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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Lark any of many species of songbirds in the family Alaudidae, but especially the skylark (to which Shelley addressed his famous ode), Alauda arvensis, and the somewhat plumper crested lark, Galerina cristata. The former is familiar in Britain, but the latter only appears there as a vagrant.

Larks are now protected species in the countries of the European Community, and the practice of eating them, roasted on lark-spits or made into pâtés (such as the famous ones of Pithiviers in France) or with polenta, is dying away elsewhere too. In former times they were eaten on a large scale and their delicate flavour was appreciated, especially in France—although it was a Frenchman who said that the tiny carcass, stripped of wings, feet, and gizzard, resembled nothing more than a bundle of toothpicks. Another French writer, Favre (1883–92), anticipated the feelings of a century later by remarking on the usefulness to farmers of the larks’ feeding habits and the charm of their songs, and by deciding that in his great dictionary the entry for larks should begin with quotations from poets and only then proceed to describe the range of French recipes for preparing them.