Review: The Manga Cookbook
I love to cook. My new found love started sometime between the time I got married, when I realized my husband is a very appreciative eater and the time my mother was hospitalized for a short time and we passed the hours watching cooking shows together. So when I first spotted the Manga Cookbook I just loved the concept. It was the perfect combination of my 2 new found hobbies, cooking and reading comics. Sadly, it took me a while to get my hands on this title, but last month I finally got to read it….
The Manga Cookbook
By the Manga University Culinary Institute art by Chihiro Hattori
Recommended for ages 10 and up
Japanime, 2007, 978-4-921205-07-2
160 pp., $14.95
While presented using manga style art, the Manga Cookbook is not that much different than any other cookbook. It uses three characters, Miyuki, her boyfriend Hiroshi, and Miyuki’s pet Coo, to walk readers young and old through the recipes. The book opens with a few introductory parts. The first includes instructions on how to use chopsticks. (Now I know what to do. I still haven’t mastered the technique!) The second is a full color photo gallery of the recipes. I would have rather had the photos next to the actual recipe, but at least the page number of the recipe is included, so I can forgive this small oversight. Then there are instructions on how to set a Japanese table, and words of caution on safe cooking habits, like washing your hands before touching food and other basics of kitchen safety, which is usually found in a kids’ cookbook. Finally, there’s a portion that covers the basic ingredients mentioned in the book. It suggests the types of stores readers can find these ingredients. Fortunately, most of the ingredients are available in most large supermarkets. (At least here in NYC.) It does seem like a lot of pages before the recipes start, but the pages are well spent in the beginning.
The first few recipes are more about food presentation in the Japanese style than they are actual recipes. Still, the instructions are concise and clear. Here’s an instance where the art really helps along the words. Visual learners will be able to follow the recipes even more easily because of the visual cues.
The book is arranged so that the simpler recipes are in the beginning, and the more difficult recipes progress. One thing I didn’t yet try was to actually cook any of these recipes. So I can’t speak for how tasty they are. But some of the recipes are as simple as “how to cook rice” and others are a bit more complicated, like making your own udon noodles. There’s also a wide variety of recipes that will appeal to many different appetites.
Each recipe includes a calorie count per serving, but what’s missing is how many servings a recipe makes. Something the publisher might include in the next printing of this book. In addition, after each recipe there are notes about Japanese culture and the specific recipe and in many cases how some of these recipes are presented in manga. So while, I didn’t quite come away from the Manga Cookbook with a yen to try a new recipe, I did get a lot of insight to the importance of food in manga and food in the Japanese culture.
The artwork isn’t very exciting. Though I’m not sure how the artist could have jazzed it up. After all, this was about the technical aspect of art, drawing to the letter of the word, with little room for imagination. Still, the black and white line drawings are clear and crisp and do what it’s supposed to do. There is a bit of humorous interaction between Miyuki, Hiroshi, and Coo that add a little flavor to the art.
In June, I recommended this title for parents to use with their children in an article about Summer Reading in our school’s newsletter. I thought this was a great interactive way for parents and children to incorporate reading and math (cooking always incorporates math) in a fun way. And how many kids can resist manga? I look forward to putting this on my library’s shelves come Fall. Many of my students (especially the boys!) raided my slim cookbook section this last year. I know this will be a great addition and a popular pick with readers.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Japanime.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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