Monday, February 09, 2009


I have been reading a lot of nonfiction about food lately. I don't know why. Today I bring you two books about Sushi (mmmmm sushi)

First up is The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy Sasha Issenberg

As the title implies, this book is more about the economics surrounding sushi, and the business of it--focusing mainly on bluefin tuna and the coveted fatty belly cut (toro, which is the only thing on the menu at my local sushi bar with a price of "market" but after reading this book, I totally know why.) In his book, Issenberg traces the journey tuna takes from ocean to sushi bar and how that's changed over the years, especially once they figured out how to fly fish caught in Nova Scotia to Tokyo without it spoiling.

Issenberg takes us to Australian tuna farms, and to the restaurateurs all over the world, tracing sushi's global spread. This book really traces the backstory of all that goes into getting the fish onto your table. (And makes me feel a lot better about ordering seafood in the midwest.)

The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice Trevor Corson

This look focuses more on the different ingredients that make up sushi, how they're prepared, and the biology that makes them taste the way they taste. Corson frames his story by following the students and teachers in a semester at the California Sushi Academy. As his students learn about fish, the reader does, along with their lives, the history of sushi, and sushi etiquette.

Story of Sushi was originally published as The Zen of Fish. I've been thinking about which is the better title. Because, while it covers the history of sushi, that's not the focus of the book. The book does focus more on the fish that make up sushi, but there's more to fish than that. I do like the original title, but I think it would be misleading and that the current title captures the book better...

The two books focus on different things, but there is some overlap. I was glad I had read both of them. Every time that Corson noted that the fish flown in from Tokyo was fresher than the fish from Southern California, I knew why, but only because I had already read Issenberg. Major characters in Issenberg are briefly mentioned in passing by Corson, but between the two books, we get a much more complete picture of sushi.

The big difference is that both books cover the post-war American occupation of Japan and how this affected sushi in Tokyo. BUT, they cover it differently, telling different versions of the same story. I wonder which one is right--to the point where I need to go do some research on this. Hmm...

I'd say that Corson was a little more mainstream and accessible, but Issenberg took me all over the world and taught me a lot more about sushi (but then I made Dan take me to the sushi bar for some tuna.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Argh! I *need* to read these books now. Why does my library have to be closed? How will I survive the next 15 months until it opens again?

Off to add to my wishlist again...