Eating caviar with metal utensils? A no-no?

Old Oct 24, 05, 1:15 am
  #1  
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Eating caviar with metal utensils? A no-no?

I recently had the pleasure of enjoying champagne (Dom) and caviar (Petrossian) on SQ2. To my dismay, there were only metal utensils offered. As I mentioned on my trip report http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=485136
caviar should never be eaten with anything metallic since the utensil will impart or transfer an unpleasant taste to it and thus spoiling the experience. For caviar enthusiasts the material of choice is mother of pearl but plastic will do in a pinch

I made the suggestion to the FA for SQ to carry plastic spoons or forks for this purpose. He was very surprised about this point and said that no one ever mentioned it to him before. I'm wondering if I'm extra finicky or are other PAXs more polite?

I want to point out that I'm not complaining since I ate 2 heaping helpings of the caviar but it just seems like such a shame when the whole experience can be greatly enhanced by a cheap plastic spoon. I suppose I could have scooped up the caviar with the toast but it just didn't seem very efficient.

Perhaps I should carry a plastic spoon with me next time.
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Old Oct 24, 05, 1:43 am
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Erm..what about the metal tin the SQ caviar is packaged in?
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Old Oct 24, 05, 4:30 am
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Just Googled and found this :

Traditionally, caviar is served up with a special caviar spoon, namely, a mother of pearl spoon. Metal utensils of any sort are thought to degrade the taste of caviar, but that is just a myth. Caviar comes to distributors in large tins and is decanted into smaller tins for resale, all without harm to the natural taste of the caviar. Even glass caviar jars have metal lids. The one exception may be sterling silver. Caviar and sterling silver don't seem to get along; one tarnishes the other.
But, also this:
You should probably use a mother of pearl spoon anyway, for the sake of tradition, aesthetics, or for the fact that 90% of your guests will be shocked if you donít. (It's a very popular myth.) Any non-metalic utensil will do, bone or glass, perhaps, but wood doesn't seem quite right and plastic is out of the question. Special food, special server; go for the mother of pearl spoon.
So I second the motion that SQ should go for the mother of pearl, if only for tradition's sake.
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Old Oct 24, 05, 4:40 am
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As a chemist I can provide a scientific explanation for this:
The idea that caviar gets a bad taste when eaten or served with ANY metal untensil is an urban myth. However, caviar contains a high concentration of proteins with a very high sulfur content. If one eats (or serves) caviar with SILVER utensils (as where commonly used in the 18th and 19th century) then the sulfur containing proteins in the caviar "react" with the silver and oxidise it, resulting in the silver turning darker in colour "tarnishing" and the caviar gets a different taste. Since back in the 18th and 19th century plastic was not yet known and not widely used, an alternative non-silver material had to be found to serve caviar and that happened to be mother of pearl.
This tarnishing of silver by caviar also happens with silver plated utensils but NOT with stainless steel utensils that are used in restaurants or airlines.

If my memory is not mistaken TG and LH do use mother of pearl spoons to serve their caviar.
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Old Oct 24, 05, 5:43 am
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Consistent with our chemist fm747's advice, I've definitely experienced the problem with caviar and sterling silver but not other metals. A sloppy party guest or two has managed to damage a sterling silver dish of mine by dropping bits of caviar on it. The tarnish is essentially permanent and almost impossible to eliminate by ordinary polishing. On the other hand, in addition to the traditional mother of pearl spoons, I have used a special caviar serving utensil that is in large part silver but on the curved part of the spoon itself gold-plated: no tarnish problem and no corruption of the eggs' taste, because they touch the gold but not the silver.

Mother of pearl utensils (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) are dirt cheap in Thailand. Maybe not 10 baht a dozen but certainly cheap at retail rates. SQ could probably pick up a bunch very cheap. Even if used on a throw-away basis, we're not looking at a great deal of cost. The spoons themselves would run no more than a couple of dollars for each flight on which they're used. Cost per seat mile is, of course, a concern, but at the rates SQ charges for F tix, they've probably got some wiggle room on the cost side.

Now let's circle back to the OP's issue. I've not flown in SQ First (yet) so I've got to ask about the metal content of the utensils: were they silver after all? SQ Economy utensils are plainly stainless steel. In Raffles, they *look* silver-plated, though I'm no expert. In First, they may well be real silver, which would create the problem the OP raised. That said, the chemical reaction happens fairly fast and might even be noticeable on the spoon immediately after use.

All this has me looking forward to my upcoming first First flight on SQ. Alas, it's SQ 001, which means no fish eggs for me, not until my return flight on SQ 002 two weeks later.

Last edited by MegatopLover; Oct 24, 05 at 5:46 am
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Old Oct 24, 05, 7:13 am
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I'd eat caviar off a banana leaf if it meant i was also sitting in 4F
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Old Oct 24, 05, 10:18 am
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Thumbs down

More importantly than the metal utensils, I would like to echo the words of the late BWatson by saying that caviar should be served on blini and not melba toast!
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Old Oct 24, 05, 10:39 am
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Originally Posted by fm747
As a chemist I can provide a scientific explanation for this:
The idea that caviar gets a bad taste when eaten or served with ANY metal untensil is an urban myth. However, caviar contains a high concentration of proteins with a very high sulfur content. If one eats (or serves) caviar with SILVER utensils (as where commonly used in the 18th and 19th century) then the sulfur containing proteins in the caviar "react" with the silver and oxidise it, resulting in the silver turning darker in colour "tarnishing" and the caviar gets a different taste. Since back in the 18th and 19th century plastic was not yet known and not widely used, an alternative non-silver material had to be found to serve caviar and that happened to be mother of pearl.
This tarnishing of silver by caviar also happens with silver plated utensils but NOT with stainless steel utensils that are used in restaurants or airlines.

If my memory is not mistaken TG and LH do use mother of pearl spoons to serve their caviar.
Thanks for the great info! One learns something new every day. I have brought this up on CX before, and the FA had no idea what I was talking about. Sounds as though we're safe with the non-silver utensils.

The only time I've gotten a pearl spoon was on a Concorde flight, but I believe that Air Tahiti Nui also gives pax in F a pearl spoon.
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Old Oct 24, 05, 4:15 pm
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What a culture lot we are.

I dont think the caviar is of sufficient top grade to have the full trimmings although I do think what is served is very nice. Proper Beluga is actually sold in a glass container and is served on ice. First class fare or not, the quantity on caviar served up on each portion would not be as generous if the top grade of caviar was being served.

A mother of pearl spoon would be a nice touch that does appear to have been overlooked.
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Old Oct 24, 05, 4:23 pm
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Originally Posted by KenJohn
What a culture lot we are.
Cultured ... or very discerning ... or very picky ... or downright ornery. The boundaries can be very blurry.
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Old Oct 24, 05, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by Morrissey
More importantly than the metal utensils, I would like to echo the words of the late BWatson by saying that caviar should be served on blini and not melba toast!
I do not have any knowledge about the proper way to serve and to eat caviar. But, sometimes SQ make some changes in the menu. It happened when I was in one of those changes. Here is the link:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showpost.php?p=4744044&postcount=169[/COLOR]]http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showpost.php?p=4744044&postcount=169

or,

SQ 322 SIN - LHR
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
supper from singapore to london

appetisers
Iranian ossestra caviar
With blinis and sour cream

Oriental hors d'oeuvre
Lobster, abalone and crabmeat with salad cream
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Old Oct 24, 05, 11:53 pm
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hmm

all people are hyping about caviar...
after i ate around 1kg in 1 month alone... (i went to moscow)
now i dont care that much about it.

the point is, because its rare and expensive in our countriesn everyone likes it, but in fact caviar is not that expensive.

actually in SVO we used it like marmalade on bread. and these days i cant eat caviar anymore, as the portion you get in airplanes is the portion i eat with a small piece of bread...

if you ever ate a caviar wrap like some russian people eating... you will never feel satisfied eating the small portion on a F flight.

dp
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Old Oct 25, 05, 5:51 am
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OK now when is SVO do?
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Old Oct 25, 05, 6:58 am
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Originally Posted by StarG
OK now when is SVO do?
We all can fly on the SQ inaugural flight to Moscow next year!
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Old Oct 25, 05, 9:27 am
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Originally Posted by derpelikan
all people are hyping about caviar...
after i ate around 1kg in 1 month alone... (i went to moscow)
now i dont care that much about it.

the point is, because its rare and expensive in our countriesn everyone likes it, but in fact caviar is not that expensive.

actually in SVO we used it like marmalade on bread. and these days i cant eat caviar anymore, as the portion you get in airplanes is the portion i eat with a small piece of bread...

if you ever ate a caviar wrap like some russian people eating... you will never feel satisfied eating the small portion on a F flight.

dp

True,it's not too expensive....my father works in SVO,when I go I have tons of caviar(and gallons of vodka!)....I might join a DO in SVO...so please post dates!
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