This week's TV Dinner is a little bit spectacular, and unfortunately one that you're not going to be able to make at home (at least not easily and not without getting the health board, peta and animal control upset at you).
I have a thing for older cookbooks, and recently I came across one by food historian Esther B. Aresty called The Delectable Past (1964). In it, Aresty shares several recipes from her collection of rare and collectable books - including recipes dating back to the middle ages. While reading it, I came across a recipe for a pie that would have birds fly out of it (just like the nursery rhyme). I thought it was pretty interesting, but didn't think I'd ever have any reason to bring it up. I was wrong.
This week I was watching the second episode of The Tudors and during the episode Jonathan Rhys-Meyers presents the king of France with a large tart. The king doesn't seem that amused until he begins to cut it open and PWHOOSH! out flies a bunch of birds. When I saw it I honestly flipped out and got really excited, I honestly had to rewind it and then squeal, "Wah! I just found the next TV dinner!"
To check out the ye olde recipe for live birds in a pie, and get a link to a video clip, read more
Sorry no clip this time, but you can find it at Showtime's website - click videos then choose episode 2, "A Surprising Gift").
To make Pies that the Birds may be alive in them, and flie out when it is cut up.
From Epulario, 1598
Make the coffin of a great pie or pastry, in the bottome thereof make a hole as big as your fist, or bigger if you will, let the sides of the coffin bee somewhat higher then ordinary pies, which done put it full of flower and bake it, and being baked, open the hole in the bottome, and take out the flower. Then having a pie of the bigness of the hole in the bottome of the coffin aforesaid, you shal put it into the coffin, withall put into the said coffin round about the aforesaid pie as many small live birds as the empty coffin will hold, besides the pie aforesaid. And this is to be done at such time as you send the pie to the table, and set before the guests: where uncovering or cutting up the lid of the great pie, all the birds will flie out, which is to delight and pleasure shew to the company. And because they shall not bee altogether mocked, you shall cut open the small pie, and in this sort you may make many others, the like you may do with a tart.