I’ve always considered people who like caviar to be a little fishy, but I never say that out loud because I’d hate to egg them on. Nevertheless, today is their big day: July 18 is National Caviar Day!
Caviar is considered a gourmet product frequently associated with the wealthy. After all, Robin Leach used to talk about “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Caviar is the processed and salted roe, or mass of eggs, from a female fish – traditionally the sturgeon. These tiny eggs are usually black, but may be red, gold, or gray, as well. When people first discovered that caviar tasted good (and who exactly was the first person to stick a mass of slimy fish eggs on his tongue anyway?!), sturgeon were so abundant that the price was quite low. Russian czar Nicholas II enjoyed it so much he started taxing fishermen, and the product became associated with wealth and royalty. For hundreds of years sturgeon were believed to only inhabit the Black and Caspian seas, but then this little slab of land called “America” was discovered, and sturgeon were found swimming in the Hudson and Delaware Rivers on the East Coast and the Columbia River on the West Coast. Caviar was so plentiful and easy to come by that bars started serving it for free, like peanuts and pretzels, because it was salty and that encouraged people to drink more. By the turn of the century, America was the world’s biggest supplier of caviar, responsible for 600 tons a year, or 90% of the world’s supply. Eventually, overfishing wiped out the majority of sturgeon, and the price of caviar crept up. In 2012, true caviar sold for $2500 a pound. There are less expensive versions available, made from the roe of salmon, steelhead, trout, lumpfish, and whitefish.
There are certain etiquette rules for serving caviar. You should never use a metal spoon, as this can affect the flavor. It’s best served with chilled vodka. A traditional preparation involves placing diced onion and hard-boiled egg on a toast point and topping with a generous dollop of caviar, with lemon slices on the side. We followed those rules, minus the lemon. I had tried caviar once before, but it was Tara’s first time. She was a trooper…but she very nearly vomited. I’m not exaggerating. I actually stepped away from her as she was gagging and dry heaving. Luckily, nothing came up. Funny thing is, I asked her afterwards, “So? Did you like it?”
Yeah. Neither one of us did. I have no idea why something so disgusting is considered a delicacy. To each their own, I suppose.