to say that a new flock of geese, undaunted singers and fliers, bravely returned to Washington Park.


Vicki Lindner writes short fiction, essays, and memoir. She has published a novel, and many short pieces in Ploughshares, New York Woman, Kenyon Review, Hotel Amerika, Western Humanities Review, New Writing, and others. She just finished a memoir, Baby, It's You.







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