Mosaic law, the ostrich was denounced as an unclean animal, and the Jews were, consequently, forbidden to eat it. The Arabs of the present day still adhere to this prohibition. Some of the native tribes of Southern Africa, however, are less fastidious, and partake of the flesh with great relish, more especially when fat.
Though people at the present day place little or no value on the ostrich as an article of food, the ancient Romans, who were great epicures, seem to have been of a different opinion. We are told by Vobiscus that the pseudo-Emperor Firmus, "equally celebrated for his feats at the anvil and at the trencher, devoured, in his own imperial person, an entire ostrich at one sitting." The brain of this bird was considered a superlative delicacy; and, like every thing else with that luxurious nation, it was provided on the most magnificent scale. Thus, according to an ancient testimony, the Emperor Heliogabalus was served at a single feast with the brains of six hundred of these birds.
If the flesh of the ostrich be not much esteemed, its eggs, at all events, are prized in the highest degree by natives and travelers. To say nothing of their flavor, each contains as much as twenty-four of the eggs of the barn-door fowl, and weighs about three pounds.
From the great size of the ostrich egg it might be supposed that one would be a sufficient meal for any man; but I have known instances where two eggs have been dispatched by a single individual, even when mixed with a quantity of flour and fat. Indeed, Hans and his companion once finished five ostrich eggs in the course of an afternoon!
- Apicius gives a recipe for the best sauce.
- The Romans, as is well known, also introduced large numbers of ostriches into the circus, where they were butchered by the people. We are told that no less than one thousand of these splendid creatures (together with an equal number of the stag, the fallow deer, and the boar tribe) were on one occasion brutally sacrificed to gratify the insatiable thirst for blood of the Roman populace.