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#1
Old 04-18-2004, 09:16 PM
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Henry VIII / turkey leg

So I went to the Renaissance Fair today and while eating my turkey leg I got to thinking about Henry the Eighth. You see a picture of that guy, chances are you're looking at a picture of a guy with a turkey leg in his hand.

But isn't the turkey native to the Americas? So how could he, y'know.
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#2
Old 04-18-2004, 09:21 PM
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I thought the whole reason it was called "turkey" was short for "turkey hen" i.e. a hen from Turkey.
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#3
Old 04-18-2004, 09:30 PM
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According to various sources, turkeys first appeared in Britain in 1524. Henry VIII reigned until 1547. So, while the photograph might not be authentic, the possibility of Henry VIII munching down on a big honkin' turkey leg isn't implausible.
#4
Old 04-18-2004, 09:32 PM
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No, the turkey is from the Americas, but they thought it was from Turkey. This was at the height of the Ottoman empire, so there was a lot of new stuff coming through from the "Far East". It's actually a kind of backhanded compliment to the Turks, though I've heard an anecdote that they see it as more of an insult.

Henry the Eighth lived in the middle of the 16th century, and the Americas were being explored and conquered by about that time. Admittedly, it wasn't really North America, and it was the Spanish and Portuguese that were involved rather than the Brits. It's possible that the turkey had got back to England by that time, if unlikely.

FWIW, I always thought the classic "munching on a big leg of something" involved chicken legs, or maybe a haunch of venison or lamb. Not that "munching on a big leg of something" is a historically attested fact - doesn't appear in any of the official portraits for some reason.
#5
Old 04-18-2004, 10:01 PM
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The sad thing is...that wasn't a haunch of anything. Henry VIII had a very large, deformed, thumb. It was often left ragged and discolored from daily wear and tear.

The "Tudor Thumb" was a terrible, if not widely publicized, hereditary trait of Henry VIII's family. Not unlike the "Hapsburg Jaw."


#6
Old 04-18-2004, 10:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
So, while the photograph might not be authentic, the possibility of Henry VIII munching down on a big honkin' turkey leg isn't implausible.
You know, I would doubt the authenticity of any photograph of Henry VIII. Unless, of course, it was his skeleton.
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#7
Old 04-18-2004, 10:12 PM
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For the "straight turkey" read http://worldwidewords.org/articles/turkey.htm
Michael Quinions excellent word site.
#8
Old 04-18-2004, 10:22 PM
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Maybe it was a goose leg...
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#9
Old 04-19-2004, 05:29 AM
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The modern popular image of Henry VIII 'munching on a big leg of something' (as lambchops puts it) entirely derives from the 1933 film, The Private Life of Henry VIII. I can't remember if the type of meat is actually specified; I rather doubt it. That image was in turn influenced by Victorian genre paintings on the theme of 'Merrie England' which often showed feasting at the Tudor court or in an aristocratic great house.

Unsurprisingly, none of this had anything to do with Henry VIII's actual dining habits. At that date, serious research on the culinary history of the Tudor court had barely begun.
#10
Old 04-19-2004, 09:26 AM
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Besides, ever try to eat a turkey leg like a chicken leg? it's so full of nearly bone-like cartiledge and tendons that it's nearly impossible.
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#11
Old 04-19-2004, 10:18 AM
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Turkey legs are a specialty of Disney World and pop up at just about every public gathering event in Texas, so obviously they can't be THAT hard to eat.
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#12
Old 04-19-2004, 10:32 AM
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Last year I saw a one-hour documentary -- either on the Food Network or on A&E/History Channel (can't remember which) -- narrated by Stephen Fry about dining at Henry VIII's court. One of the things that was stated was that most aristocrats would have had very bad teeth so it wasn't likely they could have comfortably chomped down on a big hunk of meat. Also, Tudor-era cooks had to learn all kinds of techniques for carving meats into razor-thin slices.

While Henry probably enjoyed his food and grew quite fat in his later years, the fact was that for much of his life he was quite athletic and reasonably fit. It's not likely he gorged himself in the way he's shown doing in the movies.
#13
Old 04-19-2004, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
Besides, ever try to eat a turkey leg like a chicken leg? it's so full of nearly bone-like cartiledge and tendons that it's nearly impossible.
I do this very frequently. The tendons are only on like a third to a half of the leg, and easy to pick through, I find find.

I usually cook them by boiling them, so maybe that might even loosen it up a but. But I've eaten them baked too, and don't remember having any trouble. A bit messy, though.
#14
Old 04-19-2004, 11:49 AM
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Actually, the whole "fat-ass glutton" image of Henry VIII is a bit of a myth in itself. Henry was slim and trim for most of his life; he broke his leg (badly) towards the end of his life after being thrown from a horse and led a much more sedentary lifestyle after that. So while the image of him as a fat, gluttinous pig is true, it's not really complete. By all accounts, his was apparently quite handsome before the accident.
#15
Old 04-19-2004, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by APB
Unsurprisingly, none of this had anything to do with Henry VIII's actual dining habits. At that date, serious research on the culinary history of the Tudor court had barely begun.
Squeeze me?

Yes it has...very definitely on both sides of the pond. There are a number of people who have done a lot of research on the matter. Just because it doesnt hit CNN doesnt mean it isnt going on...and if you want to get your toes wet, I know where you can score Cariadoc's 2 volume set of reprints of most 'cookbooks' from about 1200 ad to 1700 ad that are out of print...

http://wealddown.co.uk/dawn-of-tudor-cooking-2.htm
http://godecookery.com/mrcookwr/mrcookwr.htm
http://florilegium.org/
[on the last page, look at any of the foods entries, or go directly to the discussions on cookbooks, feasts in period, or in a pinch send the webmaster a quick email, he is a spiffy guy .. I camp with him every summer for the Pennsic Wars=)]
#16
Old 04-19-2004, 08:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aruvqan
Squeeze me?

Yes it has...very definitely on both sides of the pond. There are a number of people who have done a lot of research on the matter. Just because it doesnt hit CNN doesnt mean it isnt going on
You mis-read APB's post. There was little research going on at the time of the movie(1933) or shortly afterwards.
#17
Old 04-20-2004, 04:53 AM
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I was indeed speaking in the past tense.

If, on the other hand, we're talking about the current state of research, then I would go so far as to argue that the scholarly work on cooking at the Tudor court has been right at the forefront of the 'New Food History' over the past generation or so.
#18
Old 04-20-2004, 05:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
Besides, ever try to eat a turkey leg like a chicken leg? it's so full of nearly bone-like cartiledge and tendons that it's nearly impossible.
I bought a couple of turkey drumsticks for cheap and quick Sunday dinners; the bone-like tendons thing is absolutely correct (makes carving the meat a nightmare, but it can be pulled apart by hand easily enough).
I thought it was a bit like lamb when roasted, which I found odd because turkey thigh reminds me of pork.
#19
Old 04-20-2004, 05:13 AM
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Does someone actually have a link to a depiction of Henry VIII holding food of any kind? I searched and cannot find a thing.
#20
Old 04-20-2004, 05:35 AM
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Didn't Cecil cover this whole "why it's called a turkey" controversey?

Err, nope. It was the esteemed Mr. bibliophage. Is turkey (the bird) named after Turkey (the country) or vice versa?
#21
Old 04-20-2004, 07:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout
Does someone actually have a link to a depiction of Henry VIII holding food of any kind? I searched and cannot find a thing.
I'm fairly confident that the only contemporary illustration showing him with food is a drawing (sometimes incorrectly attributed to Holbein) which depicts him dining in his Presence Chamber. However I can't find it reproduced anywhere on the Web. The details are too small for it to be clear what he is eating.
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