What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 11
As always, this recipe manga series by Fumi Yoshinaga shares principles about cooking and eating that are universal and welcome, even if I can’t make the exact dishes. (Since the meals are based in Japanese home cooking, they often depend on ingredients, like shirodashi or mitsuba, that I wouldn’t know where to get. I usually end up looking them up on Wikipedia, since they aren’t translated or explained in notes.) But the specific recipes aren’t the point — the key theme is how much of what we are is expressed through our food and the meals we make.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 11 continues to expand Shiro’s circle of friends and the events he shares with them. I found the first chapter particularly telling, as Shiro gains a fancy steamer from a co-worker who, as an older lady, is now cooking for herself instead of a family and is down-sizing. Shiro figures out some steamed dishes that sound great, but the other message is that it’s ok for a solo diner to eat what she wants and to fix it in the microwave if that’s how she likes it.
Another co-worker wants Shiro’s advice on healthy eating. She’s recently married a chef, and his crazy work schedule means he’s putting on weight. Shiro has some basic meal-balancing principles that we see her putting into practice to make a healthy dinner and breakfast for her spouse. This is the story that’s probably most relatable, as everyone’s worried about eating better on top of crazy busy days.
This was my favorite chapter for useful cooking and menu-planning advice. I’m unlikely to make, for example, chrysanthemum greens in a dressing with miso and mirin, but the idea, of remembering to make more vegetable side dishes, is a smart and memorable one. And I like the idea of switching up leftovers for breakfast.
(Sometimes it’s best not to be too familiar with the recipes. Late in the book, they make clam chowder, which I know how to cook — but I wouldn’t make it with carrots and Parmesan cheese, as they do. I also wouldn’t serve it accompanied by buttered rice, for fear it would be too rich, but they’re celebrating.)
I could also relate to Shiro’s concern about food prices going up. He’s worried about how to balance the budget and still eat more fish, which is healthier than meat when one worries about cholesterol. He’s so conscientious about spending! Yoshinaga draws this half-page panel of him thinking hard about what to purchase, then she makes fun of herself with the caption, “This isn’t the sort of decision that requires such an intense expression.”
Other high points include that traditional seasonal event, cherry-blossom viewing and picnicking. I love reading about bentos and the tasty-sounding dishes that go in them. Shiro also winds up coming out to his landlord after a nearby neighborhood allows gay couples to get partnership certificates. His boyfriend Kenji makes okonomiyaki with a salon co-worker so they can gossip about the workplace. And finally, Shiro learns how to make a special cake recipe from his mother.
Although so many of the stories are driven by showing cooking activities, I’m impressed by how Yoshinaga manages to keep everything interesting, switching between people taking action (stirring or cutting), ingredient close-ups, and expressive, diverse faces with thought or word balloons. The page layouts, although all the panels are rectangular, are varied as well. There are always reactions to the food, with eaters commenting on how refreshing or fragranced or balanced or memory-inducing a particular combination is. It can get a little flowery, sometimes sounding like a food review, but it’s a nice reminder that the result of all this effort is to eat yummy things together.