Name/ info of roasted Medieval or English dish of iterative animal heads
June 1, 2020 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Looking for name / info on a roasted Medieval or English dish of smaller animal heads progressively protruding from mouths of larger ones (like, a small bird's head sticking out of fish's head sticking out of a swan's head sticking out of a boar's head)

Over the years I've seen this sort of meal depicted in a number of movies, tv shows, and books. It seems to be rare, but real. Not sure where and when it originated-- Medieval times, the Middle Ages, Tudor England, etc. It was probably ordered by royalty and the wealthy to show off at feasts.
However, haven't been able to find any mention or photos of it online, partly because it's difficult to describe precisely to a search engine. Wondering if it's a hoax, or actually does exist. Even if the former, still there should be some imagery and descriptions available. Thanks
posted by cotesdurhone to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by mr_roboto at 11:06 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]

Not just animal parts inside other animal parts. Literally smaller animal heads iteratively protruding from larger ones

Like, this sort of thing (and no, this isn't the only place I've seen it; it's popped up multiply over the years, this show a more recent reference) >

This Sort Of Thing, Sometimes Exponentially More Elaborate
posted by cotesdurhone at 11:12 AM on June 1

Engastration can concern whole animals, too - The RĂ´ti Sans Pareil Is 17 Birds Stuffed Inside Each Other and It Is Delicious, at (April 2014)
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:48 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]

Friends, one animal head must be protruding out of another's out of another's, etc. This is what I'm getting at. Must be multiple animal heads protruding out of others involved : ) Not just other animals hidden inside the body of one animal
posted by cotesdurhone at 11:57 AM on June 1 [1 favorite]

The Accomplisht Cook by Robert May (1685) includes many dishes for fancy occasions and has a good table of contents; it's evidently also one of the first to include turkey, so if turducken and similar are possible reference points, I would think it would be the right era. I don't think the dish you described is included there, but the language in that cookbook might help you identify stronger search terms.
posted by zepheria at 12:22 PM on June 1

A review of a couple dozen books on medieval and Renaissance cuisine and feasts plus some online research turned up nothing. I'm prepared to be proven wrong, but I'm not sure the thing you're describing actually existed. TV shows, movies, and books frequently get the details of pre-modern cuisine badly wrong.

My suspicion is that it's meant to be a visual shorthand for engastration because unless you're going to spend a lot of closeup shots on carving up a stuffed animal it will not be visually obvious that it is stuffed. From the outside it will just look like the outermost animal.

Alternatively it might a reference to elaborate feast dishes such as the cockentrice (a suckling pig's upper body sewn onto the bottom half of a capon or turkey).

Also, this may be obvious, but in the image you linked it is not the turkey's head or neck that the fish's head is emerging from...
posted by jedicus at 1:25 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]

cotesdurhone, I can imagine an elaborate dish rigged to be displayed that way after all cooking's completed. The nested animals are de-boned to fit inside the larger animal and to cook all the way; an exception is kiviak, in the link in my previous answer -- whole auk birds spend months fermenting in seal.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:36 PM on June 1

Hey Jedicus- After doing some more research, I've pretty much settled on the same opinion. The movies, shows, and books I've seen this 'dish' referenced in likely were taking artistic liberties, using it as shorthand for elaborate engastration, or simply mistaken. Wonder if such a dish has actually ever been concocted and served in history--probably a few times. Hey, it'll be a new, grotesque, extravagant challenge for 21st century chefs. What will we call it?
posted by cotesdurhone at 6:36 PM on June 1

What will we call it?

The Aristocrats!
posted by moonmilk at 9:19 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]

Indeed :)
posted by cotesdurhone at 9:28 AM on June 7

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