And Caviar and Champagne For All...
by Melissa Clark
The first time I ate caviar, it was all about impressing the grown ups. It was New Year's Eve and my sister and I were 11 and 12 and finally old enough to sit at a dinner party with my parents and their gourmet friends. I piled the inky orbs high atop my toast point in frank emulation of the adults. My sister, hesitant to try new things, stuck to the known quantity of smoked salmon, although she was a little flummoxed at the absence of bagels.
Into my mouth went the goods, almost half an ounce of the precious stuff, served naked but for the bread, without sour cream or onion or lemon to temper it. And I chewed. And chewed. And chewed, my mouth filling up with saliva to try to dampen the hideous burst of salty fish that my adolescent palate just couldn't handle. If I hadn't been surrounded by grown-ups, desperate to be one of them, I would have spit that pernicious lump straight into my napkin and washed my mouth out with sour cream.
Somewhere along the line to adulthood, I did acquire a taste for those salty fish eggs, a taste which gradually turned into a hankering, then finally into a deep, dull craving that begins with the chill winds of November and doesn't let up until New Year's Eve. Only then can I justify splurging on a tin, the price of which continues to rise as the amount of caviar harvested declines. (Because of the wretched polluting of the Caspian Sea by oil refineries, the sturgeon population, and hence their silky grey eggs, are slowly and disastrously disappearing.)
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