When I think of graphic novels and comics, I know that food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But there are some great graphic novels and memoirs, as well as comic-based cookbooks that are out there, and there’s something to be said for the medium of illustration paired with food. Good food writing gives us one sensory aspect, but also seeing it visually just provides another sensory component, at least for me. (And for those of us for whom cooking is a little harder, having visuals helps and makes the whole thing a little less painful!).
I’m not a great cook, and I don’t really bake. I don’t really enjoy it, although I’ve been trying to inch my way into the kitchen lately, with mixed results. But I love food, and love reading about food. Food memoirs, nonfiction books diving into an area of food or eating, and articles and essays that are criticism, review, or commentary. I also love comics, and to combine them is a real delight — it’s kind of the perfect pairing, really.
Here are some to check out — but don’t read them on an empty stomach!
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
In this fun and entertaining graphic memoir, Knisley shares her love of food and cooking. Being the daughter of foodies, she’s been surrounded by food in different ways throughout her life. Memories, trips, and stories are all intertwined with foods and cooking, and she even shares recipes and kitchen tips/tricks in each chapter, all of which are colorfully illustrated, drawing in even the most reluctant cook.
Let’s Make Dumplings!: A Comic Book Cookbook by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan
You might be familiar with the authors’ first comic book cookbook, Let’s Make Ramen! In this one, they focus on dumplings: information about them, how to fold them, what they can be stuffed with, dipping sauces, and much more. It’s not just a fun comic-style cookbook to read, but it’s also clearly written, with easy directions made even more clear with the illustrations.
Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu
This middle grade graphic novel follows Cici, who just moved to Seattle from Taiwan. She really wants to fit in at school, but she also wants her grandmother to be in the U.S. to celebrate her 70th birthday with Cici. She decides to enter a kids’ cooking contest to win the money for the plane ticket — except she can only cook Taiwanese food. Will she cook what she knows?
Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
These are cute graphic commentaries on food culture and trends, and even topics related to food in some way like marketing, going to the bathroom (it was food at one point!), food photography, and food encountered while traveling. The fluid nature of this book makes it a great book to pick up and put down whenever you have time to enjoy a few pages of smart, funny images or short vignettes.
Bake Sale by Sara Varon
This is a cute, quirky graphic novel about Cupcake and his best friend, Eggplant. When Cupcake starts having a rough time at the bakery and in his personal life, he knows the thing to fix it is somewhere, but he doesn’t know where yet — what he doesn’t realize is that it’s closer than he thinks. This is a heartwarming story about friendship and a fun read, complete with several baking recipes that sound yummy.
Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha
If you want to learn more about Korean food, look no further. This fantastic book looks at more than 60 dishes, along with things like what’s in the Korean refrigerator, regions of Korea and their foods, key ingredients, and more. Everything from kimchi to Korean barbecue, soups, noodles, snacks, and even cocktails. There are stories and memories alongside the easy-to-follow instructions, which makes it an overall really fun and informative read, even if you don’t make any of the recipes.