The Birds: Update 1

Jun 28, 2010 by

Guido and I discovered a nest of blackbirds on our balcony (as in "Blackbird singing in the dead of night..."). These are not black birds, but actually the Common Blackbird (Turdus murula), a lovely songbird that's especially cherished and protected in England. Well, it just so happens that they're also in Italy. The newly hatched babies are so cute that I have to include some pictures here, and will continue to update them. We're trying to figure out how to enjoy our balcony without scaring the parents away, and some progress has been made. The mother used to fly away as soon as I stepped onto the balcony, but now she'll let me sit out here and type, which I love. But since this is a food blog, here's the tie-in. You know that old nursery rhyme: "Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie"? I was always struck by the imagery of the following line in particular: "When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing; wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?" As a child I loved the image of birds flocking out of a surprised king's pie, but it turns out that the rhyme--published circa 1744--refers to an actual recipe...from Italy! An Italian cookbook in 1549 contained a recipe that instructed how to make pies "so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up" (quoted from the English translation, c. 1598). In fact, the wedding of Marie de Medici and Henry IV of France might have had such pies, as indicated by this account of the wedding: "The first surprise, though, came shortly before the starter—when the guests sat down, unfolded their napkins and saw songbirds fly out. The highlight of the meal were sherbets of milk and honey, which were created by Buontalenti." Leave it to Italians to be most impressed not by the live birds, but by the gelato. And now for the pictures:
We found these five eggs first.
The second one is hatching in this picture.
I hope their worms are as orgasmic as my pesto pasta.
A short moment of rest. Being a newborn is exhausting!
(Last thing--you may notice that there are two birds and two eggs, but there were orginally five eggs. I saw a third bird at one point, but now it's gone. Not so sure what happened there...)

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