4 & 20 Blackbirds-A Presumptive Analysis

We presume an awful lot when we recite old nursery rhymes, don’t we? Now, I know that we all do this. We did as children and when we have read these to our children. We didn’t question the validity of these rhymes and that’s a shame as a great number of phrases in these tales of prose needed finer scrutiny. It is my honor and privilege¬†to begin this analysis in my own charming, inimitable and ethnic manner.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

Our first assumption is the correct sum of four and twenty. I feel it an easy analysis to presume that the ‘old English” usage means twenty-four total blackbirds as two dozen is not mentioned. ( I haven’t checked the footnotes concerning the validity of my claim so this is merely another assumption on my part.) Let’s assume that the sum of blackbirds was, at that time, exactly twenty-four and go from there, shall we?

The first question concerns food prep.

Were these particular birds gutted and plucked?

I think that, for food safety, we should address this glaring oversight in this rhyme. We all know about fresh chicken, right? None of us would bake a chicken pie with the poultry right from the henhouse. One obvious problem is how to keep the birds in the pie pan while trying to apply either the top or bottom crust. I hear on good authority that chickens react violently to high heat. Duly noted. There is another problem that I surmise. Chickens are relatively easy to get one’s hands on whereas blackbirds are rather, dare I use the word, “flighty.” For our purposes here we will consider that it took multiple days and an almost grim determination to acquire those particular 24 birds. Agree? Let’s move on.

Upside down or Downside up?

Although it sounds rather mundane when one considers the baking of blackbirds it seems much more practical to me to place the birds back side down with feet in the air to better support the top crust. Do you agree? If we assume that the birds have been gutted and plucked the legs and feet can be left on to better facilitate those aspects of correct top crust placement and manipulation. We will not go into the making of the crust. Whether or not ice water was used to make it or whether they used butter or shortening. We will assume butter, OK?

Lastly-Nimber of pies.

When one is making dough for crust we usually make more than is absolutely needed so that we can also make a cinnamon roll or some other baked delicacy. Would I be going too far to suggest that it might be less wasteful, to bake 24 birds, by using one dozen in one pie and a second pie for the second dozen? If a large group is getting together we should think of the appetite of the children and, perhaps, make 4 pies using 6 birds per pie in order to better make use of the entire meal by serving it in smaller portions. This would also help greatly to better preserve the fine linens from spillage and the resulting stains. In turn, that would save water and detergent when cleaning up after the meal and one would still be able to send small portions of the inevitable leftovers home with the guests.

Now, this is but a start of proper analytical assignation for you. You should, having read this, no longer have that innate fear of reading nursery rhymes to children or grandchildren. In all probability, your children will not ask these types of questions as I once did. My parents, upon kicking me out, simply stated to me, “Go!” I was 11 and this is my story. And you thought you had my number, eh?

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