What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 13
What Did You Eat Yesterday? isn’t my favorite manga series because every chapter has yummy-sounding (or eye-opening) recipes for home-cooked Japanese meals. It’s not my favorite manga because of the relationship struggles and small victories the two leads experience as they deepen their life together. It’s my favorite manga because, as in volume 13, it’s about two middle-aged people building a life together and what it means to be an adult.
So few comics deal with that time of life in any substantial way that it’s wonderful seeing two believable people I’d want to meet coping with, for example, trying to figure out what to make for dinner after working late or worrying over how you don’t have very many friends as you’ve gotten older (so you put up with some foibles and ignore some uncomfortable past incidents).
Shiro visits with his housewife friend, whose husband needs to learn some tact when he’s talking about how Shiro was the last friend they invited over, but I could relate when she admits that having him retired and home all the time could be a little stressful. Being a grown-up means realizing you have different acquaintances for different things and spending time apart can also be a good idea.
I have yet to make any of the dishes covered in this series. Because it’s basic cooking, these are the kinds of meals you make with leftovers or convenience ingredients, and I don’t have easy access to noodle sauce or sake or ponzu or similar shortcut items. But the principles are helpful, like thinking about how to spend a few minutes making a side dish to fill out a meal, or how to repurpose leftovers. And it was neat to see how to make homemade spring rolls. Plus, the characters’ enjoyment of the food jumps off the page.
In this volume, Shiro makes comfort food for Kenji when he’s sick, and they get together with friends for the holidays. That’s another fun encounter, as the younger man wants to come over because he’s tired of the fancy food his boyfriend makes. Although Shiro feels vaguely insulted by this, they still have a good time.
The two men are coping with accepting their age as they enter their 50s, and although Kenji is now bleaching his hair, author Fumi Yoshinaga gives them a certain ageless elegance. Her sparse lines and distinctive style leave in just enough details so we know what’s going on and how everyone feels about it.
Another reminder of age is an old school friend passing away, and realizing that his children are now adults. Shiro has the accurate thought that, “When you don’t have kids, your mental age halts around 35.” The end result of this and another story are welcome reminders to eat more fish and vegetables, which can be tasty when the right sauce is used. See, it’s not just delicious, it’s healthy!