I really enjoyed reading Fuchsia Dunlop's Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper recently - an autobiography where Fuchsia tells of her culinary and cultural travels over a decade or so in many of China's provinces. So if you like one book and you want to find another one that is similar, what do you do? I'm sure there is some sort of fancy web-based software or algorithm, but I went the old fashioned route. I called a librarian.
See, I've been really digging the downtown public library lately - they have an amazing collection of cookbooks, and of course, much, much more. So, now I have a couple of autobiographical food-related books on India due to some clever catalog search tools by said librarian. And yet, my most recent book, Zen of Sushi, I found the old fashioned way - browsing the meager shelves at the Northside branch around the corner from my house.
Zen of Sushi follows a group of students at the California Sushi Academy in Los Angeles as they go through a 12 week course, and along the way you learn everything from the science to the art of sushi. There are a whole lot of learnings in this book, but here's some quick, simple things I gleaned that I bet you might be interested in if you ever go out for sushi:
- don't rub your chopsticks together to get rid of the splinters, its considered rude
- eat at the bar so you can get to know your sushi chef, and they can get to know you
- order "omakase," putting it in the chef's hands to choose the best, freshest options for you
- it's typical to eat nigiri (rice with something - usually fish - on top of it) by picking it up with your hand - the rice may fall apart if picked up with chopsticks, but sashimi is picked up with chopsticks
- disposable wooden chopsticks are horrible for the environment, take your own or ask if they have plastic ones you can use
- miso soup comes last, not first
- dip your fish in the soy sauce, not the rice, and don't put ginger in the soy sauce
- crisp nori is prized, so if you aren't sitting at the bar don't order a typical roll because by the time it gets to you the nori will already be too moist
- ginger is for cleansing your palette between fish, not an appetizer
- eel sauce is sweet and tasty, and it's made with eel brains
- if you're interested in more of this basic etiquette, stop in at the library and read the appendix of this book - it'll take you 5 minutes
Got any food-related book suggestions?