March 25, 2014
Vertical, Inc., 200 Pages
What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a story of a gay couple in their forties, living together in an apartment in Tokyo. Shiro is a lawyer, and his boyfriend Kenji works as a hairstylist.
Shiro has a talent and love for cooking, and delicately creates meals for Kenji and him to share. As Shiro cooks, the steps that he takes to make the recipe are described in great detail through his thoughts.
The charm of the story is that it is essentially about the thought, love and care that it takes to make a well-prepared and delicious meal, and the gay narrative of the main characters is as well balanced and tasteful as the recipes described.
The author obviously has a deep understanding of the issues that gay men face in Japan. Shiro and Kenji cannot get legally married in Japan but are living together. Shiro meticulously keeps a grocery budget of about $250 a month, because in their old age, they won’t have any grandchildren to support them, so it’s important for them to save as much money as possible. Due to his profession, Shiro is closeted at work, and the book touches upon his coworkers speculating things like why he is not married. Kenji, on the other hand is out, but has to keep quiet about their relationship because of Shiro’s situation. In one chapter, the story covers things like gay men “playing straight” by marrying women, creating a family, and then having secret gay affairs on the side. In others, it touches upon the ignorance towards homosexuality, like someone saying, “stop flattering him, he’ll fall in love with you” or talk about “turning gay”. Despite and informative content, it all still manages to be lighthearted and even laugh-out-loud funny, as there’s a lot of parts that really hit home. Gay men reading this will probably see a little bit of themselves in both Shiro and Kenji.
All in all, it features a realistic slice-of-life story about gay men as well as a matter-of-fact commentary on the cultural issues that gay men have to deal with in Japan. This isn’t a manga with drama, heavily romanticized gay relationships, or raunchy scenes with censored private parts. It’s simply a story about the pleasure of sharing a home-cooked meal with someone whom you love.
As an added bonus for you gourmands out there, the book includes the recipes for the meals at the end of each chapter, meaning this manga doubles as a cookbook! Granted you can get your hands on some of the Japanese ingredients, there are some really spectacular recipes. Because I’m familiar with washoku (Japanese cuisine) ingredients, I often find my mouth watering while Shiro is cooking his meals and explaining the steps. I’m pretty decent in the kitchen, so I’m thinking of giving some of these recipes a try!
Check out What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 1 on Amazon.