What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 3

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 3Creator: Fumi Yoshinaga
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781939130402
Released: July 2014
Original release: 2009

As a fan of Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga, food, and stories with a queer bent to them, I was extraordinarily happy when her series What Did You Eat Yesterday? was licensed for release in English. The third volume of What Did You Eat Yesterday? was originally published in Japan in 2009 while the English-language edition was released by Vertical in 2014. I have been thoroughly enjoying the series so far and its mix of gay slice-of-life and recipes, so I was very much looking forward to reading the third volume. Personally, I like the series best when Yoshinaga focuses on the characters, but I would be lying if I tried to say that I didn’t also like all of the food found in the manga, too. What Did You Eat Yesterday? is most effective when Yoshinaga is able to combine and balance those two major aspects of the series. The ideal balance isn’t always achieved, but even when it isn’t What Did You Eat Yesterday? always has intriguing characters, delicious food, and just the right touch of humor to accompany it all.

With his father recovering from an illness, Shiro finds himself spending more time with his family than he has in a long while. Though it’s better than when he first came out to them, his parents are still coming to terms with their son’s homosexuality and their relationship can sometimes be a little strained. Granted, some of that uncomfortableness has very little to do with the fact that Shiro is gay and more to do with the fact that the entire family is made up of people with strong personalities. While Shiro is out to his family and close friends, he’s still closeted at work which, along with his incredible self-consciousness, occasionally gets him into trouble. Things are a little easier for him at home in the kitchen where he can relax and focus on what he really loves: cooking gourmet meals on a tightly kept budget. His boyfriend Kenji, who is much more open about his own sexuality, is always an appreciative audience for Shiro’s meals. It’s a good thing, too. The two of them have been living together for a few years now and food usually helps to smooth over some of the bumps in their relationship.

Generally in What Did You Eat Yesterday? the kitchen is Shiro’s domain. Kenji will gladly help out when asked and given direction, acting as a sort of sous-chef, but for the most part it’s all Shiro. However, in the third volume Kenji gets to take the lead for a chapter while Shiro is off visiting his folks for the New Year. He makes instant ramen. (Granted, with a bunch of extra trimmings.) In a delightful twist, it’s treated in the manga as though he’s having an affair. Instant ramen actually happens to be one of my comfort foods, but I’ve only recently begun trying to dress it up a bit. In addition to the food and its preparation being sumptuously drawn, one of the great things about What Did You Eat Yesterday? (at least I think it’s a great thing) is that the recipes included in the stories are detailed enough that they can be followed and produce results. After only three volumes there are already plenty of recipes that I’m interested in attempting from the series. A variation on Kenji’s ramen has been added to that growing list.

Food is certainly an important part of What Did You Eat Yesterday?, but so are the characters and their relationships. Family is a particularly prominent theme in the third volume. Shiro is on fairly good terms with his parents, but very little is actually known about Kenji’s family at this point. It’s unlikely that the two of them will have their own kids which will have implications for them later in life, something that is made all the more clear as Shiro deals with his parents as they age. What Did You Eat Yesterday? has one of the most realistic portrayals of a devoted, long-term gay couple that I’ve encountered in a manga (or comics in general). Honestly, when it comes right down to it, Kenji and Shiro’s relationship isn’t all that dissimilar from the heterosexual couples in the series, though they do face some particular challenges unique to their situation. Like any pair, they have their disagreements and small spats, but they also care about each other a great deal. Shiro in particular isn’t always the most overtly demonstrative with his affection, but often it’s the little things that really make a relationship work.

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  1. At the risk of sounding like a contrarian, although it’s rare I find myself in total disagreement about this series. Shiro is nothing but a selfish child and the way he treats Ken is just reprehensible. Shiro constantly harps on Ken for the smallest infraction of his own personal choices without considering that they’re just choices not black and white right and wrong. He’s a miser and makes the household finances all important, then uses them as a bludgeon to abuse Ken if he uses money in a way Shiro doesn’t approve of. As if it was bad enough that he’s terrified of being Out (can we say sending the wrong message? I usually love Yoshinaga but maybe she’s losing her touch or something), he won’t even call “Ken” by name but calls him by his full name when no one else does, as if he’s taken on the roll of the parent with an errant child. As far as I could tell he displays no honest affection that isn’t in some way self-serving (he sees Ken as a problem to be fixed rather than an equal); if he was a woman he’d be a tsundere except that he’s way too old for that. The only thing the two of them really have in common is their love of food, which Ken just uses as an olive branch to smooth out arguments with his persecutor. I think the only reason Ken stays with him is that he’s afraid to be alone or has let Shiro convince him he couldn’t make it on his own. Ken is a 100% better person and I hope he comes to his senses and gets rid of Shiro.

    As you can see, my problem with this series has nothing to do with the food (though I think this series is more than a little aggravating to anyone who can’t cook). ^^;;

    • Ash Brown says

      I think it’s all of the little things that Shiro does for Kenji that makes it clear that he loves him—spending his own pocket money on peaches because Kenji likes them, carrying bags because he’s worried about Kenji injuring his hands, getting irritated with Kenji’s friends when they treat Kenji poorly, and so on. I don’t see any of that as self-serving. Food and cooking are Shiro’s way of communicating and expressing himself, and I think Kenji understands that, which is why their relationship works. Also, Shiro is a much more reserved and insecure person than Kenji is, and that comes through in his characterization. I think it’s entirely understandable that Shiro is afraid of being completely out; society as a whole isn’t a particularly welcoming place for queer folk. Yes, Shiro has personality flaws (and Kenji does, too), but it’s that realism that I think Yoshinaga excels with in this series. Personally, I don’t see anything abusive with their relationship. And as is seen in this volume, while extremely important the budget isn’t Shiro’s highest priority—family is (and that includes Kenji).

      • I pretty much agree with what you’ve said, Ash. Shiro is much more self conscious than Kenji so even though he may not be as vocal with his love as Kenji is, you can definitely tell it’s there. & I agree that criticising Shiro for not being “out” isn’t fair. He’s managed to accept who he is & tell those close to him (friends, family, etc) which is already a tough thing to do. I don’t really see a problem if he doesn’t want to mention it at work where sexuality doesn’t really play any role whatsoever.

        At first I was a bit unsure on this series but by the end of this volume I realised how much I was enjoying it & am incredibly grateful for it being released here.

        • Ash Brown says

          With each passing volume I find that I’m enjoying the series more and more. I’m very glad that that it’s being released, too. :)

  2. I’ve never heard of this series, and I’ve never come across it anywhere, but this sounds like exactly the kind of thing that I would want to read.

    After reading this review and the comments, I’m considering looking for the first volume in this series and reading it. ^-^

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