Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments | Review
Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments
Writer/artist: Victoria Grace Elliott
RH Graphic; $21.99
Cartoonist Victoria Grace Elliott and her food sprites from 2021’s Yummy: A History of Desserts return for this sequel of sorts, Tasty: A History of Yummy Experiments. The focus this time is on the often mysterious invention of some of the most common of foods, from ancient human history to post-WWII innovations.
On the ancient side of the spectrum is the invention of cheese, which starts in the fertile crescent in 7000 BCE and continues through “the cheese diaspora” around the world and through time, detailing various manners of making cheese, resulting in different cheeses (each of which is introduced), all the way up until England in the 1700s. (Don’t worry, there will be more, modern cheeses introduced in a later section, including cream cheese and Velveeta.) That particular history lesson is immediately followed by a four-page recipe segment that walks readers through how to make their own fresh cheese out of a handful of common ingredients.
On the more modern side of the spectrum is the chapter on “Easy Food” from the twentieth century, including Spam, Crisco, Kraft macaroni and cheese, instant ramen noodles, frozen dinners, canned foods and the like.
The sprites will also tackle the history of pizza, pickles, soda and gelatin in the pages of the book.
As for these sprites, they are led by Peri, who “hosts” each chapter and functions as our main narrator, while the others–including water sprite Naia, whom Peri has a prickly relationship with—each perform particular functions during the unfolding chapters. The sprites, if you haven’t read Yummy (and you certainly don’t need to have read it before reading Tasty) are tiny, making them the perfect size to talk on the world of food, which they blend into, and each have the tiniest of vestigial wings, but otherwise they resemble normal, modern characters. They are cute and drawn in a gently manga/anime-influenced style, with big hands, heads, and feet, and highly emotive faces.
Their methods of teaching include journal entries, dramatizations of various food legends, late night talk show-style interview segments with historic figures, “science lab” segments explaining aspects of food science, and the aforementioned recipes. It’s so varied that, although Elliott has a formula she establishes at the beginning, it hardly feels like one is sitting through school during all this education; in Tasty, learning is genuinely fun. Perhaps because the subject matter is so engaging, but, more likely, because it is so engagingly presented.
As for the real star of the book–the food–Elliott draws everything so it looks, well, tasty: just detailed enough to be realistic, brightly colored, and well presented. It may be hard to read too long without getting hungry–which, I suppose, is where those recipe segments come in.
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About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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