How to Make a Cooked Bird Sing, c. 1450

(Photo: Luttrell Psalter, British Library)

The Viviender is a Fifteenth Century book written in Middle French. It contains 60 recipies as well as household tips and medical advice. One of the recipies is ideal for Thanksgiving dinner. Fill a cooked chicken with mercury, sulfur and hot air, then bind both ends. The bird will appear to sing when you loosen the bounds:

To make that Chicken Sing when it is dead and roasted, whether on the spit or in the platter. Take the neck of your chicken and bind it at one end and fill it with quicksilver and ground sulphur, filling until it is roughly half full; then bind the other end, but not too tightly. When you want it to sing, [heat] your neck or chicken. When it is quite hot, and when the mixture heats up, the air that is trying to escape will make the chicken's sound. The same can be done with a gosling, with a piglet and with any other birds. And if it doesn't cry loudly enough, tie the two ends more tightly.

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