Connections: Food for Thought

We decided to make it Goose Day instead

A goose for Thanksgiving dinner was a perfect choice for the seven members of the family who were able to be there. During our preliminary arrangements, we had reserved a  free-range turkey of between 14 and 20 pounds from our favorite source: Peter Ludlow of the Mecox Bay Dairy farm in Bridgehampton. But our guest numbers were down by a few this year, and in the week before Turkey Day, we decided to make it Goose Day instead, going for a 12-pound gander.

Goose meat is, well, meaty. It’s all dark, which makes it preferable for those who find turkey breast a bit lacking in flavor. It had been a few — okay, many — years since I roasted a goose, so we consulted quite a few sources to make sure the oven temperature and cooking time were correct. If I do say so myself, it came out exactly right. 

I had forgotten that geese have huge cavities and after recognizing its capaciousness we took on the challenge of making a super stuffing — super in quantity as well as taste. After dinner, when all that was left of the bird were a few stray strands on the platter, we were delighted to have second helpings of stuffing.

Truly, the only argument against goose at Thanksgiving is the lack of leftovers. If we had stuck with tried, true, and traditional turkey, I would have lunched all weekend on turkey sandwiches made with the good rye bread from Goldberg’s, and indulged in a creamy turkey tetrazzini, a divine dish that usually makes an annual appearance at the end of November.

We do have a few leftover servings of a huge Indian pudding, made with cornmeal, as well as some pumpkin pies (which makes a tasty  breakfast). I’m told by my daughter — who, as editor of The Star’s magazine, EAST, is planning a holiday-historical feast at Almond on Tuesday evening — that pumpkin and other squashes, as well as corn meal, venison, and goose or other wild fowl, were indeed likely during the “first Thanksgiving” in 1621. 

The happy-clappy Thanksgiving story taught in grade school — at least back when I was a kid — turns out, in reality, to have been a convenient whitewashing of our real heritage. It’s very pleasant to think of the Wampanoag sharing their knowledge of the land, and their bounty of winter foods, with the English settlers in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation, but this cheerful view of this moment is seeing it all from the European perspective. The Wampanoag and other Native Americans today don’t so much celebrate the moment as mark it with a day of mourning.

Today, Americans of European descent are likely at least a bit more aware than I was as a child of the genocide of Native Americans that began in earnest with the Puritans in the Massachusetts colony. I wonder: Will the observance of Thanksgiving decline as a result? I hope not. I hope that we will always gather to enjoy our holiday meals, but that perhaps a bit more national self-reflection will be part of the conversation, before football talk and political bickering kicks in around the festive table.