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Everything you never knew about sushi—its surprising origins, the colorful lives of its chefs, and the bizarre behavior of the creatures that compose it

Trevor Corson takes us behind the scenes at America's first sushi-chef training academy, as eager novices strive to master the elusive art of cooking without cooking. He delves into the biology and natural history of the edible creatures of the sea, and tells the fascinating story of an Indo-Chinese meal reinvented in nineteenth-century Tokyo as a cheap fast food. He reveals the pioneers who brought sushi to the United States and explores how this unlikely meal is exploding into the American heartland just as the long-term future of sushi may be unraveling.

The Story of Sushi is at once a compelling tale of human determination and a delectable smorgasbord of surprising food science, intrepid reporting, and provocative cultural history.

Topics: Food History, Gastronomy, Fishing, Fish, United States of America, Japan, Tokyo, Informative, and Creative Nonfiction

Published: HarperCollins on Jul 21, 2009
ISBN: 9780061962042
List price: $10.99
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A very interesting look into the world of the California Sushi Academy, and a very entertaining read. I finished the book in less than two days, I couldn't put it down. read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The Zen of Fish is an appropriate title. Like small decorative servings of visually appealing sushi, Trevor Corson playfully dishes out many short chapters full of descriptive appeal, encyclopedic knowledge and witty banter, a written "documentary" of the sushi experience in easily digestible portions. The variety of information about sushi is varied, but like the ubiquitous bed of white rice it is served on, a consistent human-interest narrative holds everything together, popping one short satisfying chapter down after the next. Reams of encyclopedic information are interesting, but when wrapped around a person and a story, it becomes an unforgettable experience.Gratefully, Corson has added an appendix on how to go about ordering and eating Sushi "correctly", and he covers at least a dozen different fish types that make knowing what to order beyond the standards easier. Fun and educational book, highly recommended.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In terms of recorded history, the emergence of sushi as a culinary delight in the United States is still a relatively recent phenomenon. Sushi's surging popularity has propelled it from hot spot metropolitan sake bars into local grocery store cooling bins. The story of sushi, however, reaches back much further than the freshest milk.In The Zen of Fish, Trevor Corson carefully wraps morsels of history and humor into bite sized chapters that taken together tell "the story of sushi, from samurai to supermarket." From the procurement of the freshest ingredients in the early morning fish markets to the fostering and attentive care given by each chef to their personal set of knives, Corson prepares a delicious and enlightening tome. The author's mastery of description spices the mind with the dancelike movements of sushi chefs as they prepare meals for the enthusiastic sake toasting guests lining the Hama Hermosa bar in Hermosa Beach, California. During the morning hours, the back room of the restaurant plays host to the California Sushi Academy, where we follow the trials of aspiring sushi chefs through a semester of training at the hands of their demanding instructor, Zoran. Most prominent among these characters is Kate, whose spunk and wit will have you rooting for her as an underdog amongst a handful of finely captured characters, each with their own substory.A wonderful read that will unearth the foodie in you, The Zen of Fish entertains and educates.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I don't often read non-fiction books, but I saw this book and couldn't resist. The best thing is, it doesn't read like a non-fiction book. The story line of a woman learning how to make sushi is intertwined with snippets of about the history of sushi both in the US and in Japan. Who knew a book could be both so entertaining and informative. It also made me crave real, traditional sushi, so beware of this additional consequence of reading this book.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A quick and easy read on the history of sushi in the United States as it follows a group of culinary students at the California Sushi Academy in Los Angeles. I would recommend reading this along with The Sushi Economy by Sasha Issenberg.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I adored this book. It probably helps that my favorite food in the world is sushi, so reading about it only enhances the joy. There were so many interesting facts regarding the history of sushi, the lives of fish, and the story of the students training to become sushi chefs. The three areas were nicely woven together.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
After hearing Trevor Corson speak on the radio about sushi, I picked up his book because I wanted to learn more about one of my favorite foods. The Zen of Fish follows a new student through a sushi course at the California Sushi Academy. Mixed in with the story of the student and her classmates are historical facts and other information about things related to sushi such as fish, knives, rice, and etiquette.While I was reading the book, I couldn't help feeling annoyed by the passages about Kate, the student going through the school. She's inept, clumsy, ditzy, and just not that interesting. I was more interested in the actual tidbits of information about sushi than Kate's classes.I would have rated this book higher if it only contained the informational passages about the Japanese cuisine. Those parts were interesting and worth reading for anyone who likes sushi, but the other parts felt like a waste of time. Corson might have been trying to get readers to relate to Kate, but he would have been more successful if he had chosen a stronger student from the class to follow.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Amazing, amazing, amazing book! Not just a historical run-down on sushi, this is also a story of students at an American sushi school. Each real-life character is given thorough treatment, from their awkward beginning to their graduation day. There's a lot of history of sushi in here as well, along with accompanying dishes. Miso, sake, rice and other ingredients are explained fully, along with a great many different sea creatures. Unfortunately, one of my favorite pieces of sushi, inari (rice stuffed in a tofu skin) doesn't make an appearance. This was a really entertaining read, and I'm glad I noticed it propped up on an end cap at B&N. I must have gone in there and skimmed the pages three or four times before I bought it online. The hardback is a slightly pricy $25 (I bought mine "gently used" for half the cost), but the paperback edition will be released within a few months. I'd definately recommend it to anyone who loves food.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a fantastic book. It contains a little bit of fiction in the way of students attending a sushi course at the American Sushi Academy. Through their daily lessons at the academy, we are introduced to the history of sushi, its evolution from fish stored in fermented rice to the food that we are familiar with today.We get lessons in mold, its importance to the Japanese chefs as far back as 1200 years ago, how bonito flakes are made, the role that kelp plays in creating a Japanese broth known as dashi, why the human tongue savors glutamate, the biology of different marine life commonly used as nigiri sushi toppings, why some fish are considered delicacies and others snubbed, the introduction of shellfish and mollusks, and what do we really know about the green condiment that comes in a little pyramid on a sushi plate? From how to wrap sushi, how to cut different kinds of fish, slice squid and why sushi chefs slap geoducks before serving, this book has all the intricate details together told in a most conversational style. The author includes cultural notes on how to eat sushi, what the pickled garlic really is for, how sushi chefs look at their clients before deciding how to form the sushi that will fit the client's style, and why they have the green leaves.The fiction adds rather than detracts from the book, and actually forms really good segue points from one topic to another in the ongoing saga of the world of sushi.I found this completely fascinating. It's given me a great insight into the food that I enjoy eating and now that I know some inside information into sushi, I am better informed now as to what I should be and should not be eating.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I quite enjoyed this book. It's an interesting mixture of narrative, history and science all related to sushi. I especially enjoyed the science and history, and while the narrative provided a framework for this information, it felt kind of juvenile at times.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was a very difficult book for me to rate. On one hand, the author writes in a knowledgeable manner about an interesting subject, but on the other, the book was so poorly written as to be virtually unreadable in large segments. Perhaps he could have taken a different context—writing as a purely documentary account of the history of sushi, which one would expect from the title and blurb on the back, rather than following an up-and-coming bunch of sushi chefs from Los Angeles' California Sushi Academy. Maybe his writing is indicative of some form of discomfort with the subject material at hand—stilted wording and sentences structured in a painfully boring way could be an attempt to write formally instead of comfortably.Why, then, does this warrant a 3.5-star rating? This is one of the more interesting books about kitchen life that I've read, and I do love sushi. The subject material is fascinating and through this book I learned of the California Sushi Academy—which I would love to attend if I had six grand and twelve weeks at my disposal. Corson is obviously knowledgeable about the material, which means that in addition to the "insider view" gleaned from following the chefs-in-training around the kitchen, a different "insider view" is acquired through the copious amounts of background knowledge. The information under the writing is fascinating; it's a pity that the writing itself is so bad.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really enjoyed the information about the history of sushi and the variety of fish that is used. As usual, Trevor Carson makes a story out of a non-fiction topic that leaves the reader learning more about a subject than they realize. I rated this with 3 1/2 stars because of the sections on the student he chose to follow. Her story did not add anything to the book and I was tempted to skip those sections. Overall, a very interesting book -- especially for sushi lovers.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Read all reviews

Reviews

A very interesting look into the world of the California Sushi Academy, and a very entertaining read. I finished the book in less than two days, I couldn't put it down.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The Zen of Fish is an appropriate title. Like small decorative servings of visually appealing sushi, Trevor Corson playfully dishes out many short chapters full of descriptive appeal, encyclopedic knowledge and witty banter, a written "documentary" of the sushi experience in easily digestible portions. The variety of information about sushi is varied, but like the ubiquitous bed of white rice it is served on, a consistent human-interest narrative holds everything together, popping one short satisfying chapter down after the next. Reams of encyclopedic information are interesting, but when wrapped around a person and a story, it becomes an unforgettable experience.Gratefully, Corson has added an appendix on how to go about ordering and eating Sushi "correctly", and he covers at least a dozen different fish types that make knowing what to order beyond the standards easier. Fun and educational book, highly recommended.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In terms of recorded history, the emergence of sushi as a culinary delight in the United States is still a relatively recent phenomenon. Sushi's surging popularity has propelled it from hot spot metropolitan sake bars into local grocery store cooling bins. The story of sushi, however, reaches back much further than the freshest milk.In The Zen of Fish, Trevor Corson carefully wraps morsels of history and humor into bite sized chapters that taken together tell "the story of sushi, from samurai to supermarket." From the procurement of the freshest ingredients in the early morning fish markets to the fostering and attentive care given by each chef to their personal set of knives, Corson prepares a delicious and enlightening tome. The author's mastery of description spices the mind with the dancelike movements of sushi chefs as they prepare meals for the enthusiastic sake toasting guests lining the Hama Hermosa bar in Hermosa Beach, California. During the morning hours, the back room of the restaurant plays host to the California Sushi Academy, where we follow the trials of aspiring sushi chefs through a semester of training at the hands of their demanding instructor, Zoran. Most prominent among these characters is Kate, whose spunk and wit will have you rooting for her as an underdog amongst a handful of finely captured characters, each with their own substory.A wonderful read that will unearth the foodie in you, The Zen of Fish entertains and educates.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I don't often read non-fiction books, but I saw this book and couldn't resist. The best thing is, it doesn't read like a non-fiction book. The story line of a woman learning how to make sushi is intertwined with snippets of about the history of sushi both in the US and in Japan. Who knew a book could be both so entertaining and informative. It also made me crave real, traditional sushi, so beware of this additional consequence of reading this book.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A quick and easy read on the history of sushi in the United States as it follows a group of culinary students at the California Sushi Academy in Los Angeles. I would recommend reading this along with The Sushi Economy by Sasha Issenberg.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I adored this book. It probably helps that my favorite food in the world is sushi, so reading about it only enhances the joy. There were so many interesting facts regarding the history of sushi, the lives of fish, and the story of the students training to become sushi chefs. The three areas were nicely woven together.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
After hearing Trevor Corson speak on the radio about sushi, I picked up his book because I wanted to learn more about one of my favorite foods. The Zen of Fish follows a new student through a sushi course at the California Sushi Academy. Mixed in with the story of the student and her classmates are historical facts and other information about things related to sushi such as fish, knives, rice, and etiquette.While I was reading the book, I couldn't help feeling annoyed by the passages about Kate, the student going through the school. She's inept, clumsy, ditzy, and just not that interesting. I was more interested in the actual tidbits of information about sushi than Kate's classes.I would have rated this book higher if it only contained the informational passages about the Japanese cuisine. Those parts were interesting and worth reading for anyone who likes sushi, but the other parts felt like a waste of time. Corson might have been trying to get readers to relate to Kate, but he would have been more successful if he had chosen a stronger student from the class to follow.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Amazing, amazing, amazing book! Not just a historical run-down on sushi, this is also a story of students at an American sushi school. Each real-life character is given thorough treatment, from their awkward beginning to their graduation day. There's a lot of history of sushi in here as well, along with accompanying dishes. Miso, sake, rice and other ingredients are explained fully, along with a great many different sea creatures. Unfortunately, one of my favorite pieces of sushi, inari (rice stuffed in a tofu skin) doesn't make an appearance. This was a really entertaining read, and I'm glad I noticed it propped up on an end cap at B&N. I must have gone in there and skimmed the pages three or four times before I bought it online. The hardback is a slightly pricy $25 (I bought mine "gently used" for half the cost), but the paperback edition will be released within a few months. I'd definately recommend it to anyone who loves food.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a fantastic book. It contains a little bit of fiction in the way of students attending a sushi course at the American Sushi Academy. Through their daily lessons at the academy, we are introduced to the history of sushi, its evolution from fish stored in fermented rice to the food that we are familiar with today.We get lessons in mold, its importance to the Japanese chefs as far back as 1200 years ago, how bonito flakes are made, the role that kelp plays in creating a Japanese broth known as dashi, why the human tongue savors glutamate, the biology of different marine life commonly used as nigiri sushi toppings, why some fish are considered delicacies and others snubbed, the introduction of shellfish and mollusks, and what do we really know about the green condiment that comes in a little pyramid on a sushi plate? From how to wrap sushi, how to cut different kinds of fish, slice squid and why sushi chefs slap geoducks before serving, this book has all the intricate details together told in a most conversational style. The author includes cultural notes on how to eat sushi, what the pickled garlic really is for, how sushi chefs look at their clients before deciding how to form the sushi that will fit the client's style, and why they have the green leaves.The fiction adds rather than detracts from the book, and actually forms really good segue points from one topic to another in the ongoing saga of the world of sushi.I found this completely fascinating. It's given me a great insight into the food that I enjoy eating and now that I know some inside information into sushi, I am better informed now as to what I should be and should not be eating.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I quite enjoyed this book. It's an interesting mixture of narrative, history and science all related to sushi. I especially enjoyed the science and history, and while the narrative provided a framework for this information, it felt kind of juvenile at times.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This was a very difficult book for me to rate. On one hand, the author writes in a knowledgeable manner about an interesting subject, but on the other, the book was so poorly written as to be virtually unreadable in large segments. Perhaps he could have taken a different context—writing as a purely documentary account of the history of sushi, which one would expect from the title and blurb on the back, rather than following an up-and-coming bunch of sushi chefs from Los Angeles' California Sushi Academy. Maybe his writing is indicative of some form of discomfort with the subject material at hand—stilted wording and sentences structured in a painfully boring way could be an attempt to write formally instead of comfortably.Why, then, does this warrant a 3.5-star rating? This is one of the more interesting books about kitchen life that I've read, and I do love sushi. The subject material is fascinating and through this book I learned of the California Sushi Academy—which I would love to attend if I had six grand and twelve weeks at my disposal. Corson is obviously knowledgeable about the material, which means that in addition to the "insider view" gleaned from following the chefs-in-training around the kitchen, a different "insider view" is acquired through the copious amounts of background knowledge. The information under the writing is fascinating; it's a pity that the writing itself is so bad.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I really enjoyed the information about the history of sushi and the variety of fish that is used. As usual, Trevor Carson makes a story out of a non-fiction topic that leaves the reader learning more about a subject than they realize. I rated this with 3 1/2 stars because of the sections on the student he chose to follow. Her story did not add anything to the book and I was tempted to skip those sections. Overall, a very interesting book -- especially for sushi lovers.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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