The story of the goose of Saint Martin
The tradition of eating goose on the day dedicated to S. Martin has its origins over the centuries. For centuries, the goose was, together with the pig, the reserve of fats and proteins during the winter of the poor farmer who commonly fed only on cereals and large polenta. From the Egyptians to Homer, the goose was always kept as a cheerful childhood companion and guardian (the famous geese of the temple of the goddess Juno on the Capitol).
The geese were fattened with dried figs from the southern regions to make the liver fatter. The Romans called the liver “iecor” and the fat liver “iecor ficatum”, from which the Italian “liver” derives.
The barbarians, who sacked Rome in 390 BC under the guidance of Brenno, considered the palmiped a symbol of the afterlife and a guide of pilgrims, but also Great Mother of the Universe and living beings. The goose paw was used as a “mark” of recognition by the masters builders of Gothic cathedrals, called “Jars”, which means geese in French. The goose was always bred, even in the medieval period, in monasteries and peasant families, as Charlemagne ordered. Around 1400, some Ashkenazi Jewish promoted the spread of the goose in the northern regions of the peninsula and therefore also in Veneto. Not being able to consume pork for religious reasons, their butchers prepared delicious salami and goose hams. Goose was, in fact, the favorite food of wealthy Jewish families in the late nineteenth century.
As in Celtic tradition, on 11th November it also became part of the Christian holidays thanks to S. Martino and was always connected to geese. The legend tells, in fact, that Martino, despite the election by popular acclaim to Bishop of Tours, did not want to abandon the habit and tried to hide, but it was precisely the geese that tracked him down and so he became bishop and then Saint for his goodness towards the poor.
But in the last century and until the early twentieth century the goose was also a medium of exchange. Tenant farmers and sharecroppers paid part of the amount to the noble landowners with geese, or went to the market and exchanged geese for boots.