In guide books there are typically the introductory and the exhaustive. Brett Cohen and Mark Luber’s Stuff Every Sushi Lover Should Know falls in the former category. It does so, however, by pressing an impressive amount of information into a small space. While part of QuirkBooks series of “Stuff Every…Should Know” is serious, the nature of that series and its individual subject matters means that serves mission quite well on its own.
The book opens with a introduction that quickly explains the intent of the authors in writing the book, as well as some of their own opinions on sushi and the place is it currently sits in cuisine and society.
After the introduction, the real substance of the book kicks in. The beginning section is titled “Sushi Basics” and starts off by defining what sushi is and the history of it as a foodstuff. This is very nice background material, and the history and development of sushi as well as the availability of different forms and new options became available is an interesting read told quickly but not clinically.
Many of the details will already be known to someone with the certain level of knowledge of Japanese history and cuisine, however even for these people a basic primer will be useful. These sections are followed by terminology listings and types of sushi and fish used in sushi, as well as details about each of these. Indeed in relation to sushi fish, there is an entirely separate section focusing on tuna. There was discussion of the endangered status of the Bluefin, and the extraordinary amounts that a large enough tuna can sell for.
Advice on preparing your own sushi and ordering it in a restaurant are both placed carefully, separate sets of etiquette being noted for the sushi bar versus a sit-down section with a group. Recommendations are made for different ordering patterns and the types of requests and comments to make if one is to try omakase, a form of sushi meal in which the chef selects specific pieces. This last was quite interesting to me, as the difficulty in explaining how much one enjoyed one piece versus another without being insulting can be overwhelming at times. The straightforward terminology used in this book makes they lose and other ideas easy to understand.
This is followed by sections on popular stand-alone sushi items and rolls, ways to it spend one’s tastes, and more.
There is a section devoted to drink pairings which spends the majority of its word count on types of sake and appropriate serving methods. As this is the traditional drink with sushi such a focus is appropriate, however the additional options listed are greatly appreciated. A small section of the book focuses on particularly famous sushi chefs, and explaining their history and some of the reasons behind their fame. As the restaurants these individuals cook at are all high demand and high cost, this section is more trivia for most individuals then it is an actual useful purchasing guide. It is interesting, yet one cannot help but feel that unless they win the proverbial lottery there is not much use in the recommendations relating to these individuals.
The final major section is titled “Sushi at Home” and covers ingredients and equipment recommended for home sushi preparation. Ideas are given not only of how to prepare and serve sushi, but other ways that home sushi might be made attractive including games, activities, and even potentially bringing in a professional sushi chef as types of entertainment. All good advice, some situationally more useful to others. Again expense will play a small factor as the cost of hiring a sushi chef for the evening it will certainly price some individuals out of such an activity.
All of this is on normal size print into 144 tiny pages, in a little hardcover volume that can take punishment in a pocket or sit nicely on a shelf.
Overall this book serves as a very nice primer on the subject of sushi in a very broad sense. Everything from the history of the dish to the different varieties is covered. Similarly everything from recipes to restaurant etiquette is listed, and made simple and easy to understand. This book is quite easy to recommend to anyone needing a beginning understanding on the subject, or even simply a work that can be easily referenced back to.
(Quirk Books, 2019)