14 Annotations

First Reading

Grahamt  •  Link

A large bird like a turkey would have been roasted, probably on a spit over a fire. As long as cooked all through, any surface bacteria would have been killed by the heat. Modern poultry is dodgy because intensive rearing methods mean that salmonella gets into the muscle of the living bird, so can survive if the bird is not thoroughly cooked. Sam's turkeys would have been free range.
However, meat served with dirty hands would have been a danger. I think it is fair to assume that (adult) people's immune systems back then would have coped better with a certain amount of infected food than ours would, after all many people survived smallpox without vaccinations. It is likely though that child mortality rates were high because an immature immune system could not cope with the daily bombardment of air, water and food borne pathogens.

David Quidnunc  •  Link


From the 4 Feb 1659/60 page:

luigi on Thu 6 Feb 2003, 1:34 am
Turkeys are native to the Americas and were domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico. They were taken to Spain in 1500, and introduced from there to England in 1524. Barnaby George wrote one of the first books on Livestock (Four Books on Husbandry) in 1578 where he remarks that

David Quidnunc  •  Link


Jane Birch refuses to kill a Turkey on 4 February 1659/60.

Headless turkeys and chickens can run around after the beheading and live for quite a while, depending on how the head is chopped off. A portion of the brain that controls breathing and other body functions sometimes remains after the rest of the bird's head is chopped off. In one famous case early in the 20th century, the chicken "Mike" lived for years and was put on exhibit, according to a web page that Todd Bernhardt linked to in a note on the 4 Feb 1659/60 page (alas, that website has since become defunct).

More from the 4 February 1659/60 page:

Pauline on Thu 6 Feb 2003, 6:10 pm
You know, Mrs. Pepys may have killed those chickens by wringing their necks. Any takers?

Grahamt on Fri 7 Feb 2003, 9:27 am
I worked on a chicken farm in my teens and never used an axe to kill a chicken.

David Quidnunc  •  Link


Again, from the 4 February 1659/60 page:

Derek on Thu 6 Feb 2003, 1:32 pm
... [I]t

David Quidnunc  •  Link

From the 7 January 1659/60 page:

language hat on Thu 9 Jan 2003, 9:56 pm | Link
... [I]f anybody

David Quidnunc  •  Link


From the 1 January 1659/60 page:

Mary on Thu 2 Jan 2003, 7:09 pm | Link
Turkeys were introduced into England about 90 years before the date of this first entry in the diary. In later years they became popular enough for large flocks of them to be raised in East Anglia. These flocks were herded, on foot, to London in the weeks before Christmas, their feet being protected in small, leather boots that were made expressly for the purpose.

From the 7 January 1659/60 page:

Susanna on Wed 8 Jan 2003, 8:45 pm
The English had been raising and eating turkey for decades before 1660. Indeed, one of London

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: The defunctness of Mike the Headless Chicken's Web site.

Yeesh! Say it ain't so, David. We can't let sleeping chickens lie ... or die, for that matter. Here's the correct/updated link:

Remember, "Mike's spirit is celebrated the third weekend in May.
(May 14th & 15th 2004) in Fruita, Colorado. Don't miss it!"

Australian Susan  •  Link

Australian Turkeys
Australia has wild turkeys, which are common in the suburbia where I live - they look like a miniature version of domesticated ones, but larger than hens. When Australia was colonised, settlers were pleased to find what looked like a substitute for the usual Christmas turkey, but bush turkeys are tough and chewy - lean and wiry birds - and the familiar English domestic turkey was introduced very successfully. Although many people eat sea food at Christmas time in Queensland, many, many people roast turkeys (despite the heat).

Pedro.  •  Link

Turkeys (from L&M Companion).

"Turkeys were becoming increasingly popular and were driven to London from Norfolk and Suffolk in droves of a thousand or more."

Terry F  •  Link

"Turkey" in still more languages

In Arabic it is called "Ethiopian bird" and in Greek it is gallopoula which means "French girl" or "French bird." -- that, much of the above and images of turkeys at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turk…

caroline a burrows  •  Link

Greetings, I am desperate for a depiction(print, painting etc) of a flock of (shod) turkeys being herded to market. Can anyone advise me ? Thank you

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

They are called "turkey" for a reason. The "helmeted guinea fowl" (Numida meleagris) from Madagascar was imported into Europe by, guess who, Turkish merchants. The Spanish in the New World discovered a bird (Meleagris gallopavo) that tasted like turkey, only better, and they exported it into Europe. Where it replaced that African bird. (In France it's call Dinde (D'Inde)! And in Turkey it's called Hindi.)
source: New York Times, October 29, 2013.

We have a similar situation with New World muscadine grapes, which were named after a variety of French grapes.
http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1… [annotations]

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Britain probably obtained its first turkeys from the Spanish, who had brought the birds back to Europe after encountering them in the Aztec empire. However it’s possible that they were introduced by William Strickland, a Yorkshire merchant and MP who travelled to the New World in the 16th century. He certainly seems to have wanted to promote a link with the bird, as the family coat of arms, which was granted in about 1550, has a turkey as a crest.

Henry VIII is the first known English king to have eaten turkey. At that time the bird was seen as something of an exotic delicacy and would have been just one of a variety of fowl to be placed before the hungry monarch.
One of the reasons for turkey’s appeal was that it was not only large enough to make a fine display on the table but also had tastier and less stringy flesh than that other exotic royal favourite, the peacock.

For centuries the turkey was the preserve of the well-to-do and middle classes and it was only after WWII, when it became cheaper to rear, that the turkey became the population’s Christmas bird of choice. They're also the food of choice for Thanksgiving dinners in the USA.

If a working-class family in the 19th century ate a bird, it was more likely to have been a goose, and Christmas ‘goose clubs’ were established to help them save up for it.

Note how the poverty-stricken Swans, peacocks and boars’ heads graced aristocrats’ tables; more modest households made do with whatever seasonal fare they could find – chicken or goose, perhaps, or the odd pigeon.

Bob Cratchit in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol scrapes enough money together to buy a goose before the reformed Scrooge presents his family with a massive turkey.

By the end of the 19th century turkey was the most popular choice of Christmas roast.

Geese and turkeys were, and still are, extensively reared in East Anglia. In the 18th century, before the introduction of the railways, thousands were walked to London in large flocks along what is now the A12. Norfolk farmers would dip turkeys’ feet in tar and sand to make ‘wellies’ for the walk to London, which could take up to 2 months.

Like so many traditions, roasted turkey became synonymous with Christmas when immortalised by Charles Dickens. At the end of the classic A Christmas Carol, the humbled Scrooge sends a boy to buy the biggest turkey in the shop.

But it wasn’t until the 20th century that Hollywood movies popularised the dish in the UK, and prices fell thanks to new farming methods.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.