Photo by kawanet/Flickr CC
Atlantic bluefin tuna is in serious trouble as demand for bluefin as a sushi topping drives down stocks of the fish. Conservation organizations and celebrities have pressured high-profile restaurateurs, particularly the global sushi tycoon Nobu Matsuhisa, to remove bluefin from their menus. But so far it looks like a losing battle. Bluefin sushi is big money, and that's because everyone thinks bluefin toro--the fatty belly cuts of the fish--is the pinnacle of fine Japanese dining.
If this situation weren't so sad, it would be hilarious, because just a few decades ago, the Japanese considered toro such a disgusting part of the tuna that the only people who would eat it were impoverished manual laborers. And prior to about the 1920s, no self-respecting Japanese person would eat any kind of tuna at all if they could possibly avoid it. Tuna was so despised in Japan that all tuna species qualified for an official term of disparagement: gezakana, or "inferior fish."
In the old days in Japan, if you had no choice but to eat tuna you'd do everything you could do get rid of the bloody metallic taste of the fresh red meat. One trick was to bury the tuna in the ground for four days so that the muscle would actually ferment, which led to tuna being called by the nickname shibi--literally, "four days."