November is stereotypically characterised as the month in which the harvest ends and the slaughter of livestock begins. The feast of Saint Martin on 11 November is traditionally considered the start of the dark months, a period of forty days before the winter solstice. To commemorate Saint Martin, geese – which were at their fattest at that time of the year – were slaughtered, an ancient tradition the origins of which are lost in the mists of time.

Did You know? Geese and pigs were kept inside the city walls in courtyards and in enclosed gardens of the city, which was still remarkably green at that time. These geese did not only provide meat and eggs but were sometimes used for popular entertainment as well. A popular yet sinister traditional game was throwing knives at living geese tied to a pole.

Pious Pharaildis and her goose

Saint Pharaildis (650- 740) is the patron saint of Ghent. How did she acquire this status? As a young girl, she decided to devote her life to God and made a vow of virginity.

In the final stage of her life, Pharaildis lived outside the city walls of Ghent. One day, the harvest of the surrounding farms was destroyed by geese. Thanks to her patience, Pharaildis succeeded in taming the geese.

Everything went well, until she discovered one morning that one of her favourite geese was missing. She thought it had escaped, but in fact it had been stolen by a hungry Ghentian. She went to the city where she frantically looked for the feet, bones and other remains of her favourite goose, until she had reconstituted the skeleton. In tears, she prayed to God and according to the legend, the goose came back to life.

Shortly after her death, she began to be venerated in Ghent; her relics are nowadays located in St Bavo’s abbey. She is the patron saint of difficult marriages and of small pets. In addition, some sources claim that her life was the origin of Ghent’s name, since “gent” means “gander” in Dutch.

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Cockentrice stew

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 100 g lard
  • butter or oil
  • 500 g chicken (cut into pieces)
  • 250 g smoked bacon (cut into lardons)
  • 250 g pork loin (cut into strips)
  • 300 g silver onions (freshly peeled)
  • 300 g of the smallest Parisian mushrooms
  • 250 ml verjuice or dry white wine
  • 1.5 l chicken or pork stock
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 bunch of parsley (finely chopped)
  • 15 g ginger powder
  • 5 saffron threads
  • pinch of pepper and salt
  1. Season the pieces of chick - en, pork loin and bacon and fry them golden brown in a casserole with a generous amount of fat. Put the meat aside for a moment.
  2. Stew the silver onions and the mushrooms in the same casserole.
  3. Drain the fat and return all ingredients to the pan.
  4. Deglaze with the verjuice and moisten with the stock.
  5. Leave to simmer gently with the lid half on.
  6. Break the eggs and season with the ginger powder, saffron and a pinch of pepper and salt.
  7. Add the chopped parsley. Make a nice omelette in a pan with the same diameter as the casserole.
  8. Check the tenderness as well as the seasoning and top the stew with the omelette.

Pulled goose with ginger

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 goose breast
  • some ginger powder
  • a pinch of pepper and coarse salt
  • 1/3 molten goose fat
  • 1/3 chicken stock
  • 1/3 apple juice
  1. Cut the goose breast into thick slices and season lavishly with ginger powder, pepper and coarse salt.
  2. Let the seasoning sit on the meat for about one hour and then brush off most of it.
  3. Arrange the slices in a deep pan and moisten with 1/3 molten goose fat, 1/3 chicken stock and 1/3 apple juice. Make sure that the meat is fully immersed in the liquid.
  4. Put on the lid and let the meat cook slowly at low heat for approximately 3 hours.
  5. Baste the meat regularly as the cooking process progresses.
  6. Check the tenderness and pull the tender goose meat apart.
  7. Boil the remaining liquid down to syrup thickness.
  8. Return the goose meat to the pan and mix with the sauce. You may add some red wine vinegar to make the preparation easier to digest.
  9. The recipe can also be made with goose legs, but in that case you need to increase the cooking time by 1/3. Serve this pulled goose as a warm salad combined with vegetables or in a sandwich as a street food snack.