Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Rhinoceros (Bird) for Dinner.

The New York Times of March 3, 1905 briefly described an interesting dinner held the previous evening:

The Canadian Camp had its annual dinner at the Hotel Astor last night, and the members and guests had a lot of fun despite scurrilous stories that the piece de resistance, which had been advertised as “filet of Bornean rhinoceros, sent from the Berlin Zoological Gardens with the compliments of his Royal Highness Prince Henry of Prussia,” was ordinary bear’s meat, or moose, or even plain, everyday beef.
Those who ate this dish said that they liked it, but it was noticed that more lips were smacked over “West Park Mephitis Pie,” which down on the farm would have another name. Roast wild turkey from Kentucky was served after the ice-cream.

The best thing about the article is that it gave me an excuse to give you a recipe which has intrigued me for some time: 
Potage à la Rhinoceros.
Pigeon Soup called Rhinoceros (from an Indian Bird).
Take three pigeons, without trimming them, trussed for boiling, run a small skewer through the head and neck, to keep it bent upwards; scald and boil them in broth and veal .gravy, with herbs and roots cut small, as for a julienne; stew altogether on a slow fire, and season it well. Place the pigeons in your soup dish, upon the breast, with the heads above, so as to appear as if swimming.
The Professed Cook; or, the modern art of cookery, pastry, & confectionary ... (1812) by B. Clermont.

There is, in fact, such a thing as a Rhinoceros Bird. It is not, however, Indian, but Malaysian, and is so called because of the rather odd-looking horn above its beak. Or maybe it is African, with the proper name of Buphagus africanus - the bird that sits on the rhinos back and lives off the ticks that annoy the big beast? 

I have no idea if either of these rhinoceros birds themselves are ever eaten as food, but I am sure there must be an interesting story behind the naming of the soup. If only I knew what it was!

No comments: