|Common Rock Dove|
|Iron Age Figure of Dove|
To make Squab and Pork Pie circa 1380
10” uncooked pie crust, 1 squab plucked, cleaned and cut in 8 pieces, ½ cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper, 2 tbsp oil (chicken fat would be good), 1 lb lean ground pork, 2 eggs, ¼ cup raisins, 10 prunes minced, 1 tsp light brown sugar, ½ tsp ground ginger, ¾ tsp salt, 3/8 tsp saffron, ½ tsp ground anise, 1 tsp ground fennel, ½ tsp. ground cloves.
Bake pie crust at 425 degrees F for 10 min. and let cool (if in a hearth’s oven, test temp by placing arm in oven. If hair is singed off it’s warm enough.) Dredge squab in flour mixture and brown in oil or fat until golden. Separately, combine remaining ingredients and spread 1/3 of mixture in pie crust. Distribute squab pieces evenly on top. Use remaining mixture to cover squab and fill pie shell. Bake at 375 F for 35 min. (your hearth oven may have cooled down to that if you’ve left it open, but keep a good fire going in the hearth.) Pork must be browned throughout. Serves 4-6. From Richard II’s Book of Feasts, adapted for modern cooking by Lorna S. Sass and published as To The King’s Taste, Metropolitan Museum of Art publication, 1975.
Pigeons are recorded as used extensively in military operations as recently as World Wars I and II. The method of course is to take the bird away from its home roost, then attach a rolled up message to the bird’s leg or put it into a pocket strapped to the bird’s breast or back, and let the bird loose. Small cameras can be attached to a bird’s breast. The birds will fly hundreds of miles and find their way home in a matter of hours or a day.
No doubt as a consequence of this messenger service, birds have been bred for speed and the sport of pigeon racing is ancient. Average speed over a distance of 500 miles is about 50 miles per hour, but speeds of as much as 90 miles per hour have been recorded, and distances of as much as 1,100 miles. In modern use, the birds can carry computer memory sticks and are far less subject to interception than are electronic communications.
As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, “…the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with Ah! bright wings.”
Katherine Ashe is the author of the Montfort tetralogy.