The Story of Sushi
An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice
previously published as The Zen of Fish
HarperCollins, June 2007
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
“Corson beautifully intersperses the drama with lessons about the history and science of each fish the class encounters, along with the rice and wasabi. He also reveals that just about everything Americans know about eating sushi is wrong, down to using chopsticks to dunk their fish in soy sauce. Foodies will find dozens of useful tips to enhance their appreciation of "the fast food of old Tokyo," especially if they entrust an experienced chef to prepare an omakase meal for them. The combination of culinary insights and personal drama makes for one of the more compelling food-themed books in recent years.”—Publishers' Weekly (starred)
“Trevor Corson's reverence for all things from the sea is palpable. In his new book THE ZEN OF FISH he takes you on a fascinating journey into the world of sushi. The story he relates is rich in detail, thoroughly engaging, simply a pleasure to get lost in.”—Eric Ripert, executive chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, and author of A RETURN TO COOKING and LE BERNARDIN COOKBOOK: Four-Star Simplicity
“...authoritative, often amusing chapters on sushi history, marine biology and the physiognomy of taste. While the students hack away at mackerel, Corson serves up bite-size explanations of the inventions of soy sauce, the sex life of red algae, and the importance of umami, that mysterious fifth taste that underlies so much of Eastern cuisine. His chapter on rice, a subject that Americans take for granted, is itself worth the price of the book.”—Jay McInerney, The New York Times Book Review
“Mr. Corson explores all this and more with an expert's command of the subject and an eccentric's instinct for the dumbfounding detail. (Sea urchins share 70% of their genetic code with humans.) This is the real sushi course, and after 12 weeks the reader emerges not only enlightened but a much better sushi eater.”—William Grimes, The New York Times
“LivelyVivid mixture of history, science, and personal anecdotes”—Los Angeles Times