Monday, December 2, 2013

Back In The Middle Ages...

I forget the source, but when I ran across this familiar English nursery rhyme, I was forced to consider something.  Here's the rhyme:

Sing a song of sixpence
A pocket full of rye
Four and 20 blackbirds
Baked in a pie

When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing
Wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house
Counting out his money
The queen was in the parlour
Eating bread and honey

The maid was in the garden
Hanging out the clothes
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose!

They sent for the king's doctor
Who sewed it on again
He sewed it on so neatly
The seam was never seen

There was such a commotion
That little Jenny wren
Flew down into the garden
And put it back again.

Okay - it's a nursery rhyme.  It never happend.  But how could live birds be baked in a pie and not dead in there when the dish was served?  Hello, Google?

Wickipedia told me that live birds in pies became popular in the Middle Ages and these dishes were called "Entrmets" or between servings.  As time passed, these dishes became ever more complicated as the dukes and earls and others all tried to out-do one another.  Imagine shaking out your dinner napkin and out fly a couple of songbirds!

To answer my question:  the pie shells were baked empty, a hole was cut in the bottom crust and the live birds were inserted just before serving. 

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