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 flesh of the deer, is particularly digestible by invalids because of its looseness of fibre, and texture, which permits a special ready access of the gastric juices. But it must not be hung long enough to become at all corrupt, so as to engender ptomaines afterwards within the stomach, or bowels. Robert Lovell (1661) said the flesh of the buck is dry, and causeth piles, except used with pepper, cinnamon, and mustard. Venison, which is a highly savoury food, consists of albuminates, or nutritive solids, nineteen parts, fat two parts, and water seventy-nine parts. It was formerly served in Egypt, as by Joseph to his brethren, together with furmity made from wheat. If eaten too freely, the flesh will breed melancholy. It should never be eaten in a hurry," wrote James Payn, "as though it were a soup at a railway station. Like a moderately good picture at the Academy Exhibition it should be hung, and not too high".
If it only smelt as nice as it tastes, it would be a public boon, but often as the time comes for dressing it, the cook "thinks as it ought to be put underground before it produces a pestilence, and puts her there, too." Venison Panada will please the sick sportsman, this being a preparation of bread soaked, softened, and flavoured with a puree of venison. The famous Robin Hood said to Henry the Eighth in Sherwood Forest, "Sir, outlaws' breakfast is venison, and therefore you must be content with such fare as we use. Then the king and queen sate down, and were served with venyson, and wyne, by Robin Hood and hys men, to theyre great contentacion".
"For, finer, or fatter Ne'er ranged in a forest, nor smoked on a platter. The haunch was a picture for painters to study, The fat was so white, and the lean was so ruddy".
Oliver Goldsmith's Haunch of Venison.
The name "alderman's walk" is given to the centre cut (long incision) of the haunch, where the most delicate slices are to be found. Venison pasty, formerly so much esteemed, owed its attraction chiefly to the currants placed between the layers of meat. Roger Bacon commended venison, "for," said he, "that which liveth long by his own nature maketh others also to live long." In Borneo, the men may not eat the flesh of the deer, though it is allowed to the women and children. The reason given is that if the men were to eat venison they would become as timid as deer. Rebecca, of the Old Testament, must have cooked with considerable skill, as she converted the kid into savoury meat so nearly resembling venison as to be eaten for it by the blind old patriarch Isaac, who evidently could appreciate venison as much as do modern epicures.
Among the privy purse expenses of Henry VII (1490), under date August 8th, occurs the item, "to a woman, three shillings and four pence, for clarifying deer suet," to be used by the King, not for culinary, but for medicinal purposes. It was then, and much later employed as an ointment. "Quod olfactu fcedum est, idem est esu turpe," says the Comic Latin Grammar, "that which is foul to be smelled is also nasty to be eaten (except venison, onions, and cheese)." Shakespeare knew that at the rutting season the hart's horn is dangerous, "if thou be hurt with hart it brings thee to thy bier." But under ordinary circumstances the burnt horn of a stag was given against worms, and hart's grease was a remedy for the gout. "The fat, or suet, and the marrow of venison (the stag) applied outwardly, are very good against rheumatism, and for dissolving tumours, for sciatica, and to fortify the nerves." A venison dinner is customary annually at Farnham, over which the Bishop of Winchester presides. This is a survival of the grand old days when the lords of Farnham Castle were princes as well as Bishops. In 1892, the stair carpets there were measured by miles.
Samuel Pepys, January 6th, 1659, "took his wife to their cosen Thomas Pepys, and found them just sat down to dinner, which was very good, only the venison pasty was palpable mutton, which was not handsome".