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St Martha's Day

St Martha's Day

St Martha's Day
© Henryk Siemiradzki / 1886 / Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

29 July

The 29th of July is the Feast Day of St Martha of Bethany, the Patron Saint of Cooks.

Martha lived in the village of Bethany, 2 miles (3 km) from Jerusalem with her sister Mary and brother Lazarus. In the Bible, she was the one scurrying around the kitchen, doing all the work to get a meal on the table (at a time when "take one handful of flour" meant grinding it yourself first.) In the end, she got reprimanded for speaking up about her sister Mary just sitting around, while Martha was doing all the work to get a meal on the table, with no one else in the story even offering to chop so much as an onion.

Perhaps it's not surprising that Irma Rombauer chose St Martha for the cover of the first edition of her "The Joy of Cooking", which she paid for, printed and sold herself from her own house, as a 54-year old woman widowed a year earlier when her husband committed suicide. She got her daughter, Marion, to do the cover art, which is a drawing of St Martha, handbag in one hand, broom in another, and what looks like a dinner plate for a halo, slaying a dragon, which is presumed to be the dragon of kitchen chores. In other words, Irma chose for the cover of her first book someone who just gets on with it and gets things done.

And maybe that's why Martha is good as the Patron Saint of Cooks. Chefs may get all the glory, with their heads up in the clouds, and frilled this and expensive that -- but it's the cooks who put meals on the table 365 days a year.

Martha has also been tasked with looking after butlers, dietitians, innkeepers, and waitresses.

Legend has Martha, Mary and Lazarus travelling to the south of France in a boat -- without oars or sails -- afterwards, where they spent the rest of their lives. There, she reputedly saved the town of Tarascon by lassoing a dragon with her girdle and leading it away from town.

Her tomb is in a local church in Tarascon, the Collégiale Royale Sainte Marthe.

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Oulton, Randal. "St Martha's Day." CooksInfo.com. Published 12 February 2006; revised 24 May 2009. Web. Accessed 06/18/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/st-marthas-day>.

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