What did you eat yesterday? Kinou nani tabeta?

whatdidyoueatcoverWhat did you eat yesterday? (Kinou nani tabeta) is one of the finest food mangas I have found to date. The story is engaging and modern and the food analysis is excellent. It is genuinely a delightful read, enough so that I read the first two books in a day and ran back to the store for the rest of the series as soon as was possible. It was nominated for the 2008 Manga Taisho award.

Shiro is a salary man lawyer who bucks the usual stereotypes – he’s a middle aged gay man who refuses to stay late with his coworkers to drink. Instead he loves heading home early to hit the shops for bargains and cook elaborate meals for his domestic partner Kenji.

Shiro struggles with his own identity and the expectations of gay men in modern Tokyo. He is himself somewhat backwards in his thinking, struggling to understand his out and proud hairdresser partner and his mother’s lifestyle friendly ways. He is very conservative in the way he runs the house and interacts with his family. Shiro is a dowdy cheapskate often shopping for bargains at the local grocer and splitting the cost of expensive purchases with his equally budget conscious housewife friend Kayako.

As well as being an in depth food manga regularly covering special meals, holidays and every day food shopping it is a touching human drama. This excellent slice of life story treats this modern day couple in a truly three dimensional way. Not just a manga trope or a gay stereotype, the characters are fleshed out and regularly consider their own personalities and station in life. Over the course of the story we see snapshots of the characters history – ex partners, their relationship with the Tokyo club scene, how they are seen by colleagues. Shiro ponders the life of his straight friends and the traditional marriage / child cycle in Japan, what life he should be making for himself and his family.  The struggles of life, relationship stability, communication, health, home and budget are real problems for real couples after the happily ever after kiss.

Food analysis & recipes

The food analysis in this comic is fantastic and focuses on real food for real people. Unlike many food comics that focus on fantastic battles or rare and unique ingredients instead we see Shiro regularly consider the local food budget, when to buy what, how to make the best of what’s available and even how to ensure economical leftovers are stored for later meals.

Each chapter we see Shiro prepare dinner starting with calculating his food budget and going shopping or determining what meals can be made from the ingredients in the fridge. He shows how to use one ingredient multiple ways or how to prepare multiple meals at once. Every recipe he talks through the process rather like a comic food blog, when to add which spices and how to balance taste. It’s a very realistic view of meal planning for a modern household.

Shiro is also a bit of a show pony and is very concerned with maintaining his weight and his partner’s – refusing to be a dowdy fat middle aged salaryman like many of his straight workmates. He regularly considers the caloric cost of various dishes and when it’s  okay to splurge – there’s a sensible balance of enjoying food while still being conscious of health and harmony.

During special moments we see Shiro show his love through his food to his partner preparing meals he knows he loves or dishes that remind him of special moments in their relationship. Shiro seems like the introverted  uncommunicative type – probably not the easiest to get on with but where he doesn’t talk he instead cooks and presents his love in the form of multidish dinners.

Artwork

  • Very little scenery or background work
  • Simple comedic portraits and telenovela style drama poses throughout
  • Detailed multi step portrayal of shopping and dish preparation

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Adaptations

  • None

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