In this month's issue of Saveur, I recommend a pretty delicious farmed caviar from Italy called Calvisius (pictured in this lovely photo by Michael Kraus). Researching caviar itself was quite eye opening. Did you know: Sturgeon don't produce eggs until they're around ten years old (some sources said six, some twelve, but let's choose the median, shall we?); the beasts are positively enormous; for a stretch of the 19th century, the U.S. was the top exporter of wild sturgeon roe, much of it coming from the Hudson River in New York? And so much more that hasn't been tainted by my imperfect memory can be read in these books, great sources both.
My attachment to caviar was formed at an early age. My mom and dad would occasionally score a tin of what we called "black caviar" from our longtime family friend, classmate of my grandmother's, and Latvian emigre to Vancouver Island, Vulf Sternin. He also wrote this definitive book on caviar, and to the best of my knowledge, ran a hatchery and other caviar related endeavors in his adopted Canada. I distinctly remember one visit from Dadya Vulya produced a tin of black caviar, which my mother has spread sparingly on a cracker ("an inky constellation on a cracker", as described in my piece) and gave me to eat. I was maybe around 8. I'd already developed a taste for "red caviar", which is how we referred to salmon roe. I recall my tastebuds registering immediately the different between one and the other--the black more pungent, with more concentrated flavor, an overall richer experience of the sea.
I touch upon my memories in this piece. Of course, it's the launching off point, and the way that I connect to most of my subject matter--memories, personal experiences. But it truly was interesting to learn that, yes, if one wants to eat caviar today, the responsible consumer should be thinking farmed or bust. (Wild sturgeon is severely endangered, and even "safer" wild alternatives, like American hackleback, are at risk of overfishing.) Without further ado, hope you enjoy this one.