|My caviar appetizer|
For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to do appetizers with caviar—no, not just because it’s ritzy and sounds sophisticated. I genuinely like it. The New York Times occasionally has recipes for dishes with caviar, like a caviar and cream cheese sandwich. I don’t know—that might be a bit much. I think caviar does best as an accent on a dish. But it’s expensive, even the cheap stuff—and my palate doesn’t know any better. But tonight, we were celebrating Subie’s birthday, so I tried something I’ve been wanting to: potato chips with seasoned sour cream and a dab of caviar. I have to confess, that was my supper. I ate a lot more than anyone else, and my honest assessment is that the flavors go together to well. The salty caviar is balanced by the sour cream and the whole things tops a potato chip almost perfectly. Almost.
I laboriously sat in Jordan’s kitchen, spooning sour cream onto potato chips— “Only unbroken ones,” she cautioned me, so I told Christian he could eat all the broken ones. I used my marrow spoon for that—another sign of my supreme sophistication. I mean, really, how many people do you know who own a marrow spoon? For that matter, how many people do you know who will eat bone marrow? Back to the caviar: the wide end of the spoon worked well for the sour cream, and I switched to the tiny narrow end for the caviar. Now, I have never been known for steady hands, and age has brought a slight tremor. So, I used my “good” right hand—still, what I intended as a neat small dollop of caviar ended up as a spray on the chip. And some ended on the counter—Christian scooped it up with a sponge, which I considered a great waste. Someone with steadier hands could have made it look a lot prettier. And the recipe said for the holiday season to use red salmon roe. That’s about twice as expensive as the low-grade black—I got black. Sometime I’d like to taste really good caviar, just to see if I could tell the difference.
|A marrow spoon|
Subie and I loved the chips. I don’t think Phil voiced an opinion, and I know Christian, who can sometimes these days be adventurous, was not so tonight and didn’t taste them. To my surprise, Jordan must have tried one, because she voiced what I had found: when you put the sour cream on the chip twenty or thirty minutes before serving, the chip gets soggy, at least in the middle where the sour cream is. The ideal would be somehow to make it self-serve, with small pots of sour cream and caviar. I have some left over, and a friend who probably doesn’t mind leftovers is coming one night soon. I’ll experiment with technique. And I guess I’ll use the marrow spoon again.
Writing this has made me think of my caviar memories. I did not grow up eating it. I think my introduction came the night my parents took my new husband and me to the Kungsholm in Chicago, over fifty years ago now. The Kungsholm was one of my favorite restaurants—a true Swedish smorgasbord, generous with such wonders as caviar and smoked salmon and marinated herring and all those things I love. After dinner, guests were invited to a puppet theater where miniature operas were performed. The puppets were on automated tracks, and I’m not sure how they did the sound, but it was glorious. If you ask me how I know about Dr. Faustus, I’ll say the Kungsholm. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed years ago.
But I have to be honest here: my parents were not exactly thrilled about my marriage to a Jewish boy from the Bronx, one who had never been taught much about manners and society and all the things that made my dad’s professional world go around. In Joel’s defense, he made correcting that a big project and quickly learned from Dad everything from table manners to gardening. But that night at the Kungsholm, he was delighted to have caviar. He kept going back for more until my mother said quite aloud, “I’ve never seen anyone eat so much caviar.” Joel’s family were eastern European immigrants and poor, so I don’t know how much caviar he had as a child. But he had similar foods, such as the herring and a marinated eggplant salad, etc. Anyway, that night is one of my fonder memories of him.
For over forty years, I threw a huge Christmas party, inviting sometimes a hundred of my nearest and dearest. It started small in the sixties and kept growing, at first with Joel but after he left, I kept up the tradition, with new friends. And one of the dishes I aways served had a seasoned cream cheese base with caviar, chopped onion, and chopped egg spread over it. Gosh, how I loved that. Today I don’t know if I can even find the recipe—and I certainly have no occasion for a spread that big. But I’d love to make it again.
I often talk about this last stage of life (the Third Stage, if you will) being filled with treasured memories. Tonight reminds me that caviar is one of those memories. And I’m not going to give it up. There’s more potato chips, sour cream, and caviar in my future. Yours?