Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Michaelmas Feast, 29th September

Steeped in tradition, enveloped in folklore…and a bloody good opportunity to eat goose. We’re teaming up with Stepney City Farm (SCF) to bring a piece of rural heritage to a slightly more urban setting, with Stepney-grown geese, fruits and vegetables, local breads, beers and cheese.

Jassy Davis – SCF Café Manager – and our Creative Food Director, Nicola, have together drawn upon the recipes of historical cooks from Gervase Markham to Jane Grigson, to assemble a menu which we hope would impress even the sternest of landlords (read on if that doesn’t make sense). With the 29th September also marking the end of Urban Food Fortnight, (almost) anything that doesn’t grow on SCF will come from other fantastic local producers and suppliers - Borough Wines, E5 Bakehouse, London Fields Brewery and Wildes Cheese. The five courses we have planned are;

Potted goose with SCF pickles and E5 Bread

Braised heart, wing and neck with white beans and bay

Breast of goose stuffed with pork, SCF herbs, potato and spices, 
served with vegetables from the SCF garden

Late summer pudding and cream

Wildes cheese and SCF chutney

Lunch will be served in The Pickle Factory in E2 (owned by those lovely Oval Space folks across the road). There are 50 tickets available at £37.50 each, and a cash bar on the afternoon for drinks. Most of the team will be working for free for this event, and all proceeds go towards Stepney City Farm, a registered charity and working farm that brings a touch of the rural life to local children and families, in an inner city area not exactly known for its wealth or natural beauty (though certainly not without its charms).

The history (abridged, somewhat)

Back when rent was paid quarterly rather than monthly*, each quarter day – Lady Day, Midsummer, Michaelmas and Christmas – represented a different milestone in agricultural and religious calendars, and so each was marked with a fitting feast. Tenant farmers would line up to pay their dues to the factor (an agent working on behalf of the landlord), each man submitting his funds which were immediately concealed within a special table, so that those behind him didn’t see how much he paid. There’s a strong tie with the English legal system too, as quarter days were the time for the magistrate to visit his outlying districts to administer justice; debts and unresolved conflicts must not be allowed to linger on.

*the rent for our Moxon Street shop, and for indeed some of the land we farm in North Yorkshire, is still collected on the original quarter days. Old fashioned lot, us.

Where the goose comes in is simply the work of the seasons. After a summer of growing fat on spilled grain and crop stubble, geese were at their best, and so along with rent a farmer would present his landlord a goose. The geese at Stepney City Farm have also grown fat on a summer of grain (fed to them by local children), and so it’s time to put them to their culinary destiny, along with fruit and vegetables from the community gardens that surround them.

Devil Spits Day

Marking harvest’s end and transition into Autumn, Michaelmas is also known as Devil Spits Day; the day the Devil fell to earth, landing in a prickly blackberry bush. It is said that his spiky landing forced him to curse the fruit with his fiery spit (though some say he weed on them), and so blackberries must not be picked after this day because they are spoiled. Good job we’re putting them all in a summer pudding, then.

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