Sushi first achieved widespread popularity in the United States in the mid-1960s. Many accounts of sushi's US establishment foreground the role of a small number of key actors, yet underplay the role of a complex web of large-scale factors that provided the context in which sushi was able to flourish. This article critically reviews existing literature, arguing that sushi's US popularity arose from contingent, long-term, and gradual processes. It examines US newspaper accounts of sushi during 1945–1970, which suggest the discursive context for US acceptance of sushi was considerably more propitious than generally acknowledged. Using California as a case study, the analysis also explains conducive social and material factors, and directs attention to the interplay of supply- and demand-side forces in the favorable positioning of this “new” food. The article argues that the US establishment of sushi can be understood as part of broader public acceptance of Japanese cuisine.
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