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Friday, January 6, 2012


Great Bustard 2
Photo from: keepinsidethelines

OCat. abogasta, agustarda, abutarda, agurtarda, agutarda, ave tarda, L. Otis tarda, Eng. great bustard, bustard, a species of birds that prefers to run rather than fly. This is the largest European bird. It spends the winter in warmer climates but comes to Spain in the summer to procreate. According to Villena, it was present all over Spain, especially in Aragon, and North Africa but rarely in England. It lays two to three eggs a year that are olive colored with brown blotches. Medieval physicians advised that the bird “should be hung with the feathers on a few hours before cooking to facilitate the digestion.” The meat was highly thought of during the Middle Ages. Oddly bustards were considered fish and could be eaten during Lent. The Archpriest of Hita explains that peasants grew hemp to make nets to catch running birds. The little swallow, he continues, warned the buzzard to buzz off but the buzzard, being a slow sluggish bird, did not listen and was caught in the snare and carried to market to be deplumed. Today, the buzzard is a protected bird, perhaps because it was too lazy to follow the little swallow’s advise. Villena instructed to carve it like the peacock but to roast it without its claws. Black states that their extinction in England by the early modern age was due to “men’s greed for ‘greate fowles.’ The mashed crop is instilled in a liquid and dropped into the eyes for the remission of catarats. See sisón. [Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:198; Black. 1998:11; Brunn 1980:104-105; Ency Brit. 1998:2:Bayeu:679::2b; Gázquez. Cocina. 2002: 189; Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:124; RAE Dic. 2001:175; Ruíz/Brey. 1965:749-754:131Villena/Brown. 1984:159; Villena/Calero. 2002:97:22b:26a; and Villena/Navarro. 1879:254]

Note: None of the Spanish cookery MSS consulted provide a recipe for buzzards. As a protected bird today, it is highly unlikely that one would have a chance to cook one. Should that happen Villena instructs that they should be carved in the same way as peacocks and other fowl.

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