21 February 2012

Passenger Pigeon Squabs Served at 1796 Dinner

A repast of historic significance occurred in June 1796, in Philadelphia. The event may have not been especially significant except for one particular culinary item. This account is a vivid presentation for the unknown multitude of game dinners which for centuries in the United States, have included well-done meat of many sorts of birds, each one obviously a tasty portion.

This is obviously a historically significant account indicating wild pigeons squabs being a prominent main course for a dinner of political importance.

Feathers were an especially notable part of the women's adornment.

This is the article, presented in its entirety as issued.

First Course.

Baked Salmon.
Neat's tongue. Veal olives. Sweet breads.
Pigeon pie. Soup a la reine. Fillet of beef.
Roasted lobsters. Roast lamb. Ducks and peas.
Broiled shad.

Second Course.

Green goose.
Asparagus. Cup-custard. Lamb chops.
Gooseberry tarte. Epergue. Lemon tarts.
Ragouts of livers. Blanc-mange. Spinach.
Broiled chickens.

Third Course.

Wild-pigeon squabs.
Stewed lettuce. Tartlets. Black caps.
Blanched almonds. Jellies and syllabubs. Raisins.
Buttered crabs. Cheese cakes. Ratafin cream.

Sally McKean
Marchioness D'Yrujo.

From the Portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
From: Old Time Belles and Cavaliers,
By Edith Tunis Sale, 1912.

"The fillet of beef," says the chronicler, "was served with mushrooms, and the tame ducks were garnished with boiled mint shopped fine. The delicacies of the season were the green goose, spring chickens, and a hind-quarter of lamb, the latter from the grass-lands of Virginia. The wild-pigeon squabs were from the great pigeon roosts in Pennsylvania, and the wood cock were brought from the lowlands of New Jersey." This dinner was given on Arch Street, in Philadelphia, June, 1796, the hour being half-past three o'clock. Among the twenty guests who were present were Mrs. Henry Clymer and Mrs. Bingham, brilliant beauties of the day; Chief Justice McKean and his beautiful and gifted daughter; the Marquis d'Yrujo, the Spanish ambassador, who but a few days before had arrived in this country, and who, falling in love with Miss McKean at this dinner, finally married her; Sir Robert Liston, the British Minister; Counsellor Dunn, an Irish gentleman, who had come to America to study the Indian language; Mrs. Perez Mortoif, wife of the attorney-general of Massachusetts, and known as the American Sappho; Count de Volney, who had been saved from the guillotine only by the opportune death of Robespierre; Colonel Rutledge, of South Carolina, and others of nearly equal note. At this time, Philadelphia numbered about fifty thousand inhabitants, and at no season had it ever been grayer than during the winter of 1796-96. On the 1st of June, '96, Congress adjourned; distinguished strangers were still lingering in the city; and the dinner of which we write was one of a series of brilliant entertainments which followed the closing of the session. Dinners in the capital were then given at three o'clock, and were usually confined to three courses; teas were at four o'clock, and corresponded to our kettle-drums, and evening parties were at six or seven o'clock at the latest. The style of dress then in vogue was picturesque. "The dresses were generally open, the waists short, and a narrow silver laurel-tipped edging came up around the neck. The petticoat was almost always of crepe, embroidered and tied up with festoons. The hair was generally powdered, and the headdresses were composed of embroidered bandeaus, and colored and silvered crepe twisted in with the hair, which was dressed loosely. Feathers were also worn, and the turban was the favorite shape for caps. One of these caps was usually worn by President Madison's wife, and Mrs. Seaton chattily writes of Mrs. Madison. "'Tis not her form, 'tis not her face, it is the woman altogether whom that I should wish you to see. She wears a crimson cap that almost hides her forehead, but becomes her exceedingly, and reminds one of a crown, from its brilliant appearance contrasted with the white satin folds, and her jet black curls.' The fashionable colors of this time were white, pale pink and green violet, lilac, lemon color, and, to a limited extent, orange." Of the costumes worn at our dinner, several have been recorded. Miss McKean wore a blue satin dress trimmed with white crepe, richly embroidered, and across the front there was a festoon of rose-color, caught up with flowers. The portrait of Miss McKean (subsequently the Marquise d'Yrujo) was preserved in Philadelphia, and years after her death it was engraved to embellish the "Republican Court."

This menu was contributed by "Margaret" at the suggestion of "Tabbies,' bills of fare. Issued May 10, 1883 by the Washington D.C. National Tribune 2(39): 3.