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Lucky Peach Discovers and Covers Ike Jime in Second Issue

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Lucky Peach is the new food magazine from the cool kids at McSweeney's, part Gourmet for hipsters and part zine. It's not always appetizing -- the latest [and only the magazine's second] issue features a five-page spread of rotting food transforming into nightmarish new foods -- but it's been interesting so far.

This latest issue delves into more than just drawings of decomposing fruit; it's a guide, of sorts, to the "sweet spot" of various foodstuffs. There's an illustrated guide to leaving things in your refrigerator until ripe, an incredibly detailed recipe for creating the perfect, multi-layered Arnold Palmer cake, and a photo spread of dealing a death blow to a striped bass at that ideal moment: the ike jime process in action, or the Japanese art of killing fish.

Unlike our stories on ike jime -- which focused on Gulf-caught fish like red snapper -- the Lucky Peach story shows the death of a Long Island striped bass. Of course, the techniques demonstrated in Lucky Peach are different from the ones that we highlighted (see our cover story from August: "The Fish That Got Away"), but that's just ike jime: There's no one "right way" to kill every fish.

This is echoed in the article, too, where Kyoto fisherman Yoshihiro Mirata explains to writer Jon Heindemause: "There are many ways to kill fish. What's best depends on what you need it for."

What isn't up for debate is the fact that ike jime reduces the strain and stress on a fish before it dies, so that lactic acid doesn't build up in the muscles. This makes for a more flavorful fish with firmer yet softer flesh -- think of a dry-aged steak, for example.

What also isn't up for debate is the fact that ike jime isn't standard fishing practice on Long Island, either, according to Heindemause: "Other fishermen give me weird looks when I sing the praises of ike jime," he writes.

Heindemause's article echoes what one fisherman told me after a long day of hauling in red snapper from the waters off Port Aransas and ike jime'ing them on his trawler:

​"I don't eat bait," growls Captain Barry Irwin, pointedly ignoring the plate of raw bonito being offered to him.

It's the end of a 15-hour commercial fishing expedition in the Gulf of Mexico, a mere pleasure cruise for someone like Irwin, who's been a commercial fisherman since he was 16 years old. And even though Irwin has been fishing and eating out of these waters his entire life, he's not even remotely interested in eating Gulf fish raw.

It's a perfect illustration of the prejudice against Gulf fish spotlighted in our recent feature, "The Fish That Got Away," which examined the struggles in trying to create a market for ike jime -- or sashimi-grade -- Gulf fish.

Even Texas fishermen are uninterested in eating (let alone catching) sashimi-grade Gulf fish, leaving people like Jim Naismith frustrated yet hopeful that attitudes will shift over time as he tries to establish his own sashimi-grade fish company here on the Gulf coast, the only business of its kind.

Ike jime hasn't received this much attention since chefs Dave Arnold and Nils Norén wrote about it on the French Culinary Institute's blog, Cooking Issues, back in 2009. And it certainly hasn't received attention on a national level from a cooking magazine -- until now.

Between our own coverage of the Japanese art form and Lucky Peach's new piece, count me among those who hopes the ike jime method will finally catch on here in the U.S. at last.

Lucky Peach is on newsstands now for $12. It comes with a page of stickers, in case you're wondering where that $12 goes.

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