What Did You Eat Yesterday 1Some people find their joy in gardening, sailing, or building things with their hands. Forty-something Shiro Kakei finds his joy in creating delicious homemade meals on a shoestring budget, and the support and appreciation of his partner, Kenji Yabuki, make it all taste that much better.

First and foremost, What Did You Eat Yesterday? is about the food: how to shop for it, how to make it, and how to avoid being intimidated by the process. To demonstrate, creator Yoshinaga leaves readers in the capable hands of frugal, food-loving Shiro, who provides precise-yet-relaxed internal commentary on the preparation of each dish. For the culinary-inclined, these transcription-friendly monologues are easily converted into recipes. For those who are less comfortable in the kitchen, the overt-yet-gentle handholding gradually encourages the reader to believe that with the right ingredients, they could succeed as well.

However, this ongoing series is far more than an illustrated cookbook. In between cooking steps for seasoned rice or cucumber salad, Shiro and Kenji’s daily lives play out with the subtle, deft understanding of complex characters for which Yoshinaga is rightly celebrated. Lawyer Shiro’s practical, reserved nature makes him good at his job but awkward when it comes to interpersonal relations. Luckily for him, hairstylist Kenji is easygoing and demonstrative, complementing Shiro’s strengths and compensating for his weaknesses. Having outgrown the rose-colored glasses of youth, the two men consider one another—and life’s ongoing struggles—with the realistic expectations of adults who have learned from their mistakes. While conflicts arise over serious things like coming out in the workplace or dealing with the difficulties of aging parents, they both value their relationship and make the effort to sustain it. Not every disagreement is neatly resolved, but they smooth things over and move forward regardless. More often than not, that smoothing-over involves food, whether it be an obvious method of distraction or a wordlessly communicated apology, commitment, or affection.

Yoshinaga’s confident, appealing artwork makes that silent communication possible. Her mouthwatering food looks photo-referenced, not photocopied, and it meshes perfectly with her simple backgrounds and attractive figures. She is especially adept with the latter, be they adorable children; dotty seniors; friends and coworkers of all shapes and creeds; or our two handsome middle-aged leads: Kenji, with his shaggy head, scruffy facial hair, and impressive collection of funky t-shirts; and vain-yet-insecure Shiro in his suits, basic sweaters, and trusty apron, whose good looks impress others as unnatural for a man of his age.

Oishinbo or Yoshinaga’s own Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! would be great companion reads for What Did You Eat Yesterday?, and like them, this series is difficult to categorize. It is perhaps a matter of personal preference whether its detailed instructional segments intertwine comfortably with its character-driven elements. Readers who are just looking for romance may feel impatient with the cooking sequences and disappointed by the central relationship’s subtle treatment; alternately, those who are hoping to pick up some tips on Japanese cuisine may be frustrated by the narrative format. For Yoshinaga lovers and those who enjoy foodie delights mixed up with romantic slice-of-life goodness, the series reads like an especially tasty meal wherein the end result makes all the preparation worthwhile.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, vols. 1-3
by Fumi Yoshinaga
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781939130389
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781939130396
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781939130402
Vertical, 2014

  • Jenny Ertel

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

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