Friday, 10 July 2009

How Caviar Came to Bordeaux

Caviar first became fashionable in France with the arrival of White Russians fleeing the Bolshevik revolution. Legend has it that in 1916 a Romanoff Russian princess observed French fishermen in Saint Seurin d'Uzet cutting up their daily catch and throwing away the roe. Horrified, she explained that sturgeon’s roe was a prized delicacy and arranged for her husband to teach the locals how to make caviar. The princess accidently left her umbrella behind before proceeding on her way, which is now housed in the town’s tiny museum.

Appealling though this story is caviar has been known as a delicacy in France since the 1400s. Rabelais, an influential French writer of the time, proclaimed caviar the finest in hors d'oeuvres - he calls it caviat. He also refers to la bottargue, a red mullet roe product similar to caviar. La bottargue is the predecessor to today's Italian bottarga, the salted and air-dried roe sack from the tuna, grey mullet or swordfish.

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