02 Oct / Oishinbo: A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine (vol. 1) by Tetsu Kariya, art by Akira Hanasaki, translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki
Oishinbo is apparently one of those cult manga series that only recently hit U.S. shelves in translation, but floating out there all over the world already are over 100 million copies. The title, by the way, translates to something like delicious (oishii: 美味しい, orおいしい) and ‘a certain-person’-making suffix – or someone who appreciates deliciousness, aka a gourmand (I think). Native speakers feel free to correct me, please; I never finished that PhD.
First off, a warning: don’t read this if you’re hungry. No, just don’t do it. I’m one of those freaky people who doesn’t eat sushi and sashimi (the raw texture just gives me the willies), and I still couldn’t stop my stomach from grumbling.
Here’s the premise … the venerable newspaper Tōzai News plans to celebrate its centennial with the creation of the “Ultimate Menu”: “a model meal embodying the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.” Not to be undone, rival paper Teito Times announces they’ll counter with their own “Supreme Menu.”
Tōzai‘s team is headed by brash, young journalist Yamaoka Shirō and his sidekick Kurita Yūko. Teito is determined to play tough and hires renowned pottery artist Kaibara Yūzan who is also the founder and director of The Gourmet Club, the most discriminating group of eaters in the world. Wouldn’t you know … Kaibara and Yamaoka also happen to be father and son! For the time being, forget blood (unless it’s spilled or just plain bad). Yup, they hate each other.
Yamaoka resents Daddy for being an abusive husband and father. Kaibara can’t forgive his son for destroying a roomful of his priceless pottery and walking out on his grand old self. Not to take sides, but … uh … no matter how valuable the stuff, it’s just stuff regardless of much yen it’s worth. Not that I’m passing judgment or anything, ahem!
So let the competition begin! Everything from the most complicated techniques to plain rice and miso soup to the art of tea mean the sparring never stops, and humiliation can depend on as little as a broken grain of rice! Who’s going to find the very best ingredients throughout Japan … and eat their way through those unique meals? And who will finally figure out “the most essential ingredient” amidst all the lavish extravagance?
The volume starts with full-color how-to photographs, so if you can’t stand the salivating, you can actually try to make at least the seabream at home. But those photographs ain’t got nothing on artist Hanasaki who is so deft with details, you can almost smell and taste the culinary creations. You can see the graceful knife action, relish in the first bites of some of the most tempting fare, and even feel the steam coming off Kaibara’s endless tantrums (even with his incomparable palate, he’s surely never winning any humanity awards).
The whole endeavor is a toothsome treat all around. Mmm, mmmm GOOD indeed!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2009 (United States)
OISHINBO A LA CARTE 20 © Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki
Original Japanese edition published by Shogakukan Inc.