TT: When Goose Isn’t

If you’re looking for the Wednesday Wandering, just page back to join the discussion on how you, as a reader, react to narrative hooks.  Then join me and Alan to learn the secret behind Colonial Goose and other exotic delicacies.

JANE: So, Alan, a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about how

Colonial Goose

conglomerates can take over a local specialty – your example was Shipstones beer – and then make it generic and boring.

The same thing happened with a ginger ale that Jim and I both drank as children and loved – Vernors.  We’re still hunting for one with the same rich, spicy taste.  We’ve found a couple of good ones, but none are Vernors.  The ginger ale that comes out under the name Vernors is nothing like the original.

ALAN: Dandelion and Burdock.

JANE: Pardon me?

ALAN: When I was a little boy I used to drink a fizzy, soft drink called Dandelion and Burdock. There are recipes for it dating back to at least the thirteenth century, so it is quite an old and traditional drink. By the time I came across it, of course, I doubt if they were still making it from dandelions and burdock leaves. If they were, farmers would be growing them as cash crops instead of exterminating them as weeds. So I was probably drinking the usual mish-mash of artificially flavoured sugar water. But nevertheless it had a very distinctive taste, utterly different from anything else I’ve ever had before or since.

There’s a shop in Wellington that sells only British produce. It has a large clientele of nostalgic emigrants. Robin went there and, at enormous expense, bought me a can of Dandelion and Burdock for my birthday. It tasted just as I always remember it tasting. So everything is not all doom and gloom…

JANE: I’m glad to hear that.  I wonder, if I went to New Zealand or even Australia (your Robin’s stomping grounds) – what are some local tastes I shouldn’t miss?

ALAN: Ah! The archetypal Antipodean food is vegemite and/or marmite. The vegemite/marmite battle is one of the great religious debates down here. Both are things you spread on toast and both are made by doing horrible things to brewers yeast that has become exhausted after brewing too much beer. See – beer is central to absolutely everything that is important in life.

Both substances look like they might be useful for lubricating axles and both, as far as I am concerned, taste revolting. Robin, being a true Australian, swears that vegemite is the one true spread and insists that marmite is only for wimps and expat brits. And who am I to tell her she is wrong? The One True Vegemite is manufactured in Australia by Kraft Foods at their Port Melbourne factory. Accept no substitutes. Marmite is a substitute…

JANE: “Revolting”?   That’s an opinion, not a flavor.   How would Robin describe it?  Sweet?  Spicy?  Salty?

I’m not saying your opinion isn’t valid – one reason Jim and I eat out is there are things I like (mushrooms, for example) that he finds revolting and things he likes (sweet and sour sauce, which to me is just sweet), that I don’t like.

ALAN: I asked Robin what vegemite tastes like to her and she said, “Just like marmite, only more.”

So I asked Robin’s mum and she said, “It tastes like very strong gravy.”

We’ve got a jar in the cupboard so I tried some to see if it was as bad as I remembered. It was worse! I found it overpoweringly salty and sour.

JANE: Well, I guess I’d try it, but I can’t say I anticipate the experience.

What about lamb or mutton?   I was amazed by how many sheep I saw when I was in New Zealand.  Neither lamb nor mutton are highly popular in the U.S.   I am in the minority in liking them.   I probably do because both my mother and grandmother knew how to bring out the best in both lamb and mutton.

ALAN: Perversely it’s almost impossible to get decent lamb or mutton in the shops here. We export all the good stuff and all that’s left for local consumption is rather poor quality; full of fat and gristle. The occasional good batch does turn up, of course, but it’s the exception rather than the rule and it tends to be snatched up by the restaurant trade.

However the one good bit of  lamb or mutton that you can always rely on is Colonial Goose, which is unique to New Zealand.

JANE: Okay…  This sounds fascinating.  Tell more!

ALAN; Colonial Goose is a leg of mutton which has been deboned and stuffed with breadcrumbs, onion, parsley, thyme, honey and dried apricots. It is marinated in red wine and slowly roasted. It is just as delicious as it sounds. Apparently the early colonists, bereft at the scarcity of geese in their adopted country, tried very hard to emulate it with local ingredients. I’ve never had goose myself, but I’m told that our version is a reasonable facsimile.

JANE: That sounds good, except, maybe, for the honey.  I’m not really fond of sweet sauces.  One of my on-going complaints here is that so many restaurants think they must serve lamb covered in a mint jelly glaze.  Yuck!

ALAN: I suppose every region must have its own characteristic food. I’ve heard about green chile as something popular in your part of the world.  It’s not common here, except in Asian and Indian restaurants of course. So, tell me, what makes it so special?

JANE: That’s going to take more than a few words.  Let me get back to you later!


6 Responses to “TT: When Goose Isn’t”

  1. heteromeles Says:

    Marmite?!? Isn’t there even any decent bush tucker or seafood?

    • Alan Robson Says:

      Seafood (kai moana) — there’s an abundance of that. But as far as bush tucker goes, at least in NZ, there really isn’t any unless you count the introduced species like boar and deer.


  2. CBI Says:

    Lamb. Absolutely delicious. It is our standard treat for Easter — roast lamb, very rare. I am blessed with a wife whose hobby is cooking. (Her comment when I mentioned that I was posting this was: “Oh, I love lamb: I wish we could eat it more often.”

    I very much agree.

    As for Vernors, I wonder how much that is an adult remembering a childhood taste that, well, wasn’t quite as, er, nuanced. I very much like the taste of Vernors: it isn’t ginger ale, but something else. The last time I was in Michigan, I had some, and it tasted pretty much as good as I remembered it. OTOH, we don’t buy it here in New Mexico, even when it appears. For my wife, there aren’t the memories (but she likes it) — and it never goes on sale here and it’s so darned expensive. But . . . I know what you mean: Vernors and ginger ale are definitely two separate drinks — less alike than Pepsi and Coca-cola.

    • janelindskold Says:

      As for Vernors, all I can say is that my in-laws and mother, all of whom lived for a long while in the area where Vernors originated all agree that it doesn’t taste anything like it once did.

      The current version is “lighter,” less spicy.

    • Alan Robson Says:

      Oh you are so correct! Lamb is the queen of meats. Your wife is so right to cook and serve it that way. You are a lucky man.

      But now is the time for you to eat kangaroo — it has the sweetness of lamb combined with the texture of beef. What could be more perfect?


  3. davefreer Says:

    Speaking of sheep dressed as goose… we have the sort of opposite here (I live on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait, between Australia and Tasmania) We have mutton bird (short-tailed shearwater), and mutton fish (green-lip Abalone)… neither of which have anything remotely mutton tasting about them. I’ve asked as many old-timers as possible, and no-one seems to know why. I can only assume that original settlers (Sealers and their aboriginal wives) yearned for mutton… or that anything that was meat was ‘mutton’.

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