what did you eat yesterday? (vols. 2-3) by Fumi Yoshinaga, translated by Maya Rosewood
Meet Shiro Kakei and Kenji Yabuki here in volume 1. They’re a cosmopolitan Tokyo gay couple – Shiro’s a lawyer, Kenji’s a hair stylist – who manage to eat really, really well, even on a limited budget. In spite of Shiro’s ample salary, he’s keeping a sharp eye on building a retirement nest, as he reminds Kenji, since children-who-will-care-for-them-in-old-age are not in the couple’s future.
Volume 2 opens with a blast from the past (and a “Christmas-only” menu starring spinach lasagne!), as Shiro reminisces over what was “en vogue among gays” when he was still single. He meets Kenji first in a bar, then soon thereafter as “beautician and client.” As their relationship progressed, Shiro “mustered his lifetime’s supply of courage” and the happy couple set up house. “Since there is no gay marriage in Japan, moving in is the big step,” a boxed note adds. Three years later, the lovebirds share one lovely meal after another, thanks to Shiro’s culinary obsessions.
While Shiro might be deliciously in love at home, back at the office, Shiro faces less-than-happy endings between less-fortunate couples with regularity. Ironically, “lend[ing] an ear” at work is always easier, perhaps because his devotion to Kenji makes anger flare more quickly when he hears how Kenji is struggling with an ungenerous friend. Sympathy from a distance is not nearly as wearing on the soul. His contentment with Kenji, Shiro knows, is quite the sharp contrast from the painfully unappreciative situation he endured with a former partner.
In volume 3, Kenji gets increased page count while Shiro is off visiting his recovering father and worried mother. Kenji might not be haute-cuisine-talented, but he surely knows how to make a delectable bowl of ramen, even if he’s starting from an all-too-ubiquitous Sapporo Ichiban package. Back at the office in the new year, Shiro has quite a bout of miscommunication with the attractive new apprentice, and then confronts difficult new challenges he never expected with his aging parents. Still, sharing homemade savory and sweet crepes over a late brunch on the first day of summer vacation with the love of his life is enough to give him both energy and tenacity to face just about anything … volume 4 is just another month away.
Creator Fumiko Yoshinaga has undoubtedly figured out the recipe for lasting happiness: nothing proves more satisfying, fortifying, and inspiring than an appreciative audience – in the kitchen, in the salon chair, in the courtroom, and beyond. Dig in!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2007 (Japan), 2014 (United States)