Tuesday, April 29, 2008


...I could eat a whale.

So I did.

In my attempt to scale new heights in Politically Incorrect Dining, while in Tokyo I enjoyed an appetizer of kujira na beikon: whale bacon sashimi.

Whale bacon ain’t cheap. You can find it in food markets in various spots in Japan, sold in little packages at a price that works out to about $140 per pound. Not even Zabar’s offers deli that costly.

Whale Bacon
Whale bacon (center) at the Nishiki Food Market in Kyoto.

What does it taste like? Well, not like chicken. Or fish, for that matter. It’s a nice, dark-red meat with a sizable layer of tasty fat, bringing to mind nothing so much as pastrami. As I savored the delicate, raw slices, I wondered how it’d be served hot on rye with mustard. Probably pretty good.

Did I have moral qualms about eating one of the gentle giants of the deep? Not really. Whale is a traditional protein source in Japan, and my having three or four slices isn’t going to have an impact on the size of the annual whale harvest - a harvest that is, ostensibly, undertaken for the purpose of scientific research. Research into the question of how to make a tastier pet food, or how to sustain an ever-increasing human population, or how to turn blubber into biofuel - who knows? But I figure whales are probably about as bright as cows, and we eat those. I’ll have second thoughts when one of ’em learns to pick up a harpoon.

Hey, at least I didn’t have horse sashimi. That was on the menu, too. They charge extra for the mane.

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