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Caviar

An Introduction
'Caviar' - the very word represents an instant picture of wealth and extravagance; a symbol of elegance and taste.  There are, to be sure, those who hew to the philosophy that this icon of luxury is nothing more than a collection of fish eggs. But caviar is gradually growing in popularity, in part because of growing access to a broad variety of flavor nuances, colors and textures, and in part because of our growing sophistication with food in general. It's the whole food revolution. As more people are dining out more often they're just getting more educated.  Another plus for caviar is its luxurious image - anything that is opulent, people are willing to give it a try.

What is Caviar?

The term 'caviar' for years has meant only sturgeon roe and salt. With the advent of better processing capabilities, "caviar" is now more broadly defined as the edible roes of a variety of fish. When expertly prepared by the master salt blender, the roe becomes fresh caviar. Once produced only in the Caspian Sea, this delicacy is now available from a variety of locations around the world.
 

Historical Background
The popularity of caviar is hardly a new phenomenon. The dish dates back to ancient times and has been prized in almost every culture across the globe. The sturgeon, the fish whose roe alone under, is a prehistoric fish that has been around for 250 million years, surviving since the time of, and outlasting, the dinosaurs. Fossil remains dating from that time have been found on the Baltic coast and elsewhere. The sturgeon are bottom-dwellers, with sensitive barbells and pointed snouts, scaleless except for five rows of large, pointed, plate like scales running along the top and sides of the body. Their exoskeleton is part bone and part cartilage, placing them midway between sharks and bony fish. Sturgeon are anadromous fish, meaning that they live in saltwater but return to freshwater to

spawn. Twenty-four major species of sturgeon still exist, living mainly in the Caspian Sea, although their numbers have been negatively affected by pollution and over-fishing. Sturgeon can live to be over 100 years old and can grow to weigh over 3,000 pounds.This amazing fish has more chromosomes than man, and is more adaptable to its environment.
 

Literary Background
References to caviar in literature and art date back almost as far as the sturgeon itself. It has been suggested that by 2400 B.C. ancient coastal Egyptians and Phoenicians had learned to salt and pickle fish eggs to make them last through war, famine or trips at sea. Bas-reliefs at the Necropolis near the Sakkara Pyramid showing fishermen catching fish and removing their eggs support this theory. According to Aristotle, the ancient Greeks were no strangers to caviar either, as “lavish Greek banquets would end with trumpet fanfare announcing the arrival of heaping platters of caviar garnished with flowers.

Shakespeare, his ear forever to the ground, has the prince refer to a play in "Hamlet" which "pleased

not the million, 'twas caviare to the general". The phrase meant being "of no interest to common folk" and had nothing to do with giving expensive presents of caviar to unappreciative military gentlemen. Since caviar was a novel delicacy in the 16th Century, the "general" public was not expected to know or appreciate its taste.

The Persians considered caviar to be a medicine for a multitude of illnesses, and would eat it in stick form to give them energy and stamina. In the 1240s the first written record of the word “khavyar” was found in the writings of Batu Khan (grandson of Ghengis Khan), while the word first appeared in English print in 1591.

Although not known for their culinary prowess, Medieval English society also held the caviar-producing sturgeon in the greatest respect. King Edward II proclaimed the sturgeon to be a “royal fish” and decreed that all sturgeon caught in England belonged to the imperial treasury and must be given to the monarch or the gentry.

In fact, by the middle ages many countries’ sovereigns had claimed the rights to sturgeon. In Russia, China, Denmark, and France, as well as in England, “fishermen had to offer the catch to the sovereign, often for fixed rewards. In Russia and Hungary, the sections of rivers considered suitable for fishing the great sturgeon (the Beluga as we know it) were the subject of special royal grants.

Caviar was enjoyed in France as early as 1553 according to Rabelais and his work Faits et dits Heroiques du Grand Pantagruet (1553). Meanwhile, the Larousse Gastronomique cites la Dictionnaire du Commerce (1741), mentioned the dish as well: "kavia is beginning to be known in France where it is not despised at the best tables."

As the main consumers of caviar in Russia, the czars levied a caviar tax on sturgeon fishermen. It is said that Nicholas II was given 11 tons of the finest caviar each year by his fisherman subjects. The caviar Nicholas II so enjoyed, the small golden eggs of the sterlet sturgeon, were so popular with Russian nobility that the species is all but extinct today.

Etymological Background
Khaavyaar (the roe of sturgeon) from Turkish went through a confusing diversity of spellings during the 16th Century before establishing itself as "caviar" in English.

There are people who claim that it was the Turkish who first coined the word “khavyar” from which the English term “caviar” originates. Others suggest the term “caviar” comes from the Persian word “chav-jar” which translates loosely to “cake of power” or “piece of power.”

Nutritional Value

Caviar contains only a small amount of calories. But it comes with the following minerals:
  • Protein (25 g per 100 g)
  • Fat (17g per 100 g)
  • Cholesterol (440mg per 100g)
  • Sugar (4 g per 100g)
  • Sodium (1700 mg per 100 g)
  • Potassium (164 mg per 100 g)
  • Phosphorus (330 mg per 100 g)
  • Calcium (51 mg per 100 g)
  • Vitamins such as D, A, C, B2, B44, B12 and PP are present in caviars.
Caviar  Serving Tips
When serving caviar to guests, it is better to serve it in the tin can, with crushed ice surrounding the tin can.  Care should be exercised in serving the caviar because the grains should not be broken.  It is best eaten using a fork.

As hors d’ oeuvre, the caviar should be served with crackers or toasted bread with butter.  The toasted bread should however be slightly toasted only and not hard on the palate.

Some hosts may think serving g the caviar with eggs or sour cream would make it taste better.  This is a no, no because this will only change the taste of the caviar.  However, these flavorings can be used when the caviar served is of lesser quality.

Aside from serving caviar with crackers, it is best eaten with champagne or vodka.  However, others believe that champagne is too sweet with caviar so it is really up to your taste or preference.  When eating caviar put the whole caviar grain in your mouth and let the flavor burst in your mouth.  Once you have opened the container of caviar it is best to eat it immediately as it tends to spoil immediately.
 
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