Big Tuna

We simply can’t get enough of tuna, can we? I’ve got a book on my shelf, Tuna: A Love Story by Richard Ellis from 2008. The Wall Street Journal has just reviewed American Tuna by Andrew F. Smith. And Vanity Fair recently published “If You Knew Sushi” by Nick Tosches, which mentions how bluefin tuna can bring in $170,000 at auction. Of course, like the lobster, it wasn’t always this way.

Writes Journal reviewer Rich Cohen,

If brought back to harbor, tuna was either left to rot on the beach or used for fertilizer or chicken feed. According to Mr. Smith, a fish-monger circa 1885 could expect 15 cents to 20 cents total for a 35-pound tuna—the cheapest thing on the wharf. Considered repulsive, grotesque, disgusting, tuna was a gag-inducing necessity eaten only in case of imminent starvation. In 1906, Field and Stream described it as “oily, and unpalatable to human taste.” It’s like the label my friend saw on a can of sausage in our high-school cafeteria: “Also for human consumption.”

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll look back on SPAM in the same way. Or maybe not.

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