Published 23 September 2013
Michaelmas goose will be served this year at the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester – a sign of the revival of this tradition gaining momentum.
The event opens on Sunday September 29, which is Michaelmas Day in most of the UK and the goose will be served at a dinner hosted by the British Poultry Council for a cross-section of MPs and MEPs including Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson.
The dinner will highlight the contribution that poultry makes to the UK, with roast goose ably demonstrating the role that artisan producers play in feeding the nation.
According to tradition, when rents were due at Michaelmas tenant farmers would often present their landlord with a goose which became associated with guarding against financial woes. Folklore declares: ‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, not want for money all year long.’
It is a tradition not lost 200 years ago on Jane Austen as she sought to develop her reputation as a novelist. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Price and Prejudice – and it seems Jane’s Michaelmas dinner with her wealthy brother in Kent may have helped seal the success of the book.
She wrote on October 12 1813 - the old Michaelmas was on October 11 before the switch to the modern Gregorian calendar – in a letter to her sister Cassandra describing a visit to her wealthy brother Edward at Godmersham Park in Kent: ‘I dined upon Goose yesterday – which I hope will secure a good sale of my second Edition.’ This refers to the impending publication of the further edition of Pride and Prejudice after the first sold out quickly.
More restaurants are starting to see the potential for putting goose on the menu at Michaelmas. “As traditional, seasonal food gains popularity, Michaelmas provides a wonderful opportunity to put goose on the menu at the start of the autumn when they become available for the first time in the year,” said John Franklin, chairman of British Goose Producers, a BPC sector group.
“The goose is a truly seasonal bird and with the new ways of serving the meat developed at catering schools like the City College at Norwich the bird offers such a wide range of opportunities for modern chefs.”
Among the restaurants offering goose on the menu for Michaelmas are The Goring in London’s Belgravia - and around the country are Blackwells Restaurant at Earls Colne, Essex; the Talbot Inn, Knightwick, Worcestershire; the Brace of Pheasants, Plush, Dorset; and the Horseshoes Inn at Eddlestone, Peebles, in the Scottish Borders.
- In East Anglia Michaelmas still falls in October where in Norfolk it is still celebrated on October 11 and in Suffolk on October 4. It was an Act of Parliament in 1752 that removed 11 days as Britain switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. - As part of the month-long Norfolk Food & Drink Festival, a Michaelmas dinner is being held at the City College’s debut restaurant cooked by the students on October 10, eve of the Old Michaelmas Day.