What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 5
This blend of cooking advice, home meals, and everyday personal interactions by Fumi Yoshinaga continues to impress and entertain. The first chapter of volume 5 illustrates this mix, as Shiro and his housewife friend have shared a deal on cabbage. She’s comfortable with him, since they have bargain-hunting in common, but her husband sees him first as a gay man, then as a person, as can be seen by his clueless attempt to pair Shiro off with another friend just because they’re both gay. Along the way, they make coleslaw (as one does when one has too much cabbage).
The little observations tickle me. For instance, early on, Shiro says to his friend, “It impresses me that you have such a big pot. You really are a homemaker.” It seems weird to mention, but it’s precisely those kinds of items that we possess, or don’t, that helps define our roles. Characters are made by what tools they use.
When I’m not waxing philosophic over the cookware, I’m laughing, as when Kenji has an incredibly polite showdown with a grocery store clerk over sale items. Or when he meets a friend’s boyfriend, who isn’t at all how he was described. Or they debate how Shiro’s tastes aren’t typically gay. Similarly, the relationship items aren’t always presented front and center, instead demonstrated with subtlety, making them more realistic.
Seeing the two, Shiro and Kenji, dining together reinforces their relationship. I’m touched when Kenji off-handedly notes that a particular side is “the one I said I liked before.” One imagines Shiro noting that away to make his partner happy. It’s over their meals that we also find out the important things in their lives, as when Kenji brings up his absent father and the effect it had on him and his mother.
Another touching moment occurs when Shiro goes home for the holidays. (Timely!) His parents struggle with him, not because they object, but because he doesn’t fit into their original dreams of what their life would be like as grandparents. It’s difficult to balance the tricky conflict — they’re not telling him to be someone else, but they do have a right to need time to adjust. Of course, Shiro and his mother bond over cooking and sharing recipes. It’s a touching note that I found just right for the series.
I’m also impressed by Shiro’s technique. I’ve learned, in this book, to filet a fish for tataki (which I had to look up, since the series continues to avoid endnotes — it means a way of serving the food chopped), and I am reminded how important it is to have tasty and balanced side dishes. I haven’t found a recipe yet I’m ready to try — mostly due to lack of ingredients found easily here — but I do love dreaming about how they would taste. I’ve come closest with the banana pound cake Shiro makes in this book as a host gift, if only I liked banana.