Does Anyone Eat Pigeon Anymore? | Field & Stream

The Wild Chef

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Does Anyone Eat Pigeon Anymore?

Just the down the road stands an old barn that is home to an ever-increasing number of pigeons. For the past six months, I've been watching these birds as they performed aerial acrobats on their flights to the fields outside my window. Despite their reputation as rats with wings, I grew increasingly interested in inviting, via the 12-guage, a pigeon over for dinner.

Pigeons weren't always so reviled. Just a generation or two ago, they were considered fine table fare and most cookbooks included more than a few recipes for pigeon or squab, which by definition is a young pigeon that hasn't yet taken wing. Today most people wouldn't consider a pigeon as even edible, let alone delectable.

Let's make some distinction between these barn burners and their city-dwelling cousins. While they are the same species, their diets differ greatly. I don't know what sustains the city pigeon, nor do I really want to because it can't be healthy. (The local town has a population of pigeons, which has been noticeably reduced by what I suspect is a covert poisoning campaign on the part of the city fathers.)

I live close enough that there's probably some inter-mingling of pigeon populations, but for the most part these country pigeons I've been watching are living a grain-based diet. Their barn is surrounded by a quarter-section of sunflowers. Across the road is a winter wheat field and within a very short flight are corn and millet fields. It's also been an epic, apocalyptical year for grasshoppers. It's an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds around here.

Pigeons have the same diet as the doves I've been targeting, so I took the opportunity given to me on the recent opener and complemented the few doves I shot with a small, young pigeon that happened to fly within range. I cooked it simply--roasted in the oven and basted with the juice and zest of an orange mixed with a little olive oil and chicken stock. I hedged my bets by including the doves in the dish, just so I wouldn't go to bed hungry if the pigeon proved inedible. I needn't have worried, but the same can't be said of the barn pigeons, more than a few of which are now in my freezer.

Has anyone else tried pigeon? Is pigeon part of your regular diet, or are you afraid to eat a flying rat? --David Draper


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