By Franckie Alarcon, translated by Peter Russella (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-285-4 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-86-1
Winâ€™s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Sensational Sagacity for All Seasoningsâ€¦ 9/10
Usually this bit is about sex or swearing, but Iâ€™m issuing my first ever culinary advisory here.
If you are vegan, squeamish or simply care about fish and other animals and are likely to be upset by graphic depictions of the preparation of really cool creatures like octopi or eels, do not buy this book. Itâ€™s really not your thing.
Once more confirming that thereâ€™s nothing you canâ€™t craft compelling comics about if youâ€™re talented and inspired, hereâ€™s a gripping graphic testament to the art, philosophy and mindset of Japanâ€™s most misunderstood culinary export.
First seen as Lâ€™Art du Sushi in 2019, and courtesy of ever-inquisitive, fantastically convivial cartoonist-foodie Franckie Alarcon, The Art of Sushi follows the artist and close associates on a fact-finding tour of Japan. Their mission is in response to the recent phenomenon of France falling madly in love with the oriental art of food, and subsequent seeking to mimic and master its traditions and pure quality; whilst making it just a little bit theirs, tooâ€¦
After a cheery introduction, scene-setting, history and visual prÃ©cis to the disciplineâ€™s antecedents and nine basic forms, â€œBibiâ€ Alarcon, girlfriend Marilyne, Editor David and photographer Chloe join translator/guide Rica in Tokyo to track down a revered Master, one who is also a three-starred Michelin chefâ€¦
As well as fascinating insights into the philosophy, personal beliefs and techniques of 50-year veteran craftsman Hachiro Mizutani, the researchers taste marvels and come to understand the importance of sourcing the components. â€˜Mizutani: Traditional Sushiâ€™ catalogues dishes and how theyâ€™re constructed before following him to legendary Tsukiji Market to test the daily catch in still-living splendour before detailing how they are preparedâ€¦ and why. The lesson includes eye-watering comparisons with the practices of Brittany fishermenâ€¦.
Sidebars include the parlous state of the oceans and fish stocks, how to make rice and a beguiling history of knife-making.
As seen in â€˜Maguro bocho and Oroshi bochoâ€™, the nationâ€™s metallurgical artisans used to make swords, but now craft far more dangerous implementsâ€¦
After reinforcing our presentiments with tastes of old Japan, the tourists explore the rush of the contemporary city with a brilliant young chef making all the right waves in â€˜Okada: Modern Sushiâ€™. Prior to that, they headed into the country to visit with Ricaâ€™s family and spent time on fishing boats.
The pride of their catch comes with them to Okadaâ€™s city restaurant for a display of his innovative virtuosity and is supplemented by lessons in consuming the beverages that are an integral part of Sushi appreciation; the history of rice; aesthetics of presentation, more blade techniques for preparing various sea creatures and useful information in spotting and dealing with the assorted parasites that infest uncooked foodâ€¦
One of the most compelling asides concerns the best shape and materials of bowls, plates, cups and other tableware, which diverts into a visit to a ceramicist providing such containers to the tradeâ€¦
Every visit results in a fresh eating experience and freebies to take home, but after leaving Okadaâ€™s place the team go to Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture to learn all about rice wines and â€˜The Stages of making Sakeâ€™: for many the most important component in ceremonial Sushi consumptionâ€¦
Once done examining old and new at the high end, our intrepid voyagers tackle the working world of â€˜Everyday Sushiâ€™ in modern Japan. Beginning with a day aboard an eel fishing boat, learning cunning tricks to keep the catch alive until ready to eat, the Europeans later enjoy a home-prepared feast courtesy of Mrs. Tanemura – who runs an eatery out of her house – and discover the hard truths about Nori (seaweed wraps/mats) from her other guestsâ€¦
The trip concludes with a mind-blowing visit to a soy sauce brewery before the city offers Sushi in fast food and convenience store mode before the exhausted well-stuffed visitors go home to reassess the state of â€˜Sushi in Franceâ€™ with now-learnÃ¨d eyes and taste buds.
Apparently, the biggest challenge is adapting to a far smaller range of truly fresh and seasonal ingredients in a largely land-locked country, but as star chefs Takuya Watanabe – in between revealing how to grow authentic wasabi in European soil – and Yannick AllÃ©no point out, Gastronomy and Sushi are about technique. It works with vegan or even mammal-meat ingredients. There are even chocolate desserts available for the bold and truly discerningâ€¦
Closing out a truly revelatory reading experience comes a selection of â€˜Recipesâ€™ comprising â€˜Ricaâ€™s Chirashiâ€™ with either tuna, eel or avocado as main ingredient; â€˜Okadaâ€™s Green Tea Octopusâ€™, â€˜Mrs. Okadaâ€™s Temariâ€™ (a selection including meat- and fish-free options) and â€˜Sasa Sushiâ€™ (mackerel), plus an accompanying cocktail: â€˜The Sake Mojitoâ€™
Also adding value is an â€˜Address Bookâ€™ of recommended restaurants in Japan and France, and physical stores and online sources for ingredients, utensils and travel advice.
The art of food and pleasures of eating have never been better appreciated or shared than in books like these, blending the exoticism of travel with the tantalising yet satisfying anticipation of gustatory consumption. The Art of Sushi is simply delightful: an inviting comics divertissement that must surely whet the appetite for moreâ€¦
Â© Editions Delcourt 2019. Â© 2021 NBM for the English translation.
The Art of Sushi will be released on December 14th 2021 and is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/