The truth is, our foremothers were not all that sentimental when it came to feeding family and friends and when roast fowl was on the menu, quite often headed for the hen house, armed with a hatchet.
These women were practical, however, anxious not to disrupt the regular flow of eggs. The toughest of the birds available, older, perhaps in a slump or nearing the natural end of their egg-laying cycle, quite often ended up on weekday menus as the base for chicken and noodles, chicken and dumplings or chicken soup --- stewing tenderized the meat.
Birds selected for special-occasion roasting tended to be plumper and closer to their prime, but still presented culinary challenges to the inexperienced cook.
As a result, when the women of St. Andrew's Guild were preparing their cookbook as the 19th century rolled over into the 20th, they appointed two of Chariton's most experienced and distiniguished matrons as editors of the chapter entitled "Game and Poultry."
They were Mrs. Josiah Carey (nee Anna Gibbon) Copeland and Mrs. Theodore M. (nee Sarah Walker) Stuart. These women commenced their chapter with a lengthy essay, as follows, entitled "Perfection of Roast Foul."
PERFECTION OF ROAST FOWL
Mrs. J.C. Copeland and Mrs. T.M. Stuart
The day before they are to be served take one or a pair of old hens and stew gently for four hours, allow to cool overnight in water in which they have been boiled, then roast in the oven in the usual way; that is, allow ten minutes to every pound, basting often with drippings of roast beef or bacon fat, a large tablespoonful of which must be put in the pan with the chicken when first put in the oven.
If young housekeepers would only awaken to the necessity of basting fowl often, they would avoid the dry meat that is too often found at otherwise daintily served tables.
The stuffing for fowls is also a rock upon which too many young housekeepers split, failing to realize the value of beef suet as the foundation for the same, using instead of butter, which is far more expensive and much less satisfactory in its results.
For a pair of chickens take a cup of suet, finely chopped and free from strings, rub this between the hands into two cups of the crumbs of a stale loaf, a tablespoonful of chopped parsley and a teaspoonful of chopped green thyme (or in the winter dried) and pepper and salt to taste; break an egg, without beating, into this, stir with a fork to a paste, pat into balls and fill the crops of the fowls to a slight plumpness, the remainder to be put inside. Such a stuffing as this will be crisp, yet moist, instead of the sloppy mouthful of salted and peppered bread one too often finds served as bird stuffing.