Among the many gifts Queen Elizabeth II will receive for her Diamond Jubilee is a special lamprey pie from the town of Gloucester. It's a tradition dating back centuries. Lampreys may seem like an odd gift for a monarch, but one person's eel-like parasite which sucks the blood of fish is another person's delicacy.
The bloodsuckers used to be plentiful in Gloucester, but years of overfishing and habitat destruction means their population is now scarce. Here in the Great Lakes region of the United States, we have the opposite problem.
"It's an invasive fish that caused incredible havoc on the fishery," Mark Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says.
We have too many lampreys. Gloucester has too few. So they asked if they could have some of ours for their special royal pie.
"Somebody actually replied, 'certainly, how many lorryloads would you like?'" Sarrah Macey of the Gloucester Folk Museum says. "And we had to kind of decline gracefully and say 'we literally just need enough to make one pie, thank you very much.'"
For Gaden, it was a two-birds-with-one-stone kind of a deal. He even presented the lampreys to Gloucester in a ceremony there last month. "We want to get rid of them. And so I was more than happy to provide. A couple less lamprey in the Great Lakes, but it's also fun to help them maintain their tradition."
About that photo at the top? We asked Gaden to send a couple lampreys to the Pleasant House Bakery here in Chicago, and they were happy to whip up a lamprey pie. It was surprisingly tasty. And, said owner and chef Art Jackson, "I'm feeling pretty royal right now."