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From the sea to your plate, the first international tour of sushi’s journey in the global marketplace One generation ago, sushi’s narrow reach ensured that sports fishermen who caught tuna in most of the world sold the meat for pennies as cat food. Today, the fatty cuts of tuna known as toro are among the planet’s most coveted luxury foods, worth hundreds of dollars a pou From the sea to your plate, the first international tour of sushi’s journey in the global marketplace One generation ago, sushi’s narrow reach ensured that sports fishermen who caught tuna in most of the world sold the meat for pennies as cat food. Today, the fatty cuts of tuna known as toro are among the planet’s most coveted luxury foods, worth hundreds of dollars a pound and capable of losing value more quickly than any other product on earth. So how has one of the world’s most popular foods gone from being practically unknown in the U.S. to being served in towns all across America, and in such a short span of time? Sushi aficionados and newcomers alike will be surprised to learn the true history, intricate business, and international allure behind this fascinating food. A riveting combination of culinary biography, behind-the-scenes restaurant detail, and a unique exploration of globalization’s dynamics, journalist Sasha Issenberg traces sushi’s journey from Japanese street snack to global delicacy. THE SUSHI ECONOMY takes you through the stalls of Tokyo’s massive Tsukiji market, where the auctioneers sell millions of dollars of fish each day, and to the birthplace of modern sushi--in Canada. He then follows sushi’s evolution in America, exploring how it became LA’s favorite food. You’re taken behind the sushi bar with the chef Nobu Matsuhisa, whose distinctive travels helped to define the flavors of global sushi cuisine, and with a unique sushi chef blazing a path in Texas. Issenberg also delves into the complex economics of the fish trade, following the ups and downs of the hunt for bluefin off New England, the tuna cowboys on the southern coast of Australia who invented the art of tuna ranching, and uncovering the mysterious underworld of pirates, smugglers, and the tuna black market. Few businesses reveal the complex dynamics of globalization as acutely as the tuna’s journey from the sea to the sushi bar. After traversing the pages of THE SUSHI ECONOMY, you’ll never see the food on your plate — or the world around you — quite the same way again.


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From the sea to your plate, the first international tour of sushi’s journey in the global marketplace One generation ago, sushi’s narrow reach ensured that sports fishermen who caught tuna in most of the world sold the meat for pennies as cat food. Today, the fatty cuts of tuna known as toro are among the planet’s most coveted luxury foods, worth hundreds of dollars a pou From the sea to your plate, the first international tour of sushi’s journey in the global marketplace One generation ago, sushi’s narrow reach ensured that sports fishermen who caught tuna in most of the world sold the meat for pennies as cat food. Today, the fatty cuts of tuna known as toro are among the planet’s most coveted luxury foods, worth hundreds of dollars a pound and capable of losing value more quickly than any other product on earth. So how has one of the world’s most popular foods gone from being practically unknown in the U.S. to being served in towns all across America, and in such a short span of time? Sushi aficionados and newcomers alike will be surprised to learn the true history, intricate business, and international allure behind this fascinating food. A riveting combination of culinary biography, behind-the-scenes restaurant detail, and a unique exploration of globalization’s dynamics, journalist Sasha Issenberg traces sushi’s journey from Japanese street snack to global delicacy. THE SUSHI ECONOMY takes you through the stalls of Tokyo’s massive Tsukiji market, where the auctioneers sell millions of dollars of fish each day, and to the birthplace of modern sushi--in Canada. He then follows sushi’s evolution in America, exploring how it became LA’s favorite food. You’re taken behind the sushi bar with the chef Nobu Matsuhisa, whose distinctive travels helped to define the flavors of global sushi cuisine, and with a unique sushi chef blazing a path in Texas. Issenberg also delves into the complex economics of the fish trade, following the ups and downs of the hunt for bluefin off New England, the tuna cowboys on the southern coast of Australia who invented the art of tuna ranching, and uncovering the mysterious underworld of pirates, smugglers, and the tuna black market. Few businesses reveal the complex dynamics of globalization as acutely as the tuna’s journey from the sea to the sushi bar. After traversing the pages of THE SUSHI ECONOMY, you’ll never see the food on your plate — or the world around you — quite the same way again.

30 review for The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    This book has been getting a couple reviews from a variety of places (The Atlantic and Esquire, to name a few), so I was pretty excited when I finally got my hands on the book. As a sushi lover and weekend economist, I was hoping I could bring both worlds together. Unfortunately, I was a bit underwhelmed; I expected more talk about globalization and less character profiles. I was looking for more analysis and insight into globalization and the economics of moving fresh sushi around the world. Whil This book has been getting a couple reviews from a variety of places (The Atlantic and Esquire, to name a few), so I was pretty excited when I finally got my hands on the book. As a sushi lover and weekend economist, I was hoping I could bring both worlds together. Unfortunately, I was a bit underwhelmed; I expected more talk about globalization and less character profiles. I was looking for more analysis and insight into globalization and the economics of moving fresh sushi around the world. While I've loved Mark Kurlansky's Cod-Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and there were a couple gems (always order sushi from the sushi bar), I felt that I was mislead by the title.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Ain't it great that we can eat sushi in Omaha as if Omaha were on the sea? It's the miracle of globalization that makes it possible (or even desirable.) But it's not the same as eating sushi in LA or San Francisco or New York. One difference is midwestern American technique employed in eating sushi. Step 1: Order lots of rolls, especially California rolls, spicy tuna rolls and salmon skin rolls. Maybe include a little bit of nigiri made with tuna or shrimp. Step 2: Once the fish arrives, dribble Ain't it great that we can eat sushi in Omaha as if Omaha were on the sea? It's the miracle of globalization that makes it possible (or even desirable.) But it's not the same as eating sushi in LA or San Francisco or New York. One difference is midwestern American technique employed in eating sushi. Step 1: Order lots of rolls, especially California rolls, spicy tuna rolls and salmon skin rolls. Maybe include a little bit of nigiri made with tuna or shrimp. Step 2: Once the fish arrives, dribble some soy sauce into the little saucer. Then add the green stuff. It's not wasabi, which is only grown in Japan and Oregon, and not widely even there. But no matter, horseradish tastes good, too. Mix the resulting concoction into a slurry. Step 3: Using chop sticks, clumsily pick up your piece of sushi (which refers also to the rice, by the way, not just the fish) and dip it (rice, not the fish) into the slurry. Leave half the rice in the little saucer. Step 4: Pop all, or, at your choice, only part, of the piece of sushi into your mouth. If you chose only part, have the remaining rice disintegrate into your plate, but slurp up the entire piece of fish. Step 5: Discover the pile of pickled ginger on the plate with the fish. For your next bite, use your chop sticks carefully to pick up a piece of ginger and drop it on top of a section of roll. Step 6: go to step 3. I once sat next to some Japanese business guys at the bar in a sushi restaurant in Toronto. At least, I think they were Japanese, and so was the proprietor. They ordered omikase, which means chef's choice, more or less, and were presented with a few pieces of sushi every several minutes. They had soy sauce in a little dish in front of them, but didn't mix in any horseradish. They picked up the sushi with their fingers. To effect this, one puts one's forefinger on top of the fish, and one's thumb and middle finger along the opposing sides. With a graceful flip of their wrists, they turned the piece over, and dipped one edge of the fish, not the rice, into the soy sauce. Then they usually put all of the piece into their mouths. A couple of times I observed them taking a partial, but they bit hard with their front teeth to sever the fish. All very neat. Then they had a big slug of sake, and invited the chef to have a drink of sake, too. The chef had his own bottle behind the bar, but he charged the customers for every drink he took, and only took a drink if they invited him. Sometimes, between courses, the diners took a piece of ginger. On occasion the chef gave them rolls, but usually it looked to be pretty simple nigiri. In Issenberg's book we learn that spicy tuna rolls were developed by American chefs "to unload odd scraps of fish past their prime, assuming that slathering them in mayonnaise and chile would help mask dubious taste and texture." He doesn't judge those of us who like such things. He's too good a journalist for that. The reporting here is done with minimal invasion of overt opinions. (Although he is pretty critical of a Spanish guy who tracks violations of the ICCAT fishing agreements, but maybe he deserves it.) There's a lot to like here. Issenberg starts in the fish market in Tokyo, and quickly moves on to describe how tuna came to be transshipped to Japan from North America. He outlines the history or tuna farming in Australia and the Mediterranean. He fairly profiles Nobu of the eponymous, and seemingly more and more ubiquitous, upscale restaurants. (I wasn't impressed during my visit years ago to Nobu Next Door, but it's only the JV version.) He describes the boom and inevitable bust of the Northeast tuna fishery. He covers all these topics and more. (But not the part above about comparing how midwesterners and Japanese eat sushi. I made that up.) And he implies but doesn't declaim, a dire prediction for fisheries everywhere: "Culturally, sushi denotes a certain type of material sophistication, a declaration that we are confidently rich enough not to be impressed by volume and refined enough to savor good things in small doses." So, if only one-tenth of China's anticipated middle-class population in 2020 develop a taste for raw fish, that's 50 million new sushi eaters. Where will all the fish come from, not just for China, but for Omaha, too? It's a good read if you're interested in the subject.

  3. 5 out of 5

    nimrodiel

    The sushi book is divided into 4 parts. First is an exploration of sushi. How the first Atlantic bluefin tuna were shipped to Japan fresh, how sushi evolved from its fermented origins as a way to preserve rice to the popular forms it is enjoyed in now: futomaki, nigiri, sashimi, and the box sushi which is still a regional fermented delicacy. The second portion of the book looks at the expansion of sushi from a Japanese delicacy into the well loved globally enjoyed delicacy it is today. The book The sushi book is divided into 4 parts. First is an exploration of sushi. How the first Atlantic bluefin tuna were shipped to Japan fresh, how sushi evolved from its fermented origins as a way to preserve rice to the popular forms it is enjoyed in now: futomaki, nigiri, sashimi, and the box sushi which is still a regional fermented delicacy. The second portion of the book looks at the expansion of sushi from a Japanese delicacy into the well loved globally enjoyed delicacy it is today. The book focuses on the introduction of sushi into Los Angeles, and the spread of sushi as a food for first the rich to becoming widely available across the US and into the rest of the world. The third portion of the book focuses on the fishing industry in different ports where tuna is a primary catch crop. How over fishing has decimated wild tuna populations, and how farming tuna has become a profitable option that still depends largely on wild fish. The book ends with a look at the future of sushi. How changes in tastes in other Asian powers such as China may change the purchasing pattern of tuna (both fresh and frozen, wild and farmed), the tuna pirating that is occurring in the Mediteranian, and the effects of trying to propigate tuna in farms rather than catching wild tuna and fattening them on fish farms. I thought this was an interesting look at the complexities of the tuna fishing trade specifically, and how sushi has increased the demand for this fish worldwide. Since it was written using 2005 and 2006 statistics as the most recent I was left wanting to know more about how what I was reading about was currently in 2013.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This probably would have been more successful if it had been called The Tuna Econonmy, but I still enjoyed it. The book focuses on fish markets, sushi's expanding popularity, the modern sushi chef, and the future of new Chinese markets and tuna ranching. I eat sushi fairly regularly, and expect and enjoy fresh sashimi, but I never really realized how complex a process it is to get that fish to the restaurant. The fish could be from almost anywhere in the world. It's amazing how quickly it changed This probably would have been more successful if it had been called The Tuna Econonmy, but I still enjoyed it. The book focuses on fish markets, sushi's expanding popularity, the modern sushi chef, and the future of new Chinese markets and tuna ranching. I eat sushi fairly regularly, and expect and enjoy fresh sashimi, but I never really realized how complex a process it is to get that fish to the restaurant. The fish could be from almost anywhere in the world. It's amazing how quickly it changed hands. I also especially liked the section explaining how sushi became popular in the U.S. I was especially repulsed to learn that the California roll originally contained mayo. I find California rolls kind of gross anyway, and that mayo thing really cemented it for me. This is definitely worth reading for those who have an interest in global food markets or sushi.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

    Contrary to popular belief, sushi in its present form is a recent development that may be headed to a quick extinction. I count myself lucky to have lived during the time of sushi.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hallie

    A really interesting look into the rise and (near) current-day industry surrounding sushi. This book is really compehensive in that it takes care to cover an end-to-end view of the supply chain - more horizontally than vertically - and gives the reader a bit of exposure to it all, from fishing and ranching to shipping to restaurants. A bit on the history of sushi, as well. There is some coverage of vertical differences within the chain, but the focus is primarily horizontal. Only reason I didn't A really interesting look into the rise and (near) current-day industry surrounding sushi. This book is really compehensive in that it takes care to cover an end-to-end view of the supply chain - more horizontally than vertically - and gives the reader a bit of exposure to it all, from fishing and ranching to shipping to restaurants. A bit on the history of sushi, as well. There is some coverage of vertical differences within the chain, but the focus is primarily horizontal. Only reason I didn't rate this higher is that the chapters seemed a bit disjointed and don't flow as well as I would have hoped - I kept putting the book down. Also a bit dated at this point - would love to see an update to see whether practices and the economics have changed significantly in recent years.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joe Voltz

    Takes you through the sushi production chain, step by step. A bit thick for anyone outside of business (not for foodies) unless you like or eat sushi on a regular basis, of course! Rather, it has you think more about what it takes for your California roll to appear with regularity in your supermarket cold case. Some things have changed since then - the legendary Tsukiji fish market that features prominently in the book has since closed its doors. Still, valuable as a layman's history of a cultur Takes you through the sushi production chain, step by step. A bit thick for anyone outside of business (not for foodies) unless you like or eat sushi on a regular basis, of course! Rather, it has you think more about what it takes for your California roll to appear with regularity in your supermarket cold case. Some things have changed since then - the legendary Tsukiji fish market that features prominently in the book has since closed its doors. Still, valuable as a layman's history of a cultural export now used as a yardstick to measure modern taste.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike Cheng

    Well written book about how sushi became mainstream, including the role of Japan Airlines (JAL) in figuring out how to solve the "one way problem" - namely by finding freight in the form of frozen tuna to fill the empty planes on their flights back to Japan. Other cool topics include a detailed account of a typical morning at Tsukiji, the evolution of tuna fishing / farming and the effect on various local economies, and the meteoric rise of restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eliel Lopez

    Insightful story of the tuna industry. I liked this writer's style of prose with the exception of the profanity encountered in some of the pages. Thus one star deduction in my review as well as no spot earned on my book shelf.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Not exactly what I was hoping for or expecting. Much of it is about well-known sushi restaurants in America and around the world. I was expecting an in-depth look at all things sushi. It's mainly about big names and tuna.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shawna Burch

    Pretty good! I actually read this book in University for a course on Economic Geography. Super interesting take on globalization and the supply/demand chain.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Ose

    Full of interesting little tidbits about the early days of the global economy. I particularly liked the history of how tuna originally made it into JAL cargo holds.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    From my point of view, this book has helped me to understand how this delicacy has become what it is now a days. From different point of views and examples, the reader can follow the path sushi has take to be such a delicious plate nowadays.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    In person Sasha Issenberg is courteous and engaging, but slightly reserved. It was a nice surprise to see the claws come out in The Sushi Economy. Sasha tears apart what you think you know about sushi and aggressively peddles a parade of facts and events that leave the reader no choice but to submit to Sasha's passion for the culinary logistics of a fat, ugly fish. The Sushi Economy describes the full life cycle of the bluefin tuna: how they are raised, caught, shipped, purchased, prepared, and c In person Sasha Issenberg is courteous and engaging, but slightly reserved. It was a nice surprise to see the claws come out in The Sushi Economy. Sasha tears apart what you think you know about sushi and aggressively peddles a parade of facts and events that leave the reader no choice but to submit to Sasha's passion for the culinary logistics of a fat, ugly fish. The Sushi Economy describes the full life cycle of the bluefin tuna: how they are raised, caught, shipped, purchased, prepared, and consumed. The story is told through a colorful cast of characters from Tokyo to Texas. Their personal trials and successes contextualize the human impact of the tuna trade throughout the fish's life cycle. Issenberg successfully navigates the economic angle of sushi as commodity as well as the more human facets of fishermen's loyalties, piracy, and a seafaring nation's national pride. In between narratives the book is stuffed with facts, comparing favorably to Evan Osnos's The Age of Ambition. My favorite chapter was on tuna ranching. Port Lincoln is a small town in Australia that catches more tuna than any other city on the continent. It's a place where Olympians come to throw tuna at festivals for prizes, but the town doesn't have a single fresh tuna restaurant. Despite their lack of appreciation for the taste of tuna, the Australians develop the most advanced tuna processing facilities in the world. The economics of growing a commodity without understanding why it holds its value was fascinating and reminded me of coffee growing in South America. The Sushi Economy also sensitively probes the underlying mechanics of Japanese culture. The rigid hierarchy of Tsukiji Market assumes diversity in tuna quality and a clear ichiban, or #1 fish each day. Farmed fish break this model, delivering similar size and quality and tuna on demand. Issenberg shows that at least some of the rarity and unpredictability of tuna trade is a product of the Japanese desire to maintain the illusion of a nature that cannot be tamed by humans. What happens next? The Sushi Economy is almost 10 years old. Since then, consumption of seafood is down in Japan and prices have increased in China and the West. I'd love to hear Sasha's opinion on what this means: Does sushi still belong to Japan? Or has it truly globalized, and is it now a product of the world?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yune

    This was the book I was looking for when I picked up The Zen of Fish: an in-depth look at how sushi has globalized and the people and economic forces involved in the movement. There's a bit of history and some explanation about the training involved to become a sushi chef (the profile being of an American, but ah well), and an actual breakdown of the costs for a restaurant, as well as a detailed visit to the famed Tsukiji Market. It doesn't stop at that scale, though. There's a whole section abou This was the book I was looking for when I picked up The Zen of Fish: an in-depth look at how sushi has globalized and the people and economic forces involved in the movement. There's a bit of history and some explanation about the training involved to become a sushi chef (the profile being of an American, but ah well), and an actual breakdown of the costs for a restaurant, as well as a detailed visit to the famed Tsukiji Market. It doesn't stop at that scale, though. There's a whole section about how an enterprising fellow working in the cargo department of Japan Airlines figured out how to transport fresh fish, and suddenly all those tuna that Canadian fishermen were throwing away had a market. As others have mentioned, the book is arranged in such a way that you follow people; I didn't get annoyed by this, since there was no attempt to try to involve you in their life stories, just their roles, and you get to see a variety of them, from fishermen to people tracking tuna pirates. The main failing of the book is its emphasis on bluefin tuna. There are so many other ingredients involved in sushi, which is actually a strength of the other book I read. That said, tuna does make for a more dramatic story of conservation and market reactions. Worth a read if you're interested in the subject, but not written so compellingly that it would hook in others, I suspect.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    One would think I know more about sushi, having a mother from Japan and all. Really, she's from Okinawa...not exactly sushi country. And up until a couple years ago (when a trip to Japan precipitated the necessity) I wasn't even eating fish. I had been a vegetarian since I was about 14. But now I'm back to it and I figured it was time to do a little research. From the start, I really enjoyed this book. The author's detailed, personal style of explanation held my interest, even when he was descri One would think I know more about sushi, having a mother from Japan and all. Really, she's from Okinawa...not exactly sushi country. And up until a couple years ago (when a trip to Japan precipitated the necessity) I wasn't even eating fish. I had been a vegetarian since I was about 14. But now I'm back to it and I figured it was time to do a little research. From the start, I really enjoyed this book. The author's detailed, personal style of explanation held my interest, even when he was describing seemingly boring events like a fish auction. Economics is not my forte, but this book provided me with a convincing peek into the business world of how products get their footing. Starting with a product that was previously a burden to throw in the dump (bluefin tuna) and raising it to rockstar status in the fish world was no small feat. My favorite chapter was on the white American and his journey to becoming a sushi chef. The story of this guy's dedication was amazing...made me feel a bit lazy and unfocused. BUT...that's where my interest trailed off. I rushed through subsequent chapters trying to get back to the good stuff to no avail. Perhaps I have the attention span of a fly, but my guess is the first 2/3 of the book was just juicier than the last bit.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This falls into the category of: seriously, there's a book about everything out there. Awhile back, I read a great review for this book, an exploration of the burgeoning popularity of sushi around the world - and the evolution of tuna from fodder for cheap cat food to a modern delicacy. Absent the review, I doubt I would have picked up a book on this topic. Issenberg approaches the issue from every angle - from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market where auctioneers sell pounds and pounds of fish every mo This falls into the category of: seriously, there's a book about everything out there. Awhile back, I read a great review for this book, an exploration of the burgeoning popularity of sushi around the world - and the evolution of tuna from fodder for cheap cat food to a modern delicacy. Absent the review, I doubt I would have picked up a book on this topic. Issenberg approaches the issue from every angle - from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market where auctioneers sell pounds and pounds of fish every morning to the hip LA restaurant sushi bars. Issenberg looks at the fishing trade itself - the various ways for farming and pirating tuna for legal commercial trade, as well as on the black market. This is a thorough study of the globalization of sushi, and interesting to the extent it answers the question of how such a seemingly strange food has gained such wide-spread popularity. But, at the end of the day, it's a book about the globalization of tuna - and while there are interesting factoids here and there, overall, it just didn't float my boat. Though it did put my in the mood for a big fat ninja roll.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Reading this soon after the disappointing Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I found this to be yet another food book that never quite met its lofty aspirations. (And I wasn't surprised to find that Issenberg credited Jennifer 8 Lee in the Acknowledgements). Issenberg arrogantly declares in the Introduction that "a book about what goes into the making of sushi has to really be a narrative about the development of twentieth century global capitalism. A book that wants to revel in the beauty and delicious Reading this soon after the disappointing Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I found this to be yet another food book that never quite met its lofty aspirations. (And I wasn't surprised to find that Issenberg credited Jennifer 8 Lee in the Acknowledgements). Issenberg arrogantly declares in the Introduction that "a book about what goes into the making of sushi has to really be a narrative about the development of twentieth century global capitalism. A book that wants to revel in the beauty and deliciousness of sushi must be a celebration of globalization. This is that book." A book that celebrates globalization ought to get its facts straight for in the same chapter, it discusses how in Singapore "diners can feast on curry [sushi] rolls and Hainanese chicken-rice rolls, often in halal sushi bars catering to the small nation's increasingly wealthy Malaysian Muslim population". Inaccuracies like that make you wonder what else the guy got wrong in the subsequent 281 pages of his book. Other than that, it's a decent enough read to pass the time but if you want to learn more about globalization, read Friedman.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    I added this one to my to-read list at the same time as The Zen of Fish, 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 were too redundant. This book focused a lot more on tuna than the last one, 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 h I added this one to my to-read list at the same time as The Zen of Fish, 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 were too redundant. This book focused a lot more on tuna than the last one, 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 (at whose Honolulu restaurant I had one of the best dishes of my life, his yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno). I was getting annoyed with the book because I'd gotten pretty near the end and Issenberg hadn't touched the issue of sustainable fishing - but then he talked about it in depth, so now I can wholly recommend this as interesting and informative. Between the two sushi books, I liked this one better. However, it doesn't have the running narrative that the other had, which may make it a little harder to read, so your mileage may vary.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Sasha Issenberg, an investigative reporter at Philadelphia magazine, gained national notoriety a few years ago when he fact-checked David Brooks's article in the Atlantic Monthly, "One Nation, Slightly Divisable." He found plenty of errors and generalizations. With The Sushi Economy, he impressed critics with his thoughtful and well-written account of how sushi became the world's favorite luxury cuisine. Filled with interesting detail, the book also contains surprising facts and anecdotes that c Sasha Issenberg, an investigative reporter at Philadelphia magazine, gained national notoriety a few years ago when he fact-checked David Brooks's article in the Atlantic Monthly, "One Nation, Slightly Divisable." He found plenty of errors and generalizations. With The Sushi Economy, he impressed critics with his thoughtful and well-written account of how sushi became the world's favorite luxury cuisine. Filled with interesting detail, the book also contains surprising facts and anecdotes that critics were quick to quote. The New York Times felt the narrative sometimes dragged, with one passage that describes a fish being transferred from boat to dock feeling "longer than the flight to Japan." Other critics thought Issenberg strained too much on occasion, for example by comparing sushi chefs with samurai. Despite these minor criticisms, reviewers overall recommended this book as a fascinating view of the global economy.This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie H

    When I first picked up The Sushi Economy, I was expecting an overall look at conservation and the industry as a whole. Additionally, I expected to a book that dealt more with globalization and economics rather than provided anecdotal accounts of particular vendors, fisherman and brokers. Apparently the sushi economy itself is comprised only of bluefin tuna, as the book does not pay attention to any other seafood except the occasional mention of spanish mackerel. Instead, it provides painstaking d When I first picked up The Sushi Economy, I was expecting an overall look at conservation and the industry as a whole. Additionally, I expected to a book that dealt more with globalization and economics rather than provided anecdotal accounts of particular vendors, fisherman and brokers. Apparently the sushi economy itself is comprised only of bluefin tuna, as the book does not pay attention to any other seafood except the occasional mention of spanish mackerel. Instead, it provides painstaking detail of the history of the bluefin tuna trade in japan, the inner workings of Tsukiji market, contemporary ranching practices and the dangers of overfishing and over expansion. It was an enjoyable book that actually provided a relatively objective view without an excessive conservation message (though the tone was there). However, I would have appreciated more analysis and treatment to the causal relationships of global business, not merely stories of individuals and their dealings with the sushi econcomy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Turi

    It felt like I had read reviews of this book everywhere, from the local paper to Outside Magazine and Smithsonian. (Don't remember which of those ACTUALLY reviewed it, but I know I read at least 3 reviews...) Anyway, It sounded interesting enough that I had to pick it up. The Sushi Economy by Sasha Issenberg is part foodie book, part global economy - like Michael Ruhlman meets Thomas Friedman. Very interesting and readable, too - I learned a lot about sushi that I didn't know - history, preparat It felt like I had read reviews of this book everywhere, from the local paper to Outside Magazine and Smithsonian. (Don't remember which of those ACTUALLY reviewed it, but I know I read at least 3 reviews...) Anyway, It sounded interesting enough that I had to pick it up. The Sushi Economy by Sasha Issenberg is part foodie book, part global economy - like Michael Ruhlman meets Thomas Friedman. Very interesting and readable, too - I learned a lot about sushi that I didn't know - history, preparation, etc., as well as a lot about tuna - fishing, ranching, the different kinds... As well as how it all fits together to in a global system to provide fish from around the world to sushi restaurants everywhere. Didn't seem like there was an overarching theme to the book - "We need to stop overfishing!" or something like that - it was just a pretty balanced look into how the whole system works, and how it doesn't, sometimes.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    Interesting book. Though sushi calls to mind a variety of seafood products in the mind of many people, this book focuses predominantly on the bluefin tuna market. Individual chapters each tend to have their own narrative thread drawn from a key personality that helps the author illustrate his point. This generally works well; with the exception of perhaps two chapters, all are very interesting. The book does have a few negative qualities. Occasionally, tantalizing threads, such as a one time ment Interesting book. Though sushi calls to mind a variety of seafood products in the mind of many people, this book focuses predominantly on the bluefin tuna market. Individual chapters each tend to have their own narrative thread drawn from a key personality that helps the author illustrate his point. This generally works well; with the exception of perhaps two chapters, all are very interesting. The book does have a few negative qualities. Occasionally, tantalizing threads, such as a one time mention of Masa Takayama, are brought to the readers attention only never to be mentioned again. This trend is frustrating at several points in the book. I also wonder if the book is critical or emphatic enough about the damaged state of global bluefin populations. It seems to err on the side of globalization rather than biology, but I'm no expert on this so I will defer judgment. In all, it was an enjoyable read, balancing the features of a pop-economics text with a foodie volume.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ji Yung

    Reading the title, I bought the book thinking it would be more about breaking down globalization codes and marketing barriers. I thought it would be about how sushi - such a queer cuisine if you think about it - became so popular in cultures that originally repelled at the thought of uncooked fish. Instead, when Sasha Issenberg talks about globalization, it's about how the global supply of tuna fish is utilized to quench the thirst for tuna, especially in the market places of Japan. Maybe it's Reading the title, I bought the book thinking it would be more about breaking down globalization codes and marketing barriers. I thought it would be about how sushi - such a queer cuisine if you think about it - became so popular in cultures that originally repelled at the thought of uncooked fish. Instead, when Sasha Issenberg talks about globalization, it's about how the global supply of tuna fish is utilized to quench the thirst for tuna, especially in the market places of Japan. Maybe it's due to my general lack of interest in economics, but this emphasis rather than the one i would have preferred (marketing) made the book a bit boring. However, the less economic stories that describe the personalities and ethics of the sushi chefs were delightful insights into the other side of the sushi bar. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy eating sushi, but do not be misled by Issenberg's diction "globalization."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Calton Bolick

    One of those sorts of books which starts by considering a particular and seemingly minor thing -- sushi, a bit of Japanese cuisine that has become globally ubiquitous to an extent I'm not sure many Japanese realize -- and building out from there, making connection after connection to paint a picture of a much larger world and network. The obvious parallel for me is the work of John McPhee, and this book has a McPhee-level of fascinating and illuminating detail: from the dealers in Tokyo's Tsukij One of those sorts of books which starts by considering a particular and seemingly minor thing -- sushi, a bit of Japanese cuisine that has become globally ubiquitous to an extent I'm not sure many Japanese realize -- and building out from there, making connection after connection to paint a picture of a much larger world and network. The obvious parallel for me is the work of John McPhee, and this book has a McPhee-level of fascinating and illuminating detail: from the dealers in Tokyo's Tsukiji Market to the fisherman and tuna middlemen in Massachusetts and Atlantic Canada to the founder of the Nobu's restaurant empire; from the tuna cowboys of Australia to the tuna pirates of the Mediterranean to sushi restaurants in Tokyo, Austin, and the Bahamas; history, culture, culinary arts, logistics, and science: it's all there, the hidden story of that (to Westerners) yuppie dish you may take for granted.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    So there are probably a hundred books out there that dissect one thing that we eat - cod, salt, fast food, the twinkie, meat - and use that one product as a lens for globalization and our food culture and so on. This is a good one in that genre, taking a very wide-ranging and not too serious look at the global tuna industry (there are no gloom and doom scenarios about plummeting fish stocks, mecury poisoning, etc. - you will actually want to continue to eat sushi when you are done with this book So there are probably a hundred books out there that dissect one thing that we eat - cod, salt, fast food, the twinkie, meat - and use that one product as a lens for globalization and our food culture and so on. This is a good one in that genre, taking a very wide-ranging and not too serious look at the global tuna industry (there are no gloom and doom scenarios about plummeting fish stocks, mecury poisoning, etc. - you will actually want to continue to eat sushi when you are done with this book and probably crave it along the way). I like that the author is not a sushi purist snob, so he talks about how different cultures have absorbed sushi in an interesting and not disparaging way. The book solved also addressed a mystery from my childhood - why are there so many Moonies in Gloucester, MA?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stef

    I like books about the restaurant business and I'm interested in the sea and the history of commerce and commodities, and I like sushi, so that's why I grabbed the book off the library's new book shelves. I finished it in two days because it's pretty well written. It takes you on a meandering tour of the sushi world, focusing on bluefin tuna, from the point of view of restauranteurs, auction houses, fishmongers, tuna ranchers (I certainly didn't know there was any such thing) and more. Each chap I like books about the restaurant business and I'm interested in the sea and the history of commerce and commodities, and I like sushi, so that's why I grabbed the book off the library's new book shelves. I finished it in two days because it's pretty well written. It takes you on a meandering tour of the sushi world, focusing on bluefin tuna, from the point of view of restauranteurs, auction houses, fishmongers, tuna ranchers (I certainly didn't know there was any such thing) and more. Each chapter introduces a specific person and describes what that person does in the global market. I will keep the little Seafood Watch card in my wallet (which says I should avoid bluefin tuna anyway - which is fine because apparently it never comes near my local sushi joints, nor could I afford it if it did). But I will never imagine again that I can know where any fish came from.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amber Demure

    Fantastic - I had absolutely no interest in the book or subject (or so I thought, apart from eating it), and this was sent as a Christmas gift from an uncle in Australia. It was so well written, interesting, and informative (it flowed almost like fiction, fluid, but factual) that I fell in love. Of note, its quite fun to read it while at a sushi bar, the chefs will run out going "Oh my god I read that too!" If you're an Austinite, you see a huge piece (i.e. whole chapter) devoted to Tyson Cole of Fantastic - I had absolutely no interest in the book or subject (or so I thought, apart from eating it), and this was sent as a Christmas gift from an uncle in Australia. It was so well written, interesting, and informative (it flowed almost like fiction, fluid, but factual) that I fell in love. Of note, its quite fun to read it while at a sushi bar, the chefs will run out going "Oh my god I read that too!" If you're an Austinite, you see a huge piece (i.e. whole chapter) devoted to Tyson Cole of Uchi. All in all it's remarkable, I had no idea what went into the economics of sushi (supply, demand, innovation, sociology)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Britta

    The history of sushi is absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately, this book is only 1/4 history. It's the sort of book that passes the time, but that if you left it at a restaurant, you wouldn't particularly notice it was gone-- which is exactly what I did. Finally finished it after being surprised that a waitress remembered whom the book belonged to, and really didn't think I would have missed much by just leaving it. The author goes to great pains to find interesting personalities in the sushi wo The history of sushi is absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately, this book is only 1/4 history. It's the sort of book that passes the time, but that if you left it at a restaurant, you wouldn't particularly notice it was gone-- which is exactly what I did. Finally finished it after being surprised that a waitress remembered whom the book belonged to, and really didn't think I would have missed much by just leaving it. The author goes to great pains to find interesting personalities in the sushi world, and to make them sound interesting, but ultimately the story is more muddled than coherent and sort of drags along to an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion. Lots of interesting facts to be had (particularly about the introduction of sushi into America) but not many insights to be gleaned.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    The amazing process and history of ocean to sushi roll unfolds in this detailed book. Sushi is beautiful, expensive, and has complex history. Take a look through this and you'll see how one man's goal to ship tuna without it spoiling gave the world access to sushi. Issenberg also gives us a look at the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market and how the multi-generation families of fishermen are dealing with the constant need for fish out of season. The whole process of getting fish around the world is The amazing process and history of ocean to sushi roll unfolds in this detailed book. Sushi is beautiful, expensive, and has complex history. Take a look through this and you'll see how one man's goal to ship tuna without it spoiling gave the world access to sushi. Issenberg also gives us a look at the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market and how the multi-generation families of fishermen are dealing with the constant need for fish out of season. The whole process of getting fish around the world is complex but Issenberg explains it well. This book may make you think differently about the next sushi roll you pick up (unless you only eat the veggies ones).

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