Thursday, May 3, 2007

Sasha Issenberg: Raw and unedited

posted by Andy Leff
I've got one of the biggest fish tales you've ever heard -- that's hundreds-of-dollars-per-pound big.

It starts in Japan, about 30 years ago. The fish in question is tuna. Sports fishermen caught the fish, and sold it for pennies as an ingredient in cat food.

Fast forward to today. That tuna isn't going for pennies anymore. It's being harvested at record rates, and Tokyo auctioneers sell millions of dollars of the fish every day to create one of the world's most coveted epicurean delights: sushi.

Now you see sushi restaurants at every street corner and on every menu -- even at places like pubs and sports bars.

Why? Well, I wondered that myself. And there's no better person to ask than Philadelphia Magazine writer Sasha Issenberg. His new book, "The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy," has all the answers, and it hits bookstores today.

The book is the product of a 15-month global tour interviewing fishermen, chefs, and just about anyone else involved in the sushi trade. The result: The entire history of sushi, from its beginnings as a Japanese snack to its current status as a global phenomenon.

But we couldn't wait for the book to come out to learn how this fish story ends. We met up with the author earlier this week at Genji, a great sushi restaurant (come on, was it even a question?) in downtown Philly.

Sasha dished on how the sushi trade grew in a global market over such a short span of time, reflected on whether we might be in a sushi bubble, and reveals his favorite type of sushi (we couldn't help but ask).

And as luck would have it, we captured the convo here. Although you can't mount this one on your wall, you can download it, sync it to your iPod, and take it with you.

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