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Has Caviar Always Been a Luxury Item?

Caviar's journey from humble fish roe to the epitome of culinary luxury is a tale of rarity, refinement, and regal indulgence. Once a peasant staple, its ascent to aristocratic menus transformed its perception. Discover how caviar became synonymous with opulence and whether its storied past still influences its present allure. What's your take on this delicacy's lavish status?

Bars regularly set out free pretzels and peanuts because their salty taste makes patrons want to drink more – and because those snacks are cheap to supply. But you'd have to frequent some pretty ritzy establishments to be offered free caviar, right? Not during the early 19th century. Sturgeon, the fish whose eggs (or roe) are what we call caviar, was so plentiful at the time that the now-expensive stuff was frequently set out for saloon customers.

In those days, American waters were flush with the fish – so much so that the U.S. quickly became the leading exporter of caviar. Sneaky businessmen even started bringing the eggs back to America labeled as imported Russian caviar – a supposedly finer version of the food. However, the boom was short-lived, and in no time the abundance of sturgeon was gone. Prices shot up, and bar patrons had to rely on other nibbles to accompany their drinks.

Caviar caveats:

  • Caviar takes on a metallic taste if it touches metal, so should always be served in a glass bowl, and dished out with a wooden or other nonmetallic spoon.

  • Beluga sturgeon, which provide one of the only true caviars, are in danger of disappearing; their numbers have dropped by 90 percent in the past 20 years.

  • In 2015, an Austrian fish farmer created "gold-laced caviar." Made from albino sturgeon roe and 22-carat-gold flakes, it is thought to be the world's most expensive food, costing approximately $41,500 USD per teaspoon.

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    • In the early 1800s, sturgeon was so plentiful that caviar (sturgeon roe) was given away free to make bar patrons thirsty.
      By: darkbird
      In the early 1800s, sturgeon was so plentiful that caviar (sturgeon roe) was given away free to make bar patrons thirsty.