Sweetness & Lightning Volume 3
The charming cooking manga continues by looking at how food helps in times of stress. In Gido Amagakure’s Sweetness & Lightning volume 3, it’s exam time — which means that both teacher Kohei and student Kotori are working hard, so there’s no time for their joint cooking lessons with Tsumugi.
Midnight snacks consist of comfort foods, like custards and noodles. Tsumugi wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to join her father in eating, so he learns to make bread porridge as a simple treat that will help her sleep. Never has the connection between making food for someone and caring for them been clearer. The best cooking is a way to convey love and affection by feeding family and friends.
There’s an hilarious scene where he tells her late-night snacks are only for grown-ups, so she does her best to seem mature, which makes her sound rather reserved, although she’s clearly play-acting. Amagakure does a wonderful job capturing the energy and enthusiasm of the child, whether through her facial expressions as she looks at her father cooking for her or the animated actions she makes. I also loved the pepper grinder they user. Shaped like a rabbit head, you apparently grind the pepper by squeezing its ears together.
Also in this volume is a story where the kids have a summer vacation sleepover, where they all pitch in to make curry, including chopping the vegetables. That leads to a discussion of different ways to make the dish, including a family favorite version that reminds them of their beloved departed wife and mother.
Food, in addition to demonstrating affection, can also carry memory. There are additional great lessons here, including knife safety, how well-seasoned recipes can help camouflage disliked vegetables, prep techniques to make the process easier, and how to customize a dish for different spice levels for kids and adults.
With so many chapters about summer, this was a great read now, as the season comes to a close. A trip to the beach means fresh-caught fish, requiring learning how to filet them. The challenge is what to do with the meat, since Tsumugi doesn’t yet eat raw fish. A new culinary technique mastered — and different tastes tried — marks another step in the little girl growing up, in a pleasant way to celebrate.
Amagakure’s art is so expressive and involving that I feel like I’m right there with everyone, sharing in the food and cooking in the kitchen. The recipes in this volume are a little too complicated for me to envision making them, unlike in previous books, but I can still enjoy thinking about what they might taste like. I also enjoy seeing how the three friends cope with life moving on and continuing changes. Sweetness & Lightning is a terrific read, combining recipes, parenting stories, goodwill, and adorable art.