The English city of Gloucester likes to present a gift to the British monarch on special occasions.
Next month’s Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s ascent to the throne, is such an occasion.
Ever since the Middle Ages, Gloucester’s gift has been a ceremonial pie made with slippery, eel like creatures called sea lampreys. They have strong teeth and attach to a fish, before boring a hole into it to feed on the fish's blood and body system.
Thing is, sea lampreys aren’t so easy to find in England’s Thames and Severn Rivers anymore. But they’re incredibly plentiful in a lake in the United States: Lake Huron. In fact, lampreys are a protected species in the United Kingdom, because they've been hunted so close to extinction. It's the opposite problem in the United States, where they were unintentionally introduced through shipping canals and are actually damaging the native fish species of the Great Lakes.
“I actually almost thought it was joke. I said 'you've got to be kidding, you want lampreys for a pie that you’re going to present to the Queen and you think that’s a nice gesture?' ” said Marc Gaden who is with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in Detroit.
As far as Gaden knows, no one in the United States area eats lamprey.
Gaden is in charge of getting two pounds of frozen sea lampreys to chefs in Gloucester. He traveled to England this week to make the transfer. So far, Gaden hasn't been served a sample of the final product though.
"It looks awfully nice," he said. "They put the coat of the arms of the city on it. But I've never tried a lamprey or a lamprey pie."
The actual pie for the jubilee will be made this summer.