When the platters of songbirds arrived, everyone would start to chirp. Except for the birds, of course. They would be plucked bare, squeezed between bread and pork, tiny, with the useless stumps that used to be their wings looking like broken arms bent backwards. Mostly, you’d notice their big, empty eye sockets and their beaks.
The beaks were generally the subject of conversation once people started eating: are you or are you not one of those people who eats the beak? The birds were so small and fragile that the usual breast, thigh, drumstick division didn’t apply; people would just hold the beak between their manicured thumbs and forefingers and nosh their way through the entire bird, bones and all. They would say a little rhyme, “Anche la Regina Margherita mangia il pollo con le dita,” (even Queen Margaret ate chicken with her fingers), to excuse themselves before digging in.-- Clare Mahon