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The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy Hardcover – May 3, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

This debut from a promising young investigative reporter at Philadelphia magazine depicts gleeful, gluttonous globalization in all its glory. Visit Tokyo's world-famous Tsukiji fish market, experience the weird world of tuna-tossing in Southern Australia, and relive the birth of modern sushi in Prince Edward Island. Fans of Japanese cuisine and popular economics alike will find much to love in this delectable nonfiction adventure. --Jason Kirk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this intriguing first book, Philadelphia-based journalist Issenberg roams the globe in search of sushi and takes the reader on a cultural, historical and economic journey through the raw-fish trade that reads less like economics and more like an entertaining culinary travelogue. In the years since the end of WWII, the practical protein-and-rice delicacy once unknown outside Japan has become so commonplace that the elements of its trade affect a far-flung global network of fanatics, chefs, tuna ranchers and pirates. While the West reached out for things Japanese, from management techniques to Walkmans, the growth of the market for quality fish, especially maguro, the bluefin tuna beloved by sushi eaters everywhere, paralleled Japan's rise from postwar ruin to 1980s economic powerhouse and into its burst-bubble present. Issenberg follows every possible strand in this worldwide web of history, economics and cuisine—an approach that keeps the book lively with colorful places and characters, from the Tokyo fish market to the boats of North Atlantic fishermen, from tuna ranches off the coast of Australia to the sushi bars in Austin, Tex. He weaves the history of the art and cuisine of sushi throughout, and his smart, lively voice makes the most arcane information fascinating. (May)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (May 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592402941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592402946
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,383,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I love sushi, and I love economics, but even if I cared for neither, "The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy" would still be an entertaining and eye-opening read. A tale of culture, globalization, cuisine, and historical drama, "The Sushi Economy" traces back the modern explosion of sushi back to the 1970's. Although sushi had been sold by Tokyo street vendors in the 19th century, its rebirth as a culinary and cultural staple began when Japanese air shippers, after dropping off shipments of manufactured goods in North America, brought back North Atlantic bluefin tuna--at the time considered worthless and fit only for cat food--rather than fly home empty planes. Concurrent advances in refrigeration allowed seafood to be shipped large distances, and this increase in supply, along with a booming post-war economy, fueled Japanese demand for premium sushi and saw the rapid expansion of sushi bars throughout the country. Japanese overseas expansion brought sushi along with it and spawned a growing network of suppliers, including fishermen and the newer fisheries, and specialty distributors, as well as black market dealers and smugglers.

The seafood infrastructure, however, was only one part of the sushi explosion, as innovative sushi chefs became entrepreneurs, initially marketing sushi as a chic, upscale delicacy but then broadening its appeal by adapting to local flavors and cuisine.

Despite its specific origins from a small, island nation, sushi has become a global cuisine and the economy that supports it a global one as well.
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Format: Hardcover
In _The Breakfast Club_ from 1985, Molly Ringwald's character brings her lunch to detention, but it isn't the typical brown bag the other kids have brought. It is a tray of sushi, and the rest of them are astonished, maybe because they have never seen such a food before. It is a scene that is now quaintly dated, even after only a couple of decades, because although a Big Mac might still be more the prevalent norm, and although sushi is still something of an exotic food, it is popular rather than mysterious. The way this came to be involves marketing, technology, and a shrinking planet, and is the story of _The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy_ (Gotham Books) by Sasha Issenberg. Sushi is based on raw fish, mostly tuna, but it isn't really fresh and it decidedly is not simple. This is not a book that will make you wince or feel guilty over your next tuna roll, and it may even beat the drums for globalization. We do have, even in small towns, the capacity now to enjoy this tasty delicacy, and as Issenberg writes, "In few places are the complex dynamics of globalization revealed as visibly as in the tuna's journey from the sea to the sushi bar."

The sushi story is the story of tuna, and Issenberg follows the fish backward from market to its origin in the sea. The main market is the Tsukiji which takes up 57 acres in Tokyo, where a few hundred buyers gather to take a look at tuna brought in from all over the world. This is a huge market of $6 billion a year, and one fish alone might routinely go for $30,000. The great change in the market came starting in 1972 when there was a first Tokyo auction of Canadian bluefin tuna, brought by plane from a region where the fish were considered worthless.
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Format: Paperback
I added this one to my to-read list at the same time as The Zen of Fish (by Trevor Corson), and I was a little worried that they'd be redundant, but they weren't really. They had some things in common - the history of sushi and the Tsukiji fish market - but I didn't think they covered too many of the same topics. This book focused a lot more on tuna, and it did discuss the economics of sushi much more. Each chapter discussed a different issue related to sushi: The Tsukiji market and some logistics of sushi, the history of sushi, fisherman in New England, tuna ranching in Australia, a sushi bar owner in Texas, and Nobu Matsuhisa. I would have marked the book much lower if he hadn't discussed the issue of sustainable fishing, but it is covered in depth near the end. Between the two books, I liked this one better. However, it doesn't have a story in the same way that the other did, which may make it a little harder to read for some; your mileage may vary.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the spirit of Mark Kurlansky's terrific books about the histories of salt, oysters and cod, comes this brilliant book by Sasha Issenberg about sushi. Sushi is the cover, but this is really about tuna, a fish once thrown back into the sea or simply thrown away. His book raises the bar and it is as comprehensive a look at the industry as one can get.

Having grown up at a time and in a place where sushi was unheard of, Issenberg rightly begins and ends his book in Japan. From the vast Tokyo fish market known as "Tsukiji" the reader is transported to Canada, Los Angeles, Gloucester, Spain, Australia, China and more. How did this once lowly fish attain such a high status? Sasha Issenberg tells us in a narrative style that is low-key but fascinating.

Economy is indeed a central part of this book and it is intriguing to read about the rise and fall of tuna as a commodity. But the personal testimonies, included here, make the book shine. Each chapter stands on its own but I was particularly drawn to the beginnings of shipping tuna from Canada to Japan in the early 1970s. These people were real pioneers in the industry and to think this has all occurred in my lifetime is equally admirable and impressive.

I highly recommend "The Sushi Economy". Sasha Issenberg has compiled a broad-based look at sushi...where it all began, where it is now and where it might be headed. It's a compelling work and a book not to be missed.
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