Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Of Caviar and Kings

For hundreds of years Caviar was reserved exclusively for the courts of Europe. The city of Kerch on the Crimean peninsula was the capital of the ancient Bosphorus Kingdom in 400 B.C. This Kingdom’s copper coins illustrate the sturgeon, as do coins minted around 600 B.C. from ancient Tunisia.

The sturgeon was known as a “royal” fish belonging to kings and feudal lords in Europe and Russia. King Edward III in 1307 declared all the great sturgeons to be his, and it was said that any sturgeon captured in the River Thames above London Bridge belonged to the Lord Mayor of London; all others belonged to the King by royal decree. Henry I is believed to have banned the eating of sturgeon at any table save his own. In his edict of 1675, Tsar Alexei Michailovich declared the exclusive authority of the court to market caviar.

However caviar was not always a favourite food of the kings of France . . . in 1750 Louis XV was visiting the Caspian Sea, tasted caviar – and spat it out immediately!

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