Cover of Book
Invitation to Dine by Christiane Herzog
157 pages; color photography, $25.00 US
Doubleday, 2000
Reviewed by Irene Costello for Good Cooking
November, 2000

Invitation to Dine represents the personal recipe collection of the German Republic's former first lady, Christiane Herzog, who died this year. The book has been published posthumously in remembrance of this great hostess. As first lady, Ms. Herzog enjoyed a reputation as an excellent hostess presiding over state dinners and formal social functions. However, this book is not about entertaining as the title implies. Rather it focuses on family dining rituals and dishes for small groups.

Four generations of family cookery are neatly compiled offering readers a glimpse of life's simpler pleasures that Ms. Herzog so much appreciated. The recipes emphasize fresh ingredients and simple preparation. The reader can appreciate the great care taken to translate and standardize hundreds of family recipes into a consistent and easy to read format. One should note, however, that the directions assume a working knowledge of culinary techniques. I also found some the dishes to be bland requiring my own palette to step in to add flavorings to my personal taste.

Those expecting a "how to" book for entertaining will be disappointed. She includes a passing remark on organizing a dinner party and promptly returns to folk cuisine, gardening, and market shopping. The photography would like to portray Ms. Herzog as Germany's Martha Stewart, but the food styling is poorly done and oftentimes just plain ridiculous. The front photograph of Ms. Herzog buried among the rhododendrons in her matching pink silk suit is reminiscent of an Ann Geddes greeting card. The recipe collection focuses naturally on German gastronomy. As such, I would have liked more information about the origin of local dishes or how they fell into her private collection. Indeed, this is a book without a clear audience and focus. It is an interesting yet uninformative collection of German cuisine.

Good Cooking's Chef John Vyhnanek remembers his German grandparents preparing roast goose and then taking sandwiches to grade school for lunch. He recommends this recipe taken from the book.

Roast Goose (Gebratene Bauerngans)

Serves 8/10

1 whole goose, weighing 9 pounds
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 onions, peeled
1 sprig of fresh thyme

1. Remove any fat from the goose, rinse it thoroughly, inside and out, then pat dry and prick the skin all over. Rub the goose all over with salt and pepper. Refrigerate it overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Put the peeled, whole onions and thyme in the goose cavity. Put the goose in a roasting pan, breast side up, and add a splash of water to the pan. Cover the goose and roast it for 1 hour.

3. Uncover the goose and roast for a further hour, basting occasionally with hot water.

4. After 2 hours roasting time, turn the goose, reduce the heat to 400 F and let the goose brown and the skin crisp. Skim the fat off the pan juices with a spoon and add a splash more water to the pan, if necessary.

5. Roast the goose for a further hour. Carve the goose, and serve it with potato dumplings, sauerkraut, and celeriac salad.

This is the traditional way I prepare my Christmas goose, every year.