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Wednesday, January 4, 2012


How to "Crack" an Ostrich Egg
Photo by: MR Samper
L. Struthio camelus, Eng. ostrich. Although flightless, this is the largest known living bird in the world today. It is a native of Ethiopia. During the Middle Ages, it was found in Africa, Syria and Arabia. Ostrich fossils have been discovered in Asia, Africa and Europe. 

Although no recipes for cooking the meat seem to be provided in Hispano-Muslim documents, the ostrich is mentioned as  highly esteemed in Al-Andalus. Muslim physicians advised that the dead bird should be hung for a few hours before depluming to facilitate digestion. 

It is known that recipes for ground ostrich meat existed, which included roasting the meat, marinating it for shish kebabs and adding it to soups and sausage links. A noble even served ostrich brains in his palace. 

The "Cracked" Ostrich Egg
Photo by: MR Samper
Now it is known that ostrich meat contains 4% less fat than beef; and has less calories, fat and cholesterol than chicken, beef, lamb or pork and more proteins than any of these. Further, the ostrich cannot contract foot and mouth disease. 

An ostrich hen lays an average of 60 eggs per year. Males are women’s rights supporters as they sit on the eggs at night, while the hen sits on them during the day. They take about 40-42 days to hatch and when one month old, chicks can run as fast as the adults. The ostrich egg is the smallest in relation to the bird’s size but the biggest of all eggs. An average egg, weighing 3 ½-5 lbs, while a chicken egg weighs 1 ¼- 2 ounces. One ostrich egg is enough for an omelet serving 10 people and it takes 45 minutes to cook. A soft-boiled egg takes one hour and hard-boiled one and a half hours. 

Dinner for the Whole Family
Photo by: MR Samper
By living 50-75 years, ostriches outlived men in the Middle Ages. They consume little food and water and need less acreage than livestock. As they thrive in countries all over the world, it is strange that England and Spain preferred sheep to the ostriches in medieval times. Avenzoar advised that the ostrich is extremely hot and dry. The meat is tough and irritable. Its fat can relieve illnesses originating from cold. The skin is beneficial for those suffering from stomach upset and also disintegrates gallstones. [Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:198; ES: Decorated Ostrich Eggs. 2002; Ency Brit. 1998:8:Menage:10383a:1038:1a; and Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:52-53]


  1. I don't know how they can manage to turn the omelette! In any case, more than ostrich omelette, ostrich "huevo frito" or fried egg is very in vogue now in Spain. They serve it in a very large pan (like those employed for the paella), together with small fried peppers (pimientos de Padrón) and fried potatoes (not very medieval though). Now ostriches come no more from Africa but from farms in la Mancha. One of the "Fellini" surreal visions I had when living in Italy was the necks and heads of ostrich appearing in the fog when I was travelling by train to Milan. I cannot understand how they can survive in the cold and wet of Lombardy winters. Those in la Mancha are certainly more fortunate in this respect. I don't know if "manchegas" ostriches furnish nowadays the feathers used by the "Roman soldiers" who accompany the procession of the famous Macarena Virgin in Sevilla during the Holy week. Once upon a time, this feathers came from Broadway!

  2. M.M. Shanawany at:
    states: The ostrich is very adaptable and thrives under extreme conditions. Among the many ways of regulating its body temperature, it controls heat loss during cold weather by covering its thighs with its wings, and during hot weather, by lifting and moving its wings, it creates a gentle breeze. The feathers are excellent insulators, minimizing heat gain from direct solar radiation, as well as reducing heat loss during cold desert nights."
    There we have another reason why it is cheaper to raise ostriches than sheep!

  3. Turning an omelette made with an ostrich egg might be a problem today as women normally are the cooks. During the Middle Ages women helped but the head cook was a man as he slaughtered animals and had to chop them up. - I just can't see a woman killing a pig that weighs a ton!

  4. Actually the ostrich feathers for the Easter processesions in Seville came from the Congo before but now Rogelio, a brother living in New York, is in charge of sending them to Seville every year. They are genuine ostrich feathers. It is very serious business as the number each solider wears indicates the hierarchy of his rank. The captain wears 20 feathers, a lieutenant 18 and down the line to last who is almost featherless.

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