Monday, November 10, 2014

Manga Monday: An ode to common vegetables

Yamaoka takes on vegetables with zeal in Oishinbo: A la Carte: Vegetables.

Vegetable Showdown is a head-to-head battle between the Ultimate Menu and the Supreme Menu. When Yamaoka suggests that their theme be 'vegetables,' Kaibara has a few stipulations. The dishes shall focus on cabbage and turnip respectively, and only the highest quality. These vegetables have been grown without herbicides or pesticides, and have a clean, sweet taste that is uncommon in food grown by large, industrial farms. Does Yamaoka have the skill to bring out these flavors, nearly lost in modern foods?

The Joy of a New Potato gives the reader a look at how food can bring together a family. Misaki Shacho is one of Japan's rising stars of entrepreneurship. Always seen at flashy restaurants, with beautiful young women on his arm, he's the epitome of new money - for better or worse. When bad investments cause him to lose it all, he has to call on friends even to help celebrate his son's birthday. Can friends and family help him learn to treasure what his modest means have left him?

Good Eggplant, Bad Eggplant is a love letter to an often misunderstood vegetable. Many people have been turned off by badly prepared, or badly grown, eggplant. When old or abused, eggplant can be a terrible combination of tough skin and bitter flesh. This is what young Hitoshi has learned to dread about the food. Now, he knows that he'll have to eat the vegetable at school, or lose face among his peers. Can Yamaoka convince his young friend that there is hope?

Tetsu Kariya pens love letters to cuisine in each chapter of his collections. In more fast-paced cultures, food becomes a chore, or something to be eaten in the car between jobs. Oishinbo reminds the reader that food is an art that deserves to be treasured. Whether the topic be the humble ramen noodle or the most basic plants that mother Earth has provided, these volumes show the care and work that goes into a perfect dish.

 Highs: Over and over, we are shown how food brings people together.

Lows: The far-left leanings of the author are thicker here than in other volumes, and can be preachy at times.

Verdict: Oishinbo: A la Carte; Vegetables is a worthy addition to the series, which is a good fit for foodies of all reading preferenes.

Further Reading: Oishinbo: A la Carte: Japanese Cuisine, Neko Ramen, The Drops of God

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