[FOUNTAIN]Starvation or caviar?You only use a hint of salt to fully enjoy the natural taste of this delicacy. It might taste a bit strange at first, but if you try it a couple of times, you cannot resist the temptation to have more of it. It is praised as the sexiest food in the world, and some compare eating this to having sex. It is caviar, which is considered one of the three greatest delicacies of the world, along with foie gras and truffles. The name “caviar” comes from khagavar, which means roe in Persian. The salted roe of sturgeon came to be known as caviar when it was introduced in Britain in the 16th century. Being so rare and expensive, Shakespeare made a reference to caviar in “Hamlet” in the expression, “caviar to the general.” The equivalent Korean proverb would be “pearl necklace on a pig.” Louis XIII of France had his carriages deliver caviar from the Caspian and beheaded anyone who hoarded it secretly. Caviar is considered an aphrodisiac and is called “cake of power” in Iran.
Sturgeon has had special nicknames. Henry I of England called it the “royal fish.” Sturgeon are also caught in Korea, though they are very rare. Jeong Yak-jeon of the Joseon Dynasty described the fish: “It has a fan-shaped tail and can be as long as 50 to 60 feet. When it is about to rain, they swim in a group and splash water, keeping boats from approaching. Its scales are as large as the palm and are hard as iron, so when you tap it, you will a hear metallic sound. The fish is colorful and slippery, and tastes excellent.”
The caviar from Lake Baikal is rated as the best. There is an uncanny story about the lake. In November 1919, two years after the Russian Revolution, anti-Bolshevik leader Aleksandr Kolchak led 500,000 troops and 750,000 family members and fled to the Pacific shore. They were transporting 500 tons of gold from imperial Russia and high-quality caviar in 28 carriages on the 8,000 kilometer-long journey. After three months, 1 million people died, and by the time they arrived at Lake Baikal, only 250,000 were alive. Unfortunately, as they crossed the 80-kilometer wide lake, they all died from cold, at minus 69 degrees Celsius. When the lake thawed in the following May, 250,000 corpses sank to the bottom of the lake.
Recently, the United Nations banned the export of luxury goods to North Korea. Reportedly, caviar was a staple adorning Kim Jong-il’s lavish table. First-grade caviar from Lake Baikal is sold at more than $5,000 per kilogram. When hundreds of thousands of people were starving to death, Kim Jong-il spent an enormous amount of money only to fulfill his appetite. The spirits in Baikal Lake must be greatly displeased.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.