I just finished Trevor Corson’s The Zen of Sushi and I left feeling very satisfied (instead of stuffed to the gills like I normally do after just eating sushi.) I found Corson’s narrative to be largely on point, inciteful, and generally entertaining.
His style of intermixing dramatic narrative about the students of the California Sushi Academy (CSA) and the history of sushi was at times irritating, especially at the beginning, when I would just start to get interested in the students at the academy and then be forced to endure a long diatribe about the life of bluefin or organic salmon farming or mackerel parasites. Do I care about bluefin? Sure. Do I care about the students more? Absolutely.
I do admit that I came to the book with an agenda. I wanted to decide if it was worth it to leave Kansas City, start a new career, and pay $6,000 for admission into the CSA. I blame this agenda for making the history lessons in the book less than my cup of tea. That being said, I now understand the art of sushi far better than I did before I picked up the book. By the three-fourths point in the book, though, I had forgiven Mister Corson for his rhetorical choices and would now recommend the book to anyone interested in food in general and sushi in particular.
The book does bring up one point, though. How are am I supposed to eat sushi? Mister Corson spends part his narrative illustrating differences between modern Japanese and American sushi preferences without going so far as to call Americans uncivilized barbarians. He does point out that those in the US tend to eat sushi in a way that is lacks the Japanese’s appreciation for subtelty. We prefer our sushi rolled, fried, and slathered in wasabi. (Mmm….)
But that’s what I enjoy. So the question with which I now struggle is should I eat my sushi Japanese style (mainly nigiri with a few simple inside rolls with no wasabi in my soy sauce) or should I eat the sushi the way I’ve come to enjoy?
More importantly, do I dishonor my favorite sushi chef by choosing to buck tradition and eat American style?