Monday, January 9, 2012

SHIRO: Wit, Wisdom & Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer (Chin Music Press)

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope all your holidays were as enjoyable as mine--I was able to spend some time outside of the city with my parents in Massachusetts, and then some pleasant days off around the first of the year in Brooklyn. Some exciting books were gifted my way, some of which will likely be featured here later in the year.

The fine folks over at Chin Music in Seattle sent a book my way just before I left for the holiday. I always tell myself that I don't HAVE to cover whatever publishers may send me, but Chin Music still consistently wows me with their design and their impressively forward-thinking editorial decisions. So, to start the year off, I'm very happy to share with you a cookbook-memoir hybrid called Shiro: Wit, Wisdom & Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer.

Shiro tells the story of Sushi Chef Shiro Kashiba, who settled in Seattle (from Tokyo) in the mid 60s and pioneered the sushi boom in the Pacific Northwest. The ex-pat story at the core of Shiro is a fascinating, heartfelt read, and will remind readers how sincere and inspiring a cooking memoir can be. Towards the end of Shiro, the book shifts gears and slips into the realm of cookbooks, providing steps to create proper sushi and recipes for some of Shiro's dishes like "Halibut Karaage with Ponzu Sauce".

One of the best things about Shiro is the absence of any superiority in Kashiba's tone when discussing the basics of Japanese cuisine. There are small one-paragraph sections on things like green tea, the proper use of soy sauce, the best knives to use for certain types of fish. Some of these things are really basics of Japanese food (green tea, for instance), but Shiro presents each facet with equal amounts of enthusiasm and joy that it's clear his knowledge comes from a place of passion. Shiro doesn't just educate, he shares, and it seems he's thrilled to have the opportunity to do so.

And lastly, and most importantly, is the superb book design. Just as Shiro's story is a love-letter to all things sushi, Chin Music's design celebrates the Pacific Northwest and Japan in all its graphic beauty. The book is loaded with photographs from Shiro's life, but also features countless little illustrative marginalia from Chin Music's designers. Not only does this make a delightful read, but also connects the book's disparate elements into one cohesive experience. Really nicely done!

Currently reading:
Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas

Currently listening to:
Ford & Lopatin with Shannon Funchess and Tamaryn 12" split

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