Eat Your Peas; or, How the Dog Ate Thanksgiving

This is Frankie- newest member of our family. He is a perfect gentleman cat who has completely won over the unhappy Jinx by being so nice, so social, so friendly, and always giving her whatever she wants. Now he comes and gets her and they go out and play together. And to think, I went looking for an entirely different kind of cat! He has almost perfect brown spirals on his sides. I wish I could get a picture of his beautiful pale blue eyes but they just won’t photograph well.

But back to my story.

I grew up int the late 1950’s when moms like mine were terrific cooks. My mom completely lived for holidays when she could cook her wonderful turkey and dressing and all the trimmings. Naturally we lived for the, too

We had a wonderful dog, too, a Weimaraner named Greta, who Dad had gone all the way to Minnesota from Illinois to get, back when they were very rare. And she was perfectly trained when it came to family meals. Never begged or snitched anything.

One year a friend of my father’s promised to bring us a wild goose from his hunting trip. Mom had never cooked a goose before, but she got out all of her cookbooks and even bought a new one, and she pored over them until she had a plan. A menu that had us all but drooling in expectation.

We all had to clean the thing- and we did it outside because cleaning fowl is a stinky business. But Mom did all the cooking. I was only allowed to do the extra things like setting the perfect table, sometimes peeling vegetables. It was a really big goose for a large family, and the preparations took all day long, but the final result was a beautiful sight. And the house filled with wonderful aromas that were different from anything we’d ever had before.

And so we gathered, all seven of us, and took our seats, napkins in our laps, ready for the best treat ever. Greta was probably salivating too, although none of us noticed her at the time. All we could think of was digging in. Dad carved. We passed our plates for the tantalizing meat. We passed around the dishes of vegetables, dressing, cranberry sauce, Mom’s unforgettable Thanksgiving rolls. We said grace.

Then, like the big family we were, we dove in, all at once.

The first mouthful. In unison a huge groan of disgust roared forth. Shock registered on everyone’s faces as we all looked at each other. Even Mom.How could anything that smelled and looked so fabulous taste so horrible? The most disgusting thing I think I’ve ever eaten! It was like biting and chewing a whole garlic clove all at once.

Poor Mom! “But I followed the recipe to the letter!” she said. I knew, because I’d read them with her, and she had done everything exactly as the cookbook said. It wasn’t spoiled. It just tasted like pure wild garlic and onions. And the stuffing, my favorite part, was completely ruined by the giblets in it.

Dad did his best to console her, and even apologized. He’d heard sometimes wild geese feed on wild garlic, and it must have just recently had a lot of it. Mom thought maybe wild geese had to be cooked differently, but she hadn’t found any recipes for game, so she’d used what she had. And we all agreed Mom was the best cook ever, so it couldn’t be her fault.

So what were we going to do with the bird? Should we feed it to the dog? Greta sat a bit too near to the table for proper dog manners, her tail thumping wildly on the hard floor as we discussed the possibility.

Dad got up and took a slice of goose and laid it in Greta’s dish. Sometimes we called her Hoover because of how she ate, sucking up food like a vacuum cleaner. We nearly changed her name for the way this piece went down.

And so Greta was taken out to her enclosure with a nice dog-sized helping of wild Thanksgiving goose, and we had vegetables for our Thanksgiving meal. And pie. The pie was great.

“Eat your peas,” Mom said, like she always did. “There are children starving in China.” I never quite understood that and quietly wondered if somehow those poor kids might like wild goose. But I always loved my vegetables and never failed to eat them. That year I was more grateful for them than ever.

And for a week after, nobody wanted Greta’s attention because she smelled like garlic all over.


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