The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #42119   Message #610962
Posted By: GUEST,Desdemona
16-Dec-01 - 10:27 AM
Thread Name: WHY 4 & 20 Blackbirds baked in a pie?
Subject: RE: WHY 4 & 20 Blackbirds baked in a pie?
In the Middle Ages, "grete Pyes" were very common on the dinner table. Existing recipes from the 14th century (notably those of the Goodman of Paris, an elderly bridegroom who wrote what was essentially a "how to" guide for his young wife, loaded with excellent late mediaeval household tips!)call for "coneyes"--rabbits or hares, beef, salt fish, suet, and "smale berdes" of various types, amongst other ingredients like currants, raisins, onions, etc. so birds like sparrows and blackbirds would certainly have been finding their way into pies.

Between courses the cooks would often parade a sort of edible sculpture called a "subletie", often made of marzipan or spun sugar, in the shape of a mythical beast, a castle, a church, or allegorical figures such as Death (really, it's recorded that at the funeral of Blanche, duchess of Lancaster in the 14th century, there was a spun sugar figure of the grim reaper paraded around the room for the edification anf amusement of the assembled mourners). Sometimes a false second crust in an elaborate, fanciful shape could be placed upon a great pie and then removed---possibly in a situation like this, live uncooked birds might have been released?

Food as entertainment---I love the middle ages!