Sasha Issenberg is a younger guy than I had envisioned while reading his book, The Sushi Economy. I could see the youth in his face as he approached the podium at Books & Books in Coral Gables on Saturday afternoon. Then he started his talk by stating that he’s been eating sushi since he was five years old. When I was five years old sushi wasn’t an American dining option. I had to get by on Fluffer-Nutters. Damn. But I digress.
Issenberg’s book is a behind-the-scenes look at how, starting in the 1970s, modern technology merged with a growing appetite for raw fish to create a global network of pirates, smugglers, black marketeers, tuna ranchers, fishermen, purveyors, chefs, restaurateurs, many a savvy businessman...well, suffice to say it’s a long, complex, round-the-world sail from sea to sushi bar, and Issenberg takes readers along for the ride.
In the process he paints a rosier, more personalized picture of globalization than one is used to reading in today’s food literature, and underlined that point in his reading at the bookstore. During the Q & A, those in attendance expressed more interest in practical matters -- as in hints on how to land the best sushi in restaurants. Issenberg suggested sitting at the sushi bar and asking the chef which fish is best -- apparently they’ve got all kinds of cuts behind that counter, the prime of which they prefer passing to those in front of them, rather than to faceless diners in the room.
Oh, and by the way -- enjoy your sashimi while you can. Once a few billion Chinese really start getting into it, there may not be all that many fish left in the sea. --Lee Klein