21 February 2021

Are Lapwings Lenten Fare?

(1) "There are girls so cold-looking, pretty girls, too, ladylike, discreet, and armed with all accomplishments, whom to attack seems to require the same sort of preparation as a journey in quest of the north-west passage. One thinks of a pedestal near the Athenaeum as the most appropriate and most honourable reward of such courage. But, again, there are other girls to abstain from attacking whom is, to a man of any warmth of temperament, quite impossible. They are like water when one is athirst, like plovers' eggs in March, like cigars when one is out in autumn. No one ever dreams of denying himself when such temptation comes in the way. ... Phineas was not allowed to thirst in vain for a drop from the cool spring." (1869)

(2) "Sebastian lived in Christ Church, high in Meadow Buildings. He was alone when I came, peeling a plover's egg taken from the large nest of moss in the centre of his table.

"'I've just counted them,' he said. 'There were five each and two over, so I'm having the two.  ... 

"The party assembled. There were three Etonian [a large school near Slough] freshmen ... Each as he came in made first for the plovers' eggs ...'The first this year, they said. 'Where do you get them?'

"'Mummy sends them from Brideshead. They always lay early for her.'" (1945; the narrative is describing a February day.)

Having consulted Cocker and Mabey Birds Britannica s.v. Lapwing, I am confident that the 'plovers' were lapwings. See there for the evidence.

Sadly, this simple commodity is (like foie gras) no longer on the Waitrose list (memo try Fortnum's). A shame, because such watery fowl ... and their eggs ... might have counted as Fish. There is an Irish witticism to the effect that gannets used to be allowed in Ireland as Lenten fare, since their diet was exclusively piscine (I have always suspected that this is a joke kept up their sleeves by the Irish wherewith to gull gullible [geddit?] Englishmen like me).

BTW: I remember, I think in Maria Edgeworth, reading of a fowl called the 'Irish Ortolan'. Does anybody know what that was?


E sapelion said...

Chapter 8 of The Absentee. Citing smith's Account of the County of Kerry p.186
Possibly gourder: The stormy petrel, Procellaria pelagica

E sapelion said...

Edgeworth/Smith say sourced only on the Blaskets, and with an irish name 'gourder'
Bird Watch Ireland has - Storm Petrel Irish Name: Guairdeall
Scientific name: Hydrobates pelagicus
Bird Family: Tubenoses
The great bulk of the population is found in Co. Kerry with the Skelligs and the Blaskets having huge colonies. The largest colony surveyed in the world to date is on a Inishtooskert, in the Blaskets, a small uninhabited island easily visible from the mainland.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Mitterrand did. They go well with Foie Gras, Capon, and classic wines.


frjustin said...

Maria Edgeworth does indeed refer to the Irish Ortolan in her book "The Absentee", Chapter VIII:
''Pon honour! here's a good thing, which I hope we shall live to finish,' said Heathcock, sitting down before the collation; and heartily did he eat of grouse pie, and of Irish ortolans, which, as Lady Dashfort observed, 'afforded him indemnity for the past, and security for the future.'

'Eh! re'lly now! your Irish ortolans are famous good eating,' said Heathcock.

'Worth being quartered in Ireland, faith! to taste 'em,' said Benson.

As to the edible qualities of this particular fowl, there is an ortolan-eating scene in ‘Charlie’, the RTÉ docudrama, which tells us a lot about Charles Haughey and François
Mitterran. The Irish Times of January 18, 2015 has the story:

"Mitterrand is clearly the Boss, and is instructing CJ in one of the most arcane and disturbing rites in French cuisine: the preparation and ingestion of an ortolan.

He describes how this little bird is captured, blinded, bloated with food and drowned in cognac before it comes to the table. Haughey is a willing pupil.

He covers his head with napkin (“to hide our shame from God”). Then he holds the bird by its tiny beak and follows Mitterrand’s direction to “chew gentiment”, to properly appreciate, in sequence, the sweetness of flesh, the bitterness of entrails and the salt of his own blood when the bones pierce his gums."

keynciontan said...

Father — it all sounds delicious, and if nothing else, they are enjoyable on Sundays. I have a similar query:
"Tu confregisti capita draconis, dedisti eum escam populis Aethiopum" says the Psalter (Ps 73:14). Does this mean that our Ethiopian brethren are allowed or even commanded to consume dragon meat in Lent? Does this have any bearing on the 2013 ruling of the Archbishop of New Orleans that Alligator meat is allowed in his Diocese in Lent? What about Leviathan?

Cus said...

The wonderful big (and expensive) fresh goose livers you can buy here at the markets are the product of a traditional procedure the cruelty of which reminds me of the fate of poor ortolans... Birds of a feather;)

Protasius said...

Lapwing's eggs were a well-known delicacy in Europe, Bismarck was given 101 of them each year on his birthday. Collecting them is now forbidden in the whole European Union, as the birds are threatened, like so many once-common ground-nesting birds. In the Netherlands, collecting them and presenting the first lapwing's egg to the King was very popular, but you needed a license; they still issue licenses to search for the eggs, but instead of collecting the eggs, the nests are marked so that agricultural machines do not destroy the nest by accident.

Atticus said...

"The Moral is (I think, at least)