If one day you are invited to ‘Sunday Lunch’ in England, say a grateful prayer and accept with pleasure. Whether in a gastro-pub or an Englishman’s castle, these people know what they are doing. You are in for a treat– classically delicious seasonal roasted meat, complemented by local vegetables. And though your hosts may not know it, they are continuing a centuries-old Catholic tradition. For, from the time when the earliest Christians came to England in 159 AD,* we have come together over a table blessing after Sunday Mass.
How deeply ingrained the Old Faith is in the English culture can be found in both its calendar and table culture. For example, English schools traditionally begin with the Michaelmas (pronounced MICKel-mus) term, on or near the September 29 feast of St. Michael the Archangel.
St. Michael is usually depicted in art carrying a sword and/or shield, battling Lucifer. Christian tradition holds that Michael (whose name in Hebrew translates, “Who is like God?”) was the leader of the angelic army that threw Satan out of Heaven after a considerable row. He is the patron of knights, policemen, soldiers, paramedics, ambulance drivers — and also danger at sea, for the sick, and of a holy death.
The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude. (October 28)
“She Loves Me:’ At this time of year, the Aster (Aster nova-belgii) blooms, known as the Michaelmas Daisy – famous as a portent for lovers. English-speakers the world over are familiar with seasonal custom of pulling these daisy petals, reciting “S/he loves me,” and “S/he loves me not,” until all the petals are gone. (The words one intones while pulling off the last petal lets one know if one’s love is requited.)
Michaelmas was when geese were brought to market to be sold from farms into towns, so roast goose dinners are traditional. It was also the time when the fishing season ended, the hunting season began, and apples were harvested.
Roast Goose with Apples (serves 8)
1 13-lb. goose, giblets and neck discarded (you’ll need 1 lb per person)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 golden delicious apples, peeled, each cut into 6 wedges
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Rinse goose inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Using knife, cut small slits all over goose; place garlic slices into slits. Place goose on rack, breast side down, in large roasting pan. Roast goose 2 hours 45 minutes, basting occasionally with drippings and removing excess fat; reserve 6 tablespoons fat. Turn goose over. Roast until brown and thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting occasionally with drippings, about 45 minutes longer. Meanwhile, toss apples and lemon juice in large bowl. Pour 6 tablespoons goose fat into 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer apples to baking dish; toss apples in goose fat. Add sugar, Calvados and cinnamon to apples; toss. Bake apples alongside goose until very tender and golden, about 1 hour. Serve goose with caramelized apples and a Bordeaux wine.
CHRIST IN THE KITCHEN: English Catholics in the Middle Ages would cross-section an apple to show their children how the 5 seeds inside the 5-pointed star found inside represented the Five Wounds of Christ.
A Catholic Grace: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”