Where’s the cygnet combo-meal? Where’s my swan McNuggets?
October 31, 2019 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Why Don't We Eat Swans? We’re not so squeamish about chicken, turkey, pigeon, or goose, but these long-necked beauties have long been off-limits. (The Outline)
posted by not_the_water (66 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. This makes me realize I've never had pigeon or goose. I feel like I'd be more willing to eat swan than pigeon.

2. "Swan Pye" would be an excellent band name.

3. HONK.
posted by Foosnark at 8:43 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Goose is amazing but it takes forever to cook - still wish we ate duck or goose for Thanksgiving given that turkey tastes like net napkins.

On the other hand, you end up with a gallon of goose fat which is like a culinary wizard spell
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 AM on October 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


This makes me realize I've never had pigeon or goose

christmas turkey is for suckers. goose is where it's at
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:47 AM on October 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


Because if you eat a swan, you will absorb the evil that's in its soul.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:48 AM on October 31, 2019 [44 favorites]


Pigeon is common in West Africa. Like chicken but bonier, basically.
posted by solotoro at 8:48 AM on October 31, 2019


Goose was my family’s traditional holiday meat rather than turkey, maybe mostly due to one of my grandmothers raising geese rather than because of any more interesting regional tradition or folklore.

The hangup about swans, though, seems similar to that about horses: they get a degree of veneration that other animals don’t, whether or not it’s justifiable. I’m kind of surprised the author couldn’t find any chefs willing to share opinions about serving swan, especially given the trend in the past few years for unusual meats.
posted by ardgedee at 8:51 AM on October 31, 2019


because they're too big to fit in a deep fryer

also they're mean-ass grouchy bastards and the queen is welcome to them
posted by scruss at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2019 [7 favorites]


A 1637 publication The New English Canaan stated that swan meat wasn’t popular: "the flesh is not much demand of the inhabitants.”

My guess is they don't taste very good.
posted by chavenet at 9:01 AM on October 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Is this something I would need to eat meat to understand?

Regardless of your feelings on meat or how you express them, it's interesting in it's own right.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:04 AM on October 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Some people do, apparently.
posted by acb at 9:05 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


It’s no longer considered treason to eat them, but swans — and all wild birds — are considered a protected species, so in the U.K. it’s still illegal to chow down on one.

I've seen it asserted (perhaps by MeFi's own cstross) that the monarch is above the law at least to the point where they could legally detonate nuclear weapons with absolute impunity. Are they able to do so and yet bound by protected-species legislation?
posted by acb at 9:10 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


The image of a lonely swan, searching fruitlessly for its butchered partner would surely make even the most obnoxious “bacon is my personality” meat-bro think twice pump his fist and holler “aww fuck yeah”, celebrating his confirmed alpha status.

FTFY.
posted by acb at 9:14 AM on October 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


If you've ever had squab, you've had pigeon.
posted by potrzebie at 9:15 AM on October 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


A 1637 publication The New English Canaan stated that swan meat wasn’t popular: "the flesh is not much demand of the inhabitants.”

I think there used to be laws saying you could only feed prisoners so much lobster or it was cruel. So, I dunno. Swan meat might be the next lobster for all we know.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:15 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]




Why not try our signature cygnet chutney?
posted by snortasprocket at 9:22 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Are they able to do so and yet bound by protected-species legislation?

I'm not a barrister, but I can say that the notion that swans are for eating by the monarch is a not-infrequent joke on British panel shows.
posted by axiom at 9:28 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


We’re not so squeamish about chicken, turkey, pigeon, or goose

Americans really don't eat goose at all, as far as I can tell. It's a shame.

Why don't folks eat Seagull?

It's my understanding that seabirds generally taste terrible. Take the greasiness of duck or goose, but make it about five times as fishy, and you've got seabirds.
posted by jackbishop at 9:28 AM on October 31, 2019


Pheasant and Grouse are supposed to be quite good...
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:28 AM on October 31, 2019


What other mean animals do we eat? ...not sure I would consider lobster mean, just defensive.
posted by wellred at 9:34 AM on October 31, 2019


I'm not a barrister, but I can say that the notion that swans are for eating by the monarch is a not-infrequent joke on British panel shows.

The law, AFAIK, is/was only English, and did not apply in Scotland. There was a case some years ago of a man (an artist or composer, IIRC) who lived on an island off Scotland having cooked and eaten a dead swan he found on the beach; this was mildly scandalous, though it was confirmed that he had broken no laws and would not be prosecuted (though as the press suggested, had this happened south of the border, he may have ended up clapped in the Tower).
posted by acb at 9:34 AM on October 31, 2019


Untitled Goose Meal
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 AM on October 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


I do not live in the UK, but I am in a commonwealth country. I sometimes wonder whether or not I could get away with swan or some obscure seventeenth-century statute would see me held in durance vile. I’m a little uneasy is I guess what I am saying.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:38 AM on October 31, 2019


Why is everyone suddenly side-eyeing me?
posted by orange swan at 9:41 AM on October 31, 2019 [33 favorites]


Then there's goat, which is one of the most-consumed proteins in the world, but in the United States it's hard to find retail except in Halal or Caribbean markets, rarely on the menus of non-ethnic restaurants, and subject to the same squeamish reactions as swan, horse and frog.
posted by beagle at 9:48 AM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


Well now I am.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:49 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't eat swan for the same reason I don't eat horse meat, which is that none of the grocery stores here have it.
posted by TedW at 9:51 AM on October 31, 2019 [11 favorites]


Is this something I would need to eat meat to understand?

Regardless of your feelings on meat or how you express them, it's interesting in it's own right.
posted by Dr. Twist


Dr. Twist, this question is an old Metafilter joke/meme.
posted by agregoli at 9:52 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Why not try our signature cygnet chutney?

Try it? I can barely even say it!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:55 AM on October 31, 2019 [6 favorites]


It's my understanding that seabirds generally taste terrible.

They have a tendency (like most animals) to taste like what they eat. Carnivorous fowl like sea ducks and diver ducks can get kind of a fishy flavor that's hard to get around. Swans are herbivorous so shouldn't have this issue.

That being said, last week I cooked and ate two mergansers. One was fresh, the other had been hung for a week. I soaked both in buttermilk overnight and fried them - they were gamey, but didn't have the fishy flavor I was expecting. The aged one smelled like a bad day at the docks when I was butchering it, but once it was cooked it tasted fine.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:55 AM on October 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


This makes me realize I've never had pigeon or goose.

Once had pigeon at a Catalan restaurant in DC (and, yes, it was listed on the menu as "pigeon" and not "squab"). Basically, it was like a smaller, greasier chicken.
posted by adamg at 10:06 AM on October 31, 2019


We don’t even eat geese, just turn them into overpriced coats.
posted by rodlymight at 10:28 AM on October 31, 2019


What other mean animals do we eat?

Ducks! Ducks are mean little bastards. Also goats as previously pointed out. Though I'm not sure I'd say goats are mean, just that they are perpetually starving and they will not let any human convention get in the way of feeding. I'm pretty sure they've thought it through and affirmatively consider humans an inferior species which they have domesticated.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:28 AM on October 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


Because they belong to the queen?

I've had Snow Geese and Greater White fronted Geese (and doves), and they were alright. I bet a fatter, farm raised goose would be better.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:33 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


What other mean animals do we eat?

Long Pig comes to mind.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:39 AM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John%27s_College,_Cambridge#Consumption_of_Swan

"Fellows of St John's College are the only people outside the Royal Family legally allowed to eat unmarked mute swans. Swan traps were originally built into the walls of the college alongside the river, but these are no longer used.[35] The Crown (the British monarch) retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Vintners' and Dyers' Companies, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century, and was extended to the college via ancient Royalist ties."
posted by mdoar at 10:44 AM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


We don’t even eat geese, just turn them into overpriced coats.

I think they have whole geese in British supermarkets around Christmas time, next to turkeys, ducks and chickens. They certainly have jars of goose fat, customarily used for roasting potatoes.
posted by acb at 10:48 AM on October 31, 2019


What other mean animals do we eat?
If the scars on my hands are any indication, chickens are pretty damn mean. Especially if you are a small child tasked with gathering eggs. But, the good note is that the inherent evil of the chicken acts as a marinade and makes it taste better. Especially if your grandmother killed the chicken out of vengeance because it made you bleed.

Pheasant is tasty. Dove and pigeon are very, very similar and rather mild in flavor.

I would imagine that since swans are dabblers and they eat from the bottom, I would assume they would taste similar to dabbler type ducks. Which, I personally, don't prefer. We had some wigeon ducks one year and managed to only eat one. They smelled really bad, like fish mud, and tasted about the same. Last time I went duck hunting, I actually made an effort to not shoot dabblers. Cause if I'm not going to eat them, there's no reason to shoot them.
posted by teleri025 at 10:48 AM on October 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


I've seen it asserted (perhaps by MeFi's own cstross) that the monarch is above the law at least to the point where they could legally detonate nuclear weapons with absolute impunity. Are they able to do so and yet bound by protected-species legislation?

Take a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B and let's just serve some nuclear duck to the Queen and see what happens in Parliament.
posted by Fizz at 11:06 AM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


signature cygnet chutney

This is joining "pithless citrus skin" in my list of great MeFi tongue twisters.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:19 AM on October 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Pigeons are rock doves.

Goat meat is a little bit tough, bony, and rather gamier than sheep - but they're very efficient at eating stuff. They're also great at keeping grass short (reduce fire hazard) without damaging the roots (erosion prevention) unlike sheep.

I love roasted geese/ goose; better texture than turkey and more flavourful.

Would definitely give swan a try.

Horse meat for human consumption is legal in Canada (prohibited in the US) but I've not successfully sourced any in British Columbia - every place I called sounded offended or suspicious (that I was a narc).

Seal meat is also legal in Canada (and prohibited in the US) and is delicious. At current harvesting rates, sustainable as well. For now.

The thing about "meat animals" isn't so much that they're "dumber" - it's that they taste good. Pigs are frightfully intelligent, but are good eating.

Carnivorous animals tend not to taste good to humans, and also posses some risk of zoonotic disease. Long pig/ cannabalism is discouraged because parasites and pathogens are sometimes species restricted - until they aren't (swine flu, bird flu). Not to mention prion diseases.
posted by porpoise at 11:43 AM on October 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm fairly sure that one of the British fraternal societies ate swan at their formal dinners at least until the late seventies to early eighties. Maybe the Oddfellows, maybe the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, but some group like that.
posted by StephenB at 12:03 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


> they're mean-ass grouchy bastards

The only time I've been bitten by a bird, it was a swan. They're jerks.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:53 PM on October 31, 2019


What other mean animals do we eat? ...not sure I would consider lobster mean, just defensive.

Lobsters’ idea of defense is to kill everything it can reach. They aren’t mean, just determined.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:59 PM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


moment you realize that you've spent too much time (metaphorically) in the 17th century: my immediate response was "because only kings are allowed to eat swans".
posted by jb at 1:08 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


Lobsters’ idea of defense is to kill everything it can reach. They aren’t mean, just determined.

A lifetime crawling around in everyone else's excrement and remains will definitely steel a fella.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:22 PM on October 31, 2019


I can't believe nobody's linked Nicole Cliffe's amazing cooking goose story yet.
posted by kmz at 2:13 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


If the scars on my hands are any indication, chickens are pretty damn mean... Especially if your grandmother killed the chicken out of vengeance because it made you bleed

I once killed a frog just to watch him croak.

I won't even touch swans. I'm afraid that they are so mean because each one contains the reincarnated soul of a disgruntled ballerina.
posted by zaixfeep at 2:19 PM on October 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


I've eaten a lot of mourning and white winged dove. They are basically fancy pigeons. Absolutely delicious and a non native species that crowds out native birds. I highly recommend it. Band talied pigeon is legal to hunt year round where I live but I dont know how to recognize one in the wild or else I'd try them.
posted by nestor_makhno at 2:21 PM on October 31, 2019


Meatfilter.
posted by starscream at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


The reason swans are protected here is that they were shot almost to extinction. So someone must have liked them. I'm not sure about the problem with seabirds mentioned here: once I had puffin, and it was absolutely delicious, I wish I knew how to get it. Gulls may be in their own category. The same with predator species: seal can be very good, and I don't know they eat anything else than fish. Some predator animals like dogs have an off-putting smell, and I think that is the main reason most people don't eat them.
Generally, I cannot see an animal without thinking about how they taste. And we eat 80-90% vegetarian at our house. I think it's it's because my grandparents had a farm, and specially my grandmother was very determined to teach us to eat (almost) everything. For some weird reason, I'm not happy with insects. I like shrimp and snails, so it makes no sense, but there you are.
Goose is delicious, much better than turkey, I make it every year for Christmas not least because my SIL likes it better than duck (and did I say I don't like turkey? I really don't like turkey). If I were a hunter, I'd shoot and eat Canada geese, because they are overwhelming at this point in time. Squab is fine, in Morrocco it's the main ingredient in pastilla, a wonderful luxury dish. Pheasants are lovely, too.
My gran raised ponies, very expensive, inedible ponies. But because of them, I went to tons of horse shows, and learnt that some of the old working horse breeds only exist today because some people eat horse meat. There is very little use for Shire horses today, but because breeders can sell the not-prize horses to people who like horse meat, they can still manage to breed them. After I learnt that, I eat horse meat with no remorse. Also, horses, like sheep, won't thrive if they are raised cruelly on factory farms.
posted by mumimor at 2:26 PM on October 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


A 1637 publication The New English Canaan stated that swan meat wasn’t popular: "the flesh is not much demand of the inhabitants.”

Fun fact: The guy who wrote The New English Canaan got himself banished from the colonies because he erected an 80ft maypole and threw a huge drunken bash that so thoroughly cheesed off the pilgrims in nearby Plymouth that they sent Myles Standish and the militia to apprehend him.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2019 [3 favorites]


I won't even touch swans. I'm afraid that they are so mean because each one contains the reincarnated soul of a disgruntled ballerina.

Given how science has now determined that dinosaurs had feathers, rather than being the green/brown scaly lizard-like creatures they made plastic toys of, if you extrapolated this to dragons, they'd probably look like gigantic swans.
posted by acb at 5:05 PM on October 31, 2019


If I recall correctly swan is a very dark meat, almost like elk or bison, and had a very gamey taste, like way too much iron.

I too like goose, but it's a lot of work for very little meat. That fat, though. Potatoes are just the beginning. Turkey legs and thighs in a confit of duck and goose fat are what the REAL heaven serves every day.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:22 PM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Turkey legs and thighs in a confit of duck

I thought that I was the only one!

I use a slow cooker and just let the thing go on "warm" (this is, after all, a modern slow cooker) until the meat peels back from the knee joint. Cool a little, then take the meat off like a sock off the bone (removing tendons) inside-out style, and dropping them into mason jars. Top with fat, let set, freeze.

Meat hand grenades. Put in fridge the night before to thaw.

During my last move, I found an errant one in the back of my freezer. Must have been at least a couple of years old. Fried up perfectly with some hash browns and chunks of red pepper and mushrooms, when I finally got around to eating it.
posted by porpoise at 6:32 PM on October 31, 2019 [2 favorites]


Aak! Meant turkey drumsticks, and meat peeing back from the ankle joint.
posted by porpoise at 7:40 PM on October 31, 2019


I went on an early seaside date with my now spouse, and by the bay, a single swan glided slowly into view, the setting sun glinting on the ripples of its wake.

After a moment's silence she said:

"Ugh. A swan."

It was one of those moments when you know things are going to work out.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:23 PM on October 31, 2019 [8 favorites]


I know someone who ate swan (at the High Table at St Johns, Cambridge, maybe?), and reckons it's greasy and awful.

Similarly, I know someone who was in the position to legally eat koala, and is in no hurry to repeat the experience.
posted by pompomtom at 8:49 PM on October 31, 2019


(on further research: yeah TFA omits the St Johns' exception)
posted by pompomtom at 8:53 PM on October 31, 2019


If I recall correctly swan is a very dark meat, almost like elk or bison, and had a very gamey taste, like way too much iron.

The reason swan's heads are red is the iron content of the mud they forage in stains the.
posted by Mitheral at 10:58 PM on October 31, 2019 [1 favorite]


If you've ever had squab, you've had pigeon

or perhaps car seat

either way, chewy
posted by flabdablet at 1:03 AM on November 1, 2019


The image of a lonely swan, searching fruitlessly for its butchered partner would surely make even the most obnoxious “bacon is my personality” meat-bro think twice

That's why you eat them by the brace.
posted by atrazine at 3:36 AM on November 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Can you see this? I don't know if it's geolocked.
posted by mumimor at 6:18 AM on November 1, 2019


The Whelk: "On the other hand, you end up with a gallon of goose fat which is like a culinary wizard spell"

Yes, so much freaking fat.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:02 PM on November 3, 2019


Incidentally, the "can legally set off nuclear weapons" thing is about the Prince of Wales, in his role as the Duke of Cornwall.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:15 PM on November 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


Similarly, I know someone who was in the position to legally eat koala, and is in no hurry to repeat the experience.

Koalas basically eat poison their whole lives, of course they taste awful.
posted by axiom at 9:35 PM on November 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


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