Since the Middle Ages, the city of Gloucester in southwest England has presented lamprey pies as gifts to the British monarch. However, since lampreys are now a protected species in Gloucester, pie makers had to seek other sources for their royal offering. So where will they get their key ingredient from? From across the Atlantic in the Great Lakes, of course!
Since 1836, the pie has been baked on special occasions for the ruling regent. The Diamond Jubilee, set for June 2-5 this summer, is one such event, marking 60 years of the Queen’s rule. The city of Gloucester made a special request to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for a small amount of lamprey to bake into a pie for the Queen. Commission Spokesman Marc Gaden jokingly said he would prefer that they ask for truckloads of the fish, as they are an invasive species in the Great Lakes.
The Commission shipped two frozen pounds of the troublesome fish caught in Lake Huron to Gloucester. Gaden will be in England to present the fish to the mayor on May 4, though he likely won’t eat the fish and he speculates that the queen will not take a bite either – the pie is usually cooked for tradition’s sake and carries the city’s coat of arms on its crust.
The invasive species has worried Great Lakes biologists and conservationists for quite some time. Their numbers have been rising mysteriously in Lake Erie, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Commission theorizes that it may be because the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, which connect to Lake Huron, are bringing the fish in swarms. They attach themselves to the bodies of native fish and suck out their innards until the host fish dies.
For the adventurous diner, check out a recipe for the traditional 15th-century “Lamprays Bake” here.
Photo: Enrique Dans (edans, flickr)