Sat, 11 Nov 2000

St. Martin's Day to be celebrated at Kempinski

By Grace Segran

JAKARTA (JP): On the 11th day of the 11th month at exactly 11 minutes past 11 o'clock a.m. St. Martin's Day is celebrated. This holiday, which is celebrated in honor of St. Martin -- the bishop of Tours who lived in the 4th century -- originated in France, then spread to Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe.

St. Martin was born of pagan parents around the year 316 in what is modern day Hungary. At the age of 18, while he was still in the military, Martin was baptized. He gave up his life in the military in order to serve God better.

He died around the year 397 and is the patron saint of soldiers and winegrowers. Martin was the first saint, who was not a martyr, to be honored with an annual feast in the Western Church.

St. Martin's Day remains popular, especially among young people and the rural population. It marks two events: the end of the agrarian year and the beginning of winter, and the end of the period of all souls that started on November 1st. The latter reason is why St. Martin's Day activities resemble Halloween festivities.

St. Martin was considered the patron of beggars, and this has contributed to the West European custom of begging for charitable gifts on this day. Kids call at neighborhood houses and by singing songs, dancing, or reading poetry, earn sweets, pies, or whatever the household chooses to give them.

In some areas, the legend in which St. Martin shares his cloak with a beggar in the cold of winter, is reenacted.

The goose is the symbol of St. Martin's Day. Legend has it that he was to be appointed bishop but had ran away because he didn't want to be so honored. He tried to hide in a stall but geese betrayed him with their honking. Hence the traditional sacrificing of foul. The real reason for butchering geese around St. Martin's Day is because they are mature at this time of year.

Kempinski Hotel celebrates St. Martin's Day with a special German fest at the hotel's Java restaurant from last Friday to this Sunday. On the day itself, Nov. 11, which is Saturday, the hotel's guest chef Claus Lukarsch will prepare a five-course set dinner. During the promotion, a buffet with a wide selection of popular North German dishes will be served.

When we were there, there was a tureen of beef goulash for starters. The stew was full-bodied, had lots bell peppers of different colors and bits of tender beef. The Germans prepare their goulash with less paprika and it is therefore not as spicy as Hungarian goulash.

There are two stations. The carving station serves roast such as pork knuckles or sirloin. The action station serves a variety of dishes which are prepared when ordered, such as schnitzel or spatzle.

Spatzle, homemade German noodles are popular in the southern part of the country. In that area, it has the same importance as rice has in the East, and accompanies just about any main course. It is served with whatever sauce that is available like cream or tomato sauce with lots of garlic and mushrooms.

Spatzle is made from flour, polenta, eggs, parsley and nutmeg. The thick dough is passed through a sieve-like device and bits or strings (depending on the type of holes) of Spatzle fall into hot salted water.

For many of us, when German food is mentioned, we think of sauerkraut and pork. This ubiquitous German dish is also available at the St. Martin's Day buffet. Both varieties are available: boiled or roasted.

The most important dish of the fest is of course, the Roast Goose. It is served with chopped red cabbage and dumplings. The stuffing is made with dried apricots and apples, prunes and raisins. It is served as compote on the side. The meat was tender and literally fell apart when picked up.

The buffet costs Rp 95,000++ and has more than 10 appetizers, 10 main courses and 15 desserts. During the meal, the Trio - with Ruli on the accordion, Yopi on bass, and Ricky on guitar, provided entertaining German melodies.