Vintage recipes – Poor Man’s Goose, 1930

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. Unless you’re having mock goose instead.

Mock versions of various meat dishes used to be fairly common in recipe books of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but you don’t tend to see recipes that seriously do this anymore. Thanks to Lewis Carroll, Mock Turtle Soup is probably the best-known example now.

I think the most recent recipe book I have that includes a mock creation was a 1970s Linda McCartney, which had a mock turkey for Christmas, mainly made of textured vegetable protein if I remember rightly. But there weren’t too many options for veggies in those days, you had to make your own fake meat if you wanted it. I was a vegetarian for seven years, during which time Linda McCartney first brought out her food range and it’s fair to say she was almost entirely responsible for bringing ready-made, specialised vegetarian food into the mainstream. I’m a big fan.

On that subject, in my vegetarian days, I remember eating something I bought from an international supermarket which was called “Mock Duck”. You can still get it, if you really want it. On the tin it says it’s made from “abalone”, but as I didn’t know what that was, I thought it must be something like tofu. Because why would you bother mocking meat unless it was to make it meat-free? Now I know that abalone is actually a kind of sea snail and so it was not only non-veggie, it was massively more hideous to boot. It did taste pretty bad, I have to say.

Oh, and to round up my knowledge of mocked food, there was also “mockolate” in Friends, as sold by the divine Michael McKean. That was disgusting too.


Anyway, it turns out then that the duck wasn’t being mocked for veggie reasons, but possibly for cost reasons instead (unless it was for “vegetarians” who still ate seafood, I suppose. That’s something I’ve never understood the reasoning for.) And cost used to be the reason these types of recipes existed at all. Which is why the mock goose below, from the 1930 Essex Cookery Book, is designated “Poor Man’s..”

Essex Cookery Book, 1930

Essex Cookery Book, 1930













I’m not too sure how much like goose it would actually have been as it’s mainly made from liver and potatoes. In fact, it’s not just liver, the recipe specifies a strangely non-specific “pig’s liver, etc”. There’s a lot of room for manoeuvre in that “etc” – it could contain pretty much anything. Apart from sea snails, hopefully.


Essex Cookery Book, 1930

Essex Cookery Book, 1930

Poor Man’s Goose

1/2 lb. pig’s liver, etc
1 lb. potatoes
2 small onions
Pepper and salt
1/2 tsp chopped sage

  1. Prepare potatoes and onions, cut into slices.
  2. Wash liver and cut into slices.
  3. Put all ingredients in layers in a pie-dish.
  4. Cover with potato, add sufficient water to half fill the dish.
  5. Put layer of caul or greased paper on the top.
  6. Cook for 2 hours.

If covered with paper, remove 1/2 hour before serving and brown the potato.

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