I Carry a Caviar Key on My Keychain Like an Opulent Boy Scout

My life has gotten so much fancier since I started doing this.

Margaret Eby's caviar key

Margaret Eby

For most of my life, caviar was a word that I lumped into a category with “private jet” and “swimming pool full of gold bullion,” things that must be nice for the ultra-wealthy, but not something I’d ever get to experience. But during my days at Food & Wine, a wave of more accessible, sustainable caviar makers began piquing my interest, and I started to gently dabble into the world of fancy fish eggs. Unfortunately for my retirement account, I found that I love caviar. That stuff is delicious — all the intense lovely umami brininess of a good oyster, but more concentrated, "like capers but from the ocean," I told my husband, with its perfect pops of earthy, gently salty flavor. You can keep your swimming pool full of coins, but I’ll take a yacht’s worth of caviar, please.

The main problem with caviar, aside from its expense, is how to get into those precious, vacuum-sealed tins. They’re persnickety little things for a reason; the minute you expose caviar to air, it begins to oxidize. Like a perfect Martini and a baked Alaska, caviar is a treat best enjoyed cold and reasonably quickly. When I get my hands on a tin I don’t want to wait for the right implement to open it, and my general impatience in the matter has meant some creative tin opening solutions. I’ve opened caviar with a butter knife, sure, but also a screwdriver meant to fix eyeglasses and a tiny crochet hook. When I actually needed a caviar key to open the jars I never could find one. It’s one of those situations where having a highly specific implement — say an egg spoon or a cherry pitter — makes the whole experience better. 

A couple Christmases ago, several glasses of champagne into a caviar-laced feast, I hit upon a solution. The caviar gift set from Roe that I'd been digging into had a key that had a perfectly centered hole punched into the center of it, so I slipped it onto my keychain. I haven’t taken it off since.

Why it's helpful to carry a caviar key with you always

Lisovskaya Natalia / GETTY IMAGES

Keeping a caviar key on your keychain is admittedly one of those break-in-case-of-emergency measures that isn’t all that likely or necessary. It’s not first aid, and it’s not my blood type. But it is a fun reminder, every time I go to lock up my apartment, of parties past and future. Having a caviar key jangling alongside my library card and the spare key to my parents’ condo makes me feel like an opulent Boy Scout. I’m always prepared for sudden outbreaks of decadence. 

When I mentioned my keychain  to Petra Bergstein, founder of The Caviar Company, in a recent Zoom tasting, her face lit up. “Oh we all do that too!” she said. (They also carry tins of caviar stacked in a temperature-stable thermos, another opulent Boy Scout tip for those who travel in luxury.) Bergstein mentioned that amongst caviar-heads it’s such a popular way to carry around the implement that her company is launching caviar key keychains this winter. 

I have a long way to go and probably a separate bank account to establish before I become a true caviar lady, but until then, I encourage you to slip a caviar key in your pocket or attach it to your keys. It’s a pretty great party trick to have one on hand, and even when you don’t need to use it, it’ll remind you of the next time you can crack into a tin. Opulence can happen at any time.

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