Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Life has been pretty hectic this week at the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. I am still catching up after taking some time off to go to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Ideally, the balance skills and core strength that I am learning in my yoga practice will ultimately pay off for me in a better golf game, or at least in balance and core strength. Period.

Now I’m having to fill in for The Morning Guy while he is on vacation, and that means actually getting up in the morning. I’ll admit that I’ve been very spoiled in that regard, but I’ll be fine. I have some excellent notes here about how to restock the soda machine, notes which I will immediately pass on to Sparkle Junior and your second-cousin Darnell.

Personally, I’ll be busy working on plans for the Pie Museum, and I know you are looking forward to the day when that opens, although you might well wish we’d get to work on the putting green first.

Perhaps we will.

I already hit a snag in trying to find out about that “Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie” nursery rhyme. It seems that there are a number of stories about what the words really mean, if anything at all. As I read through the possibilities, I definitely found myself leaning toward the Blackbeard the Pirate version, because it is entertaining if nothing else.

Sadly, the idea that “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” was some kind of pirate code was actually concocted by the folks at as an example of “False Authority Syndrome,” in which they pretty nicely prove that we are all fairly gullible folk.

I was disappointed, because I like pretty much any combination of pirates and pie (or golf and pie), and I had hoped the story was true. In fact, I’d already pictured one helluva nice display for the museum, including a signed copy of Tim Powers’ fantastic book On Stranger Tides, which should definitely be on the pie shop bookshelves by now.  If you haven’t read it yet, I’ll consider lending one of my copies to you, but plan on paying a hefty deposit before you take the book out of my sight.

I did, though, find some other references to the four-and-twenty which were interesting, although a bit of a downturn after the pirate possibility, but how do you like this? A 1549 Italian cookbook does, in fact, contains a recipe “to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up.”

Or am I just falling victim to False Authority Syndrome again?

If you know any more about this particular historical pie, do let me know. Check your copy of The Annotated Mother Goose and let me know what you learn.

While you do that, here’s a nice Tom Waits song that recycles some of the nursery rhyme — the “sing a song of six pence” part — in a whole nuther way.

Mixtape from waits midnight lullaby