Poor Man’s Goose

I found this tweet interesting:

When I was growing up my mother, whose recipes dated from 1920-60, would cook a dish called Poor Man’s Goose. Given it was made from pork I always thought this was rather odd; now I’m an adult I can see the dish derives its name from the disparity in price between pork and goose.

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44 thoughts on “Poor Man’s Goose

  1. IIRC, back in the good old SU, chicken was considered the “rich”-person’s food, while beef was the staple for most. It seems to be the opposite in the West, and I wonder about the reasons for both.

  2. It seems to be the opposite in the West, and I wonder about the reasons for both.

    I have to say, I find that odd. Any idiot can raise a chicken, it takes a little more brains to raise a pig, and quite a lot of work to raise cattle. But knowing the Soviet Union they probably mastered the difficult one and completely failed at the easy one: this is why they had phenomenal fighter planes but the traffic lights didn’t work! More seriously, it could be that the cattle were raised by Lithuanians (I understand Lithuania was used as the milk production centre of the USSR). God knows who was in charge of raising chickens.

  3. What Alisa says is not so different from my childhood in the UK in the SIxties: chicken was a luxury dish, followed by beef, followed by lamb, followed by pork, followed by rabbit.

    The great price switchover didn’t take place till the Seventies, when chicken farmers finally twigged that you could mass produce chicken meat and not just eggs. Whoda funk it?

  4. This really isn’t surprising once you throw a little economics at it. The eggs from laying hens are a renewable resource and you will make much more money from selling the eggs over the lifetime of the chicken than the meat is worth. Similarly for milk cows. Chickens and cows also require relatively expensive and labour-intensive pasturage. Pigs, on the other hand, are foragers and can be turned out to eat whatever they can find, and they have no other use but meat.

    Chicken and beef are “luxury” meats because you have to have enough surplus income that the loss of the milk and egg money isn’t significant to you.

  5. Poor mans goose… I still eat a version. Am fortunate in being able to indulge myself, food wise, have travelled widely and supped with the best of ’em, but the stuff of my Black Country childhood still resonates. Although Mrs G. doesn’t touch the stuff, she is happy to produce all manner of tripe dishes, stuffed hearts, liver soup, brains on toast, sweetbreads, devilled kidneys, faggots… the list is endless. Given she’s a Scot, I’m also something of a haggis aficionado. Real goose remains a Christmas Day icon, while pork is becoming something of a gourmet food – rare breed and all that.

  6. @Alisa: “…back in the good old SU, chicken was considered the “rich”-person’s food, while beef was the staple for most.”

    I doubt decent beef was readily available outside of the largest cities (Moscow, St. Petersberg, Kiev), the Baltics and special-status towns like Arzamas-16. The cheapest cuts, possibly, – brisket, leg, shin – as well as bones with residual meat sold as “soup sets” for broth-making. Also, Soviet chickens often looked underfed and skinny, unlike imported Hungarian poultry. Nowadays, gigantic, abnormally fleshy and greasy Russian chickens make you wonder what hormone cocktail you’re gobbling up with the meat.

    The Soviets invested heavily in cattle farms, but they were generally inefficient and consumed lots of grain. On the other hand, it seems that pork was underproduced.

  7. I have a dish in the repertoire works the other way round. Durham Squab Pie layers apple, onion & potatoes with lamb chops. Although the “squabs” would have been the adjudged also-rans from the pigeon hatching. So essentially free.
    Unlike cordero. Coincidentally, I’d sort of promised to knock out this bit of trad English scoff, next week, to counter the constant barrage of S. Americana. Until I saw the cost of the makings. Why the price of woolyback is horrendous here, when you drive past millions of the buggers up on the central plateau, heaven alone knows. I’m now tempted to take some bread, a stout stick & a sack down to the park & harvest the real thing.

  8. “chicken was a luxury dish”: agreed. The fall in the price of chicken started with imports of tinned chicken from the US. It went from a Xmas and New Year luxury dish to a many-Sundays-of-the-year dish.

    My wife remembers with awe a complaint from a miner’s wife about her poverty during the miners’ insurrection against Thatcher. “We have to eat chops.”

  9. Ah, the days when chicken tasted of….well, chicken. Instead of being merely the protein part of a meal.

    These days, if you want something that actually tastes of more than the spice or sauce it’s cooked in, you have to go for game birds. Even the expensive varieties of chicken seem flavourless in comparison.

  10. dearieme: “The fall in the price of chicken started with imports of tinned chicken from the US. “

    Oh, god, how could anyone eat that?! I’ve seen it slither from the can like something out of ‘Alien’. *shudders*

  11. Julia M, or any tinned meat for that matter. When I did my national service in South Africa they used to dish up tinned vienna sausages as hotdogs – thoroughly disgusting in terms of taste and texture. They became affectionately known as “sheep’s willies”.

  12. Tinned chicken is for the cats, and then only for when I can’t be bothered to boil up a batch of cheap supermarket legs.

    There is some good French chicken around, allowed to run about and live longer than your tasteless supermarket product, so it develops a bit of texture and flavour. Not too expensive either.

  13. Guinea Fowl is a pretty good substitute for olden times chicken. Don’t forget the tarragon sauce.

  14. “or any tinned meat for that matter”: no, no. no. Corned beef (British sense, not American) is lovely stuff. I get though a good few CB & lettuce sandwiches in summer. Romaine lettuce suits me best, with a bit of mayo; new crusty cob loaf. Mmmmmm.

    And next summer I’ll have them with a beer because I’ve discovered a couple of palatable low-alcohol beers. Double Mmmmmm.

  15. “Ah, the days when chicken tasted of….well, chicken.”

    Stop buying them in stores and drive out to where the farmers are. Small farmers, that is – avoid the places with the huge square chicken buildings. Yuck. Factory chicken shares DNA traces with real chicken, but that’s about all. If you’re buying from a chain store, you’re buying factory chicken. Even the “expensive” brands.

    I buy all my chickens from a Mennonite commune a couple of hours away. It’s well worth the drive. They have . . . you know . . . flavor!

    Beef and pork is the same. If you can pick up fresh quarter-cows or pigs from the farms that raise them, they put the store-bought stuff to shame.

  16. @ Bobby B – one fo the reasons home kill meat tastes much better than store bought is that adrenaline toughens the meat and makes it less flavoursome.

    Home kill animals are killed where they live and usually, the slaughterman goes to the field where they live with apples or something to attrct the animal. The owners condition the beasts to expect a treat when this happens and the slaughterman quickly and humanely brain shoots the animal. It is dead before it reaches the ground and it does not have any time to panic or become stressed. It is the same with hunting. The animal dies before it can produce adrenaline.

    Compare that with animals stuffed into cattle trucks, overcrowded, no food and water, taken to a abattoir where they can smell the blood and fear and have plenty of time to become highly distressed, pumped full of adrenaline and other stress hormones before being killed.

    The home kill animal is likely to be hung properly for a while (time depends on the weather and temperature) and allows the collagen (the connective tissue that binds the muscle fibres into muscles) to break down and makes the meat much more tender and juicier. That’s why you hang pheasants up by the tail – the feathers are held in place by collagen and when you find it on the floor, the bird is perfect for eating.

    Your Mennonite chickens will be home kills and that’s why they are so high quality.

    Not that I know anything about these things, y’understand, in this politically correct world.

  17. To Phil B. Agree with you there. My wife and I are going to be keeping chickens next year and we are going to end up with some end of lay cull hens at the end of each year. These are going to be home killed and go in the pot. Looking at Buff Orpingtons as they seem to be a pretty hardy general purpose chicken. I’m not looking forward to having to having to kill chickens but it is a necessary part of poultry raising. To this end I’m going to get the chickens used to going into what is going to be my chicken killing area by giving them treats to go in there. That way they are not distressed by entering the killing area (well out of sight of other poultry) when the time comes for the chop.

  18. God knows who was in charge of raising chickens.

    Or in charge of much else for that matter.

    Interesting comments though – thanks to all.

  19. Corned beef (British sense, not American) is lovely stuff.

    Indeed! I make two dishes from it: corned beef hash (basically, corned beef fried with onion and potato cubes, served with a fried egg on top); and a corned beef and potato pie. It’s great stuff.

  20. Guinea Fowl is a pretty good substitute for olden times chicken.

    The French are big on that. Pintade, I think it’s called here.

  21. There is some good French chicken around, allowed to run about and live longer than your tasteless supermarket product, so it develops a bit of texture and flavour. Not too expensive either.

    Yeah, I have a local butcher which is absolutely fantastic, both in terms of service and quality. And variety, for that matter. I think they’re pretty much a standard French butcher, mind. Their chicken is very good at any rate.

    They are expensive, though. It’s all very well me, and anyone else, praising excellent local butchers with tasty meats, but you do pay a sometimes hefty premium over what you can get in the supermarket. It’s why I don’t like to sneer too much at supermarket meats: they’re doing the heavy-lifting of feeding millions while the local butcher caters to those more affluent.

  22. By the way, when I arrived in Sakhalin in 2006 decent meat was hard to come by. In most shops it was this dark stuff which lurked in the freezers wrapped in polythene, butchered using an axe and tree stump. One shop did reasonable minced beef but it sold out quickly, and the same place also did reasonable chicken. But things improved quickly and even by 2008 it was much easier to find half-decent meat. But when I left in 2010 you still couldn’t get fresh milk: that which was sold was sour as hell, produced from sickly-looking cows grazing what I suppose was pastureland just outside Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. I drank UHT milk the whole time I was there, which prepared me well for the 3 years in Nigeria where I did the same thing. Eggs were never a problem anywhere.

  23. We were so poor in Salford we couldn’t afford recipe books

    Yet Eccles is right next door, and they invented a cake!

  24. “Palatable low-alcohol beers are a quest of mine, suggestions always welcome.”

    In the style of English bitter: Brewdog’s Nanny State – brill name eh? At Sainsbury’s 330ml £1.25 [0.5% alcohol]

    In the style of continental lager: Sainsbury’s Low Alcohol Czech Lager 500ml £1.00. [0.5% alcohol]

    My latest aperçu is that if I drink low-alcohol beer with dinner I’ll be able to have an aperitif before hand (mainly in summer) or a digestif afterwards (principally in winter). This will let me use up our absurdly high stock of gins and stickies.

  25. Phil B on December 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm said: “one of the reasons home kill meat tastes much better than store bought is that adrenaline toughens the meat and makes it less flavoursome.”

    Agree. There’s also that whole issue concerning how small-farm protein doesn’t spend its days lying around in its own waste, and actually has room to move and to develop muscle tone (which translates into flavor.)

    Whenever my meat freezer gets low, I head to my sister’s farm, and we butcher one or two cows or pigs and I take a quarter (for a low price.) Very relaxed and quiet atmosphere, quick work with a bolt gun, and then hours of cutting and wrapping. But mmmmmmm . . .

    But I have to keep telling my brother-in-law – no, I don’t want to know the cows damned name . . .

  26. In the USSR, beef and chicken were both staples: you could see both anywhere you could watch TV.

  27. ‘Yet Eccles is right next door, and they invented a cake!’

    I could never look an Eccles Cake in the eye once I heard someone describe it as a fly’s cemetery.

  28. I once made a shop assistant shriek by asking for a flies cemetery. Turns out it’s not a local expression in East Angular.

    P.S. “My latest aperçu” was put into practice this evening. Our after dinner tipple was a cheeky wee Beerenauslese. Keeps the snow at bay, eh?

  29. I have a Jane Grigson recipe for “poor man’s venison” using lamb. Tastes good, but for the cost of ingredients called “upper middle class venison” would have been a better descriptor. Everything is relative.

    And I remember Garibaldi biscuits were called squashed-fly biscuits as a child.

  30. ““ . . . poor man’s venison” using lamb. “

    Isn’t that like calling lobster “poor man’s cod”? Maybe it’s location, but lamb is expensive and venison is free.

  31. “lamb is expensive and venison is free.”

    Maybe in the US, but in Europe the deer are the property of the landowner and if you shoot one without permission you are poaching.

  32. And of course in my current location Australia kangaroo which I suppose would be the local analogue to venison ought to be cheap because nobody owns them and they are all over the place and you don’t even need to shoot them because they have less road sense than any other mammal that ever existed. However, a zillion and one nanny state regulations have made the cost of kangaroo meat comparable to beef and lamb.

  33. @ Farenheit211: “I’m not looking forward to having to having to kill chickens but it is a necessary part of poultry raising.”

    I kept a flock of chickens in my backyard for the eggs. I tried eating the culls, but the labor involved in plucking, cleaning, etc. was so massive that it wasn’t cost-effective, especially when I could buy supermarket chicken for around a dollar per pound.
    I consider chicken to be nothing more than a protein supplement. Any flavor is provided by the other ingredients in the dish.

  34. I have eaten ‘roo and I have killed a ‘roo. They were not the same beast.

    We have enjoyed roadkill deer and pheasant though.

  35. However, a zillion and one nanny state regulations have made the cost of kangaroo meat comparable to beef and lamb.

    Ah, Australia!

  36. ” . . . in Europe the deer are the property of the landowner and if you shoot one without permission you are poaching.”

    Ugh. Guess I’m spoiled. If I take a short drive west, the state of South Dakota alone has over 5.3 million acres of land open for public hunting, scattered all over the state. I didn’t go after a deer this year because I still have three cut up and vac-packed in my freezers. The deer have been so plentiful that everybody has some venison now, and it’s hard to even give it away. Just like pheasants.

  37. Ah, Australia!

    Come to think of it, reading accounts of Depression-era Australia it was clear that no matter how poor and unemployed you were you could still eat rabbit until you exploded like Mr Creosote. Now rabbits have largely recovered from myxamotosis but I wouldn’t even know where to buy a dead one.

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