+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

the convenience of seeing birds as well as
fishes; and after having conferred with
fowlers and fishermen, to return from thence
on Sunday evening, thus losing no time by
taking the night-boat, and being ready to
continue my studies on Monday morning.
During which time, on the aforesaid days of
Friday and Saturday, there was not a single
fowler or fisherman who did not bring to
show me every rare creature he had been
able to procure."

Commencing, then, "ab ovo," Peter Belon
discusses the properties of eggs; but into
the processes of fecundation and hatching
which he describes, I do not propose to
enter, the gastronomic view of the question
presenting more novelty. After apologising
for the puerility of the subject, he tells us
that in his time the French way of eating
eggs (they have six hundred and eighty-five
ways now, if the Almanach des Gourmands
speaks sooth) was by breaking them at the
small end and carefully replacing the shell
when emptied into the platter; while the
Germans, on the other handreminding us of
Blefuscu and Lilliputopened their eggs at
the side and finished by smashing the shell;
in which latter practice, says Belon, they followed
the example of the ancients, who held
it a thing of evil augury to leave the shells
unbroken. Belon then proceeds to discourse
on the numerous varieties of eggs, considering
those of pigeons, ostriches, pea-hens, geese, and
swans are ill-flavoured and indigestible, — not
objecting to the eggs of the tortoise or turtle,
but giving the preference, like a person of
taste, to those of the domestic fowl, which, he
says, " are supposed by many in France to
assist greatly in prolonging life;" and he
instances the case of Pope Paul the Third,
who used, with that end in view, to eat two
new-laid eggs for breakfast every morning.
As to their shape, he remarks that long eggs
are supposed to be much better eating than
round ones; but without insisting on this
point, he has no hesitation in declaring that
all are highly invigorating, as truffles are,
and artichokes, and raw oysters. Artichokes,
indeed, were so much esteemed in Belon's
time, that "no great nobleman feeling himself
unwell would finish his dinner without
them,"— eating them by way of dessert.
Belon objects to hard boiled eggs, or such as
are too much fried, " on account of their engendering
bad humours," but upon poached
eggsufs pochéz) he looks with considerable
favour. In all cases he prefers plain boiled
eggs (timethree minutes and a quarter) to
those which are roasted; notwithstanding the
well-known proverb: " There's wisdom in
the roasting of eggs." The best way of preserving
eggs, he says, is to keep them in a
cool place, bury them in salt, or dip them in

As the chicken issues naturally from the
egg, so dining upon the one is the regular
sequence to breakfasting on the other. The
younger your pullet, says Belon, the easier it
is of digestion, though he allows you
occasionally to eat an elderly male bird, when
prescribed medicinally (hormis le coq, qui est
souvêt pris pour medicine). "Roasted or
grilled fowls are generally the most savoury;
those which are boiled furnish more humid
nourishment to the body. The first are eaten
hot, the last cold." This rule, however, does
not, he tells us, always hold good: " Because,
if any one writing on the quality of the flesh
of birds, happened to be in a country where
the people fed on a particular kind not eaten
elsewhere, and a male bird already old and
tough were offered him (avenait qu'on luy
presentast de quelque oyseau des-ia viel et
endurcy), he ought not to conclude that its
flesh is necessarily fibrous and hard." With
all respect for the opinion of honest Peter
Belon, I should be inclined to think that a
tough old cock, whatever his nation, was
somewhat difficult of digestion. I have a
very vivid recollection of a fowl of this sort
at a certain hotel in Abbeville, where nothing
else was to be had for dinner, which the
waiter assured me was not to be surpassed in
tenderness; a quality he might have
displayed towards his family when alive, but
which certainly did not belong to him after
he was roasted. It is, perhaps, on the tolerant
principle of respecting other people's prejudices
(I can account for Belon's conclusion no
other way), that he does not exclude even
birds of prey from good men's feasts. " We
know by experience," he observes (not his
own experience, I hope), "what has taken
place in Crete, where the young ones of the
vulture which have fallen from their rocky,
nests near Voulèsmeni, have been proved at
least as good eating as a fine capon. And
although some of the inhabitants (the greater
part, I should imagine) think that the old
birds are not good to eat, because they feed
on carrion, the fact is otherwise; for good
falconers say that the hawk, vulture, and
falcon are excellent meat, and being roasted
or boiled, like poultry, are found to be well-tasted
and tender. (Fancy a tender vulture!)
We constantly see, if any of these birds kill
themselves, or break a limb in hunting game,
that the falconers do not hesitate to dress
them for the table." In Auvergne, he adds,
the peasants of the Limagne, and in the
mountains, too, eat the flesh of the goivan, a
species of eagle; so that it may be concluded
that birds of prey, whether old or young, are
tender,— an inference which I presume to
doubt. One saving clause Peter Belon has,
which has at all times done good service. If
people generally are not in the habit of
eating kites, owls, and so forth, there are
some who do: "tastes merely differ"— (les
appetits des hommes ne se ressemblent en
aucune manière).

The transition is easy from these delicacies
to other less questionable birds, and the
manner of preparing them for the pot or spit;