Trevor Corson is not a writer as much as he is a seafood expert, and both The Secret Life of Lobsters and The Story of Sushi have quickly achieved best seller status on the strength of the interesting information they carry. Sushi has only been a part of American cuisine for a few decades, and there are surprisingly few comprehensive perspectives that treat the history, the cooking, and the art. Corson's book amply fills this void, as long as you are listening to it as a piece of reportage more than a novel with a plot.
Whatever faults there are in the writing, the telling does not compound them. Brian Nishii has as few narration credits as Corson has author credits, but you'd never know it. He handles the many facets of this book with energy and agility. One strand running through the book is a straightforward factual account of the history of sushi, both as traditional Japanese cuisine and as modern American trend. A second strand is the more scientific description of the different varieties of seafood and their assorted properties. The third strand attempts to humanize the difficulty of the art of making sushi by following a class of beginners through sushi school.
Tokyo-born Nishii nails all the pronunciation with ease and fluidity. Fans of sushi will be relieved and possibly embarrassed to learn the proper way to order and eat their food. The helpful tips abound, from the fat content of each fish to what you are really eating when you eat wasabi to the importance of the radish garnishing your plate. There is also a heaping dose of amusing facts. For example, the phrase "mac daddy" actually comes from the idea that the skin of the mackerel is very shiny, and salmon is actually a white fish that turns pink for the same reason flamingos do.
Nishii also deftly handles the Japanese-Australian accent of a pop star turned sushi school chef, a strange and delightful sound to the American ear, delivering a relatively satisfying gem of a portrait amidst Corson's cast of flat characters the timid depressive who can't do anything right, the 17-year-old kid taking this class to impress girls, the beautiful stoic from Finland who executes each roll to perfection, the hard-working sous chef destined to find a job right after graduation, et cetera. The more informative two-thirds of the book certainly make up for Corson's missteps in the sushi school thread, and Nishii's voice work will reassure you that next time you sit down at the sushi bar, you'll be at the head of the class. Megan Volpert
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 19th-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.
©2007 Trevor Corson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"The combination of culinary insights and personal drama makes for one of the more compelling food-themed books in recent years." (Publishers Weekly)
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 consider disgusting), as well as lots of chemistry for food science geeks (you learn all about exactly what chemicals make seafood so delicious, as well as all the ways it can go bad). Learn which fish sushi chefs consider to be true delicacies, and which are the crappy fish Japanese used to consider unworthy of sushi, but which Americans love.
Definitely made me want to go out and eat some sushi.
Addicted to Audible since 2009
Being a big fan of sushi, I found the most of the information in this audiobook very interesting and I loved hearing about the history of Sushi including rice, ginger, vinegar and my personal favorite, the California Roll. My only regret is that many of the names of the people and foods are hard to pronounce and thus that made the information for me very hard to remember. It’s also hard to believe that the writer spent so much time talking about Melanie Griffith’s sister.
I found this book highly entertaining. It covered a large range of topics related to sushi, from the evolution of fish to how sushi bar became popular in 1960s California. The story that creates the structure of the book, following students at a sushi academy, is useful when it is used to be informative - when the students run into problems, and these problems are used to explained things further. The educational passages are the best bits. Whenever the story tries to hit an emotional note, it fails. However, this is not much of the book. I am very glad I listened to this book.
I thought this was a fun and interesting book. I like sushi, and now feel better informed about many aspects of sushi and sushi culture. Things like; though sushi is presently viewed as kind of snobby, it originally had more in common with a hotdog street cart, and was fairly practical. While it is nonfiction, Trevor Corson does interweave the facts with a story about some up and coming sushi chefs (something some reviewers noted as tedious). While all in all the narration was pretty good, I would have to nominate Brian Nishii for the worst Australian accent ever… ever.
I'll start with the positive: there are moments in this that are genuinely interesting. These deal with the evolution of sushi, and this happens early on in the book, and it is, sadly, smattered, in between bouts of uninteresting prose that's written to try to make sushi matter more than it really does. The narrator was subpar, slightly nasal, and horrible at accents. And, what the narrator's voice does mostly is to really bring to the front how poor the writing is. There's a lack of adequate detail where it matters, and extraneous information that really has nothing to do with anything (do we really need to know that a "hot" sushi chef was asked out on a date by the son of basketball star Bill Walton?) germane. The author needs to focus, and instead he's all over the place. My advice: save your credit, and use it with another Audible selection more worthy of your time.
This book is full of information on all things sushi: cultural, ecological, biology of various fish, gastronomical, business, and more. I am from Japan but did not know about 80% of the information presented in this book. The book is also entertaining as it follows stories of the classmates who attended the California Sushi Academy during one semester.
Some of the reviews of this book gave me the impression that this part (the events that happened during the semester and the "characters" who appear) is fictional, but that is not the case. While reading this book, I also thought that level of details (e.g., what each character said) and the way the story was written are such that this had to be fictionalized/dramatized - this bothered me a little bit. So, after a half way through the book, I searched and found the author's web page, and you get to see the photos of these students and people who appeared in the book and updates of how they are doing since the book was written. So much detail of the events in the class are depicted in the book (as if they are a fiction) because the author actually attended the class and took detailed notes and interviewed these people. When you read (listen to) the book, it would help, at the outset, that you know these students are real people, because otherwise the book may sound like a mixture of facts and fictions.
The narrator's pronunciations of the Japanese words are accurate, and as a result, they may sound too "foreign", but this should not bother you because all these terms are not meant to be memorized or remembered - even Japanese people in Japan do not use many of these technical terms associated with sushi. They just reflect the depth of the knowledge that the author acquired during his research.
What was most fascinating to me overall about this book is that it is an illustration of how the food and its culture get transformed as they travel through different cultures and times. There is no such thing as a "pure" culture. It also made me wonder what "sushi" would be like 50 years from now, when, as some researchers predict, there will be no wild fish in the ocean.
Long distance commuter who loves audio books. After an hour drive, I sometimes struggle to leave the car because the book is THAT GOOD!
A great blend of knowledge and entertainment. I enjoyed learning the origin and history of sushi. It is too easy to take raw fish and rice at face value. I was amazed at its deep impact on the food culture beyond the local trendy sushi bar. I equally enjoyed the characters in the book. The students of the Sushi Academy and their instructors add color and life to an informative book. Each listen had me wondering what's next?
While Kate is the central character, whom you can't help rooting for, Sushi instructor, Zoran, is the one that kept me reading and wanting more. He is a sushi chef that assists in the training of the students attending the Sushi Academy. He is colorful, insightful and surprisingly caring. He trains with concern for his art form and delights in challenging his students with gross tasks like gutting fish and cleaning octopi. The book is filled with many colorful characters that become the heart and soul of the book. While the history and technique of making sushi serves as the brains of the work.
My favorite scene in the book is when Kate is finally given the opportunity to serve the public. Struggling to perfect the art of making sushi, she has many confrontations with her instructors. She often finds herself at the bottom of the class, but when given the opportunity to work the sushi bar she shines by using her personality. She fully captures the culture of sushi by creating an experience for her customers. It was a great, "You go girl!" part of the story.
It is quite exceptional for me to complete a book in one sitting. I found that the interest level is there for those desiring completion, but the book is also crafted to easily be revisited in several sittings. I did find myself always looking forward to hitting play and seeing what new challenge Zoran had for Kate and his other students.
If you are a foodie or love sushi this book is a must. I would even recommend this book to chemistry or biology majors. Much of the book deals with the science of sushi. Don't worry if science isn't your thing. There is plenty of entertainment. While the characters in the book are "real people" they are often in comical or tense situations. After completing The Story of Sushi, I looked forward to my first sushi visit after the book knowing that I would be more educated about the delicious meal I was about to eat. I was even able to impress my guests with my newly acquired knowledge of the sushi world.
As a sushi lover, this was a great opportunity to learn more about the origins and business details of this wonderful food. This book has a great deal of depth and detail. The training was of the chefs is interestingly and entertainingly related. The fictional overlay was OK but not really necessary. If you are squeemish, skip the section on preparing octopus. A very entertaining book for those who love to eat and cook.
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