This past week I tried caviar for the first time ever. I’ve been meaning to give it a go for quite a while, but things like availability, expense and ignorance kept me at bay. Browsing through the large cheese section at our regular grocery store I recently spotted a display basket for Black Tobiko Roe; ten bucks. “Wow” I thought, “so much for the expense and availability excuses”. I tossed it into the cart and tossed my ignorance excuse aside.
I promptly brought the roe to a proper serving temperature while I donned my smoking jacket and opened a bottle of champagne. Well, what I really did was examine the ingredients list and google some serving suggestions.
My first surprise was the ingredient list. I expected it to be fish eggs; period. Nope. How about: Flying Fish Roe, Salt, FD&C red #40, blue #1, yellow #5 and #6.
Wow, they needed to put yellow number 5 and 6 in? This was clearly some very special caviar that I purchased at a bargain basement price! OK, I knew that this was my test run and not to expect big things. BUT- adding salt to caviar? It didn’t even say sea salt, just “salt”. My understanding of caviar up to this point was that it is a delicate and savory flavor with unique characteristics pertaining to the pearl size and origin. Adding salt to something that is said to be briny seems unnecessary. And just what color were those eggs before they dumped four artificial colors in? Was it such an awful hue that any reasonable person would have said “Ooh, I love caviar, but OH! What’s this? I certainly won’t put fish eggs in my mouth if they’re that color!” Anyway…
I settled on cucumber slices with chives and a dash of sour cream as my medium for flavor assessment. I did enjoy the sensation of firm caviar popping in my mouth and I’m guessing that’s one of the reasons many people say they don’t care for caviar; it is a weird sensation at first. There was clearly a briny flavor that triggered in my mind’s eye an image of the sea. I can’t say I was bowled over by the experience, but I deemed it a fair way to delve into the potential mire that is caviar.
It reminds me of my tiptoe into the jazz playing of Miles Davis. I liked jazz music, but I knew that Miles was considered the caviar of jazz among true aficionados. I didn’t dare to dive straight in because I feared I would simply “not like it”, and then that door would be closed to me. I read about his life and his work before I ever purchased a Miles Davis recording. I’m happy that I did because the history of the man and the period in which he played and recorded are stamped into his performances. Do I like all of it? No, but at least I can say with true conviction that I paid due diligence toward the experience. I wanted to appreciate the music in the context best suited for that experience. Taking my time and researching what other people had to say made all the difference in the world. Now I hope to do that with my palate. ~TH~