From blue-plate specials to Caspian Sea caviar

May 17, 2000|By Rob Kasper

THE OTHER NIGHT there was nothing appealing to eat in the refrigerator, except a jar of caviar. The nothing-to-eat situation is common in our house. Having a jar of caviar on the fridge door is not. The caviar was sitting in a spot normally reserved for the hot-dog mustard.

The caviar was the good stuff from the Caspian Sea. I am not at liberty to divulge exactly how these sturgeon eggs made the journey from Russia to the mustard shelf of my fridge.

I can say that there was a courier involved and that the caviar courier was a member of the Jumpers Hole Gang. The group takes its name from the Jumpers Hole Mall, a shopping center in Pasadena that has since been renamed.

Members of The Sun's Anne Arundel suburban news squad used to meet there for lunch. At the time, some 20 years ago, the midday dining opportunities at the mall were pretty much limited to the lunch counter in Kmart and a hot-dog stand shaped like a train engine. I think it was called the Choo-Choo Express.

As we ate our blue-plate specials and Choo-Choo dogs, members of the Jumpers Hole Gang dreamed of a brighter day, or at least a better lunch.

In the ensuing years, members of the Jumpers Hole Gang have scattered. One went on to cover the White House. Another, who used to pack away those Choo-Choo dogs, got a medical degree. And yet another became a foreign correspondent and ended up in a country that is known for its fish eggs.

The other day, during a homecoming of some members of the Jumpers Hole Gang, a gift of caviar was offered, and I readily accepted.

At home, I fretted about how to serve the caviar. Stuffing it in blini dotted with sour cream would be wonderful. But our house was blini-free, and has been for 20 years. I have enjoyed the savory pancakes in restaurants, but have never fixed them at home. There never seemed to be a reason.

I had read that a good way to desalt lesser caviar was to rinse it with beer. But this caviar was too well-bred to need a beer bath.

So I simply cut some homemade bread into thin slices, and toasted it. Then I put a spoonful of caviar on the toast, popped it in my mouth and was a very happy man.

While the caviar made me content, other members of the family, the teen-agers, wanted something other than fish eggs for supper.

I scrounged around in the fridge and found some leftovers. While I ate caviar, I served the kids hot dogs and blue-plate specials.

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