Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy by Fumi Yoshinaga
I’m willing to try any manga by Fumi Yoshinaga, and I was curious about Not Love But Delicious Foods, because it is obvious from her other manga that Yoshinaga is an unapologetic foodie. This volume detailing the restaurant visits of Yoshinaga and her friends and co-workers feels a little more like omake (the extra author notes or side stories included in a manga) than a full-fledged volume, but if I had to read a volume of nothing but food omake, I’d expect Yoshinaga’s to be very entertaining. I wasn’t disappointed by the love of food on display here, but I was more interested in the ways Yoshinaga portrayed herself as she ate.
More than anything else, Not Love But Delicious Foods functions as a food diary from a restaurant enthusiast. Yoshinaga goes to eat with her assistants and friends, visiting different restaurants and including detailed descriptions of the meals eaten at each one. There isn’t the historical background or information about preparation included that you’d see in a series like Oshinbo, instead you get recitations of what’s great about a particular dish, with a map to the restaurants visited after each chapter. The food descriptions sometimes seemed to blur together a little bit, but I read the book in one sitting. It might be better sampled a chapter or two at a time. I did put down the book feeling a wave of nostalgia for Japanese bakeries (they put so many different things inside bread) and Yoshinaga changed my dismissive attitude towards eel.
Yoshinaga portrays herself as a middle aged man, unsightly hag, and dolled-up drag queen. She introduces her character as “F-mi Y-naga, a thirty-one year old female who makes her living by drawing men engaged in anal sex.” She has a wide circle of friends she goes out to eat with, but her mainstay is her hopeless assistant S-hara. She lives with S-hara, and he works on her manga but he’s not very good. She keeps trying to lend him out to other manga artists in the futile hope that he’ll come back with better skills. Yoshinaga portrays her attitude towards food as very proprietorial. She’s delighted to talk about food, take people out to eat, and if someone likes a dish that she recommends she is as proud as if she made it herself. She frightens away potential dates, but thrills inside when she sees a well-fed man. One of the stories that I thought was interesting coming from a yaoi author is when Y-naga discovers that one of her acquaintances is gay. She takes him out to eat and apologizes to him, saying “I’ve been paying my rent drawing manga with gay themes, but none of them are real gay themes!”
Y-naga’s capacity for food is almost endless, as shown when the staff of an all you can eat restaurant gathers and bows to Y-naga and her friend when they finally place their last order. The lecturing tone is fairly consistent throughout the whole manga, but it is something Yoshinaga is very aware of, making comments like “Imparting boring trivia to young female meal companions is one of Y-naga’s old-man like traits.” Yoshinaga is obviously exaggerating her quirks for comedic effect, but if was fun reading about her adventures in restaurants and seeing the way she enjoys sharing food with her friends. I think this manga is probably best suited to someone who is already a Yoshinaga fan, and who has already read several of her series. While Not Love But Delicious Foods is funny and entertaining I imagine it would be less captivating for someone who isn’t very familiar with her previous works. As a companion piece to Yoshinaga’s other series providing an exaggerated look at the life of a talented manga creator, Not Love But Delicious Foods functions very well. It does make me dearly wish that someone would pick up and translate her series “What Did You Eat Yesterday” about the culinary adventures of a gay couple.