Old Christmas Recalled - online book

Washington Irving's description of Old Christmas, Illustrated

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164                                          NOTES
Note F, p. 131.
The peacock was anciently in great demand for stately enter­tainments. Sometimes it was made into a pie, at one end of which the head appeared above the crust in all its plumage, with the beak richly gilt; at the other end the tail was displayed. Such pies were served up at the solemn banquets of chivalry, when Knights-errant pledged themselves to undertake any perilous enterprise ; whence came the ancient oath, used by Justice Shallow, "by cock and pie."
The peacock was also an important dish for the Christmas
feast; and Massinger, in his City Madam, gives some idea of the
extravagance with which this, as well as other dishes, was prepared
for the gorgeous revels of the olden times :—
"Men may talk of country Christmasses, Their thirty pound butter'd eggs, their pies of carps' tongues : Their pheasants drench'd with ambergris; the carcases of three fat wethers bruised for gravy, to ?nake sauce for a single peacock ! "
Note G, p. 133.
The Wassail Bowl was sometimes composed of ale instead of wine ; with nutmeg, sugar, toast, ginger, and roasted crabs ; in this way the nut-brown beverage is still prepared in some old families, and round the hearths of substantial farmers at Christmas. It is also called Lambs' Wool, and is celebrated by Herrick in his "Twelfth Night:"—
" Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle Lambs' Wool, Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too ;
And thus ye must doe To make the Wassaile a swinger."
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