The Zen of Fish

Zen of Fish

I don’t read. Well, I mean, I do read, I just don’t usually read for pleasure. I mean, I’ve read books before, I just don’t do it often. Whatever. Get off my case.

Anyway, that said, I might make an exception. I first noticed this book in this month’s Esquire, and it sounded pretty interesting. Then I checked out a few sample excerpts and it looks to be a really interesting read. Here’s a brief description from Barnes & Noble.

Everything you never knew about sushi—its surprising origins, the colorful lives of its chefs, the bizarre behavior of the creatures that compose it—is revealed in this entertaining documentary account by the author of the highly acclaimed The Secret Life of Lobsters.

When a twenty-year-old woman arrives at America’s first sushi-chef training academy in Los Angeles, she is unprepared for the challenges ahead: knives like swords, instructors like samurai, prejudice against female chefs, demanding Hollywood customers—and that’s just the first two weeks.

In this richly reported story, journalist Trevor Corson shadows several American sushi novices and a master Japanese chef, taking the reader behind the scenes as the students strive to master the elusive art of cooking without cooking. With the same eye for drama and humor that Corson brings to the exploits of the chefs, he delves into the biology and natural history of the creatures of the sea. He illuminates sushi’s beginnings as an Indo-Chinese meal akin to cheese, describes its reinvention in bustling nineteenth-century Tokyo as a cheap fast food, and tells the story of the pioneers who brought it to America. He shows how this unlikely meal is now exploding into the American heartland just as the long-term future of sushi may be unraveling.

The Zen of Fish is a compelling tale of human determination as well as a delectable smorgasbord of surprising food science, intrepid reporting, and provocative cultural history.

The reviews look good and if you want to read a few excerpts yourself you can find one on Barnes & and another on the author’s site. The site also offers a few sushi facts that you can share with your friends, such as:

  • The mound of wasabi you get at a sushi bar isn’t wasabi at all. Moreover, by mixing it in your soy sauce, you are reducing its potency—and offending the chef.
  • In Japan, an apprentice sushi chef spends two years learning to cook and season the rice, and another three learning to prepare fish, before he is allowed to work behind the sushi bar. In the U.S., high demand for sushi chefs means that many work behind the bar after only a few months of training.
  • The best sushi chefs prepare octopus by giving the animal a lengthy, full-body massage—while the creature is still moving.
  • Japanese usually eat miso soup not at the beginning of the meal, but at the end—to aid digestion.
  • Inside-out rolls are the mainstay of American sushi—and are an American invention. They didn’t exist in Japan until recently, when they were imported from the United States.
  • In the original form of sushi, the rice was left to rot until it smelled like vomit.

Although the excerpt is on Barnes & Noble, Amazon actually has the cheaper price; yours for $16.47.
Also, in case you missed it the first time I posted it, click here to watch a very informative video on sushi etiquette.

And if you’ve read the book, post how you liked it.


4 comments so far

  1. :: jozjozjoz :: on

    “The best sushi chefs prepare octopus by giving the animal a lengthy, full-body massage—while the creature is still moving.”

    I would love to see this.

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    […] The Zen of Fish [image] I don’t read. Well, I mean, I do read, I just don’t usually read for pleasure. I mean, I’ve […] […]

  3. Peter on

    If only I had known about this book before ! Some more zen-sushi etiquette I noticed on a recent trip to Japan: The fish should be fresh, really really fresh
    I saw an eel taken from an aquarium by two chefs, one holding it down while the other filleted and sliced it. It required two men, because eel do a terrible job at dying easily, writhing and wriggling all the way through the process. In this particular instance, it stopped moving a second before being placed on a piece of rice and disappearing into an eager mouth.
    For the full post read:

  4. cincodemayo1 on

    Very interesting about the eel! Cool story. Thanks for sharing.

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