Musée du Petit-Palais L.Dut.456, f. 86v (15th c.)
How to Dress a Peacock With All Its Feathers, So That When Cooked, It Appears To Be Alive and Spews Fire From Its Beak
How to dress a peacock so that it appears to be alive: first, the peacock should be killed by stabbing it in the head with a sharp knife or by slitting its throat, as you would with a baby goat. Then slice the body from the neck all the way to the tail, cutting only the skin and delicately skinning it so that you do not ruin the feathers or the skin. When you have finished skinning the body, turn the skin inside out, from the neck down. Make sure not to detach the head from the skin of the neck; and similarly, make sure that the legs remain attached to the skin of the thighs. Then dress it well for roasting, and stuff it with good things and good spices, and take some whole cloves and use them to stud the breast, and cook the bird slowly on a spit; and place a wet cloth around the neck so that the heat does not overly dry it; and wet the cloth repeatedly. When it is done cooking, remove from the spit and dress it up in its skin.
Prepare an iron device attached to a cutting board that passes through the feet and legs of the peacock so that the iron cannot be seen and so that the peacock stands up on its feet with its head erect and seems to be alive; and arrange the tail nicely so that it forms its wheel.
If you want it to spew fire from its beak, take a quarter ounce of camphor with a little cotton wool around it, and put it in the beak of the peacock, and also put a little aqua vitae or good, strong wine.
When you serve it, light the cotton wool and it will spew fire for a good bit. And to make it even more magnificent, when the peacock is done, you can decorate it with leaves of hammered gold and place the peacock’s skin over the gold after you have smeared the inside of the skin with good spices. The same can be done with pheasants, cranes, geese, and other birds, as well as capons and pullets.
Martino da Como, Liber de arte coquinaria
Haven’t you always fantasized about the holiday turkey spewing fire in the direction of your least favorite relative? Time to turn those dreams into fiery, delicious, gold-plated reality.