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Redressed peacocks Which Seem Living

This is an excerpt from The Neapolitan recipe collection
(Italy, 15th c - T. Scully, trans.)
The original source can be found at University of Michigan Digital General Collection

Redressed Peacocks which Seem Living; and How to Make them Breathe Fire through their Mouth. You should first kill the peacock with a feather, driving it in upon its head, or else drain its blood from under its throat as with a pig; but it is better to take out its tongue and then to slice it under its body - that is, from the top of its breast to its tail - slicing only the skin and removing it gently so that it is not damaged; when you have skinned it, pull the skin back right up to the head, then cut away the head, which will remain attached to the skin; do the same with the legs, and likewise the tail, taking out the leg bones so that the iron which will make the peacock stand up will not be seen; then take the skinned carcass and set it to roast stuck with lardoons, or else baste it with grease often enough that it will not bum, and stick it with whole cloves, and fill it with the Piglet stuffing [Recipe 63] but without garlic; cook it gently so its neck does not burn; if the neck should get too much heat, cover it with a damp cloth; when it is cooked, take it down and redress it in its skin, whose inside you have coated with spices, salt and cinnamon. Then, when you have put its skin back on, get an apparatus of iron driven into a large cutting board and shove this iron through its feet and legs so it cannot be seen; in this way the peacock will be standing so that it will seem to be alive.

And to make it breathe fire through its mouth, get a little camphor with a little fine cottonwool around it and put this into the peacock's beak and soak it with a little aquavita or else with a little fumey old wine that is volatile; when you want to serve it, set fire to the cotton-wool: in this way it will breathe fire for a long time. To make it more magnificent you can cover the peacock with gold leaf and then cover it with its skin.

The same can be done with pheasants, cranes, geese and other birds.


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