Food historians tell us the practice of serving large, stuffed fowl for Christmas, like many other Christian holiday food traditions, was borrowed from earlier cultural practices. Peacocks, swans, geese, duck, guinea fowl, and turkeys all fit this bill in times past. The larger the bird, the more festive the presence. “New World” turkeys were introduced to Europe in the 16th century. For many years, these “exotic” turkey birds only graced the tables of the wealthy. In America, turkey (wild and plentiful) was a natural choice for the Christmas feast. Historic newspapers reveal the goose still commanded a traditional place on the Christmas table through the 19th century.
“Apart from the wild and tame fowl for everyday consumption, there were a few which were outstanding as celebratory birds for feasts and festivals. These were swans and peacocks among the rich, and herons and bustards for those less well off. The peacock made a fine show on a festive occasion… More usual than peacocks at feasts of the nobility were swans. The Percy Family [Medieval England] at them on the principal festivals of the church at the rate of five for Christmas Day, four for Twelfth Night, three for New Year’s Day… The family consumed an enormous range of both moor and waterfowl during the year, but the swans were appointed for those special days. Swan was roasted like goose, and served with chawdron sauce…”
~Food & Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson, 1991
Read the rest of Sharon Lathan’s FABulous post at Happily Ever After Comes True Blog