Thinking About the Eating of Blackbirds

blackbird fin


blackbird back fin

The idea of eating a blackbird exists for most of us only in the form of a nursery rhyme, and in this rhyme the birds are served live within the pie casing, as an entertainment device prepared for large medieval banquets.

Blackbirds are edible, though – as are many other small birds. I’ll never forget the time my mother-in-law trapped an assortment of small birds in the garden for the purpose of teaching me how to clean, pluck and cook them. Each bird had its own taste, and some were just the size of a morsel when cleaned and cooked.

The whole of the rhyme is rather dynamic from beginning to end. Action-packed! First we have a pie with twenty four birds suddenly ejected from it at the table, then we have various other occurrences which end in a surprising act.

Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocket full of rye,

Four and twenty blackbirds,

Baked in a pie;

When the pie was opened,

The birds begain to sing;

Wasn’t that a dainty dish

To set before a king?

The king was in his countinghouse

Counting out his money;

The queen was in the parlor

Eating bread and honey;

The maid was in the garden

Hanging out the clothes,

Along came a blackbird,

And snipped off her nose

I think the modern intonations of blackbirds in poetry may be a bit more musical. Here is Wallace Stevens Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Such a gentle keepsake, this postcard someone bought for Lenas! With the beautiful blackbird at the center of it all, to consider.


2 thoughts on “Thinking About the Eating of Blackbirds

  1. Interesting question – where, why was the origin? And when?
    This blog reminds me, of little pottery blackbirds that are hollow, with the beak pointed up and open, and are inserted into steak and kidney pies in order that steam can escape from in the pie.
    I am familiar with them from colonial-British friends in Kenya, who use them religiously, and wonder

    1. if they are still used? And
    2. if they are linked to the nursery rhyme?

    If Rachel L. reads this, or Adam, they might know…

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