Category Archives: Chinatown

Boston Gastronaut Video Blog Episode 3!

Happy Holidays from the Boston Gastronauts! We hope everyone had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and yall made sure to get plenty of gibbets and gizzards on turkey day. Ché and I put our best foot forward with this latest installment of our highly anticipated video blog series. On a request (dare) from my cousin Johnny Ché and I decided to try some holiday flavor cat food along with some other surprises. Hope yall dig it and feel free to leave questions and comments here on the blog or even send more requests (dares) in on our contact page!

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Vietnamese Head Cheese Subs in Chinatown!

Well over a month or so ago Ché and I managed to fit this stop in our recently more increasingly busy schedules. Sorry for the delay in posts we know you all are just as “hungry” as we are for new content… Pun intended!

The Resturant:

Sub City

42 Beach St

Boston MA 02111

617-423-1688

Yelp

(The sub shop itself is located inside the Avana Market Place)

 

Andrew’s Take:

A little while back Ché and I headed back on down to Chinatown after Ché’s previous discovery of a place that had amazing Vietnamese sub sandwhiches. What picced out interest the most was the option of having head cheese on your sandwhich. Headcheees for those not in the know is the bits and pieces of an animal left over after being butchered. These pieces are left to sit in lye to seperate from the bone and other crunchy bits and then all that extra meat is suspended in a gelatin and that meaty jello is what we call headcheese. I’m sure there’s a much more scientific or just plain appropriate way of describing that process but I aint no headcheeseologist so thats that best I can do off the cuff.

I have several fond memories of headcheese as a child. Not necessairly eating it as much as I would always wind up being entranced by it at the local grocery store as a child. There was a huge hunk of it sitting behind the glass at the deli down the street from my house, and my mom and I would always check it out. I used to get grossed out when she’d ask me to see if I saw any eyeballs in it. I never saw any, but who knows maybe I just missed em. I swear in all the times I’d been to that store growing up I never saw that hunk of head cheese move or change in any way. For all I know they could be sitting on a block of headcheese that’s twenty something years old by now. That would be kind of cool and disturbing.

Back to the sandwhiches. We went to a tiny place called Sub City. They were doing pretty good business when we got there and when we were leaving they gave us a business card and said we should call in our order next time if we didn’t want to wait. It wasn’t that long of a wait either they are expert sandwhich assembelers and got us fed rather quickly. The sandwhiches themselves were amazing. Everything was so fresh and flavorfull. I guess what makes these subs different from what you can get at any old Subway, besides the headcheese, is that they are stuffed full of fresh veggies. You would probably have to consult Ché on the identity of some of these greens, but I deffinately saw some carrots in there. There’s also the option to go spicy. I don’t know exactly what they put on there but it deffinately brings the heat. So if your not into spicy things you might want to avoid it, but if you dig it I say go for it and tempt the fates.

Another awesome thing about these subs was the bread. Anyone who knows sandwhiches out there knows that a sub is only as good as the bread it’s built on. Let me tell you this roll was incredible. It was a perfect blend of crunchy and flakey on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. If we had been in Philly and this was a steak sandwhich on this roll I would have been in heaven. Don’t get me wrong these subs were incredible too but there’s just something to be said for the perfect Cheese Steak sub.

On to the headcheese itself. All together the sandwhich presented me with a unique flavor and texture combination. The ammount of veggies on this thing was intense but adding that to the bologna-y jello-y texture of the headcheese and you’ve got something interesting going on in your mouth. So while all these ingredients fit together to make an excelent sandwhich when I went in to try some of the headcheese by itself I really wasn’t into it. It was a little too much for me texture and taste wise and looking at it brought back all those fond memories. At the end Che and I both had a little headcheese left so we fed it to the birds and they seemed to really like it.

The best part about this place and these sandwhiches, like most things in Chinatown, is that they’re incredibly afforable. You’re not going to be breaking the bank on three dollar sandwhiches. In this economy we gotta’ take cheap eats where we can find em. As long as it’s not in a dumpster. I recommend this place to all sandwhich afficianados and sub buffs in the area. Go for it. Go spicy, and get the headcheese.

 

 

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Boston Gastronauts Video Blog Episode 2!!

Sorry for the delay, but after some technical difficulties our latest installment of the Boston Gastronauts Video Blog is finally up and ready. After Ché spotted some fresh durians on his trip to NYC we figured they had to be in season so upon his return we decided to take yet again another journey into the heart of Chinatown and see if we couldn’t snag one for ourselves! This is how things went…

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Stinky Tofu, 100 Year Old Eggs, Pig’s Blood, and Pig Intestine in China Town Part 1

The Restaurant

Taiwan Cafe
34 Oxford Pl
Boston, MA 02111
Yelp

The Taiwan Café offers delicious, traditional Taiwanese food at a great price.  Service is great, but it’s cash only, so remember to hit up the ATM before heading to Chinatown.

Andrew’s Take

This weeks gastronaut adventure was a rousing success! Although we did get delayed a bit this weekend due to memorial day we’re back on track. This week we ventured back into Chinatown once again to tackle Sticky Tofu and the 1000 Year Egg! That kind of sounds like the name of a really awesome jam band or a childrens’ book, but it’s not. Anyway both of these amazing gastro-oddities are served at the Taiwan Cafe along with many other incredible items. Among the notable menu choices were also soup with pork intestine and blood, sauteed escargot with soy and basil, beer braised pigs feet, pork livers, sauteed duck tongues with basil, and fish heads. As you can imagine Ché and I were overcome with joy seeing all the possibilities on the menu. I had been to this restaurant once before and managed not to notice all this awesomeness on the menu. In fact, I had the soft shelled crab dinner which was also incredibly tasty. As far as I’m concerned you can’t go wrong ordering anything at this restaurant it’s just that awesome!

The only thing you need to know going in is it’s cash only, which isn’t a bad thing if you’re with a large group. In fact Ché and I managed to cajole three of our closest buddies to join us on this journey into Flavor Country right next to Awkward Consistancy-ville and Funny Smelling Food -opolis (just so you can orient yourselves). Joe, Katrina, and Mina came along this week to see what all the hype was about. Stinky tofu and the 1000 year egg was what we were after but we also got the escargot and the blood soup to round out the meal. The portions served at this place are also excellent and exceeding expectation. Plus they give you free tea when you sit down which is always nice. The restaurant itself is a nice comfy small space that never seems empty, but is also never packed. There always seems to be a seat for you when you arrive.

The food came relatively quickly considering the waitress had given us a forewarning about the stinky tofu. “You sure you want it? You know the tofu, it’s stinky.” waving her hand in front of her face as she told us this I knew it was going to be interesting, and boy was it ever! The soup came first though in a huge bowl. The first thought on everyones mind I’m sure was “Wow I hope someone likes this cause there’s a ton of it!”. None of us knew exactly what to expect of blood soup. Did they just pour the blood in? Was it going to be bright red and taste all irony? Neither actually. The soup came and to our surprise the blood came in cubes. It looked like dark red swiss cheese cubes just floating in the broth with the greens and the rings of pork intestine.

Ché and I dove right in while everyone else hesitantly filled their bowls. It was delicious. The broth was strong with a good hearty pork flavor, the greens weren’t too soggy, and the intestine wasn’t too chewy at all. The intestine itself was just like any other pork you might eat only chewier but not annoyingly so. Now the blood. Che and I seem to have gotten into the habit of trying things in unison. You should see us, it’s cute… So on the count of three we both ate a cube of blood. It had the consistency of a firm tofu, but with a porkier flavor. It was good though it sticks to your teeth in an awkward sort of way while your chewing. It wasn’t irony at all really, but was in fact really quite delicious.

The escargot came out next. Now I’ve had a few chances to try this, but always passed it up for something tastier on the menu. I was pretty psyched to finally get a chance to have it. The amount of snails that came out on this plate was almost terrifying. Seeing this heaping helping on the plate in front of me I’m thinking “Where does one even find this many snails??” They also looked really tasty so we dug right in. Everyone at the table was actually curious to try these guys. They’re unlike any food I’ve had. I’m sure I can consider them a meat, but their consistency reminds me so much of some sort of mushroom it throws me off. They’re also quite spicy the way they’ve prepared them here, which is really nice considering how small they are. I can’t help thinking I’d like to try them a different way though. Katrina tells me that the escargot usually taste a lot like whatever they’re cooked with so I can imagine there’s plenty of different ways to prepare them.

The stinky tofu showed up a little bit after we got the escargot. Labeled the “elephant in the room” by Joe it just kind of sat there for a little while while we enjoyed the other tastier options on the table. We got the fried stinky tofu appetizer. Which is a good thing cause I really feel the fried outer layer really keeps the smell in. They had other variations of stinky tofu on the menu such as sauteed, braised, or boiled. I can’t even imagine having it any other way then fried. Now I’m going to come right out and tell you *SPOILERS* this stuff smells/ tastes like poo! I’m not even being funny here. As soon as you bite into it and the smell hits you and the taste hits your tongue you know exactly what you put in your mouth and you don’t want it in there anymore. Now Ché seemed to have a tougher time with it than I did. I went ahead and ate five or six pieces before I had a piece that was a little too big for me to handle, and I had to give up. Che was mostly done after the first bite although he did give it the good old college try and went in a couple more times just in case, like a true Gastronaut should. Now this isn’t a negative review. We’re just not fans of the stinky tofu. In fact probably the stinkier it is the better quality stinky tofu you’re getting. So we probably got the best. So props to the Taiwan Cafe and its chefs for giving us a truly unique gastronautical experience. To make it even more unique the stinky tofu is served with pickled cabbage making it possibly the worst edible food combination I can think of off the top of my head. Now I don’t have a problem with pickled cabbage I loved pickled veggies, but just thinking of it served with the stinky tofu is a bit much for me. After everything was said and done I’d like to look back on stinky tofu as a learning experience. I learned that anyone who likes stinky tofu it probably crazy.

Lastly we had the 1000 year egg also known as a century egg. Surprisingly it was a single egg served quartered with a giant brick of fresh chilled tofu covered with peanuts and fish flakes. So there wasn’t much to it. The egg itself is obviously not really 1000 years old or otherwise it would be in a museum somewhere rather than resting in my gut right now. The egg is soaked in brine and other chemicals to achieve a chemically hard boiled egg so to speak. The end product it a translucent egg brown or almost black in color with a milky black yolk on the inside. Sounds scrumptious right? It might sound and look a little off putting but really the surprise, like M. Night Shyamalan’s more recent films, is that there’s no surprise It tastes like an ordinary hard boiled egg, but quite possibly the most delicious hard boiled egg you’ve ever eaten.

So there you have it. Another feast survived by the Boston Gastronauts with a delicious outcome. I’m even going to encourage everyone to try the stinky tofu if not only just to say you have. If anything, it gave me a new found appreciation for normal tofu which I used to avoid at all costs. I’m definitely going to recommend the Taiwan Cafe to anyone planning on going out to eat in Chinatown anytime soon for it is amazing! I’m also going to ask anyone with any recommendations to shoot us an e-mail at thebostongastronauts@gmail.com. You know of any places in or around the Boston area with some unusual or just plain crazy edible options shoot us a line with a link and directions and we’ll site you in our entry on that adventure, and maybe you can even take us there yourself!

Che’s Take Coming Soon!

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Filed under Blood, Bugs, Chinatown, Eggs, Organs, Tofu

Hot Pot in Chinatown

All images by Andrew Abbott unless otherwise noted.

The Restaurant

Hot Pot Buffet
70 Beach Street
Boston, MA 02111-2104
(617) 338-0808
Chowhound

Andrew’s Take

So this week we didn’t really settle on what we were doing until right after a lengthy phone conversation at around eight that morning. Che mentioned this place he had been to a few days earlier and had noticed a few interesting things on the menu. It sounded good so I was game. For those not in the know this past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day and I was thusly engaged with hunting down all the free comic book related swag all over town, so I met up with Che later for a late lunch/ early dinner type situation. Going back to our last Chinatown gastroventure walking through the area is always a treat cause you never know what you might see or run into. This day in particular Che and I would notice a heavy bike cop presence on the streets in China Town. Which would later come into play at the very restaurant we ate at this week.

Hot Pot Buffett, previously known as the Imperial Seafood Restaurant, is in my opinion a hidden gem of China Town. With it’s unique blend of old school and modern presentation, you might not know what your getting yourself into. I myself had never tried the whole hot pot thing so I had no idea what was going down when we got seated in front of our own little hot plates. Che kinda gave me a walk through before one of the waitresses came and asked for our soup orders and dropped off a menu. There were like five or six different soups to choose from for your base. It seemed that they were all based on the same original broth with flavor tweaks to suit your taste, but it’s really the ingredients you order that make the soup.

If you’re familiar with a sushi menu where you check off which pieces and how much you want it’s remarkable similar to that, but in a way even simpler. Being a buffet you can check off however much of anything you want and they just bring it to you. The only thing that costs extra is the lobster, but hey, that’s to be expected right? Seeing that this was previously the Imperial SEAFOOD Restaurant you know the seafood is good so we ordered what we could of that off the menu and man was it good. Fresh octopus and cuttlefish were highlights for me but the best had to be the clams. We both got one and they were about the size of my fist. Before I get into the food though let me tell you how this goes down.

The waitress brings out a pot of whatever broth base you ordered and puts it on the hot plate to boil. You wait till it looks good and hot and drop your raw food right in and in a matter of minutes or seconds even your food is cooked in the boiling soup and ready to eat. The experience is a really similar mix of Fire/ Ice if you’re familiar with that restaurant or a classic Hibachi/ Teppanyaki style restaurant like Benihana just applied to soup. The whole doing it yourself aspect is really neat to me too. I mean sure they bring you everything you’re throwing in the pot but your doing the cooking so yeah. When else could you call your parents and tell them you made cuttle fish and quail egg soup?

The last time Che was here he recalled seeing pork blood on the menu. Unfortunately this time they weren’t offering that item, but we managed to make it interesting anyway. Among the choice items we ordered were cuttlefish balls, quail eggs, pig skin, beef tongue and beef tripe, winter melon, and copious amounts of mushrooms. Including black mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, king trumpet mushrooms, and button mushrooms. I want to know who gets to name mushrooms and how do they get this job because I want it! Don’t get me wrong though we didn’t just order the unusual stuff we also got some other might tasty options including whole shrimp and lean cut lamb. The options presented to you here are incredible and that’s why I included a copy of the menu just so you know.

A few highlights of this meal like I said before was the seafood. The clams were incredible and I want to get back there and try the mussels because I didn’t notice them on the menu before looking at it just now. The cuttlefish balls were also pretty darn tasty. Like a mix of octopus and squid but much sweeter and less chewy. Winter melon was a unique surprise for me. It was much like a squash with the consistency and firmness of a potato with both a bitter and sweet taste to it. A couple things I’m on the fence about were the tripe and quail eggs. The tripe we had at Machu Picchu weeks previous was delicious and I could see myself eating it again. What I ate here, even when cooked in the delicious soup, was still too bland and chewy to be interesting and proved to be a far more formidable texture challenge presented this way. It was a lot like devouring a mouth full of rubber bands, but it didn’t put me off the meal in any way so its not a big deal. I know Che had trouble with the quail eggs. I dunno I kinda was indifferent towards them. What confused me was that they were given to you already hard boiled. When you put them in the soup they just seemed to rupture or the yolk got all goopy so when you ate them you got a hot squirt in the mouth. (HAHA!) All kidding aside I was mostly just confused by them.

One theory I had was that they were possibly just meant to be a flavor element to the broth. When you receive your soup there’s already a whole lot of stuff floating in it. Some of which you can eat and others you probably want to avoid, but all contributing to the overall flavor and taste of the soup you ordered. I was thinking when the eggs rupture from the boiling soup maybe the yolk adds something to it, but I couldn’t be sure. I’m not a professional soup taster (yet…). The quail eggs themselves are a lot like tiny hard boiled eggs. Though when the yolk gets all goopy after being in the soup for too long the yolk tastes a lot like the yellow “mustard” you get out of crabs when your eating them. The overall flavor of the eggs was much gamier then the usual chicken egg also which is surprising for how tiny they are.

Over all it was a great new experience. Everyone who worked there was extremely friendly and courteous. The atmosphere like I mentioned previously is very modern and comfortable. Che and I managed to chill there for a little over two hours just sipping on soup and chatting about which one of us was the messier eater. They weren’t that busy but I’d like to think they have their busy days because it is a really nice sized restaurant. It’s really open with plenty of seating and good light coming in. For $14.95 you get all you can eat sans the lobster but thats still a decent price including all that other seafood which is also incredibly tasty considering at other restaurants they usually charge extra for any seafood. I had a great meal and would encourage anyone to give Hot Pot Buffet a try next time they’re down in China Town.

Ché’s Take

Part 1: So Fresh and So Clean

On our most recent excursion, something happened that usually doesn’t anymore; the host sat down for a second and talked to us. The host had a brother, who owned a hot pot restaurant in China a lot like this one, and he told us that the reason people like this way of dining was that it was healthy. Imagine that, a way of dining that appeals not for its indulgences but for its good qualities. What would it take for this to really take hold in the United States?

Go back and take a look at the beef and lamb in Andrew’s picture. How does that compare to a steak at an American restaurant? Let’s take a look:

First Steak in 15 Years” originally by Erika Hall.  It uses the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

This steak has one thing going for it, its size. It’s a big slab of meat. For Americans, over-consumption has become a way of life, from the way we eat to the way we solve national tragedies. This was not always the case, but when Jimmy Carter encouraged Americans to spend less, and was booted, instead, for a president that only encouraged self-interest, it meant America had moved from an old Roosevelt idea of democracy and economy to something quite different. Instead of slowly destroying the rich, and getting rid of material wants, the rich now would run things as they saw fit. Luckily for Reagan, enough people believed that they were among the rich to make this possible.

Now, in the greatest recession since the Great Depression, and with unemployment benefits giving out, this whole ideal falls apart. With it must come a return to frugality. Does hot pot actually represent this? No. We still went to an all you can eat buffet, just with a different method. But like SPAM, it could be marker of a new change. What hot pot does encourage is community and responsibility. People do end up cooking together. Instead of celebrating consumption for its own sake, it encourages the healthier aspects of eating. This is what the new landscape will have to look like, at least in transition. Welcome to the new food order, but be careful. It’s hot!

Part 2: It Had to Happen

Something happened on this most recent trip that hasn’t happened before. I didn’t like something. As Andrew mentions in his take, the quail eggs did not go down easy. For me, it was like biting into a rubber ball filled with lamb juice. It wasn’t good.

I don’t know how to feel about this. When I had that durian shake on our very first trip, it became easier with each sip. By the end, I kind of liked it. This did not happen with the quail eggs. Each one was just a return trip to awful town.

Of all the foods that we’ve eaten so far, I’d have doubted that an egg would be the thing that really turns my stomach. It doesn’t really matter how open to different foods I am. There will be some things that I just don’t like. In spite of a couple of tough mouthfuls, that’s part of what makes the Gastronauts great. The excitement comes not only from liking foods that I haven’t tried before, but the knowledge that I will despise some of the foods that we come across. It’s all part of the fun.

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Jellyfish, Squab, Bitter Melon, and Duck Feet in Chinatown

Illustration and photos by Andrew Abbott, unless otherwise noted.

The Restaurant

The Best Little Restaurant
13A Hudson St
Boston, MA 02111
Yelp

A pretty good restaurant in Chinatown with an inexplicably cropped sign.

Andrew’s Take

Wow. So this week was interesting. For one the food itself overwhelmed the atmosphere. I actually think I went into this week’s meeting a little nervous. Our meal included duck feet with jellyfish (served cold), pigeon (with the head), and frog legs again but this time served with bitter melon! We also got whole fried shrimp, which were delicious, but for me they were more like eating a soft shelled crab. Which I’m totally cool with. Something about eating an animal in its entirety is really exciting to me. Going into this taste and texture adventure I was psyched. Then seeing that the feet/fish dish was going to be cold I got cold feet myself. Not that I didn’t dive right in anyways.

Usually eating something entirely new to me goes something like this: I try it and the more I eat of it the more I realize I’m liking it. This weeks meal tended to head in the other direction for me. The more I ate the less appealing it became. After the first bite of both the jellyfish and duck feet I was thinking: “Wow! How come I haven’t tried these before??”. They were seasoned with some red pepper and something else that gave them a nice subtle spicy taste. The jellyfish as best I can describe it has the consistency of jello that’s been left out over night. You know when it gets the skin on it and it’s a little tough to chew. Then on top of that imagine a uniquely fish flavored jello. It tastes like where it came from. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It also didn’t occur to me until someone asked, but if you’re wondering if the jellyfish still stings you when you eat it the answer is no. Unless you believe in karma and you’ve recently been added to the naughty list then maybe you might get a slight tingle.

The duck feet on the other hand were like any poultry you’re used to. Most like duck especially if you’ve eaten it before. Like eating the skin off chicken except the crackling doesn’t come from the crispy skin, but from the connective tissues. It’s all good to eat but I could definitely see it not being up everyone’s alley. Again with this part of the meal after four or five feet the texture and the inner crunchiness was getting to me so I moved onto the next part of the meal. At first I was quick to jump to the conclusion that I didn’t like the jellyfish and duck feet, but now that I’ve had time to reflect I’d be willing to try them again prepared differently, possibly deep-fried.

Next up was the pigeon. A little scary to think about when you think it might have been trapped right outside the front door. I didn’t even notice they had included the head in the dish, a la the scene from “A Christmas Story“, until further inspection. The meat was surprisingly dark like a grayish color that might turn some people off, but I grabbed a tiny drumstick and dug in. The bird was fried so the meat was a bit greasy but no too much so. It was also a bit sweet and extremely tender with a nice crispy skin. I was much more into this than the previous options. Speaking of options when you order the bird they give you the option of having one or two brought to your table. What I learned from this experience is go for two. Theres not a lot of meat on a pigeon to begin with, but also theres like ten billion of em in the city so who’s gonna miss one more?

Lastly we ordered the frogs legs again. We were really only in it this time to also get the bitter melon. OOPS! I mean the first bite of this ugly vegetable was alright. It reminds you of a lot of different things until the unpleasant after taste kicks in. Like green pepper or asparagus but kind of mushy. Maybe it was how they cooked it but I have a feeling no matter how you cook bitter melon its going to have a consistency problem. Then upon the second and third attempt to place this odd similarity the bitterness hit me full on and left me with what reminded me a lot of the taste you have in your mouth post puking. I may or may not apologize for the bluntness but honestly instantly these tastes connected in my head. I gave this veggie the benefit of the doubt (because that’s the kinda guy I am) and tried it three or four times, but it just wasnt working out. Nobody else seemed to have the same problems with the bitter melon as I did, but maybe they were just better at holding it back. Luckily for me the flavor of it doesn’t cling to the frogs legs accompanying them in this dish so they were just as enjoyable as the last time we had them in Dorchester.

At the end of the meal they gave us complementary sweet red bean soup which was really good. Which sadly, for me, was probably the most solid part of the meal. I can honestly say I wouldn’t go out of my way to that restaurant to order any of these dishes again. Nothing really got me in any good way, and I kept finding myself seeing food being taken to other tables and wishing we had ordered differently throughout the meal. I don’t regret trying anything because I learned a thing or two and I’m always up for expanding my list gastronomical experiences. I also feel that it’s still pretty early on this journey we’re undertaking and I’m sure there’s going to be much more “interesting” food to find its way into my gut.

On a lighter note after dinner we headed back towards the T to find our respective ways home and wound up wandering into one of the many Chinese bakeries in Chinatown. I can’t recall the name of the one we stopped in particular but there are plenty of them in the area with tasty and affordable pastries both savory and sweet. What may sound like a strange combination may quite possibly be one of the best things you’ve ever eaten. You’ll never know until you try it. I myself tried a sweet melon cake upon the recommendation of a fellow gastronaut and was pleasantly surprised to encounter a new unique flavor hidden between the sweet flaky crust. The filling was both smoky and sweet with a ricy/ pasty texture. I enjoyed it a lot and would consider that the highlight of the night (possibly only second when one of the waiters inexplicably burst out into a rendition of some Lady Ga Ga song in the kitchen). I definitely urge anyone in the Boston area to check out Chinatown if you’ve never had the chance. You never know what you’ll find there and there’s always interesting people, places, and especially food!

Ché’s Take

The pigeon and che child is a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Licensed product. Please find the license here. The original can be found here.

We’re not supposed to eat pigeons. We are supposed to eat chickens. This is something we all know. If we had to point out why, we couldn’t really say. The main difference seems to be that pigeons live in cities, and chickens live in poultry factories.

For centuries, people have eaten and revered pigeons. Dovecoats, which housed free range pigeons in the Middle Ages, allowed people to eat fresh pigeon throughout the year, and can still be seen dotting the European countryside. One of the positive aspects of the New World for settlers was how easily a person could hunt pigeons, as attested by the frequent mention of pigeons in the lists of edible game found in A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America by James Williams. This became a sad fact for the native passenger pigeon, a species that became extinct both because of over hunting and a loss of habitat.

Unlike the passenger pigeon, the normal rock dove flourished with the sprouting of cities. In the wild, these birds make their nests on cliff faces, and a handy roof ledge works just as well. Hundreds of roof ledges and a ready supply of leftover hot dog buns are all you really need for a healthy population.

A healthy population that just might be good enough to eat. However, the social stigma attached to pigeons does not allow this. Livestock keeping in urban areas. A review of traditional technologies based on literature and field experiences, a manual on urban livestock written by Hans Schiere and Rein Van Der Hoek, marvels, “Surprisingly, in spite of being easy to raise and cheap to produce, this species is very rarely considered in urban food security programs.” True, true, but as soon as people start calling an animal a “rat with wings,” they begin to lose their reputation as a food source.

They do also s#*$ in their nests, but then again, as Eric Schlosser reminds us in Fast Food Nation, there is “far more fecal bacteria in the average American sink than on the average American toilet seat,” because of unsanitary meat production. Pigeons do not carry avian flu or West Nile Virus, and have been kept as pets and eaten for centuries despite some unsanitary habits. In fact, their lack of parasites makes them one of the few birds that can be safely cooked rare. Given the actual state of their salmonella laden brethren, pigeons deserve a makeover.

Free range chicken has already received such a makeover, and weekend-green activists keep them in their backyard both for their eggs and later their meat. The eggs part makes perfect sense. The meat part, maybe not so much. For years, as related Andrew D. Blechman’s book Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird, pigeon production competed with chicken production in the United States, with individuals trying to get rich quick using their own personal dovecoats. It wasn’t until the advent of industrialized farming that chickens, birds once thought to be “difficult to raise, prone to predators, and utilized mainly for their eggs,” (Blechman) became America’s primary poultry. When people raise chickens, they have internalized the marketing of industrial farming, trying only to recreate its conditions on a small scale. Eating pigeons, a bird that feeds itself and finds its way home, would make more sense. It would mean that people, especially working people, could raise their own food with little investment. That is the point at which the green revolution moves from an middle-class diversion to an actual revolution.

P.S. Pigeons also taste much better than lame, flavorless chicken.

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Filed under Chinatown, Poultry, Seafood, Uncategorized, Vegetable