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The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket
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The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,011 Ratings  ·  333 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Harper (first published May 29th 2006)
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Alex Givant
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about sushi and masters who make it. Great information about story of the sushi, toppings on it and other stuff related to sushi and Japanese food.
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
Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
David Hallman
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
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
Jo Lin
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food, history, nonfiction
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
Dec 03, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, kindle, non-fiction
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
Oct 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Nov 12, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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.
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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...)
Aug 20, 2008 is currently reading it
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.
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is part story following Kate, a student at the California Sushi Academy, and part history. It seamlessly introduces the history of sushi among scenes with Kate learning to be a sushi chef. If you enjoy sushi and are familiar with the Japanese words used in the cuisine, this book is entertaining and filled with interesting facts. For example, you are supposed to use your hand to pick up the sushi, not use chopsticks. Dip the sushi with the fish piece down in the soy sauce, not the rice ( ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
My husband and I really enjoyed this book - I had bought it for him as a Christmas present because he loves sushi, but we ended up reading it together and I learned a lot. The historical parts and the biological information on the various flora and fauna used in sushi preparation were fascinating and that was the strongest part of the book for us. We want to get the author's other book now and learn about lobsters! I will note that the author frequently dropped in unnecessary comments about the ...more
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
"DID YOU KNOW [insert fun fact about tuna, octopus, history of sushi, how animals die, etc.]?"

This is me, during and after absorbing the lovely, in-depth tale that is The Story of Sushi. This book is for sushi connoisseur and casual eaters alike, with the potential to impart both groups with a deep appreciation for the blood, sweat, and toil that goes into a seemingly straight-forward type of cuisine. Corson is able to weave in rich details about the science and history of sushi within engaging
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. It weaves together a history of sushi with the experiences of a class learning to make sushi. Along with the class, we learn about different kinds of sushi, and the book steps aside to give more information about each individual fish, both in cooking and biology, which is rather interesting. I don't have a tremendous amount of experience with sushi, so I learned a lot, and would feel a lot more comfortable ordering sushi in the future (though some of it was also a bit off-pu ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting listen-- I got it on the $4.99 sale-- so expectations were low. But the author does a great job of weaving in the story of a cohort of students learning to be sushi chefs with trivia, facts, and history of sushi. It is engaging in a way you may not expect. It is an interesting juxtaposition of cultures-- thinking about how American students learn about Japanese culinary traditions and how sushi in the United States is different than in Japan-- particularly the social and community ...more
Eliel Lopez
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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!
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trevor Corson's "The Story of Sushi" manages to cover a wide variety of subjects, time periods, and facets of sushi-making, all in an engaging, humorous, and evocative way. In this book, you'll learn about:

-the different types of sushi, as well as various Japanese non-sushi dishes
-the history and evolution of sushi, including the role of American occupation forces after WWII
-the chemistry that explains what gives sushi (along with other foods) its taste
-the strenuous and meticulous kitchen routi
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
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