When I think of the great Marlene Dietrich, I don't picture a sturgeon being gently "milked" for her pricey and precious eggs.
Yet somehow, the film goddess was the inspiration behind the naming of a female sturgeon living on a German caviar farm.
This 6-year-old Siberian Sturgeon produces caviar exclusively for the Ritz Carlton in Berlin. The Ritz says it's the first hotel in the world to have one sturgeon supply all its caviar on a continuing basis.
Unlike traditional caviar harvesting, where the female is killed for her eggs, Marlene gets to live. It's known as sustainable caviar farming.
You might wonder how they "milk" or "massage" her, but explaining that would involve repeating some type of fish porn I won't write.
I can tell you, the plan is to milk her once year, with the hopes of yielding 800-1000 grams of caviar for the hotel and its restaurant.
I was fortunate enough to get an exclusive preview of the sustainable project before the Ritz announced Marlene. Like all divas, she insisted on controlling her press.
As part of the preview, I sampled Marlene's caviar, and her little eggs were delicious.
Most of Marlene's caviar will be sprinkled on this or that, but some of her caviar will be sold in souvenir tins.
Trust me on this one. Trying to get caviar home to the US can be nightmarish.
I once packed a little glass jar of caviar from Odessa in my suitcase with a some ice. On the flight home, I fantasized about chopping onions and eggs. I thought about the wine I would I serve with it.
But when I opened my suitcase, I found the jar had popped open. There were expensive little black fish eggs everywhere. Of course I suspected some dastardly customs person of opening the jar in the belly of the plane just to spite me. Either way, I will never try that again, but you may have better luck. A ten gram tin is 25 Euros which is approximately $30 US dollars at the writing of this story.
In farm rich California where I live, we pride ourselves on what we make and grow: wine, cheese, and those amazing avocados. So, I could really appreciate the enthusiasm and affection the Ritz staff has for its sturgeon.
I'll admit I am a sucker for a fish tale with a happy ending, and after sampling her eggs, I feel connected to Marlene.
Siberian sturgeon can produce eggs until they are 20 years old, which means Marlene maybe be getting massages for a long time to come.