our dining table

When I’m too busy to think, my optimal reading choices (if I can muster up the energy!) are: graphic novels, novellas, and short stories. My reading in 2020 so far has consisted of: 4 novellas and 2 graphic novels. I think that tells you all you need to know about how the month has gone! The graphic novel I finished this morning, Mita Ori’s Our Dining Table, was a delightful escape from reality. It also made me ravenously hungry for ramen. Luckily, there’s a ramen shop down the street…

our dining table by mita ori book cover
Eating around other people is a struggle for salaryman Yutaka, despite his talent for cooking. All that changes when he meets Minoru and Tane—two brothers, many years apart in age—who ask him to teach them how to make his delicious food! It’s not long before Yutaka finds himself falling hard for the meals they share together—and falling in love!

Our Dining Table follows the solitary Yutaka, a young man who is a talented cook but doesn’t like to eat with others due to past trauma. When he bumps into the adorable Tane and his older brother Minoru at the park during his lunch hour, he is charmed by their relationship. Four-year-old Tane, in turn, is obsessed with Yutaka’s homemade food.  So begins an association, and then a relationship, first based on a shared love of food… that eventually leads to love love.

First of all, I have to give a shout-out to the Cybils, because if I hadn’t been on the graphic novel award committee in 2018, I never would have added myself to the Seven Seas (a manga publisher) email newsletter. And then I never would have heard of Our Dining Table, which is, for the record, ADORABLE. My interest was piqued by this book because: food + graphic novel = instant yes. THEN I saw that it also featured an LGBTQ+ romance, and I was like, yes, okay, let’s GO. One of my favorite books of 2019 (Bloom) was another graphic novel that mixed food and love. It also has the CUTEST cover? So really, I was primed to be enchanted by this book.

And then, it had the gall to be just… super sweet?? With good pacing, great art, and moments of light angst that pulled my heartstrings??? Ugh, yeah, it was wonderful. And satisfying. Even if I am still hungry. Ha!

But yeah, let’s dig in to what I liked so much about it. There was the food, of course – Yutaka ingratiates himself to (and integrates into) the Ueda family recipe by recipe. First he shows them how he makes rice, and then onigiri, and then curry... and in turn they accept him unquestioningly and show him their own recipes. The mentions of food don’t break up the narrative, but they sound (and look!) mouth-wateringly good.

The increasing intimacy between Minoru and Yutaka is also played exactly right. Their relationship is sweet, slow-moving, and comes along with growing trust and interruptions from a certain excitable younger brother. Each of them open up, bit by bit, to the other, and yes it may be idealized but it’s so delightful. This book was a joy to while away an hour with, and I can already tell I’ll want to pick it up again.

Also, the art! I don’t read many manga style graphic novels, but as far as I can tell the black on white line art was fairly standard for the genre. HOWEVER, I feel attacked by how cute Tane was. Like Studio Ghibli cute. Every time he was excited (which was nearly always) his eyes got even more enormous and it was unsustainably adorable! I also thought Mita Ori’s use of texture and patterns was excellent – and of course the panels featuring food were incredible. I remain impressed overall, but the art was really special.

In conclusion: if anything in my review struck a chord, you should read this book, preferably with some snacks nearby. It’s adorable (have I used that word enough?), and it’ll make you hungry and happy all at once.

Recommended for: readers who like gentle, quiet love stories, à la Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau’s young adult graphic novel Bloom, fans of light manga, and those intrigued by graphic novels about food.

Interested in reading other posts about food? Check out Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking!


Beth F said...

I've been out of the graphic novel scene for a long while now. This sounds really good and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon or lunch hour. I hope my library has a copy.

Mae Travels said...

Food books are among my favorites, so this is really a great idea. Is it translated from Japanese?

Best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Cecelia said...

@Mae Travels: Yes! It was originally published in Japanese in 2017 as Bokura no Shokutaku (this all according to the back matter in the edition I have).

Claudia said...

The graphic novel is one I've never gotten into. Did you try making any of the things they cooked?

Carole said...

I am so going to get this one. Thanks!

Marg said...

This sound great. Thanks for reviewing it!

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