Meister Eberhard on Pigeons

Another entry from the dietary section, this one with something like a recipe:

Turtledoves need hunting. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons

<<R74>> Durteltaub ist ein edle speiß

Turtledove is noble food because it sharpens the senses and the memory, say Averroes and Rhazes. Other doves cause inflamed blood (enczundt plut) and fever (den ritenn). Rhazes says that young doves strengthen natural heat, but old doves are good for people who have the evil disease (den bösen sichtagenn) or have been struck by paralysis (parliß). You should fill them with bacon, juniper, and sage and roast them.

Domestic pigeons for sale. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Pigeons (Columba livia domestica) were a commonly kept domestic fowl, popular not least because they required little space and found their own food (a cause of conflict between pigeon keepers and grain farmers that occasionally required regulation). Their very popularity likely informs the opinion that they are unhealthy while the feral turtledove (Streptopelia turtur) is a noble food – nothing that peasants and poor burghers eat could really be good for you. Still, the authorities do not discourage you from eating them outright, and stuffed with sage, juniper, and bacon, they should be fine. Indeed, the flavour combination works (it is also found in a goose recipe from the fifteenth century) and the bacon should ensure that the meat does not dry out while roasting.

Meister Eberhard is a recipe collection that belongs into a south German context, most likely associated with the court of Bayern-Landshut during its ascendancy in the first half of the 15th century. We know nothing about the putative author other than that he claims he was part of the kitchen staff there. The text contains an eclectic mix of recipes and dietetic advice heavily cribbed from a variety of sources, including the (unattributed) writings of St Hildegardis Bingensis. The text is published in A. Feyl: Das Kochbuch Meister Eberhards. Diss. Freiburg i.B. 1963 and online on the website of Thomas Gloning.

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