ESTRANGED CHILDREN: New Epidemic or Old Problem?©



There are many reasons children become estranged from parents, many of which are selfish and misguided.  I’m no stranger to this phenomenon, nor are some of my friends and acquaintances.  A child that was abused naturally is unlikely to have a relationship with parents as an adult, but situations where a grown child becomes estranged from parents because a spouse wants to spend all their free time with his or her own parents or a divorced parent who spitefully turns a child against the other parent is selfish in the extreme.

Is this a new problem with this generation?  No.  That is a small consolation to those who are deprived of a relationship with grandchildren, however.

In 1856, Heinrich Thiersch addressed one cause of estrangement – that of parents who make it a life commitment to complain about some negative behavior on the part of the child instead of addressing it and then giving the child the opportunity to learn from the mistake and strive to live a good life.  A footnote stressed that his message was not admonishing parents to overlook bad behavior and allow it to continue, but not to continuously berate the child for past mistakes after the situation has been properly dealt with.

“Continuance of anger, repetition of reproaches, and the renewed reminding of children, without sufficient reason of that which is past, are the most usual causes of that disheartening and estrangement against which the Apostle warns us, as against the greatest evil; “Fathers provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged;” for if once the children be embittered against their father and mother, and have closed their hearts against them, and are without faith in the love and conscientiousness of their parents; what word can still find an entrance with them?  No man can step into the father’s place, for the estranged children will not have an ear for the fatherly word, but only for the mischievous tattle of false worldly friends.”

In past times relatives often lived with family and most of the time that was a positive experience for all, however, an 1888 article addressed the problem when a live-in relative possessed a vile temper and nasty disposition that disrupted the peace and harmony of the home.  “. . . the parents who know that such an unhealthful influence exists in their home, should endeavor to remove it, and prevent future trouble for themselves that may find maturity in estranged children and a ruined home”.

Our perception of the Gilded Age is one of more genteel times, but truthfully, divorce was already a ready escape for unhappy spouses.  My great grandmother claimed to be an orphan with no idea who her parents were; however, I’m a pretty decent researcher and in recent years found the divorce record of her parents which solidified my suspicions regarding her home life.  Her father was found on census records in more than one household with different “wives” and different sets of children whose birth dates overlapped those of my great grandmother and her siblings.  Recently I found my gg grandparents’ divorce records in which he was brought to task for his many infidelities against gg grandma who was his only legitimate wife.  She named names in court – both of the other women and of his illegitimate children with them.  He denied all, but I already knew from the census records that he had been a philanderer and apparently the judge agreed as he was ordered to pay her alimony for life.  She died less than ten years later.  His actions and the reactions of the community so embarrassed my great grandmother, however, that she died never revealing to her husband and children who her parents were or what her actual early home life was like.

Reviewing old books and court cases from the Victorian era shows that their situation and mine is no different from countless other families.  Estrangement occurred, for example, when one parent spitefully turned children against the other, grown children resented the remarriage of a divorced or widowed parent, a faithless spouse was considered too immoral for the court to allow a relationship with the children, children grew into reprehensible adults committing crimes that pious parents could not condone, a father could not resist the evils of drink and became estranged from his impoverished wife and children, etc.  Accounts were found of parents who felt alienated when an adult daughter or son chose to go into monastic life or a convent when their decision was actually made out of love of God, not a lack of love for earthly parents.

In 1894, “Good Housekeeping” published a piece on husbands and wives who refused to get along with their mothers and fathers-in-law resulting in the estrangement of child from parents.  Reasons cited included children recently married who suddenly viewed parents’ concern for their welfare as interference, jealousy of the close relationship the other spouse had with mother or father, resentment toward the mother of a deceased spouse who naturally felt drawn to care for an infant or small child, and a spouse resentful of care and support given to a widowed mother-in-law.

Regardless of time period, perhaps the greatest loss when estrangement occurs between parent and child is the resultant separation of grandchild and grandparent.  A child who is deprived of the grandparent’s love and life experience suffers as acutely as the grandparent who can’t help but love children they don’t even know but for whom they a feel a strong connection that can never be severed.  The latter is much like grieving the loss of the child over the course of a lifetime.

In closing let’s note the return of members to the Church, was frequently compared to an estranged child returning to parents in sermons from the early Victorian era.  “Like estranged children we are returning to union and reconciliation; we, through greater diligence and faithfulness in our high commission, to a deeper sense of our position, our office, and our sacraments. . .”

Since this article is of a material culture nature and not about food I will not leave you with my customary “Blissful Meals”, but will instead wish anyone experiencing these problems peace and reconciliation.






Chickens, duck, and turkey about to be dressed for the freezer, author’s photo©

This is a companion piece to yesterday’s article on plucking poultry, this being the drawing [to draw the internal organs from the body] step in the butchering process.  It comes from the 1906 “Handbook of Domestic Cookery”.

Just because a way of doing something seems to be the most logical it isn’t always and we should never forget the wisdom of preceding generations when doing something we may not be completely familiar with.  When I was a child every fall my mom would go to the Mennonite community and purchase hens that weren’t laying as well as they once had to dress for the freezer and every year she’d tell me I was going to get a whipping if I didn’t help her clean the hens.  I would go outdoors with the strongest of resolves but when the first head was severed and the headless hen started flopping around on the ground I’d tell her, “Beat me now cause I was going to the house”.

As an adult I’m of a much stronger constitution and can dispatch a bird, pluck, and draw it as a matter of course.  Let’s look at century-old instructions for this part of processing poultry to see if it might offer any insight that we may have missed.


Dressed turkey, author’s photo©

“Poultry must never be in the slightest degree tainted before dressing, though with the exception of pigeons (which are considered to lose flavor by keeping even a day), all poultry is the better for hanging some time before it is cooked.  A turkey may be kept for a fortnight or longer still in cold weather, a goose the same, a fowl will keep for a week, a duck but three days; if young, they are fit to dress immediately on being killed.  When it is desired to keep poultry, it should be feathered, drawn, hung in a cool dry air, seasoned inside with pepper, and wiped often.  Poultry ought not to be washed, unless any of the intestines should be broken during drawing, in which case alone washing out is necessary.  When a bird is drawn, wipe out the inside and pepper it, if for keeping.  The general mode of drawing poultry is to make a cut across the vent, and through this opening the entrails are carefully withdrawn, after this the finger should be inserted, and the heart, liver, etc., taken out.  This part of the operation requires the greatest care to avoid bursting the gall-bag in the liver, which would spoil the bird; the best way to withdraw this part of the intestines is to grasp the gizzard firmly, and then by gentle steady drawing, the heart and liver, etc., will come with it.  The bird being emptied wipe it out, and take out any fat that may be inside.  Widen the vent, and pass it over the rump, and proceed with the trussing as directed; slit the gizzard open on the side, remove its contents with the lining membrane, and cut out the gall bag from the liver.  The fat taken from the insides of ducks or fowls should be melted for basting the birds with, while that from the goose should be rendered for goose grease.  All poultry having white meat requires the same treatment in roasting.  To keep boiled poultry white, rub it over with lemon juice before dressing.  Poultry of every kind requires to be thoroughly cooked; nothing is more objectionable to the taste and eye than underdone poultry.  A brisk clear fire is necessary for poultry, as it is spoilt by slow roasting.  When poultry is not prepared by the poulterer, it is best to pluck and singe it before drawing and trussing.  When a goose is too old to be roasted, it may be treated as pork and made into a ham, like which it should be dressed.  Green [young] geese do not require stuffing, but should be seasoned inside with pepper and salt.



plucking chickens2

Plucking poultry is a slow job for me compared to the efficiency of farm folk a century or more ago so today I will share a few thoughts on what many will find a repulsive practice.  If the reader is such a one, easily offended by a discussion of preparing one’s own food, please take note and decide whether to read further.  Our property is not a petting zoo, it is a fully functioning small farm operating primarily through knowledge gained in century old farm books and journals with heritage breed poultry that dress out like that of great grandma, not the mass produced, pale, store-bought variety.

For the unfamiliar, let’s note that plucking, or picking, is the process of removing the feathers from freshly killed fowl in preparation for cooking or freezing.  There are two methods:  dry plucking, and plucking after scalding in hot water (between 145 to 160 degrees).

“Dry plucking is possible only when the fowls are killed in such a way that the tissues of the skin are left in a relaxed condition and thus offer but little resistance to the removal of the feathers.  The dry plucking, however, must be done immediately after the fowl has been killed and before the body heat has left the carcass. . . .”

“Plucking after scalding is practiced extensively throughout the rural districts where the greater portion of all poultry is killed by severing the head with a hatchet.  Plucking after scalding is made necessary by the crude methods of killing employed…Their feathers will come off much more easily than in the method of dry plucking; in fact, their feathers will come off by handfuls, and in some instances can be rubbed off by the fingers…Scalded poultry will not keep so well in cold storage [not frozen] as dry-plucked poultry, and hence is not usually selected for cold-storage purposes unless it is particularly well prepared for market”.

I will dispense with the various ways of dispensing the birds and concentrate on the plucking and dressing.  “Do not wait until the fowl becomes cold before you commence plucking, or even to stop fluttering, as they are perfectly numb.  It is impossible to dry pick them after they become cold.  Begin by pulling the light feathers and tail, then the breast and so on until perfectly clean.  Do not leave any pin feathers, as nothing so destroys the appearance.  Do not singe the fine feathers, as is often done, as it gives the skin an oily appearance.  As soon as you are through plucking wash the blood from the head and the dirt from the shank and feet.  When through, lay on dry table to cool.”

“In plucking fowls, the feathers should be drawn out of the skin in the direction opposite to that in which they lie naturally.  Thus, if the fowl is hanging head down, the feathers are pulled down toward the head…”

“Directly after the feathers are plucked, all pinfeathers and long hairs should be removed from the plucked surface, so as to leave the carcass perfectly clean and smooth.  The pinfeathers can be removed either with the thumb and finger or with the blade of a knife held against the thumb.  The hairs are usually removed by singeing.

“The exact length of time to hold a fowl in hot water is a matter of judgment, which can be gained only by actual experience in dipping poultry.  More care should be taken in dipping young fowls than in dipping older birds, as the skin of young fowls will scald or cook much sooner than the skin of more mature fowls. Plunging the body of the fowl into cold water immediately after it is taken from the hot water will materially lessen the danger of cooking the skin to a harmful extent.”

Dressing one’s own poultry may or may not be a precursor to a successful dinner for every reader, however, for those like myself that appreciate the old ways as good ways, perhaps you learned a thing or two from this post.  I leave you, as always, with good wishes and blessings for Blissful Meals.©

Bib:  Report, Vol. 1, by Ontario Dept. of Agriculture.  1897.

International Correspondence Schools.  “Poultry Houses”.




“In green-up time our fathers go afield

To plow the stubborn slopes their fathers plowed

Planting in green-up time gives greater yield

They work in sun beneath the wind and cloud.

In green-up time our mothers walk by streams

To pick the water-cresses from creek bottom…”


So go the lyrics to a poem about Kentucky, lyrics which probably described farms all through the country.

Green-up time is a colloquialism for spring when plants emerge from beneath the earth and bask in the warm sunshine.  One can look through the woods and see a pale green color in the trees as leaves begin to put out.  It also refers to the time when winter grown plants “green up” with warmer weather as with winter wheat.  In the early 20th century Agricultural Bulletins farmers reported on when the grasses and wheat began to green up each spring.  When families raised their own food grass to feed farm animals was as important as plants to feed families.

“Everything looked hopeful.  The garden was greening up beautifully; the hens were laying or sitting; we should be all right if we could keep our heads above water and keep out of debt.”

In times past when families had nothing but canned, salted, dried or smoked food from fall to mid-spring green-up time was eagerly awaited so that the enlightened country cook could gather from Mother Nature’s store house a variety of fresh greens.  Whether cooked separately or several varieties combined to make enough for a “mess”, those greens were mighty welcome especially when prepared with some side meat or bacon grease and served with hot cornbread.

“Soon after sassafras time, it was green-up time, with the first shoots coming up out of the ground.  We watched the sprouts hopefully, for this was the time of year for Granny to go to the fields and woods to pick her wild greens, the “sallets” of the old frontier. Granny Fanny taught us all the plants, and how to tell the good greens from the bad. We gathered new poke sprouts, always being careful not to snip them too close to their poison roots; and we gathered “spotted leaf,” leaves of “lamb’s tongue,” butter-and-eggs, curly dock, new blackberry sprouts, dandelions, and a few violet leaves.

Green-up time was also ramp season, but Mama wouldn’t let a ramp come into the house, for the ramp is a vile-smelling wood’s onion whose odor, like memory, lingers on. Some of our neighbors and cousins hunted ramps every spring and carried them home in gunnysacks to boil and fry.  In the spring down at school, the teacher would sometimes have to throw the windows wide open to air out the smell of ramps, wet woolen stockings, and kid sweat.”  — McNeill.

Greens meant different things to different people depending on where they lived but probably the most common included poke, dock, dandelion, nettles, cowslips, chickweed, lamb’s quarters or pigweed, milkweed, plantain, purslane, watercress, ramps, mallow, mustard, greenbriar, chicory, sorrel, bracken, clover, young blackberry shoots, etc.  Dandelion is an excellent example of a green that escaped its boundaries and began to grow wild.

Sometimes turnips left in the field would throw up new greens when the weather turned nice and these could be added to the mix.  Cabbage and collard stalks that weren’t treated too badly by Old Man Winter likewise produced sprouts for the pot.  While usually not technically a wild food, young hop tops were common greens.

Perhaps the most often eaten wild plant in my family was poke.  The tender young shoots were parboiled, then cooked with meat or drippings, and when a little larger the stalks were peeled, sliced, battered, and fried like okra.  Foragers today think they’re going to die if they eat poke, but if that were true few country families would have survived the Depression era.  In the spring mama even canned and froze it to last through the year.

Poke Sallet and Branch Lettuce.  Cowskull Mountain.   This is the time of year in the hills when the jaded appetite turns to turnip greens and poke sallet, speckled dock and branch lettuce. To mountain folks, weary from a dreary winter-long diet of store bought vittles, it is a very special season. They call it greenup time. And in the hills greenup time, which comes when spring starts bustin’ out all over, sends folks into the old fields and along the branches in search of wild greens.”

Before I wish you my usual Blissful Meals, I will beseech you to get out this weekend and enjoy green up time.  While out and about look for those first tender leaves of spring and consider feasting as your grandparents probably did.

Bib:  Stuart, Jesse.  “Kentucky is My Land”.  1952.

McNeill, Louise.  “The Milkweed Ladies”, page 45 and 46.

Parris, John.  “These Storied Mountains”.  1972.

“Saturday Evening Post”.  April 15, 1911.

Kitchen Style That Reaches Out to Me

This post isn’t going to be long on text and is offered today just because I took a sentimental journey and decided to share images of kitchen styles that make me happy.  I’ve had the pleasure of cooking in some interesting settings and making food my ancestors would have been comfortable with, but at 60, I’m not sure if I’d want to take up cooking for 25 or more people as I once did in primitive settings.  Putting a joint on the spit and making some historical dish for the Mister and myself, however, will bring me immense pleasure when we get around to tweaking our keeping room.  We have pieces a plenty to outfit it once we are ready to transform the interior into the setting we want.  It doesn’t have to be nearly as elaborate as these to please me as I gravitate more toward cottage than castle, but the reader will enjoy this nostalgic trip down memory lane.



French chateau

french-kitchen-6, Becoming Madam blog

Chirk Castle, Wales

home in Ireland

Ireland 1865

unknown location

Linsfort Castle, Inishowen County, Donegal

Blissful Meals now and perhaps you’ll find a few details in these images that speak to you as they have me.  I’ve tried to avoid copyrighted images, however, it was sometimes hard to follow the chain of postings to know who the original poster was and whether there were any restrictions on using the photo.

The “Other” Meat Enjoyed Abroad©


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I will preface this post with a cautionary advisement that those who are squeamish scroll on through, however, the information is presented as it was found for those with an open mind.  Recently an acquaintance from China asked what my husband and I intend to do after retirement to which I repplied we would probably expand the farm and take on more animals.  He suggested donkeys.  At first I thought he meant as pets but he actually meant as a food source saying in China donkey meat is common and that he likes it very much.  He made the same observation regarding horse meat.  Curiosity took me down the rabbit path again and below is a very quick look at various cultures and the  eating of donkey meat.

donkey sausage from The great wildebeest migration blog

“It [horse] has nothing disagreeable to the eye or to the taste.  It makes a consommé rather less clear and bright than that of beef, and the meat loses rather more color in boiling; but after broiling or roasting, in which way horsemeat should always be cooked, it has no appearance by which it can be detected from beef.  There is perhaps, a slightly sweetish taste, which, however is entirely overcome by the salt, pepper, and sauces which are usually eaten with roast meat.  The flesh of the ass and mule has a finer grain than that of the horse, and has a very slight “gamy” taste, which, however is scarcely to be distinguished from a prime rump steak.

The celebrated “Bologna” sausage, when properly made, as it originally was in Italy, is made from donkey’s meat only.  The majority of that in the market to-day is made from the poorest grades of beef, mixed with other cheap meats, pork, etc.”.  [1895]

“Cooks almost invariably do the marketing in Paris, and observers have sometimes amused themselves with watching the number of those who supply themselves at shops that only sell horse, mule, and donkey meat, buying well trimmed joints for less than they would pay at the regular butcher’s but no doubt charging their employers as much as beef would have cost, the difference in the taste never being detected.

Choice pieces of horse meat fetch from about 10 cents a pound wholesale, and may be sold in the retail trade for as much as 18 cents a pound.  Donkey meat and mule meat have their own special patrons, and the votaries of horse flesh firmly believe that if horses were treated like oxen and well fed horse meat would soon be generally preferred to beef.”

When I was growing up my mother refused to purchase canned meat unless country of origin was printed on the can because various animals were known to be shipped to the U.S. and sold as canned beef.  Apparently that had been an issue for some time as we see from this 1897 quote.  “It is darkly whispered, indeed, that we Americans are already consuming no inconsiderable amount—not merely of horse-meat, but the flesh of mules and donkeys imported from Europe, in the shape of the toothsome sausage.  The finest grade of sausage that comes from France to this country is manufactured at Lyons, and consists exclusively of mule or donkey meat”.

“There are nearly two hundred horse-meat shops in Paris, and the consumption of this sort of food last year was:  Horses 21,291; donkeys 275; mules 61.  A local economist has estimated that horse-flesh is the staple food in one out of every three of the households of Paris.”

In Vienna horse and donkey meat were sold in shops required, as other countries were, to display signage as to what type meat it was and the amount per pound because beef, mutton, and pork were priced out of reach of the working class who needed a less expensive source of protein.

“The poorer classes of the Chinese eat every part of an animal and all kinds of animals.  In Northern China horse meat, mule meat and donkey meat are everywhere sold.  There are butcher shops in Peking where you can buy camel steaks”.

“I am sorry to say that the sausage-dealers are accused by Aristophanes of making their wares occasionally of dog and donkey-meat; but that is a charge which never dies” [Ancient Athens].

“Roast donkey makes an excellent dish, a young one tasting like veal, but old ones are very tough.  [Japan].

Early 20th century journals often refer to the consumption of such meat in areas of Africa and stories abound of soldiers cooking donkey and horse.  Pack animals and cavalry horses were still common and could always be used to stave off hunger as needed.

Macmillan’s tells us how roast donkey was perceived by the English who tried it.  [1868] “Every one who has eaten roast donkey has pronounced it excellent.  In flavor it is said to resemble turkey, though the colour is considerably darker.  The accomplished gourmet is aware what animal it is that contributes most largely to the composition of the best sausages in the world—the Lyons sausage”.

Not because horse or donkey is tainted other than in the minds of some Americans, any adventurous soul who wishes to give it a try may find it difficult to impossible to find commercially.  It sometimes finds its way across the Canadian border but the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped inspecting slaughter houses known to process horse meat which ultimately means Americans are prohibited from selling the meat in the U.S.  Whether or not donkey or horse can be legally home butchered for one’s own use is a subject for another post.

Having said that, the Michigan State University’s “Table of State Humane Slaughter Laws” for most states on the list includes horses and mules.

Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, chef and restaurateur March Murphy, and Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef, are among those who have spoken out in support of easing horse meat restrictions.  Should lifting of the ban become a reality perhaps donkey meat would follow suit.  Blissful meals to all.

“The World To-day.  Vol. I, I 1.  1901.

“Mechanists’ Monthly Journal”.  Washington, D.C. 1910.

“The National Druggist”, Vol. 27.  March 1897.

“West Virginia Farm Review”.  Vol. 12.  1904.

“In Sunny France:  Present-day Life in the French Republic”.  1894.

“Life in Ancient Athens”.  1916.

“The Journal of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Archives”.  Feb. 1895.

MacMillan’s Magazine.  Vol. 18.  Oct. 1868.  London.

“In Japanese Hospitals During War-Time (Apri. 1904 to July 1905).  1905.  London.

Merry Christmas and God Bless


No, these guys aren’t coming to dinner, however, one of their duck friends won’t be so lucky.  Having just returned from a trip to Pennsylvania visiting relatives and antique shopping, I chose not to take the time to kill, pluck, and roast a bird, but to make a simple Colonial era meal much as any woman might have made 200 years ago.  Any good cook knows simple basic ingredients can be as rich as king’s fare if well prepared.

Roasted poultry wasn’t always practical for common folk so I deliberately chose something else.  For settlers new to their homestead firewood might have been in short supply.  The bird might not have been hefty enough to feed all in attendance requiring the housewife to stretch it by various means.  Perhaps, as in our case, there are only the two who will partake of the meal and for practicality it is kept to appropriate proportions.  Last, but not least, also as in our case, attending mass Christmas morning requires advance preparation today and might preclude lengthy cooking processes such as roasting the fatted turkey or goose tomorrow.

Our meal will be made from items on-hand without a trip to the mercantile to stock up, yet I think Mr. Brady will find himself as happy as can be with what will be set before him.  Feel free to visit again in a couple of days and see what our fare shall be.  Until then, Blissful Meals, and may God bless you.  – Victoria Brady, thehistoricfoodie.




This piece picks up where part I left off with part I.  Now that we’ve established how the dovecot housed the pigeons who raised the squab that goes on our dinner tables, how was it prepared?

McCall's Fish and Fowl Cookbook, 1974 edition.jpg

[McCall’s Fish and Fowl cookbook, 1974]

“The blue house-pigeon is the variety principally reared for the table in this country, and is produced from our farmyards in great numbers.  When young, and still fed by their parents, they are most preferable for the table, and are called squabs; under six months they are denominated squeakers, and at six months they begin to breed.  Their flesh is accounted savoury, delicate, and stimulating, and the dark-coloured birds are considered to have the highest flavor, whilst the light are esteemed to have the more delicate flesh”.

That delicate flesh was prepared in a myriad of ways, 18th century cookery books can contain some 20 different receipts for preparing it.  Clermont and others from the early 19th century used the same receipts:  White Fricassee of Pigeon, Fricassee of Pigeons with Green Peas, Fricasee of Pigeons, country fashion, Pigeons Masqueraded, Pigeons of a fine bright Colour, Pigeons stuffed with Pistachio Nuts, Pigeons au Court Bouillon, Pigeons a la Sainte Menehoult, Pigeons Glazed and served with Stewed Greens, Pigeons Perigord, Pigeons au Cingara, Roasted Pigeons with different Sauces and Ragouts, Pigeons with Basil, Hodgepodge of Pigeons Spanish Style, Pigeons in Cowl Pontiff Sauce, Pigeons with Craw-fish Cullis, (this had notes regarding au Gratin, and Pigeon Parmesan as well), Pigeons a la Bry with Italian Sauce, Pigeons with Cream and Craw-fish as a Fricassee, Pigeons with Craw-fish Butter, Pigeons accompanied with Craw-fish, Pigeons in a delightful Manner, Pigeons Royal Fashion, Pigeons Masked with Ravigotte Sauce, Pigeons with Cream Sauce, Pigeons glazed or with Parmesan Cheese, Pigeons a la Fiane, Pigeons as if Alive with Fricandeaux, Brown Pigeons, Pigeons the Clergyman’s Fashion, Pigeons in a Hurry, Pigeons with a Ragout, Pigeons with Marrow, Pigeons Provence Fashion, Pigeons like Hedge-hogs, Pigeons the Comptroller’s Manner, Pigeons in Cowl with Onions, Pigeons like a Toad, Flatted Pigeons, Pigeons the Princess’s Fashion (because of their preparation), Stewed Pigeon with blood, Pigeons dobed with or without Fennel, Pigeons the Cardinal’s Fashion, Pigeons the German Fashion, Pigeons farced with Shallots, Matlot of Pigeons, Pigeons of a Game Flavour in Moulds or in Paste, Pigeons masked with Cauliflowers, and Pigeons with Truffels.

Backyard Chickens photo credit.jpg

Photo credit:  Backyard Chickens website.  1. Turkey, 2. Goose, 3. Barbary Duck (Muscovy), 4. Guinea fowl, 5. Mallard, 6. Poussin, (Cornish Rock Game hen/baby cornish X), 7. Quail, 8. Partridge, 9. Pigeon squab, 10. Pheasant, 11. Chicken, 12. Aylesbury duck (pekin)

Pigeon eggs are edible but due to their diminutive size were used more for garnish than substance, often boiled pigeon egg yolks were served in soups.  Descriptions of Chinese meals, whether served in China or the U.S. often included pigeon eggs.


[Source:  Beeton’s Book of Household Management.  #8 is roasted pigeons.]

PIGEONS.  Boil the pigeons by themselves for a quarter of an hour; with a proper quantity of bacon cut square, laid in the middle of the dish.  Stew some spinach, and lay the pigeons on the spinach.  Garnish with parsley dried crisp before the fire.  [1831]

CONSOMME COLONBINE.  Prepare a good tablespoonful of carrot pearls and one of turnip pearls, keeping the latter very white.  Cook them in the ordinary way, and put them in the soup-tureen with one tablespoonful of very green peas, one tablespoonful of a julienne of roast pigeon fillets, and six poached pigeons’ eggs, which latter should be sent to the table in a timbale at the same time as the consommé.  Pour over the other garnish one quart of very clear boiling consommé and serve at once.  This soup can only appear on menus when pigeon’s eggs are in season.  [1912]

SOUP WITH PIGEONS AND POACHED EGGS.  Truss the pigeons as for a pie, and half fill them with forcemeat, having plenty of forced mushrooms pounded in it.  Scald and drain them dry; and put them in a stew-pan with a pint of veal broth.  Stew till done; then make hot two quarts of veal broth, and add to it some carrots, turnips, peeled button onions, and celery heads in lengths of two inches.  Steam the vegetables separately before putting them into the broth.  Season with salt and make it boil; and five minutes before serving add the pigeons, and a liaison of four poached eggs in the tureen.  [1836]

STEWED PIGEON.  6 pigeons, a few slices of bacon, 3 oz. of butter, 2 tablespoonfuls of minced parsley, sufficient stock…to cover the pigeons, thickening of butter and flour, 1 tablespoonful of mushroom ketchup, 1 tablespoonful of port wine. . .Mince the livers and add these to the parsley and butter, and put it into the insides of the birds.  Truss them with the legs inward, and put them into a stewpan, with a few slices of bacon placed under and over them; add the stock, and stew gently for rather more than ½ hour.  Dish the pigeons, strain the gravy, thicken it with butter and flour, add the ketchup and port wine, give one boil, pour over the pigeons and serve. . .Seasonable from April to September.   Sarah J. Hale advised using the same liver mixture to stuff pigeons for roasting [1857]

PIGEON PYE.  Your crust must be good, and force [stuff] your Pigeons with good Force-meat; then lay some at the Bottom of your Crust, and your Pigeons a Top; lay your Giblets between with some hard Eggs; Asparagus Tops, Coxcombs and Sweetbreads; put a piece of Butter on top of your Pigeons, and a little Liquor, [broth] so lid and bake it; put in a little Gravy and Butter when you open it.  [1732]  Note:  When butchering, I have saved rooster combs and cooked them for period recipes, however, I found it more for garnish than for adding anything substantial to the dish.

PIGEONS COMPOTE.  Skewer six young pigeons in the same manner as for boiling, put forcemeat into the craws, lard them down the breast, and fry them brown.  Put them into strong brown gravy, and when they have stewed three quarters of an hour, thicken it with a lump of butter rolled in flour.  Make your forcemeat in this manner.  Grate the crumbs of half a penny loaf, and scrape a quarter of a pound of fat bacon, which will answer the purpose better than suet.  Chop a little parsley and thyme, two shallots, or an onion, some lemon-peel, and a little nutmeg grated; season them with pepper and salt, and mix them up with eggs.  When you serve them up, strain your gravy over them, and lay forcemeat balls around them.  [1785]

PIGEON PIE.  1 ½ lb. of rump-steak, 2 or 3 pigeons, 3 slices of ham, pepper and salt to taste, 2 oz. of butter, 4 eggs, puff crust.  Cut the steak into pieces about 3 inches square, and with it line the bottom of a pie-dish, seasoning it well with pepper and salt.  Clean the pigeons, rub them with pepper and salt inside and out, and put into the body of each rather more than ½ oz. of butter; lay them on the steak, and a piece of ham on each pigeon.  Add the yolks of 4 eggs, and half fill the dish with stock; place a border of puff paste round the edge of the dish, put on the cover, and ornament it in any way that may be preferred.  Clean three of the feet, and place them in a hole made in the crust at the top; this shows what kind of pie it is.  Glaze the crust,–that is to say, brush it over with the yolk of an egg,–and bake it in a well-heated oven for about 1 ¼ hour.  When liked, a seasoning of pounded mace may be added.

Louis Eustache Ude’s version of pigeon pie was very similar, published in 1815.

BRAISED PIGEONS.  Draw [clean] and wash three young pigeons, wipe them well and stuff them with breadcrumbs that have been well seasoned and moistened with warmed butter, and cook them in a brasing pan.  Boil some spinach, chop it well, and season with salt and pepper.  Toast three slices of bread, lay them on a hot dish, spread the spinach over them, put a pigeon on each slice, and serve with a sauceboatful of gravy.

FRICASSEED PIGEONS.  . . . Cut them into pieces, and put them in a saucepan; pour in one pint each of claret and water, and a blade of mace, one onion, a bunch of sweet herbs, a little pepper and salt and one and one-half tablespoonfuls of butter that has been kneaded with a little flour.  Cover the pan, and cook slowly for three-fourths of an hour.  Remove the pieces of pigeons onto a hot dish, and keep them warm.  Strain the gravy, and stir in with it the yolks of three eggs; when thick pour it over the meat, and put some fried oysters on top.  Garnish round with croutons of fried bread, and serve.

PIGEONS IN A HOLE. . . stick their legs in their bellies as you do for boiling, and season them with pepper, salt, and beaten mace.  Put a lump of butter, of the size of a walnut, into the belly of each pigeon, and lay them in a pie dish.  Pour over them a batter made of three eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, and half a pint of good milk.  Bake them in a moderate oven, and send them up in the same dish to table.  [1806]

I leave you now, gentle reader, with visions of pies, fricassees, roasts, and all manner of good dishes, and, as always, Blissful Meals.  ©  All Rights Reserved.



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dovecot St. Georges-de-France

The reader may well ask what a dovecot is since this structure is rarely seen today although it served an important purpose in times past.  They were intended to house the dovecot pigeon which when delicately prepared graced many a serving platter.  Dovecots, pigeon cote, columbarium, pigeonnier, or doocot are the same structure while the name varied with location.


Dovecots, or their ruins, can be documented from the Roman occupation of Britain.  They were essential from the early Middle Ages through the 18th century and many were still in use during the 19th century.  They are found throughout Europe and the Middle East and were in use in the U.S. by the 1600’s.  Design varied though most were initially round houses with holes for the pigeons to enter and build nests in openings inside the dovecot.  The Medieval larger structures were limited to more well-to-do families who may have had more than one.

762px-Newbigging_doocot,_near_Aberdour_in_Fife Kim Traynor Wikipedia

[This ruined structure in Newbigging, near Aberdour in Fife, Scotland shows the nesting boxes inside after the facade deteriorated.  Photo credit:  Kim Traynor.]

Later dovecots were small structures mounted onto a building or pole.  Whatever the style, the purpose was the same – the young pigeons were collected from the nests for the table after which the breeding process started over.

William Holman Hunt, Pre-Raphaelite artist, England

[A mounted dovecot, artist William Holman Hunt.]


[Dovecot built into a roof.]

Squab may be a more recognized term than pigeon in farming and cooking circles but only age separates the one from the other.  Squab is a pigeon that has reached adult size but has not begun to fly.

Millington and many others noted the dovecot pigeon was the common blue pigeon.  He found it hardier and better suited to severe weather.  The pigeons fared well on a diet of peas, barley, and buckwheat, many foraging by day and returning to the dovecot in the evening.  May or August were said to be the best months for butchering as that is when the young were deemed best, however, this depends on location.

There is an abundance of historical references of statutes governing the building of dovecots in Scotland due to the damage the birds sometimes did to neighboring crops of grain.

Craigievar Castle dovecot, Scotland

[Craigievar Castle, doocot in the foreground, Scotland.]

Pigeon has been kept as livestock and eaten since antiquity.  “No farm-yard can be considered complete without a well stocked dovecot, the contents of which make the owner a most ample return, and repay him abundantly for the depredations which the pigeons are wont to make upon his ripening corn.  He commands a supply of delicious young birds for his table; and he has the tillage from the dovecot, which is of vast advantage to his barley land.  Moreover, the pigeons render him an essential service, by consuming millions of seeds which fall in the autumn, and which, if allowed to remain on the ground, would rise up the following year, in all the rank exuberance of weed, and choke the wholesome plant. . .

800px-Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_février 1416 Limburg Brothers

[Painting showing dovecot on the right, 1416.  One might notice the pigeons on the ground and the bee skeps along the fence.]

Our ancestors generally built their dovecot in an open field, apart from the farm-yard; fearing, probably, that the noise and bustle occasioned by the rustic votaries of good Mother Eleusina might interrupt the process of incubation, where the dovecots placed in the midst of the buildings dedicated to husbandry.”

Not everyone agreed with locating the dovecot in isolated locations, and this logic may have changed through the decades and centuries.  “The proper place for the pigeon-house is the poultry-yard; but it does very well near dwellings, stables, brewhouses, bakehouses, or such offices.  Some persons keep pigeons in rooms, and have them making their nests on the floor”.  Roosting where rats and cats could access the nests usually meant wanton destruction of the young pigeons.

450px-MazorColumbarium author Etan Tal, Wikipedia

[Mazor columbarium, photo credit:  Etan Tal, Wikipedia.]

dovecot, Shirley Plantation Charles City County, VA

[Dovecot from Shirley Plantation, Charles City Co., Virginia.  1600’s.  Plantation est. 1613.  Below is a view from inside this dovecot.]

Inside the dovecot on Shirley Plantation, Charles City County, VA

dovecot nests, source unknown

[Inside nests in a dovecot, location and author unknown.]

inside a dovecot

[If you are wondering, gentle reader, how the young pigeons were collected from inside the dovecots, this is an excellent reproduction of the system in use for generations.  The ladder is attached by wooden arms, at top and bottom, to the center pole and fits just inside the outer wall of the structure.  The gentleman can climb up and down, and pull himself around on the ladder without having to come down.  It is actually a very efficient retrieval method.]

I wonder how vehemently Dear Husband would object to building a reproduction of one of the smaller older structures, maybe a platform for deer hunting, drying vegetables and seeds, etc. . . .  I believe that’s called multi-tasking by those not rooted in the past as we are.  Blissful Meals, all.  Part II to follow.  © All rights reserved.




The Muscovy is easily identified by the caruncle, red in color, covering the cheeks, extending behind the eyes, and swollen at the root of the bill.  It is generally larger than common ducks.  Wild Muscovy males are brownish black with white patches on the wings, the female similarly but more obscurely colored.  Domesticated examples vary considerably in color.

Domestication of Muscovys has been estimated as early as AD 50, although accounts are spotty.  What seems widely accepted is that the Spanish conquistadors of the 16th century kept them and took them home from where they spread throughout Europe.  Brown claimed the earliest mention of these ducks was in French, 1670, and they were called Turkish duck.  Willughby who died in 1672 called it, “a wild Brazilian duck of the bigness of a goose”, and described the Muscovy excellently.


“It is in this kind the biggest of all we have hitherto seen.  The colour both of male and female is for the most part a purplish black.  Yet I once saw a duck of this kind purely white.  About the Nosthrils and the Eyes it hath red Caruncles.  It hath a hoarse voice; and scarce audible, unless when it is angry.  Its Eyes are rounder than ordinary:  Those of the young ones at first are of a sordid green, afterwards become continually whiter and whiter”.  – Ray, John (1627-1705) and Willughby, Francis (1635-1672).  “The Ornithology of Francis Willughby of Moddleton in the County of Warwick Esq, fellow of the Royal Society in three books . . .

DNA testing is underway and currently held notions may or may not change as results are compiled.

Eighteenth century fishermen often used Muscovy quills to make floats for slow waters.  This practice was still commonly described almost a century later.  – The Laboratory; Or, School of Arts.  1799.  London.

Some initially claimed the Muscovy was from Eastern Europe although that claim was later refuted.  Observers wrote in the early Victorian era that in its native South America nests were in trees but as soon as the ducklings hatched the hen took them one by one to the water.  Eggs are greenish white, roundish, and average from 12 to 18 eggs.  Nineteenth century breeders noted the Muscovy was a faithful sitter and should be allowed to hatch her own young.  – The Farmer’s Magazine.  April, 1858.

“Muscovy ducks are most excellent incubators.  They are used as incubators both in France and especially in Australia.  In these and possibly in other countries they hatch turkey eggs, duck eggs and even chicken eggs.  In some places in Australia five hundred Muscovys are kept for sitting on duck eggs, as it has been found that they hatch out a much larger per cent of eggs and with comparatively little trouble to their owners than either hens or incubators.

Muscovy duck eggs take thirty-five days to hatch, consequently they make very patient and steady sitters on eggs and will hatch duck, turkey or goose eggs without difficulty.  In using Muscovys you will probably need one Muscovy duck on an average to every thirty youngsters you wish to raise. . . They make their nests on the ground by hollowing out a hole with their bodies and lining it with straw.  When the ducks are about to sit, they pull feathers from their own breast and with these line the top of the nest, so that one may always know when a Muscovy duck is ready to sit. . . When the Muscovy duck leaves her nest to eat, which she will once or twice a day, she covers up the eggs with the feathers and down.  Towards the end of the hatch she will often stay off the nest a full hour without injury to the eggs.”  – Basley, A., Mrs.  “Western Poultry Book”.  1912.  Los Angeles.

“The Muscovy duck is easily fattened, and a prolific breeder, and hence, though it is also a voracious feeder, it may be rendered profitable to rear.”  Drakes and hens readily crossed with other ducks although the hybrids didn’t have the breeding capacity of the purebreds.  – The American Agriculturist. July, 1845.  NY.

The hatching success of Muscovy crosses varied from outright claims of sterility to those who said they rarely hatched signifying while it was possible for them to hatch the success rate was extremely low.

The Annual Report of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture said in 1863 that the Muscovy duck was native to South America and had formerly been known as the Guinea duck.  Other earlier sources used the name Brazilian, Peruvian, Indian, Musk, Muscovite, Turkish, and Barbary.  In the 1860’s it was still sometimes called the Barbary duck.  The report stated it had been introduced for domestication during the sixteenth century.

Its flesh was noted to be excellent in flavor.  Dixon wrote that the flavor was excellent if killed just before fully fledged [having wing feathers sufficient enough to enable the bird to fly], but it took longer in achieving growth for the table than the common duck.  “The flesh is at first high flavoured and tender, but an old bird would be rank and the toughest of tough meat.”  – Brown, Edward.  “Races of Domestic Poultry”.  1906.

With that, I bid adieu as the reader considers the merits of this odd looking duck. – Victoria Brady, The Historic Foodie. – ©Nov. 2017.