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Why don’t people eat seagulls?

PortandTerminal.com, August 23, 2020

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – If you live near the ocean you probably have lots of seagulls around. Perhaps you’ve already asked yourself the question – “Why don’t people eat seagulls?” After all, we eat pigeons, doves and various other wild birds, so why not seagulls?

To answer the question – “Why don’t people eat seagulls?” let’s break it down into two parts.

One, COULD you eat a seagull without doing yourself harm? Is there any reason that you should not eat a seagull from the perspective of health?

And two, WOULD you enjoy eating a seagull? Are they tasty?

To begin, let’s draw a distinction between urban seagulls and wild seagulls.

Urban seagulls are by any definition filthy, scavengers that consume garbage and whatnot. In the same way you would not want to eat an urban pigeon but may relish a pigeon pot pie made from the farmed variety, it makes sense to differentiate between the “rats on wings” urban gulls and the ones found in the wild.

So let’s exclude urban seagulls from this discussion and concentrate strictly on wild seagulls.

Seagulls. Garbage dump
We don’t recommend eating urban seagulls to anyone.

The answer to the first question is yes, you COULD eat a wild seagull and in some parts of the world people in the past survived by doing so. The fact is that wild gulls have been consumed in many cultures for centuries.

In North America, for example, a large number of coastal, indigenous cultures used to hunt and consume gulls, particularly when other food was scarce. And in Europe, people in the Orkneys, Shetland and St Kilda used to survive on eating seagulls.

These are not unique examples by any means. Some people in Iceland still eat puffin, a cute bird, but a gull nonetheless.

“The Chinese shoot sea-gulls in large numbers, which add to their stock of food. A man is constantly engaged in the bay of San Francisco, California, shooting sea-gulls, which he sells to the Chinese at the rate of 25 cents each.”

The Curiosities of Food; or, Dainties and Delicacies of Different Nations (London, 1859), by Peter Lund Simmonds

So the answer to the first part of the question “COULD you eat a seagull?” is a definitive “yes”.

WOULD you want to eat a sea-gull?

In a word, no.

Seagulls naturally eat mostly fish and otherwise are scavengers – even in the wild they’ll eat just about anything, dead or alive. They also spend most of their time in the air. As a result, they taste very fishy in a not-good way, and what little muscle-meat they have is extremely tough and stringy.

Even within the cultures that did eat seagulls, they were never a menu “first choice” item.

How to Cook a Sea-Gull

If, after reading this article, you have still decided that you would like to eat a seagull, we at least owe you a recipe or two.

The Coast Salish people reportedly cooked gulls by either fire-roasting, steaming over hot rocks with water or boiling in boxes filled with hot rocks and water. Arctic women would pluck and skin the gull before putting it into a cooking pot.

Here are two more recent recipes.

If you are processing the seagull yourself, make sure that you completely drain the blood from the carcass in order to remove the unpleasant flavor. Once you have processed the bird, you must thoroughly wash it down with vinegar and salt and then rinse it again. After that you must marinate the seagull in milk for at leasr 4 hours so that it can tenderize the meat and remove unpleasant flavors. Afterwards remove the bird from the milk and pat it dry. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Rub butter all over the bird and under the skin. Sprinkle it with salt and lemon pepper. Stuff the cavity with a lemon wedge. Fill a roasting pan with chichen broth. Place the seagull into the roasting pan on a roasting rack, and baste the bird frequenty. Cook the seagull for about 25 minutes per pound.

“If you want seagull I’d recommend catching a young one, and remember to clear out all the intestines, to limit the taste of fish (or whatever else it has eaten). We cut out the breasts immediately, rinsed them in saltwater, then put them in water with some vinegar to get rid of the fishy taste (just to be sure, the older the bird, the more fishy taste). Then fried the breasts on a pan. But all in all quite a lot of work for little food.” (Credit : Klara Sjo)

Wine matching

Meaty fish such as salmon, mackerel, swordfish, monkfish and tuna tend to match with rich white wines so we imagine that given its flavor, this would be the way to go with a seagull meal.

Examples include fuller-bodied whites from Friuli in northern Italy, and richer white Burgundy, including Pouilly-Fuissé and Chassagne-Montrachet

Bon appetit.

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