Roger L. Simon

Happy New Year, Ahmadinejad...from Bristol Farms, Amazon and The Chef's Warehouse!

Sheryl and I often like to stay in on New Year’s Eve and celebrate with some caviar and blini and iced vodka, so we stopped off at Bristol Farms on the night of the 30th to stock up. A list at the counter showed the varieties available, starting with American sturgeon at $50 for two ounces.

It went up from there for the various Russian Caspian sea imports, but the times being what they are, not to mention our growing patriotic feelings, we quickly opted for the American variety. The counterman had already gone back to put it on ice for us before my eyes drifted further down the list and I noticed the most expensive caviar the store had on offer — Iranian Osetra at well over $200 an ounce.

Iranian caviar at Bristol Farms, one of Southern California’s most popular and respected gourmet supermarkets? My blood started to boil and for a second I considered withdrawing my purchase, but the countermen (two of them actually) had been so nice and were making such a special effort for our small order that I didn’t feel like making a scene. (I know — I’d make a lousy boycotter.)

But I went home brooding. One thing I knew — Iranian caviar profits didn’t go to the Green Democracy Movement. They went straight to the mullahs and their cronies. (As some readers may know, Ayatollah Rafsanjani is a kingpin of their pistachio business.)

I wanted to know what other US businesses were cashing in on high-priced Iranian fish eggs — especially since last week’s disturbing New York Times story on American companies like Kraft and Pepsi granted exceptions by a “little known office of the Treasury Department,” allowing them to sell their products in Iran. I thought we had serious sanctions in place. I vowed right then that I had drunk my last Pepsi.

Well, now I am in a pickle, because I am sorry to say the retailer with which I personally do the most business is currently selling Iranian Osetra — Amazon. They price it at $280 for 30 grams, via an outfit called The Chef’s Warehouse. Amazon also sells my books, of course. As I said, I am in something of a pickle here.

Still, I would urge Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to find another source for his caviar, just as I would ask Bristol Farms CEO Kevin Davis to get another supplier for his fine stores. After all, part of the mission statement of Bristol Farms asserts their desire: “To be active and responsible members of the community….” I am certain the community they had in mind does not include the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his attempts to gain nuclear weapons, destroy the state of Israel, eradicate the rights of women and most Western values and so on.

It’s not actually that difficult to make such a change. Back in 2009, in the midst of the democracy demonstrations, Iranian expat Hossein Akef — of Hague-based Persian Caviar — declared:

“I will not give any more money to a regime that is massacring my people,” said Hossein Akef, the Iranian director of the company. Persian Caviar, which sells about €400,000-€450,000 in Iranian caviar a year, will continue to import the luxury food item from other Caspian Sea countries, “all of which are also good,” Akef said.

I think Jeff Bezos and Kevin Davis can do as well as Hossein Akef. Maybe they should even take their business to Mr. Akef. It would be a good New Year’s gift to the people of Iran and an affront to the wretched despots that rule them.

Happy New Year to all!