Ahhh…such an extraordinary feeling to see my name and story in an actual published book! Christmas Chaos has been launched, so I am no longer a writer wannabe; I am a writer! I’m sharing my story with you here – it’s a true story that actually happened in St Eustache some years ago. Enjoy!!
Tante Denise Cooked Her Goose
I remember Christmases growing up in Newfoundland. They were pretty much the same from one year to the next, and it seemed the only thing that changed were the gifts and the fact that we were all getting older. But the day always unfurled the same way: kids get up first, empty the stockings, wait for Dad and Mom to get up, unwrap the presents and eat all day long. These events all led up to the main event: The Turkey Dinner. And what a dinner it was! Turkey, stuffing, mountains of potatoes drowning in gravy, sweet cranberry sauce, peas, beets and carrots were the standard fare. All this was the precursor to dessert, which was brought into a dimly lit dining room where Dad solemnly lit the brandy soaked Christmas pudding.
When I found myself living in Quebec, and with a family of my own, I continued the tradition of my parents so my children could enjoy the same routine. That is, I continued to cook a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings every year. I did this until 1990 when I decided to break with tradition and cook a goose for Christmas dinner instead. How hard could it be? And didn’t a goose resemble a turkey? Weren’t they both fowl?
That year we were having a houseful of people for Christmas. My husband’s parents were coming, as well as his single cousin, Pierre. Not to be left out, Tante Denise was coming with a friend all the way from France. I so wanted to impress them all by cooking a goose.
The only problem with cooking a goose for Christmas dinner was that I had no idea how to do it. Wasn’t there something about a goose’s layer of fat that had to be considered? I asked around for advice.
“Pas de probleme!” Tante Denise said. She knew exactly what to do. All I had to do was buy the bird, and she would take care of the rest. I bought the biggest goose at Loblaws. It must have been close to twenty pounds.
Christmas Eve dawned to a beautiful sunny day and the arrival of all our guests. The goose was thawed and ready for whatever Tante Denise had in store. She opened her sack and took out, of all things, pitted prunes! That was not all. She had brought a tub of liver pate. The idea was to stuff the prunes with the liver pate, and then to stuff the goose with the prunes. I thought it must have been some exotic French recipe straight from Provence. Anyway, we stuffed the prunes, and then we stuffed the goose. It was ready.
After opening gifts and eating a hearty Christmas brunch the next morning, we all settled in to the serious task of preparing Christmas dinner. The scene could have come straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting: Christmas music playing, happy children, hungry adults, snowman in the yard, beautiful decorations and a table that was so well laid, we could have been receiving royalty. The potatoes were peeled and in the pot. The peas, beets and carrots were ready to go. In fact, everything appeared to be ready except for one thing: the stuffed goose. It was still sitting on the counter. Not my department, I thought. But still, I had to ask.
Tante Denise said in a very nonchalant voice, “Oh don’t worry, you just put the goose in the oven at four hundred degrees for about twenty minutes.”
Say what?! I couldn’t imagine.
At the appointed time, the goose went into a disposable aluminum roasting pan that I had left over from Thanksgiving’s turkey dinner. Then it was put into the four hundred degree oven. After some time had elapsed, I opened the oven door just to sneak a peek. Oh no! All the fat had melted off the goose and seeped through an invisible hole in the aluminum pan. In fact, the fat at the bottom of my oven was smoking in a fashion that told me it was just minutes away from igniting. We turned off the oven. Someone took out the goose and found a new pan. We waited for the oven to cool down so we could clean up the grease. Much, much later, the goose went back into the oven. We were starving, and the vegetables were getting cold.
When Tante Denise said the goose was done, we took it out of the hot oven. I mean, she knew how to do this, didn’t she? I obediently removed the liver pate-stuffed prunes from the smoking cavity of the bird and doubtfully piled them into a serving bowl. Tante Denise carved the goose, and we all waited with bated breath and rumbling stomachs.
“La piece de resistance!” Tante Denise said, as she brought the platter to the table.
“It looks a little dry,” said my oldest son.
“Where’s the gravy?” asked Pierre.
The others said nothing. They just piled their plates with a little of everything that was on the table. While Tante Denise looked around expectantly, waiting for compliments, they started eating. We sampled the goose. It was a little hard to cut. We chewed and chewed, but that goose was about as tough as boot leather, and it would not go down without copious amounts of wine. Finally, admitting defeat, Tante Denise conceded that it was a little tough, and so we were relieved of the obligation to eat it.
Thank goodness there were a lot of prunes!
The Christmas of 1990 went down in our family’s history as the one when we ate liver pate-stuffed prunes and mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner. The story gets told every year, and with each retelling, it gets better and better. But we have never let Tante Denise forget the Christmas she cooked her goose.