Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to Cook a Sea-Gull.

I have been dipping into an old favourite recently – The Curiosities of Food; or, Dainties and Delicacies of Different Nations (London, 1859), by Peter Lund Simmonds – and a new (to this blog) idea was right there, on page 153.

“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.”

I am quite certain that I have never before given instructions for the cooking of seagulls – and indeed, the method was not easy to find. Would you believe I did finally find a recipe in the book I used as inspiration all last week, and said I was done with for the time being?

Received wisdom says that the flesh of sea-birds is nasty and oily and fishy, and the dearth of recipes suggests that in spite of their noisy numbers, they have been favoured only in relative extremis, when a ship has been long becalmed or wartime has necessitated the broadening of the definition of game.

Sea Gulls, to Cook.
Take a sharp knife and put in under the skin at the back part of the neck, and carry down to the tail feathers; after which pull off the skin down to the middle of the legs, and next take out the intestines. Leave the birds in salt and water for eight hours, when their fishy taste will be found to be quite gone, and you can either cook them as you would pigeon pie or in any other way.
The country house, a collection of useful information and recipes, ed. by I.E.B.C. (1866)

Seagulls’ eggs are also not generally raved over, and I doubt appear on any or many menus of seaside restaurants anywhere in the world. Should you chance upon them, and be keen to try them, here is some advice on their cooking and eating:

Sea-gulls’ Eggs.
When boiled hard, seasoned with pepper, salt, vinegar, and mustard, make a delicious breakfast dish. Many persons have an antipathy to these eggs but it must have arisen from eating them in a soft state, when they have always a fishy taste.

Cassell’s Household Guide (London, 1869)


Kathleen Wall said...

Robert May has several treatment for Gulls or Mews....haven't tried them. Yet. Stories around here(Coastal Massachusetts) was that during the Great Depression people would capture seagulls and tie them down to feed them clean for a couple of days before eating them. You wanted to get the fishy taste out.

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks, Kathleen - I didnt check early sources for gull recipes.
My cousin in Norfolk, England just sent me a message that "The West Country are trying to control their seagulls as they are attacking pets in people's gardens. This could be the answer"

Becky Selman said...

In Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners, his 1956 novel about West Indian immigration to London, one of his characters - the feckless Cap - resorts, out of hunger, to trapping and eating seagulls. However, no recipes are provided!