Yarrow is a budding chef who loves introducing people to insect cuisine. She moves from California to work at a new insect specialty restaurant, but her trajectory comes to a screeching halt when she offends Chanda, the head chef and owner. Yarrow has three days to prove to Chanda that her love of insect cuisine is a genuine passion rather than an interest in a fad. Is Yarrow up to the challenge? And will she be able to win the heart of her new friend Milani?
Meal is a sweet story that blends a queer romance with a personal exploration of individual relationships to food and culture. The characterization is excellent: Yarrow is an enthusiastic guide into the world of entomophagy, and the secondary characters—particularly Milani and Chanda—have well-rounded personalities and clear goals. This strong characterization allows the story to unfold naturally as the characters work out their relationships to one another and to the cuisine itself. Yarrow and Milani’s relationship is especially sweet as they work through their personal challenges and compatibility question together.
Meal also sensitively addresses the history of insect cuisine in cultures around the world as well as the experiences of minorities’ relationships to insect cuisine in a society with predominantly white Western values. The discussion of these themes are naturally included in the story: both Chanda and Yarrow share their experiences exploring and reclaiming that part of their heritage even as they prepare to share their passion with the wider community. Even though the story touches upon some heavy topics, the characters’ teamwork on the restaurant and Yarrow and Milani’s relationship balances the story.
Blue Delliquanti’s charming black and white illustrations contribute to the story’s warmth. Delliquanti’s character designs feature a diverse collection of body types, and the artwork makes the food recognizable and appealing. The gestures and quirks Delliquanti portrays compliment each characters’ dialogue and effectively convey the characters’ personalities and add emotional panache to the story.
Meal is a unique queer romance whose thoughtful storytelling and diverse cast should hold great appeal for teen and adult readers. As an added bonus, there is a food essay by collaborator Soleil Ho and a collection of insect recipes at the back of the book. Delliquanti has also included some design sketches for those who enjoy seeing the development process. Meal is a great purchase for libraries looking to expand their graphic novel collection and is an essential addition to any LGBTQ+ collection.
Written by Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho
Art by Blue Delliquanti
Iron Circus Comics, 2018