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Brought home by [personal profile] weirdquark.

This is not actually a graphic novel, but a basic Japanese cookbook centered around Food One Sees In Manga. There are a few actual citations as to what foods turn up in what series, but mostly it's just, you know, food that turns up all the time generally.

As a cookbook, it's not very well proofread-- there are a couple of things like sentences where words are run together oddly, or a recipe that tells you to add soy sauce when the ingredient list clearly says teriyaki sauce. But it's meant for people who are not necessarily proficient cooks and who have not necessarily worked with Japanese food before (I suspect it of being meant for teenagers, really) and therefore is good at spelling things out simply and clearly, with diagrams. And the range of recipes does hit a wide variety of things; this will tell you both how to cut apple slices into those little rabbit shapes and how to make shiruko from scratch anko paste and homemade o-dango. And, and this is important, it has what looks like a functional okonomiyaki recipe, which is by itself enough to endear the thing to me. I haven't had okonomiyaki in the U.S. since this confusing conbini in a Main Line suburb when I was in college, one of those places that sells imported candy and magazines and hair products and has a food counter, except that for some reason it was an Osaka-style okonomiyaki counter and I sometimes dream about it. (Those of you unfamiliar with okonomiyaki will keep hearing it called things like 'Japanese pizza', which is just silly. It is centered around cabbage, egg, bonito flakes, mayonnaise, a sauce all its own, and utter deliciousness.)

This book will also tell you how to make your own udon noodles, chicken kara-age, and those tiny sausages that look like octopi. You get the idea: things you will recognize if you spend time with Japanese pop culture.

It's illustrated, which adds a lot to the recipes because the diagrams are very good, but which is distracting and kind of annoying because it is the classic kind-of-amateur-looking one female character one male character one fluffy little animal doing running commentary and, well, boring. Not to mention incredibly cliche. If there is a cliche related to this set of characters and food not included here, I'm not sure what it is, except of course all the ones where the food turns out not to be good, because this is after all a cookbook. This means the gender roles are terrible, although it is not, fortunately, fanservice-y, because if I had to deal with too much of that in a cookbook I would just start screaming.

So if you can ignore the illos, this is actually the Japanese cookbook I have run into that I would recommend most highly to beginning cooks: it's not going to teach you the aesthetic rules about color and taste balance, it's not going to teach you things like correct slicing techniques, but it's going to teach you how to make food you recognize without making you feel like you shouldn't be attempting this until you're better in the kitchen. And while some of it is quick-and-dirty, most of it is fairly authentic food, what you would get from any other decent book, only with more diagrams.

Mind you, if you can't ignore the illos, I don't blame you.


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March 2017

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