Fish completely at the mercy of human whim
Rosanjin Kitaoji (1883-1959), an artist and epicurean, preferred trout to salmon.
"Salmon and trout look similar to the untrained eye, but salmon is no match for trout as a delicacy," he asserted in the October 1932 issue of Hoshigaoka magazine.
Trout, he noted, "produces far more delicious broth than salmon" when used as a topping for chazuke, a dish made by pouring tea or broth over a bowl of cooked rice.
"Only experience can refine one's palate," Kitaoji is quoted as saying.
Were he alive today, I wonder how he would cook what a team of researchers at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology brought into the world last month--nijimasu (rainbow trout) spawned from yamame (landlocked salmon, also called trout).
The researchers extracted special procreative cells from nijimasu and implanted them in yamame fry. When the latter grew into mature fish, the males produced the sperm of nijimasu, and the females the eggs of nijimasu.
Using these male and female "surrogate parents," the team succeeded in breeding nijimasu from yamame.
"Five years from now, we hope to produce tuna from mackerel," said one of the researchers.
Since fish farmers will be able to cut costs if they use small, low-maintenance fish to breed large fish, how about using tiny medaka killifish for the purpose?
Unfortunately, for cross-species breeding to work, surrogate parents and their offspring have to be closely related. Mackerel and tuna are close enough, though not as close as yamame and nijimasu.
Whatever his reason, Kitaoji looked down on tuna.
"Tuna is an inferior fish to begin with, and there is nothing in it that will ever satisfy the palate of first-class gourmets," he insisted. He would be shocked if someone served him a prime cut of toro (fatty belly meat) and explained that this tuna had been hatched from mackerel.
Some fish are tougher than others, but none are "superior" in terms of hierarchy. If I were a mackerel, I would never be able to understand why people make such a big deal about fatty tuna. What people consider delicious is really a matter of personal taste.
But the price of fish is determined by the demands of the market, and even scientists are tailoring their research to fit the established price structure. Fish are completely at the mercy of human whim.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 7(IHT/Asahi: October 22,2007)