Monday, November 9, 2009

Our opening post: Welcome to A Continual Feast... Continued! Looking toward Thanksgiving: St. Martin of Tours and food traditions

The Thanksgiving feast that the American Puritans celebrated—and that we gratefully recall each year late in November—takes its roots in age-old European autumn “harvest-home” feasts. For centuries these feasts of thanksgiving to God for the harvest had taken place at “Martinmas”—the feast of St. Martin of Tours (in France), on November 11. (See A Continual Feast, p. 280.)

Martin is a particularly interesting saint: he is the first holy person who was not a martyr to have been honored as a saint. He was a 4th century bishop—and clearly a remarkably holy man and a miracle-worker.

I have a wonderful old cake mold that shows St. Martin on his horse—and it makes a beautiful, painted cake! I just wish I knew where we can buy these today.

Here are a few new ideas for you, to help bring this great saintly figure back into mind and memory, food-wise:

When, as a young man, Martin was a soldier, riding along one cold winter’s night he cut his army cloak in two and gave half of it to a poor man—who later appeared to Martin in a dream as Christ himself. The image I have included here is one of my favorites of the many icons and pictures of St. Martin.

We can imitate this act of charity: let’s divide the food we make in two—and give half to the poor. That is the spirit of charity of St. Martin of Tours!

Goose is one of the major foods associated with the feast of St. Martin. One reason for this is that, according to legend, Martin went into hiding to avoid being chosen bishop—but a noisy flock of geese revealed his whereabouts to those who were seeking him. Most of us in America prefer turkey—but roast goose is certainly delicious! Here is the recipe for Roast Goose, drawn from A Continual Feast.

Roast Goose, Swedish style—stuffed with prunes and apples


1 goose, 10-12 pounds, fresh or frozen

20 large prunes, pitted, and plumped until soft in hot water

6-8 tart apples (I prefer Granny Smiths), peeled and quartered

½ teaspoon allspice


If the goose is frozen, defrost it for 48 hours or more in the refrigerator until completely defrosted. Remove the giblets and cut off as much fat as possible from the inside and all over the goose.

Wash the goose, pat it dry with paper towels, and set it aside.

Chop the fruit coarsely. In a box, mix in the allspice.

Stuff the next cavity with some of the fruit. Fold over the skin and secure it with a skewer or sew it up. Stuff the body cavity with the remaining fruit, and cover the opening with a piece of foil (or close it with skewers, or sew it up).

Sprinkle the goose with salt and pepper all over. Place it on a rack in a shallow pan. Place in a preheated 400 F oven and roast for ½ hour.

Prick the skin all over with a fork (this will allow the grease to drop out). Reduce the heat to 350 F. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast without touching the breastbone. About every 20 minutes, pour fat out of the roasting pan, or spoon it out using a large kitchen spoon. Baste the goose frequently with the pan drippings.

Roast for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until the thermometer reaches 185 F. Let the goose cool for 15 minutes to let the juices settle. Place on a heated platter and carve at the table.

Roast goose is delicious served with spiced red cabbage and potato pancakes.

And how about making sugar cookies (recipe on p. 95) in the shape of geese? You can find goose-shaped cookie cutters on-line, for example at:

Stay tuned for more thoughts and food suggestions as Thanksgiving—then Advent—approach!


  1. I want to thank Annie Vitz for designing this beautiful blogspot for us. Thanks, Annie!!

  2. The site is gorgeous - bravo! I look forward to reading the Vitz family's thought-provoking and taste-bud-inspiring contributions, especially as the holiday season approaches! Thank you for this new site!

  3. Fabulous site - the combination of erudition, art, and food is ideal! Can't wait to try the cookie recipe.

  4. Looking forward to reading more on this great site!

  5. A belated note re St Martin: all over northern and northwestern Croatia last night (St Martin's feast) fake bishops "baptized" or blessed young wine turning it into ripe wine - many merry goings-on and dishes containing more fat (like saussages or fried meat), because of the alcochol.
    Hail to cholesterol!

  6. What fun to see this wonderful bolg. It is a many ways.