Duck Duck Goose or The Animal Kingdom: A Paddling

One of my favorite places to be is on water, scanning for bird life

November 11th, or 11/11, is an odd German holiday known as St. Martin’s Day (Martinstag).  St. Martin of Tours (316 – 297 CE) is a saint associated with modesty and altruism (aren’t they all?). Legend has it that St. Martin shashed his cloak in half to save a homeless person from freezing. His holiday used to be followed by a fast that lasted a long, hungry period of weeks, stretching out to Christmas. [1]

But St. Martin’s Day is celebrated here in southern Germany by eating a special dish of duck or goose (Martinsgans), accompanied by red cabbage cooked with apple, and homemade dumplings known as knödel.

When it gets dark, nighttime glows with candles from lantern processions (Martinsumzüge or Laternenumzüge). The streets fill with adults, accompanying children who carry hand-made lanterns. In our village the procession is led by an actor dressed up as the saint. In some areas the  parade follows behind an actor dressed up as a Roman soldier on horseback. [2]

The tradition to eat a goose (today usually replaced by a duck) on St. Martin’s Day is believed to go back the medieval tax system. November 11th was one of the days when medieval vassals had to pay taxes, and peasants often paid with a goose. [3] Another popular story is that a gaggle of honking geese betrayed Martin’s hiding place: he hid in a goose pen from the people of Tours when they wanted to make him a bishop. [4]

Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings statues in Boston’s Public Park. I love the little kid playing among the ducklings

All the local restaurants and beer gardens have duck and goose dishes on their menus. Reserve your table now! they cajole.

***

In all the years I lived in San Francisco, I never ordered or willingly ate duck. Bizarrely shiny, glistening, reddish shellacked duck carcasses hang on meat hooks in the front windows of Chinese restaurants throughout the city. And hang. And hang. And hang. Just the idea of the oldness and congealed fat covered with flies of this ‘special dish’ turned my stomach. Strongly flavored meat that’s been aging for probably as long as the restaurant’s been in business? Yuck! I’ll take a pass…

But I recall with glee the Peking duck Uwe and I ate in Beijing. The restaurant specialized in only Peking duck, along with all the pomp and circumstance such a dish demands.

Our Chinese friend Weiyu orders for us, but every single table  wants the same meal. Waiters are formally dressed, complete with chefs’ toques, mouth masks and protective gloves. By the end of the evening they carve hundreds of plates of duck.

These guys are fast! Snick snick snick and your duck is parsed into a meal

May November 11th bring you flights of fancy and a visit from the Bluebird of Happiness. By now the ducks and geese, indeed, all migrating birds have already left for warmer climates. Despite the record-breaking warm days here in Germany, winter is coming (yes, we hear you John Snow).

Have a great St. Martin’s Day.

NOTES: [1,4] German Holidays Time and Date.com [2] Martin was  a Roman soldier before becoming a saint… See also wiki/St. Martin’s Day. [3] Medieval peasants had it rough. Taxes were collected as well upon marriage and death, St. George’s Day, and spring and fall. Source: Peasantry Their Problem and Protest in Assam (1858-1894) by Kamal Chandra Pathak. A group of ducks on water is called a paddling. The collective noun for geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump. Quora ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. For more about ducks and geese go to my earlier posts The Animal Kingdom: 1 and 15. Say this 3 times, fast: Future posts will feature our feathered friends!

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

 

The Animal Kingdom: 15

Ah… the never-ending blog thread about what groups of animals are called. See how many you can guess…. Answers listed at the bottom.

  1. A pomp really is pretty pompous.
  2. The wriggle wriggled.
  3. People surfeit fast on a surfeit.
  4. The grin grinned.
  5. The paddling paddled off.
  6. He drove the drove.

Answers:

Wriggle, aka protein in many parts of the world
  1. Pomp of Pekinese
  2. Wriggle of worms [1]
  3. Surfeit of skunks [2]
  4. Grin of opossums
  5. Paddling of ducks (on water)
  6. Drove of cattle
Drove, central India
Paddling

NOTES: [1] Larvae, actually. But you get the idea…. [2] The Striped Skunk is currently the chief carrier of rabies in the U.S. Present status of the less common Spotted skunk: Endangered. Missouri Dept of Conservation © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

The Animal Kingdom: 1

I dedicate this new blog thread to my father Bobbo, who worked for the Forest Service. On one of our last family visits we sat around and gleefully read out a list describing groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. The shrewdness shrewdly assessed the jungle floor.
  2. This obstinacy obstinately refused to budge.
  3. The covert covertly hid, migrating only at night.
  4. The big bask basked in the river, seemingly aware nothing would dare attack them.
  5. In spite of myself I was charmed by the pitiful piteousness.
  6. The safe sought safety on the shoreline.
Obstinacy, Perfume River, Vietnam

Answers:

  1. Shrewdness of apes [1]
  2. Obstinacy of buffalo
  3. Covert of coots
  4. Bask of crocodiles
  5. Piteousness of doves
  6. Safe of ducks (on land)
Part of a piteousness, Hampi, India
Bask member basking, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

NOTES: [1] All 22 species of apes, which include great apes and gibbons, are threatened with extinction. Endangered Species © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.