Like many of us in the Age of COVID, I’ll be hosting an unusually small Thanksgiving party tonight – just the four members of my immediate family. With only ourselves to please, we’re taking radical measures. We will not (gasp!) be serving turkey. Instead, we will be serving goose. (Wish me luck.)
Naturally, this project evokes a key question: Are there geese in Jane Austen’s novels?*
I’m happy to report that the answer is yes, in both Mansfield Park and Emma. For today’s purposes, let us turn to this early conversation between sweet, guileless Harriet Smith and her new friend, Emma Woodhouse:
“[Emma] particularly led Harriet to talk more of Mr. Martin, -- and there was evidently no dislike to it. Harriet was very ready to speak of the share he had had in their moonlight walks and merry evening games; and dwelt a good deal upon his being so very good-humoured and obliging. ‘He had gone three miles round one day, in order to bring her some walnuts, because she had said how fond she was of them . . . . And when she had come away, Mrs. Martin was so very kind as to send Mrs. Goddard a beautiful goose: the finest goose Mrs. Goddard had ever seen. Mrs. Goddard had dressed it on a Sunday, and asked all the three teachers, Miss Nash, and Miss Prince, and Miss Richardson, to sup with her.’ ” (Emma, ch. 4)
In passing, I will note the sly Austenian joke in having the none-too-bright Harriet exult at the gift of a bird whose name is synonymous with foolishness. As I embark upon the adventure of cooking a goose (literally), here’s hoping that joke won’t end up being on me.
* There are turkeys, as I established in a past Thanksgiving Day blog post.