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The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket (P.S.)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,932 Ratings  ·  325 Reviews
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 e
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Paperback, 327 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published May 29th 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Eric_W
Forgive me if this “review” seems an agglomeration of tidbits, but I really enjoy little facts and pieces of information, and this book was riddled with them.

I don’t like fish and frankly the idea of eating it raw, no matter how trendy or gussied up it might be, roils my stomach. Be that as it may, this is a fascinating story, following the ascent (descent?) from a despised, lower class food to one prized by the elite. (Lobster made a similar journey: it was once banned as food for prisoners in
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Linda
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
My god, if Corson can write a book then anyone with a middle school education can too. It's unbelievable that the NYTimes and others are actually quoted as favorably reviewing the book on the back cover. "Riveting" says Publisher's Weekly. Really?!

His writing style is truly atrocious. "He sipped his sake and smiled. Kate felt a rush of excitement." End of chapter, as if that was a gripping sentence. This clipped boring and choppy writing, added to his obsessive focus on Kate, one of the students
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David Hallman
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
At times fascinating and insightful, other times annoyingly shallow in its presentation of the sushi phenomenon. Much of the science and history of sushi is spot on and a joy to read about, but where Corson falls short is his examination of the realities of sushi culture in Japan today. Understanding that his focus was on the California Sushi Academy, but to title your work “The Story of Sushi” one has to at least examine how the modern Japanese experience it. Corson gives very little accurate i ...more
Cait
I feel a little bad about giving only two stars to a book which I quite enjoyed reading, but even as I was enjoying it I was getting frustrated with the lack of there there.

There are two entwined parts of this book: a documentary of a class of sushi chefs and a history/natural history of sushi. The structure followed a class structure, with a chapter discussing a different area of sushi -- rice, nori, various types of fish, and so on -- bracketed by scenes from the actual classroom of the studen
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Jo Lin
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I'm reading too many books about food, but I'm getting slightly tired of reading books where, in the Acknowledgements section, the first thing the authors do is thank Harold McGee. Maybe I should just be re-reading Harold McGee.

The parts of Zen of Fish about the scientific composition about fish and the tradition of sushi are interesting, but the storyline that attempts to hold the book together is not. Especially when the main protagonist is an Ally McBeal-like woman whose greatest skills
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Sesana
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction, food
This book was later republished as The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice. Neither is an accurate representation of the actual content of the book. Expecting a nice history of sushi? You won't really get it. Instead, it's mostly about one particular class of an American sushi school that trains sushi chefs in three months. There are scattered bits of historical information about sushi, and practical information about fish in general, but they're drowned out by the school story ...more
Dorrit
Dec 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, food, kindle
The Zen of Fish had potential and I'd probably have given it three or maybe even four stars if Trevor Corson hadn't made the terrible decision to talk to me as if I was in second grade. Particularly in passages where he wrote about scientific processes (e.g. the amino acids that give fish their flavor and the processes that create them) he used the kind of language you'd expect from a tour guide giving a tour to class of small children. I am sorry, but I don't think any second graders are likely ...more
Amanda
Oct 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Amanda by: John H
Loved, loved, loved this book. Not only does it provide a wealth of interesting information about how sushi found its way to America, but it also offers some important, yet mostly unknown, sushi etiquitte tips. Even better, this book provides a wealth of other little-known facts, seemingly unrelated to sushi, such as how flamingos get their pink coloring. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick fascinating read.
Kater Cheek
If I had to give a 6 word review for this, it would be "good with fish, bad with people." This book talks about sushi, from its origins to how it's evolved over time. If you're a sushi aficionado, this is a great resource. It will help turn you into a mildly annoying sushi snob to a supremely annoying sushi know-it-all. You know, if that's what you're into. It will probably also make you a more savvy sushi-eater. You'll learn which fish are better, and why, and how to get good service from tradi ...more
Margaret
In this fact-filled but entertaining book, Corson follows a group of students as they struggle through California's first sushi school, the California Sushi Academy. Corson has picked out three particular students to follow: one is changing careers mid-life, one is going into sushi against the odds, and one is pretty young and seems to mostly provide comic relief along the way. He breaks up this narrative with descriptions of the history of sushi and information about fish and other sushi toppin ...more
David
Sep 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining and educational book -- I could have done without all the travails of Kate, the "main character," and the other aspiring sushi chefs, but Corson included a class of students at a California sushi chef school in his narrative, telling us about sushi preparation and the sushi business through them. To me, more interesting was the history of sushi (which, naturally, was originally something very different than what you buy at the supermarket today and which you'd probably co ...more
Emmanuel Celiz
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never enjoyed reading a book as I had with this one. Light, funny, informative, and with occasional suspense. It introduced me to culinary arts but it also refreshed my knowledge in microbiology, invertebrate zoology, marine biology, biochemistry, physiology, and even physics and believe it or not, computer science. I always have books to read but I guess it would be a long time before I could read another one quite like it.
C
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing is not great. The information makes this a fun read, though, if you enjoy sushi and Japanese culture. I gave it an extra star for that, while the writing itself I'd give "2."

If you're on the fence about sushi and Japanese food, you may want to wait till you're hooked to read this. Believe me when I say you don't want to know all there is to know about nori, miso, and dashi. Yet.


Scotto Moore
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun, fascinating book that interweaves the cultural history of sushi in Japan & America with a behind the scenes look at a sushi chef training academy in California. Only downside here: I was constantly hungry for sushi while reading this book. (Arguably not a real downside...)
Lpossiel
Aug 20, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is such a great documentary of sushi. The author creatively blends the historical facts with bits of a novel to keep the lessons entertaining.
Gurra
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jessica Porter
One of the best food books I have ever read. As good as Kitchen Confidential, Heat and Fast Food Nation.
Rebecca
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm sure that Kate Murray is a lovely and intelligent woman. It is unfortunate that Corson's attempt to interweave personal documentary and history is such a miserable failure. I enjoyed half of this book--the part that really did seem to be "the story of sushi" rather than the "misogynist story of Kate the sushi chef."

First, let me address the writing. A good portion of the narrative is written in "See Spot run" style. I'm not sure if that was supposed to be charming, but I don't pick up a hist
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Eliel Lopez
Much of the information on the technical side was a fascinating read. I don't know how accurate the historical part is, but it was entertaining. After having read this book I think I will stop eating sushi. However as I love seafood, I will stick with sashimi and fresh vegetables ! 😀 Three star rating because of the writing style. Also, profanity didn't make it more interesting, nor did it improve story content. I will pass this book over to my local Goodwill store.
Jay
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun and excellent book to read on both the history of sushi and its current status as one of America's favorite and beloved type of food. This book follows the lives of students that are learning and practicing to be sushi chefs at the California Academy of Sushi during their twelve week training program. It is intermixed with how sushi was invented in Japan and provides many facts, stories and anecdotes. A really interesting book if you are into food and how it evolves thru time.
Greg
Very interesting information about sushi both in Japan and in the States. I learned a lot about traditional ways to eat it, and how Americans have really botched it up with our super fatty rolls and wasabi-soy sauce pastes. The writing was a bit simplistic at times, but overall I thought that the science and the general style of story-telling was pretty high quality.
Omar
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is also titled "The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice". It's a really fun read, and does a fantastic job of educating the reader on a few topic- the history of sushi, the science behind the appearance/taste of certain fish, and how depressing it is to own a sushi restaurant. It's weaved together so well, definitely looking forward to the author's other books!
Dano
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the Secret Life of Lobsters ... loved this one more. Could relate to the types of sushi but the hows and whys were new to me. Just as I'll eat lobster with more appreciation, I'll never eat sushi the same again either. Thanks Trevor.
Mander Pander
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I read this while on a cruise with restricted internet. I learned a lot about sushi, but I still wonder whether it was actually a non-fiction or a fiction, you know? Like it was formatted as a third person omniscient, but it was a journalistic book.
Whatever, it's not like I ever wrote a book.
Truida
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Brilliantly written. I admire the way Trevor Corson masterly change information about a seemingly boring subject into a can`t-stop-reading work of art. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. ...more
Ala' Al-Azizi
Some nice information here and there, but generally very boring.
Sally
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched semi documentary of the American style of sushi
Zhiyi Li
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is basically two books, one on the knowledge about fish and seafood in the context of sushi and the other on the life of quickly becoming a sushi chef in America. The first one is encyclopedia-type good and gets 5 stars. But the second one reads like a reality show and only gets 3.5 stars. I would recommend it to anyone who is very much interested in sushi (obsessed actually). Focus on the what/why/how and enjoy and respect the fish at a different level.
Manuel
Apr 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Calen
Recommended to Manuel by: Calen
Shelves: nonfiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Yune
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, food
I found this tolerable but somewhat disappointing, although it does technically deliver on the promise of its subtitle.

I was wondering about the economics of running a sushi restaurant (I know any restaurant has terrible odds, but given the limitations of raw fish...but then again, the mark-up...) and thought I'd try to read a bit more on the topic, especially since it's such a culinary hit in the States -- albeit scrubbed clean of many of its original traditions -- that it must have spawned a b
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Mohammad Ali Abedi
Sometimes it seems that all subjects on earth are interesting enough if you just read about it. Nothing is as simple as it might appear. One day, I was eating sushi, and a cousin of mine saw the way I was eating, and she told me that is not the real way to eat it, instead she took the wasabi, mixed it in the soy sauce, grabbed the sushi with her chopstick, and tipped it in the mixture.

And then I thought, what does “the real way” mean? Eating habits and food, like language and dress, go through
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