It was Christmas Day, and as I sliced through the crackling-crisp skin of the 4-pound Canada goose that I'd just finished roasting, I felt a sinking sense of disappointment much like that of a boy digging coal from his stocking. Because, as the knife was making grimly evident, the meat of the goose resembled coal: dense, dry, and though not black, a dunnish gray, and certainly as unappetizing. This was a little more than a decade ago when I was living in a 12x30-foot hunting cabin on 300 acres of hardwood forest in northern Mississippi. I'd shot the goose over one of the ponds near the cabin, and after arduously plucking and then replucking it, I had spent droolsome hours poring through cookbooks, scouting the perfect recipe for a Christmas goose for me and my dog. The recipe I settled on promised a bird as festive and warm as the colored lights strung 'round my cabin, a honker stuffed with enough oysters and cranberries and chestnuts to make Tiny Tim wet his drawers with anticipation. As it turned out, however, I glumly ate only the stuffing while the dog ate the goose. Eggnog numbed my sorrows, but still. "Ho, ho, ho," indeed.