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Feb 7, 2009 09:31 AM

dove v. pigeon—defining, finding

Oh dear. I fear I basically just thought pigeons were "city doves," but maybe I'm wrong; are they actually different species, or is one a type of the other, or what?

At any rate, been looking through mid-century US cookbooks & seeing recipes for doves, particularly mourning doves. You don't see much of that these days, do you (I don't watch FN)? And I've certainly never seen them in your average grocery store (including WF).

Thoughts on where to find either/or—and when, if seasonality's a factor? I'm in Denver, so, without meaning to knock the city, the world is not exactly at my fingertips; there are a couple of decent, generalized Hispanic/Asian grocers, but not a huge range of specialty markets.

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  1. I may be mistaken, but I thought that squab is pigeon.

    1. Doves are smaller than pigeons; are uniformly brownish grey; and are wild. You probably need to know a hunter to get dove. Funny, I was just explaining the difference to my five year old when the pair of doves that often visit out balcony were sitting together out front. City pigeons - or flying rats - come in a range of colors from black to blue to greenish. One could eat city pigeons, but that may be one thing I would turn down. Squab, on hte other hand, are pigeons specially bred for eating - at about four weeks and 12 - 24 oz.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Ah, maybe that's what I'm forgetting—thanks guys. I guess I haven't had it all that often—last thing I remember is squab b'stilla several years ago...

        Anybody know if they (doves) were once available in American supermarkets? Surprised to see them turning up in all these cookbooks. Again, we're talking like the 1950s, not the 19th c.

        1. re: tatamagouche

          Market hunting was outlawed well before the 1950s. However, the percentage of Americans who hunted then was a lot higher than now. Game recipes were pretty common in cookbooks from that period. Do these cookbooks also have recipes for other small game?

          1. re: Eldon Kreider

            Some do, some don't. What's more, some of them seem specifically geared toward the can-opening type rather than DIYers. Odd, huh?

        2. re: Sam Fujisaka

          A recent Good Food (radio, podcast, KCRW) show interviewed a squab raiser in CA. He said they're actually perfectly edible full-grown, just marginally less tender. Haven't eaten doves in probably decades (habitat destruction where my folks live) but god they are good. They're probably not worth raising because of size but if anybody's crazy enough to do that I'd pony up.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            The pidgeon is also called the rock dove.

          2. As Sam says, doves are wild and are somewhat migratory along the traditional flyways. In south Texas, an average gunner would kill about 40-50 birds during a half-day effort. They come down for water. Generally you just breast them; a breast is about bite size. An hour marinade in a teriyaki sauce, then onto a grill over mesquite, and you're good to go. Pretty good eating, but a lot of work. I'm not aware of any commercial sources.
            I have only eaten squab once, at a fancy women's club (The Chilton Club in Boston). Once was enough.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              Yeah, we used to go dove hunting every year in the Central Valley of California. Just ate the breasts. Americans used to come down here to the Cauca Valley for fantastic dove hunting - until sugar cane replaced sorghum, millet, and maize as the major field crops.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Geez, when I took a midday nap in summer in Houston and two white doves flew into my bedroom (the screen was open) and perched to admire themselves in the antique vanity mirror, Innocently thought it was a good luck omen. I didn't realize I shouldn't have shooed them away... should've netted them for dinner. Hindsight is twenty twenty I guess... but there is always a next time...

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Used to dove hunt in New Mex. My wife used to sing Joanie Baez, "If I knew were the wild flew, I wouldn't tell the hunter, but I would tell you," But she ate 'em.

                2. re: Veggo

                  Those aren't hunters, they're poachers. The bag limit on doves in Texas is 12 per day. It might have been 20 when I was I kid back in the sixties. I don't find them too difficult to clean, just stick your thumb under the cartliage and pop it out, you don't even need a knife. I used to wrap them in bacon, and bake. I say used to, as I am no longer angry at them and haven't hunted in ten years or so, although I have no problem with others doing so. I am, however, still very pissed off at speckled trout and redfish. I eat every one I catch, as long as they are of legal length and I don't go over bag limits. Catch and release, right into the frying pan.

                  1. re: James Cristinian

                    JC, I was unaware of dove limits. Now I'm doing the guilt trip 25 years later. As an aside, if I'm permitted, is the observation that hummingbirds use the same flyways to Central America, and they fly low, and with rocket speed, and don't stop for water. Seeing 10,000 hummingbirds in a day is a spectacle. (No, I never shot a hummingbird).

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Not even for humming bird tongues?

                3. Speaking ornithologically, there are a number of species of wild doves, and also many wild pigeons. Culinarily, I don't think there's a whole lot of difference, although Band-tailed Pigeons are very large - about the size of Rock Pigeons or "city pigeons", and the commonly hunted doves (Mourning Doves and White-winged Doves) are about half their size.

                  1. Practically every Chinese restaurant in Toronto offers "pigeon" (often deep fried with a coating of 5 spice powder). As an appetizer, it's generally one per person, and you eat everything except the head (although some do bite that, but I couldn't). You get a couple of legs, breasts which are good for a couple of bites each, and the tiny wings - well you just crunch through those, bones and all.

                    I'd check with a Chinese restaurant for tips on where to buy them.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: KevinB

                      Squab is also a "common" French ingredient.