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[Guest Ed: Our apologies for the delayed post today - I assure you it was through no fault of Rob, today's guest blogger who is here with his first-ever entry, and who responsibly submitted back on Friday! Let's all give him a warm welcome!]
My fondness for caviar began at an early age. It was often served as a hors d’oeuvre at dinner parties in my house, and although I wasn’t a keenly adventurous eater as a child, I was pretty much forced to try things at least once. It was usually with great repugnance that a new culinary experience found its way into my mouth, but in that first apprehensive bite of caviar, I discovered that the crunchy texture of the tiny roe was similar to one of my favourite foods: Pop Rocks! Okay, in hindsight maybe a bit of a stretch, but when you’re a kid whose parents make you eat things like frog’s legs, escargot, liver (and other assorted organs), and chocolate covered insects, when a nice bowl of mac and cheese would really just hit the spot, you tend to grasp for some remote semblance of familiarity.
But things have changed drastically since I was a kid. True caviar comes from the roe of four species of sturgeon: the Beluga (no relation to the whale), Sterlet, Osetra, and Sevruga. Due to years of over-fishing in the Caspian Sea, all of these fish are endangered, especially the most prized Beluga, which is considered to be critically endangered. According to caviar-guide.com, the United Nations has placed a capture ban on sturgeon since 2006.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to caviar that are both delicious, and sustainable. Over the years, I have enjoyed the roe from lumpfish, salmon, smelt, flying fish, trout, and carp. The lumpfish roe is considered by many to be the closest in texture and flavour to sturgeon roe, but my favourite alternative is salmon roe, also called Ikura in sushi bars, which is borrowed from the Russian word “ikra”, meaning caviar. As a kid, we used to use it as bait when fishing and I never once thought that I might want to eat it myself. Ikura is most commonly served nigri-style, on top of rice and wrapped in nori (seaweed), but can also be enjoyed in other foods like pasta, and omelettes. It is rich in flavour, and is a softer “pop” than many of the other types of roe. Occasionally I treat myself to another Japanese creation called “Tobiko with egg”, which is a much smaller sized roe from flying fish, served nigri-style, with a raw quail egg served on top. So rich, crunchy, and delicious!
While I am still not completely sold on eating chocolate covered insects, I am sure glad my parents introduced me to caviar, and fortunately there are options available for enjoying it responsibly.
Okay, here’s the deal. Today is actually National English Toffee Day, but I just couldn’t bear to face any more dessert after December and Christmas and all the commensurate sugar-saturated products that come along with it. I am so sugared out that even my mid-afternoon sugar craving has disappeared!
What I have been craving lately are eggs. Nothing fancy. Just good quality, organic, free range eggs, preferably from a local farm. In my perfect world, that would be my farm, but since my husband is adamant that we not collect any more animals (for some reason, he thinks that 3 cats, 2 large dogs and a horse is excessive), I am forced to purchase cold eggs out in the world, rather than collecting them still warm from the nest. *SIGH* Anyway, since this month is National Egg Month, I am exercising my Wild Card and writing about eggs instead of toffee.
I like my eggs scrambled. I heat a shamefully large portion of butter in my tiny little cast iron frypan until it is nicely browned and then I add eggs that I have pre-scrambled in a bowl with a touch of milk. I used to add salt and pepper, but since I’ve started sharing with the wee one, I’ve nixed both. Back in the day, when I was being all responsible and WeightWatchers-y and stuff, I would soft boil my eggs and eat them on a piece of multigrain toast with a little bit of cream cheese and salsa. Actually, when Eva and I were roommates, this was our breakfast of choice 5 out 7 days of the week.
Besides being the perfect breakfast food, eggs are extraordinarily versatile. They can be used in every single meal in every imaginable variation. There are simply too many to list! And not even chicken eggs either. Of the variety of eggs people eat, the common ones in addition to chicken eggs (that I can think of off the top of my head) are turkey eggs (as noted in Dea and Janelle’s Egg Nog Blog), quail eggs, caviar – which is actually sturgeon eggs, tobiko – which is flying fish roe, salmon roe, and Ostrich eggs. I’m sure there’s at least a zillion more.
Eggs are symbolic being as how they represent the beginning of life. I think that’s why they’re associated with Easter – y’know, rebirth and all that. Sometimes I wonder if there is something somehow sacrilegious about eating eggs in celebration of the resurrection. But I guess it doesn’t really count if they’re chocolate.
Eggs are good cooked, raw, pickled, you name it. And eggs are really beautiful. Even the lowly, common chicken egg. There is something really satisfying about the simple oval shape of them, the small speckles on the shell I really enjoyed photographing the eggs from my fridge. I think it might actually be worth doing a photoessay of them.