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 House Sparrow (Passer Domesticus) differs from the Hedge Sparrow (Accentor modularis), the former being a grain-eater, but the latter an insect-eater. The Cock Sparrow (Passer) is notoriously a lascivious bird; it "loosens the belly by its broth; being much eaten it excites venery; the youngest are best".
"This little cock sparrow shall make me a stew, And his giblets shall make me a little pie too".
Sparrow pudding is an appetizing dish which strengthens the sexual organs. In early English days Sparrows were eaten commonly; they make an excellent pot-pie, with a flavour superior to that of Quails, or they may be substituted for Larks in a kidney pudding. The food of House Sparrows is 75 per cent of corn, one kind and another. The late Lord Lilford, a distinguished naturalist, has said: "I consider that every bird-catcher who confines his operations strictly to the taking of Sparrows is a benefactor, and should be subsidized by the parish authorities." His Lordship has further advised the shooting of Sparrows as they fly to, and from, the cornfields, as excellent practice for partridge shooting, each bird killed representing at least a bushel of corn saved. An old saying has it that "The Spink, and the Sparrow, are the devil's bow and arrow." In the Naworth Accounts for October, 1621, occurs an entry of purchase, "Sparrows, 2 dozen, iiiid." (fourpence.) They are supplied in America as "rice birds" for the market in large numbers.
A well-known game, and poultry dealer in Albany "took in one thousand and seven hundred Sparrows last week, and sold them all." From A proper new Book of Cookery (1594) is copied the following receipt: "To stew Sparrows, take ale, and set it on the fire, and when it seeteth scum it, and then put in your Sparrows, and small raisins, sugar, and sinamon, ginger, and dates, and let them boil together; and then take marrow, or butter, and a little verjious, and keepe it close. And when it is enough, make sops in platters, and serve them forth." Our ancestors did not despise small "byrdys" at their public feasts. At a banquet given to his friends in the sixteenth century by John Stafford, when he was Bishop of Bath and Wells, the small byrdys were chiefly Sparrows, and they were cooked according to the recipe now formulated. It is told respecting the holy and humane Saint Francis of Assisi, (who was throughout his life on terms of familiar affection with all animated nature about him), that "as he breathed out his last sigh," at nightfall, October 2nd, 1226, in the Portiuncula, "innumerable larks alighted singing on the thatch of his cell, as if to salute the fond soul just taking flight".