-Pigeons: carrying your messages and your meal all in one feathered package.-
Pigeons aren't exactly what we would call haute cuisine in the United States. For the most part they're seen as dirty animals. Rats with wings. They carry disease and spread plague. Which is odd because I can't say I can name a single disease carried by pigeons (maybe bird flu, but that we can't place that burden solely on the shoulders of pigeons). I can't recall any great health disaster that was due to pigeons, unlike say the fleas and rats who were the initial carriers of the Black Death or mosquitoes and their ubiquitous association with malaria.
It seems then that pigeons have gotten a bad rap in the food world amongst Anglo America. They're a pariah. A guest most unwelcome to dinner either as a guest or the main course.
Yet for the most part, many of us have happily eaten it anyways. Ah, the power of nomenclature. It's far easier to sell Patagonian Toothfish as Chilean Sea Bass as it doesn't have that barbaric image recalling ideas of gnarly fishes with awful spines and slimy flesh. A bottom feeder of the like that would butcher you in the water given a aluminum bat and half the chance. Chinese gooseberries sound foreign and odd, like that aunt no one ever wants to talk about. Repackage those bastards as kiwis - much cuter! Far more profitable as well!
I speak, of course, of squab, the more pleasant name for pigeon.
Then there is the case of doves. Doves, hierarchically and scientifically categorically speaking, are only a stones throw away from pigeons. They're in the same family, Columbidae. If you're talking about one then you're most certainly talking about the other.
If pigeons are dirty it's more likely due to the gross amount of human food and refuse they ingest than anything else. Who would want to eat anything raised on tossed bits of cheese puffs, Wonder bread, and strewn bits of Cheerios that failed to make it into a toddler's mouth?
Assuming we look at wild pigeons and doves then we can see their main diet consists of a variety of seeds and fruits. The perfect diet of a creature whom you would like to eat. This equals dark and tasty meat that, when stuffed with citrus and grapes and tossed over a grill (see, Hank, I pay attention) can equal some of the most delightful tasting bird you've ever tasted. Gamey, sprightly, and a bit woodsy in flavor.
Furthermore, it's more and more common for people to begin keeping them in roosts for food even within major cities. Uncommon are the days where city chickens, ducks, and geese were a novelty. Urban farming and bird raising for the purpose of eggs and meat has become a regular scene. It only makes sense that pigeons be as well.
And why not? Rock Pigeons, Wood Pigeons, turtledoves, and white doves are all now commonly kept in roosts by all sorts of families within the United States, though mostly by immigrant groups. In fact, the Passenger Pigeon is extinct in North America due to it's being hunted out for its tasty breasts by white settlers, so Anglo Americans have a history of eating pigeon meat.
Aside from these reasons there are plenty of religious ones to feast on these tasty turtledoves. According to the Tanakh, doves and pigeons are totally kosher (and perfect when rubbed with kosher salt, seared, and tossed into the oven). Second, within the Jewish faith they're the only birds that can be used for a korban (a type of sacrificial offering described in the Torah).
I recently was able to talk to my friend Sheng, the author of the only Hmong cookbook ever published, about the subject. Her family keeps a pigeon roost in their backyard for food. They're sustained on a seed mixture and a variety of healthy breads and bits of leftover fruit and vegetables. This, plus a large roost that gives them plenty of space to exercise makes for huge, hearty birds with lots of fat and meat to them.
The only thing dirty about them was their cage, which was totally, completely covered in bird shit. I mean were talking about a good multicolored crust of bird shit on the ground. But that's what kept birds do. They shit on stuff. If you want to call that dirty, then you're being cynical as all pets do this and as their owners we pick up after them. True, you might not eat Sparky so doesn't that make pigeons different? Not really, you have to pluck and clean the birds as it is, therefore cleaning any outside filth off. The birds are perfectly clean.
Overall, I'm not sure how much of an authority I can really be on the subject. You should read Hank's blog for all things animal as he can better communicate the awesomeness of pigeon raising, hunting, cooking, and eating. I just know that if offered I'll never turn down pigeon.
-I shall name you Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack, and Extra Meal in the Day When I Get Bored and Begin to Eat Out of Habit.-