[Sca-cooks] medieval caviar

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Mon Mar 5 04:09:03 PST 2007

On Mar 4, 2007, at 11:11 PM, Nick Sasso wrote:

> I started thiking about terminology in our period and our current  
> times, as
> well as in between.  How are people thinking about language drift  
> in terms
> of caviar as the little eggs themselves versus the entire 'egg  
> sack' of a
> fish?  I am finding it hard to grasp removing and outside part of  
> hundreds
> of little dots of coor to make a dish.  Same with the removal of  
> nerves from
> them.
> Am I the last one to the party in figuring this out?  I checked  
> wikipedia
> and found a reference to several Mediterranean nations drying and  
> curing the
> roe pouch of various fish, then sliced and used like sardines.  Are we
> possibly looking at two or more different products being translated  
> into
> English as "caviar" or "roe".  Just checking because I've deleted the
> previous messages in this thread.  I automatically think little  
> fishy egg
> granuales . . . while the original could refer to the little tiny  
> eggs, the
> egg pouch or the entire thing together.

Think of the drift as similar to "ham" meaning pink or reddish, salty/ 
smoked pigmeat, while once it could be any animal that has thighs,  
fresh or cured.

The "original" for caviar is simply a sturgeon, in both Russian and  
Turkish, AFAIK, and as with things like shad, the "hard roe" of the  
female became more popular than the fish itself, to the point where  
the popular image of the part becomes the image of the whole. Like  
scallops in the US, where we tend to see them in the shell very  
infrequently in markets, and forget that it's not just a lovely white  
adductor muscle coming full circle as the veal scalloppine of the  
sea?  I don't know if there's any market for the soft roe or milt of  
the male sturgeon; there is for shad, but I've never heard of it for  
sturgeon. Either way, there seems to have been some equivocation  
early on.

Apparently whole roes of the female sturgeon were marketed as caviar  
at some point; they still are today, in the form of pressed caviar,  
which isn't as dry and hard as botargo, from what I've seen, but a  
similar concept.


"S'ils n'ont pas de pain, vous fait-on dire, qu'ils  mangent de la  
brioche!" / "If there's no bread, you have to say, let them eat cake!"
     -- attributed to an unnamed noblewoman by Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  
"Confessions", 1782

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?"
     -- Susan Sheybani, assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry  
Holt, 07/29/04

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