We eat chickens, ducks, pigeons, geese, and turkeys. But we don’t eat swans. In fact, mention eating a swan and people will look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Swans aren’t all that different from the birds we eat. In fact, once upon a time it was normal to cook and eat swan.
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According to food historian Ivan Day, it has not always been frowned upon to eat our long-necked feathered friends. A harrowing recipe from the Victorian Handbook for Housewives recommended not only eating swan, but fattening up cygnets from birth to be consumed as teenagers. “This splendid dish, worthy of a prince’s table, [is] a capital and magnificent Christmas dish,” the 1870 journal claims. The recipe suggests removing cygnets from their parents, fattening them up with grass and barley, then roasting them on a spit, garnished with turnips decoratively carved into tiny swans. A 1300 French cookbook, Le Viandier, includes a recipe for roast swan, while a 1685 cookbook used in 17th century England and colonial era America recommends a “swan pye” as a course in a festive banquet.
So why do people feel so strongly that eating swan is wrong today? That’s a story that begins with historical facts and moves to feelings over time, which you can read at The Outline.
(Image credit: Arpingstone)