As part of my (late) birthday present, my sister bought me two books I’ve been wanting to read for a while: The Zen of Fish and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (Hey, we all have to do our part to prove Steve Jobs wrong.) I finished reading The Zen of Fish last week, and I’ll probably save reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma for the flight to Japan.
While it may read like a fictional drama, The Zen of Fish is, in reality, a nonfiction documentary. The author, Trevor Corson, actually spent three months at the California Sushi Academy following each of the characters around and taking notes on everything he saw and heard. Real people and real facts, but not overly boring (as I often imagine documentaries to be). The story follows the life of Kate Murray as she leaves everything behind to attend the California Sushi Academy. Playing the classic role of ingénue, Kate starts the academy with next to no experience and faces difficulties from the start. The story continues with Kate facing challenge after challenge and reveling in small victoires. It’s your typical feel good story. Hardly novel.
If this were all there was to the book, I’d be pretty upset, but Corson doesn’t disappoint. Kate may be the main character, but sushi is what truly takes center stage. Corson packs The Zen of Fish with interesting information about every aquatic life form that finds its way into our stomachs. From toro (fatty tuna) to tako (octopus), it’s all in there. In fact, I felt like the story was just something Corson tacked on to make the book feel less encyclopedic. I didn’t feel for any of the characters, but I loved all the fish facts. But then again, I’m the kind of guy that reads Wikipedia recreationally.
If you’re interested in sushi, even if it’s just a tiny bit, this book is worth a read.