If you’re a goose and happen to find yourself in Austria in November, you might want to start hunting around for a good hiding spot!
In November it’s tradition to eat goose, with every restaurant and guesthouse featuring goose on the menu, often as a complete meal that involves various courses of goose deliciousness.
I’ve heard a couple of different explanations as to the origins of this. One is that St Martin’s Day (November 11) was initially the day farmers were taxed, and therefore had to give away parts of their harvest… which was often done with geese! Another is the legend of St Martin of Tours, who cut his coat in half to give to a beggar and while hiding in a goose pen to avoid being ordained bishop, was betrayed by the loud cackling of the geese.
Regardless of why it happens, the goose is delicious, coming traditionally served with red cabbage and bread dumplings. Since I’ve been living in Austria, we have visited the same Guesthouse each year for our annual goose meal: Gasthaus Weinberger in the nearby St Marein. You need to book in advance and they prepare the meal to ensure it is ready when you arrive.
First course is, naturally, soup, and in our case, goose-liver soup. Which, to be honest, doesn’t look all that appetising, but it’s actually quite tasty and fulfils the job of preparing your belly for the onslaught of food to come. The soup is brought out in giant serving bowls, of which you can have as much or as little as you like.
A brief pause ensures, but it isn’t long before the main event. Golden-roasted, crispy portions of goose take up the bulk of the large dish in the centre of the table, surrounded by caramelised chestnuts, roasted apples with prunes and the mandatory bread dumpling. A separate dish filled with red cabbage (rotkraut) is an essential part of this meal, as is the ‘sauce’ which is more like jus, or watery gravy.
Each person is then free to help themselves to however much they can manage! If something on the serving plate runs out, be it goose or chestnuts or kraut, it is instantly topped up fresh from the kitchen. This is basically a goose-buffet served directly at your table! Combine it with a nice Austrian red wine, and you’re in food heaven.
Naturally we declined dessert, opting instead for coffee or schnapps, and rolled ourselves out into the fresh, cold air, full to bursting, with delicious flavours from the kitchen following us out onto the street. We took ourselves on a token walk around the block to try and aid digestion, but I’ll admit I had to chase it up with a schnapps when I got home… and we didn’t even think about eating dinner that night!