What’s good for the gander
Of all the things for which I’m grateful today, one is that it is not Thanksgiving. It may well be for those south of the border, but I’m thankful that I live in a country with the sense to better space out its holiday feasts. Canadians had Thanksgiving already, so my last meal of festive fowl was in October. It was a turkey. My next one will be in late December. It will also be a turkey.
Just once at Christmas, I would like a Christmas goose. It would be delicious. I’ve never had a goose, but I know they’re delicious, because they know they’re delicious. This is why they became migratory in the first place, because when the days get short and tummies get rumbly, turkeys stay put and get eaten while the geese know enough to hightail it out of town before their proverbial goose is cooked. (The expression “My goose is cooked”, by the way, rates below only “You sunk my battleship!” as a cry of dismay.)
Migratory habits notwithstanding, it’s not like we’re short of geese here. They’re not called Canadian geese because they live in New Zealand. (Some do, but they’re immigrants.) In fact, we have too many, so many in fact that there are periodic calls for their culling. This is mainly because they shit all over the place. I read once that the average Canadian goose produces over one pound of shit per day. (I could have sworn I read this in O: The Oprah Magazine, but it turned out it was in the Toronto Star. I think the confusion comes from the fact that the publishers of O: The Oprah Magazine produce over one pound of shit per month.) Goose droppings are not only unsightly but also dangerously slippery, hence the expression “slicker than greased goose shit.” This makes geese a nuisance, though I’d contend that whoever is out there greasing up their shit isn’t helping.
The last time I heard a demand for the eradication of geese was on a report on CBC Radio, a welcome break from the improbable four-part series on hospital food being broadcast that week. The conclusion, by the way, was that hospital food is bad. The twin problems of surplus geese and subpar hospital food would seem to solve themselves: Just feed the geese to the patients. You’re welcome.
Yet we can’t slay and eat them. Even calls for a humane culling get shouted down as unpatriotic, simply because they’re called Canadian geese. My girlfriend, who lived in Hong Kong, notes that this wouldn’t fly there. “They wouldn’t call it a China goose,” she says. “They’d call it dinner.”
But we’re as outraged by the idea of killing a Canadian goose as our southern neighbors would be by the killing of their national bird, even though Canadians, who have no such compunctions, take a perverse pleasure in feasting upon the juicy, succulent flesh of a roasted bald eagle. It’s a good thing that Ben Franklin laid a fat goose egg with his suggestion that the United States make the turkey its national bird. He displayed immense practical genius with his invention of bifocals, electricity, and the gloryhole, giving him his well-deserved reputation as the Gyro Gearloose of humans, but if he’d gotten his way on the turkey, it’d have ruined Thanksgiving. Now you have to at least wait for a drunken uncle to do that.
Better than any species in the animal kingdom, Canadian geese are beating the forces of natural selection through pure public relations. Just try to eat one, and you’re branded as downright treasonous. Yet, if the same bird had a less lovable name — say, “child molester goose” — the average citizen would be clamoring for it to get raped to death in prison. I’m not saying we should do this. I’m just saying that if we could deep fry a goose in a miniature electric chair of some sort, it would probably be pretty delicious.
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