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To Make A cow, A calf Or A stag Look Alive

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

To Make a Cow, a Calf or a Stag Look Alive. First kill the cow or calf normally, then skin it beginning at the hooves -but keep the hooves and the horns attached to the hide; when skinned, stretch the hide; then get cumin, fennel, cloves, pepper and salt, all ground up to a powder, and sprinkle it over the inside of the hide; then cut away the shin-bone downward from the knee, and remove the tripe through the flank; if you wish, you can roast capons, pheasants or other creatures and put them into the cow's body. If you want to bake it in the oven, lay it on a grill; if you want to roast it over the fire, get a piece of wood —that is, a pole like a spit - insert it, lard it well and roast it slowly so as not to bum it. Then make iron bars large enough to hold it standing up; when it is cooked, set up the bar on a large plank and bind it [i.e., the animal] so that it stands on its feet; then dress it in its hide as if it were alive; if the meat has shrunk anywhere because of the cooking, replace it with bay- laurel, sage, rosemary and myrtle; draw the hide back [in place] and sew it so the iron cannot be seen, and give it a posture as if it were alive.

The same can be done with a deer, a sow and a chicken, and with any other animal you wish. Note that preparing this sort of animal requires a cook who is neither foolish nor simple-minded, but rather he must be quite clever. And note, my lord, that if your cook is not skillful he will never prepare anything good that is good, no matter how hard he tries.


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