Monday, September 29, 2014

Michaelmas for Better Eye Sight

This was my first time serving a (somewhat) traditional dinner to celebrate the Feast of the Archangels - or Michaelmas, if you're a reader from medieval England.  In the past we've done the obvious dessert options like Devil's Food Cake or Angel Food Cake, but I was inspired by so many other lovely Catholic bloggers to offer my family a somewhat more traditional (read "labor-intensive") feast to honor Saints Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, as well as to celebrate the end of the harvest, give me an excuse to make blackberry cobbler, and unite in spirit with my beloved Jane Austen characters by casually referring to Michaelmas in my daily conversation like it's no big deal and everyone knows what I'm talking about. 

So... "Michaelmas."

Because the Feast of the Archangels falls at the end of September, it was traditionally associated with the end of the harvest season.  Consequently, the feast always involved a lot of beta-carotene, as you will see.  (Seriously, no one in my family should need new glasses for the next two year after this meal...)  

Here's how we celebrated Michaelmas:  We rushed through the grocery store first thing in the morning so that we could take the 8-month old to his 6-month old well pediatrician visit, only to find out that he wasn't well at all and has been suffering (for quite some time apparently) with an ear infection.  My poor James!  (Perhaps that explains his outbursts of screaming, which I had just chalked up to being 8 months old...)

After that fiasco, here's how we celebrated Michaelmas: I spent the entire day in the kitchen.  Literally.  (except of course for when I was at the grocery and the doctor)  This was more labor intensive than Thanksgiving even, because I was working solo.  I gave the boys the afternoon off from lessons under the auspices of "celebrating the feast" but it was really because things were getting cuh-ray-zee in the kitchen.  I used every pot and pan and bowl I own and washed them all at least twice.  I ran the dishwasher mid-day (which I can usually avoid) and by the end of the afternoon, I had decided that I probably wasn't going to be preparing a Michaelmas feast any other years.  

But... the dinner was a huge success, with three fourths of my speaking children proclaiming it the best meal they've had in their whole lives.  We had a few guests with us as well who also assured me it was a delicious meal.  (It was pretty good!)   During dinner Ruth recounted the story of the archangels casting Satan and the fallen angels out of Heaven, Dominic told of the significance of the blackberries, and James screamed.  Given the evident catechetical success, the health-nut-levels of beta-carotene we consumed, and the thumbs up I got from everyone, I think we just might plan on future Michaelmas celebrations after all :)  

So really, here's what we did:  

We cut marigolds to adorn our autumnal table.

We prayed the prayer to St. Michael after the meal.  

We dined on this fine menu...

A traditional roasted goose  er... I mean... $4.99 rotisserie chicken  (don't tell my home-steading, chicken-raising friends ;) )  

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples  (I mostly followed the recipe, but I didn't have rosemary, so I used thyme instead, and I added about 2 T. brown sugar.)  This was so delicious!  

Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots

 Harvest Dinner Rolls (I used this bread machine recipe and just added sunflower seeds to the tops and called them "Harvest" to make it sound fancy :)  )

 Blackberry Sparkling Water (For the kids.  But I could have finished off a bottle or two myself.)

So what's with the goose and blackberries anyway??  I looked into it:

As for the goose, the food experts at the BBC say: 

It falls near the autumn equinox and also marks a medieval festival when harvest was finished and farmers paid rent to the landowners, often offering geese as part of the exchange.
Goose fairs became popular across the country, with farmers driving their geese for miles to get to market.
The Michaelmas goose itself became associated with paying off debts, and according to folklore eating one on the day would bring financial luck for the coming year.
And as for the blackberries, the Church is full of rich legends and this is one... 
It is said that when Michael and the other archangels cast the fallen angels from Heaven, Lucifer, on his way into Hell fell through the thorns of a blackberry bush and cursed its fruit.  The medieval English said then, that blackberries were no good to eat after the day we remember that fall and the triumph of the archangels (Sept 29) and that all blackberries should be finished up on that day!  (Ok! Yum!)
As usual, I hardly every take photos of people actually enjoying the meal - I'm too busy and people don't look great when you snap their picture mid-bite anyway.  Let me assure you though, everyone was licking their lips (and maybe a plate or two) and smiling!

not picture-pretty, but so delicious I'm putting it in here anyway :)  

Saint Michael the Archangel, 
defend us in battle. 
Be our protection against the wickedness 
and snares of the Devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
and do thou, 
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, 
by the power of God, 
cast into hell Satan, 
and all the evil spirits, 
who prowl throughout the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. 


  1. Lovely photos! It looks delicious!

  2. Oh, my goodness! How delicious everything looks! It looks better than a Thanksgiving feast. I love it!!

  3. Yum! I love having blackberry cobbler for Michaelmas and that squash and spinach dish looks amazing!

  4. Thanks ladies! It really was a lovely feast!

  5. Oh wow oh wow! Inspirational. Do you mind if I share the link over on Faith Filled Days?

    1. Sure, Erin! I just looked over there for the first time - what an amazing resource you've put together! I know where I'll be headed next time for ideas on celebrating the Liturgical year!


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