A few minutes ago while sitting in the smallest room in our apartment and browsing through a professional culinary magazine I stumbled across an advertisement for artificial caviar.
I am a person who adores caviar but let it be known widely and clearly that real caviar comes only from the eggs of the sturgeon and indeed real caviar can be very expensive stuff indeed. Don't get me wrong – I'm all in favor of salmon eggs when it comes to weddings, bar or bat mitzvahs, communions or coming out parties where serving the real stuff would send most of to the bankruptcy courts. I'm even all in favor of cod and other fish eggs that are used to make taramasalata. So let it be known – I'm all for fish and their eggs, especially when those eggs can be harvested without harming the fish in question.
My problem comes about with the artificial stuff. I remember years back an Israeli invention (after all, Israel is a champion at high-tech) called "The Caviar of Alexei" that contained not even a single fish egg but consisted of fish, fish oil, vegetable oil, salt, stabilizers, taste enhancers and preservatives, all of which were manipulated by a super-secret process in a laboratory-like kitchen to form these ingredients into little black balls.
I suppose all that might have been forgiveable if only this stuff had tasted, as its advertisements pronounced "like genuine black Russian Caspian Sturgeon caviar". It didn't and Alexei's "Caviar" reminded me of nothing more than salty little black beads that rolled around on the tongue waiting to lubricate our esophagi, stomachs and intestines.
As to the new stuff, "Ocean Secrets", this particular ersatz caviar is made primarily from Japanese seaweed. Precisely what other ingredients may be here is not known to me and exactly how seaweed is transformed into little red and black balls also eludes me, but I suspect that is just as well. In fact, I am almost hoping that whatever these things are, they will retain their secrets.
Two things should be mentioned, the first being that like the Caviar of Alexi before it, Ocean Secrets Caviar is both kosher and parve, and the second that despite whatever fears I have, for all I know this stuff may be absolutely delicious. The critic in me lives on so I shall indeed hunt up a package and give it a try.
In closing, I recall the ditty sung by Charlie Drew at the Grill Room of New York City's Taft Hotel in its heyday….
"Caviar comes from virgin sturgeon
Virgin sturgeon's a mighty fine fish
Virgin sturgeon needs no urgin'
That's why caviar is my dish!"