Hello there Lovelies,
I am back from my jaunt to Hungary, Austria, and France and can’t wait to tell you all about it!! However, the next couple of posts will feature a few excellent reads I finished while on my vacation. Special thanks to NetGalley for providing these e-galleys in exchange for an honest review!
Confession: I love food writing. Yes, I know it’s trendy and #basic, but I can’t help it. Whenever I find a memoir or travelogue filled with well-crafted sentences describing a simmering chicken broth or the crisp notes of white wine, I go weak in the knees. So when I was given the opportunity to review Michael Booth’s new book, Super Sushi Ramen Express: One Family’s Journey Through the Belly of Japan, I naturally volunteered. Food, family, and travel? Seriously, what more could I ask for? Let’s discuss…
What’s it All About?
Michael Booth is a well-known English food and travel writer who has already published several books on French and Nordic cooking. In this book, he takes his family on a journey through Japan, savoring the different flavors and foods in each corner of this island country while also getting into a few adventures with Sumo wrestlers and J-Pop celebrities. He also zooms in on the traditions and rituals of Japanese cooking, explaining in great detail the history of common ingredients such as dashi (most known for being included in miso soup, among many other dishes) and explaining true wasabi.
This book really opened my eyes to a completely different cooking tradition. Although I frequent sushi restaurants with my sashimi-loving husband, and I research many other cooking cultures, I know very little about the tradition of Japanese cooking. Discovering the rituals, intensive training, and precision the Japanese chefs undergo to perfect one type of dish, whether it be tempura or ramen, blew my mind. To possess that level of discipline and care for a SINGLE category of food is unheard of for me, as I tend to be scatterbrained and spread myself thin in about 1000 directions.
Booth also delves into the current culinary issues the Japanese face. Japanese people tend to live longer than any other culture, and this longevity has been attributed to their healthy diet. However, with a growing Western influence, many of their cooking traditions are dying out and health issues typically associated with Western diets are becoming more prevalent in their society. The frustration from traiditional Japanese gourmands and food critics is palpable in the chapters of Booth’s book.
Booth also debunks many Japanese cooking myths, like the idea that MSG is bad for you (this has been disproven for years, and is an acceptable flavor stimulant for the umami food receptors). My husband, a chemistry nerd, had told me a long time ago that MSG wasn’t actually harmful, but reading Booth’s chapter on the history of MSG, where it comes from, and explaining the concept of the umami taste buds gave me a deeper knowledge and understanding of this issue. Booth also interviews the most famous Sumo Wrestlers of Japan, discovering that instead of stuffing their face constantly, they actually subsist on a disciplined diet and training regimen. Absolutely fascinating topics!
One critique I do have for this book is its lack of familial anecdotes. Although Booth does mention his wife and kids on some of his adventures, like visiting a fish market and the children almost getting run over by a food truck, or being in awe of the sumo wrestlers, Booth tends to brush them over in short paragraphs rather than fleshed-out story arcs. This is a nit-picky critique of mine, but I do believe it would have added more variety to his detail-oriented food chapters.
However, I really appreciated Booth’s writing voice. It is conversational and sprinkled with sarcastic humor, which made the pages fly by.
Final Verdict: Slay or Nay?
Slay, if you enjoy food writing and learning interesting details about different cultures!
4/5 stars. This Book is being released TODAY!
Anyone else gotten the opportunity to read this book yet? Any suggestions on other food writing titles? Comment below!