Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why Don’t We Eat Swans?

Why Don’t We Eat Swans Anymore? asks an article in Modern Farmer. They are eaten, after all, on the TV series Game of Thrones, and medieval recipes survive.  But not just anyone could eat a swan then, and apparently not today either, at least in England:

"Often served at feasts, roast swan was a favored dish in the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, particularly when skinned and redressed in its feathers and served with a yellow pepper sauce; others preferred to stuff the bird with a series of increasingly smaller birds, in the style of a turducken. Swans have been the property of the Crown since around the twelfth century, but Edward IV’s Act Concerning Swans in 1482 clearly defined that ownership. To this day, Queen Elizabeth II participates in the yearly Swan Upping, in which the royal Swan Master counts and marks swans on the Thames, and the kidnapping and eating of swans can be considered a treasonous crime. Great Britain’s royals are still allowed to eat swan, as are the fellows of St. John’s College of Cambridge, but to the best of our knowledge, they no longer do. Thanks to stories like Leda and the Swan and Lohengrin, the birds appear almost mythical; a restaurant on the Baltic island of Ruegen had swan on their menu for a short time, before protests began and it was swiftly removed."

1 comment:

Tim Worstall said...

I'm not sure about now but back in the 1950s St. John's certainly served swan once, possibly as an annual event. My parents still talk about having eaten it.

And the turducken idea, while swan is no longer used (a goose I think) the ability to make one was still a requirement to qualify as a chef in my generation. (I'm in my 50s now) My brother had to make one.