For our March book read, we'll be venturing out of the comfort zone a bit, to deal with Veggie Comic Books.
Yep, you read that right. Not Veggie Tales. Veggie Comic Books.
I know what you're thinking. "Who the HECK in their right mind does *comic books* about VEGETABLES?"
Well ... the Japanese, for one. And a vegetarian celebrity chef, for the other.
OISHINBO is from the genre of manga, or Japanese comic books, which has attracted quite a following in the West. This particular title is one of the longest running, from 1983 to 2008 without a break. Contrary to what we normally think about manga, there are no busty schoolgirls being attacked by tentacles here. Instead the storyline follows two reporters as they examine Japanese cuisine and eating habits.
The Viz Media version is called OISHINBO À LA CARTE, which collects stories from various points along the manga's publishing run, and the volume subtitled VEGETABLES happens to deal with foodstuffs which we would find most familiar. So you can think of this volume as a short story collection. Just with pictures. Lots of pictures. And although it contains a couple of recipes, it is *not* a cookbook.
DIRT CANDY, on the other hand, *is* a cookbook. It's by Amanda Cohen, who operates an award-winning vegetarian restaurant in New York City (www.dirtcandynyc.com) and who gained notoriety from her appearance as a challenger on Food Network's IRON CHEF AMERICA. Being a celebrity chef of sorts, she released a cookbook / memoir this year, only instead of the usual coffee table format, she chose to put it out as a graphic novel. Besides recipes, the book also talks about her story of trying to get her restaurant up and running. It's not quite the story that foodie magazines would normally sell.
Now, as I've mentioned during our November meetup discussing UNDERSTANDING COMICS, the graphic novel format (or comic book) is a perfectly legitimate medium for the conveying of ideas, be they fiction or nonfiction. We're not dealing with any muscle-bound superheroics here, so don't be dismissive of the idea of reading them just because they tell their narrative with pictures as well as words.
Ideally it would be good to read both, but it's and either / or to take into account limited book budgets. OISHINBO is less expensive, but it's also in the Japanese manga format, meaning the binding is on the right-hand side of the book rather than the left (but it's English-language text).
DIRT CANDY only came out this year, so Ottawa Public Library doesn't have a copy. The library *does,* however, have 3 copies of OISHINBO A LA CARTE: VEGETABLES in the system. DIRT CANDY is also available as an e-book, but I don't recommend that format; for this medium, layout matters, and people will find the e-production too small to be legible.
As for the venue, in keeping with the month's theme, we'll be discussing at a vegetarian restaurant. ZenKitchen is on Somerset Street between Percy and Bronson, just to the east of the Chinatown district. They *do* have a beer and wine list as well as a vegetarian menu (several dishes are, or can be made, gluten-free). There are two public parking lots about three blocks away, in Chinatown, with the one on the north side being outdoor and the one on the south side being indoor.