This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The Duck (Anas), which has become included among our domesticated poultry for the table, is scarcely suited for persons of delicate stomach, because of its fat contained in large amount; otherwise it makes a savoury, nutritious food. This grease is a great anodyne, and of good service against distempers of the nerves; "anoynted it helps the pleurisie, and gout." Rouen, in France, is famous for the superiority of its ducklings, which are not bled to death as in this country, but are killed by thrusting a skewer through the brain, so that the blood is retained in the flesh of the bird. Sydney Smith has told of an arch-epicure on the Northern Circuit, about whom it was reported "he took to bed with him concentrated lozenges of Wild Duck so as to have the taste constantly renewed on his palate when waking in the night." Again, Douglas Jerrold has recorded it of a certain man, "he was so tender-hearted that he would hold an umbrella over a Duck in the rain." Though tasty, succulent birds, Ducks are somewhat foul feeders; they will swallow any garbage, yet their preference is for slugs, and snails;. if allowed to search for themselves in the early morning, and late evening they will soon fatten on these enemies of the gardener.
By the early Romans the Duck, being a good swimmer, was sacrificed to Neptune. Plutarch assures us that Cato preserved in health his whole household through dieting them on roast Duck during a season when plague and disease were rife. In Brittany well-fatted Ducks are salted; also the breasts are pickled, and smoked for a week, then dried, and stored. The Chinese esteem Ducks' tongues, when dried, as dainties. Our Aylesbury white-plumaged Duck commands the highest price in the market, but the fibre of its meat is harder, and richer, than that of white-fleshed poultry. Dr. Kitchener (1820) bids the cook "contrive to have the Ducks' feet delicately crisp, as some people are very fond of them; to do which nicely you must have a sharp fire".
As a " bonne bouche " with the roasted bird, "mix a teaspoonful of made mustard, a saltspoonful of salt, and a few grains of Cayenne in a large wineglassful of Claret, or Port wine; pour it into the Duck by a slit in the apron just before serving it up".
By its brown meat, and abundant bird-fat, the Duck is particularly well suited for diabetic patients. This fat is in the domesticated bird lard-like, but in the related wild bird it is oily, and of more iodine value. The Chinese have a notion that such material food is acceptable to their friends even after death. A white man who was interested in a Chinese funeral asked why a Duck was left on the grave. Did they suppose the dead man would come back in the spirit to eat it?" Yeppe," replied the Boxer, "alle same as le white deadeeman come out and smelle flowers!" Water-fowl, for some reason which is not explained, are not regarded as meat by the Roman Catholic Church. Thus the Teal (Sarcelle) was pronounced some years ago by a conference of their leading ecclesiastics to be permissible for eating in Lent. But actually this bird is in season only from September until February.