30 May 2010

How to carve half a calf's head for dinner

And you thought it was hard to carve a turkey.  These directions, from "The Housekeeper's Book" of 1837 detail how to cut the various parts off from the head:  "handsome slices" from the cheek, "sweetbread" (??thymus) from the throat, the eye..., the palate...

I found this most interesting:  "There is a tooth in the upper jaw, called by some the sweeet tooth, very full of jelly..."  I wonder if this has any connection to the term "having a sweet tooth" meaning to desire sugary foods?  And I don't understand how a calf's tooth could be sweet with jelly unless there's a high fat content in the roots of the tooth???
"It is highly necessary that all who preside at the head of a table should be acquainted with all these particular delicacies..."
How times have changed.

Found at Centuries of Advice and Advertisements.


  1. My guess is rather that "sweet tooth" is used winkingly as a pun on "jelly" -- where jelly refers in this case to congealed meat juices (like aspic). "Sweet tooth" -- if various online sources are to be believed -- comes from an Old English word meaning "sweet" (much as we mean it today), and "tooth" in the sense of tasting or appetite.

    Fascinating to think of serving half a calf's head in the first place. Ah, those lost good times.

  2. Yes sweet breads are the thymus of the animal..... and they are very good indeed when cooked right. (Like a lighter flavored version of liver). Very popular in French, Basque and other cultures of cooking in Europe.

    Additionally, when cooked, cartilage will turn into gelatin which could theoretically be the source of the "jelly".


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