Of Fish and Fast Food

As I made my way through Sasha Issenberg‘s The Sushi Economy, I was reminded of another great nonfiction book about food and globalism–Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

Both books are about the history of a unique form of cuisine. Whether we are talking about Ray Croft or Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, the motivations of food pioneers are learned. Both books display global business in practice, whether it is the international branches of McDonald’s or the tuna ranchers in the Mediterranean. Both reveal hidden intricacies that consumers would never know otherwise–the vagaries of Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market or the harsh reality of meat processing plants.

Where the two books truly differ are in the writer’s individual tones. Where as Fast Food Nation is a condemnation of various aspects of McDonald’s operations, The Sushi Economy is a celebration of Japan’s raw cuisine that has spread throughout the world. Schlosser’s chapters leave a reader agitated, wanting to tell everyone they know to avoid the golden arches. But Issenberg’s enthusiasm seeps into you and you can’t help but run to your local sushi bar.

Which book does a greater service for its readers? One that angers and spurs you to act? Or one that instills an appreciation previously unrealized? Which focus, on the negative or on the positive, is more effective?KO