History's Weirdest Recipes

from the author of BORN YESTERDAY (click on cover to learn more about this hilarious book for young readers)
Click here to buy Born Yesterday!

What's More Disgusting Than
a Mouthful of Boiled Flamingo?

           Writing a book like It's Disgusting is a complicated affair. Everything has to fit into just the right spot on a certain page—and that page has to fit just right into the overall organization of the book. And since It's Disgusting covers the entire world, it's very hard to narrow the material down to one book's worth.
            My books start out as a mess of ideas, a mess of notes, and a mess of rough drafts. During the even messier process of working with editors, I turn the book into a polished final product ready for the illustrator.
            Occasionally, something truly wonderful has to be left out because it just didn't fit.

            So: What's more disgusting than a mouthful of boiled flamingo?
            Answer: Having to remove a fascinating recipe for boiled flamingo from your book!

Boiled Flamingo

(an actual 2,000-year-old Roman recipe adapted into modern terms by James Solheim)
Do Not Try This at Home!

        1. Scald the flamingo with the feathers still on.
        2. Wash it and remove the feathers and other parts not meant for eating.
        3. Stuff it with greens, celery leaves, etc., and tie it to keep its shape. Coat it in lard.
        4. Boil the bird in a pot of water with salt, dill, and a little vinegar.
        5. Put the half-cooked bird in a sauce pan and brown in oil. Add a bunch of leeks and coriander. Add a little broth. Cover and continue cooking.
        6. To add color, pour in some grape juice thickened by heating.
        7. Crush some spices—pepper, cumin, coriander, laser root, mint, and rue. Moisten them with vinegar.
        8. Add dates and some of the juice from the sauce pan. Stir this back into the sauce and simmer.
        9. Add flour and cook till thickened. Strain and pour the sauce over the bird.

        The recipe works just as well for parrot.

Roast Cockatrice

      Here's a 500-year-old recipe from England with a translation by James Solheim. A cockatrice was a mythical creature, half pig and half rooster (capon). No medieval feast was complete without a juicy roast cockatrice for the guests to eat!

Middle English Modern English
Take a Capoun, & skald
hym, & draw hem clene, & smyte
hem a-to in þe waste ouerþwart;
take a Pigge, & skald hym, & draw
hym in þe same maner, & smyte
hem also in þe waste; take a nedyl
& a þrede, & sewe þe fore partye
of the Capoun to þe After parti of þe
Pygge; & þe fore partye of þe Pigge,
to þe hynder partye of þe Capoun,
& þan stuffe hem as þou stuffyst a
Pigge; putte hem on a spete, &
Roste hym; & whan he is y-now,
dore hem with olkys of Eyroun, &
pouder Gyngere & Safroun, þenne
wyth þe Ius of Percely with-owte; 
& þan serue it forth for a ryal mete.
Take a capon [rooster], & scald
it, & clean out the guts, & cut
it in two in the waist crosswise;
take a piglet, & scald it, & clean
it in the same manner, & cut
it also in two in the waist; take a 
needle & thread, & sew the front
part of the capon to the rear part of the
pig, & the front part of the pig
to the hind part of the capon,
& then stuff it as you stuff a
pig; put it on a spit, &
roast it, and when it is roasted
enough, glaze it with yolks of eggs,
powdered ginger & saffron, then with
the juice of parsley on the outside, 
& then serve it forth for a royal food.
More from Shakespeare's Crazy Cupboard

            Here are some weird foods in Shakespeare's plays (to go with the weird foods on page 21 in It's Disgusting--and We Ate It!). These are not real foods to eat, but imaginative jokes that Shakespeare put into his plays.

a crocodile Hamlet, Act V, scene i
hay, squirrels' nuts A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act IV, scene i
adder's heads and toads carbonadoed The Winter's Tale, Act IV, scene iv
paper Love's Labor's Lost, Act IV, scene ii
grass King Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, scene x
husks As You Like It, Act I, scene i
rocks Troilus and Cressida, Act III, scene ii
tree bark Anthony and Cleopatra, Act I, scene IV


(translation by James Solheim)

Middle English Modern English
Take faire Garbage, chikenes hedes, 
ffete, lyvers, And gysers, and wassh 
hem clene; caste hem into a faire 
potte, And caste fressh broth of Beef, 
pouder of Peper, Canell, Clowes, 
Maces, Parsely and Sauge myced 
small; then take brede, stepe hit 
in þe same brothe, Drawe hit 
thorgh a streynour, cast thereto, And 
lete boyle ynowe; caste there-to 
pouder ginger, vergeous, salt, 
And a littul Saffereon, 
And serve hit forthe.
Take good garbage (chickens' heads, 
feet, livers, and gizzards), and wash 
them clean; cast them into a clean 
pot, and cast fresh broth of beef, 
powder of pepper, cinnamon, cloves, 
mace, parsley, and sage minced 
small; then take bread, steep it 
in the same broth, draw it 
through a strainer, cast it in, and 
let boil enough; throw in 
powdered ginger, grape juice, salt, 
and a little saffron, 
and serve it forth.

A Riddle Flew by
Squealing for Mud

what beaked and flighty fowl
with two fat hooves
                    and two wide wings

has landed in my lunchbox
to tempt me into riddle land--

with whirly tail
                    and wondrous wings,
with wishbone, hams,
                    and gizzard things?

can you say
                   this strange bird's name?

    What food does this poem describe?  To find out, hold your mouse's clicker down as you run it all the way across this box:

Roast Cockatrice!
(See recipe above)
Þe Olde Secret Message Reader

To contact James Solheim, email jim[at]jamessolheim.com or call 402-393-6108!

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This page was last updated: September 18, 2007