Making geese nervous

· culture ·

I've got a secret liking for Heston Blumenthal's 'In Search of Perfection' cookery show on TV. On the one hand, I'm somewhat appalled by his sheer profligacy with energy and ingredients in order to produce a very small quantity of fancy food. On the other hand, it's hard not to be drawn in by his enthusiasm, and by his scientific approach to creating what he regards as the perfect dish.

Given the season, it was inevitable that this week's programme was about creating the perfect Christmas meal. While most people feel pretty daring if they try cooking a goose for Christmas dinner, rather than the staid old turkey, Heston -- as usual -- took culinary daring to a new level. He was determined to have a first course (after the wafer that smelt of babies) containing gold, frankincense and myrrh, stubbornly refusing to accept (until the last minute) that myrrh actually tastes pretty awful, and is bitter as hell. Obviously he doesn't pay attention to the lyrics of Christmas carols. He reluctantly admitted defeat on that one, and whittled the myrrh twigs into teaspoons to stir the frankincense tea with, but you could tell that he felt it was cheating.

Each of his dishes seems to take about a week to complete, in 43 easy steps, some of which require vacuum pumps, liquid nitrogen or an edible, heat-proof gel that sounds distinctly unappetising. He must have a carbon footprint the size of China: he travelled to Siberia (which, incidentally, looked absolutely ravishing) for 2 pints of reindeer milk to make into ice cream, and many of the 43 easy steps for each dish seem to require boiling something for 5 hours.

The funniest part (though not for the geese involved, I'm sure) was his attempt to raise geese in a calm, stress-free environment, feeding them on pine needle-laced food to impart a Christmassy flavour to the meat. I'm sure he's right that meat from calm, unstressed animals tastes better, but I'm not so sure that chasing two geese around a field, holding them in a very awkward and unpractised manner, and then isolating them in an unfamiliar stable away from all their mates is the best way to produce a serene Anserine environment. When Heston ^1^ placed the goose in a very flimsy enclosure within the stable, it evidently presciently decided that Something Was Terribly Wrong, and immediately bust out of the enclosure to make a break for the safety of the field and its flock mates.

^1^ For some reason, he held his goose gingerly away from his body as if it was an unexploded bomb.