09 May / what did you eat yesterday? (vol. 1) by Fumi Yoshinaga, translated by Maya Rosewood
Before you open this tasty title, ask your stomach if it’s full. Any hint of hunger and you just might embarrass yourself salivating. The cover is already a toothsome teaser: salmon-and-burdock seasoned mixed rice, boiled bamboo shoots with konjac and wakame seaweed, eggplants and tomatoes with Chinese-style spicy pork. Oh, be still my growling belly.
While the food here is the obvious temptation, the narrative is not without considerable substance. Meet “tall and handsome” Shiro Kakei, who is “that pretty at forty-three” as to be deemed “creepy” by one of his jealous colleagues. As successful a lawyer as he is by day, he eschews long hours to pick up the freshest ingredients – always at the best prices so as to keep within the household budget – which he’ll transform into his next gourmet meal. He cooks with devotion for his boyfriend Kenji who is as carefree and fun-loving as Shiro is disciplined and practical– especially about money. “Since we gays won’t have any kids to look after us in our old age, money is all we can count on,” Shiro chides Kenji when Kenji complains about Shiro’s monetary obsession.
Blended in with tempting recipes (complete with enough detailed instructions to suggest you, too, could try this at home), each savory chapter reveals Shiro’s life as an attractive gay man in contemporary Japan. He’s in a committed relationship, although he had a past before he and Kenji set up house. He is out to his parents, dines (under duress) with them regularly, but they’ve yet to invite Kenji to their home. “Your mother is prepared to accept all of you, whether you’re gay, or a criminal!” she assures Shiro, to which he silently retorts, “So I’m the same as a criminal in Mom’s eyes …”
He has a cooking buddy, Kayoko, a housewife whose family also enjoys Shiro’s chef-ly exchanges. As they julienne and sauté, Shiro confides to Kayoko his wish that his mother would “interact quite naturally” with him as Kayoko does. Her response is surprisingly disturbing: “It’s not like you’re my son. If my daughter suddenly told me one day that she’s a lesbian, I can’t say for sure that I’d be able to take it in calmly,” she admits. Well, with friends like that …!!
Volume 1 has certainly whet the appetite with bittersweet tensions and challenges, not to mention ever more delectable dishes to try. Will Shiro ever show his true self to his colleagues? How will his parents react to finally meeting Kenji, hopefully sooner than later? And will Kayoko and Shiro continue to make enticing meals together? Get your taste buds ready: volume 2 hits shelves later this month.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2007 (Japan), 2014 (United States)