Creators: Blue Delliquanti (Writer, Illustrator), Soleil Ho (Writer) / Iron Circus Comics
Dreams. Love. Entomophagy.
I am not necessarily entomophobic, but insects and I certainly aren’t on the best of terms. The creepy crawlers definitely have me a little squeamish at times, and the idea of eating bugs still inadvertently closes my throat up. However, all of my personal apprehensions aside, I found myself enamored with the culinary concoctions that was Delliquanti’s and Ho’s Meal.
Meal chronicles the journey of Yarrow, a young chef who has moved across the country in hopes of impressing her idol, Chanda Flores. Along the way, she becomes friends with neighborhood artist, Milani, and discovers the true meaning of cooking along the way. Yet in addition to the queer romance that drives the story’s B-plot, Meal is unique in that both Yarrow and Chanda specialize in the preparation and serving of insects. In addition to being a sweet and sentimental story about preserving culture, Delliquanti and Ho spend a fair portion of the book educating the reader on the history and benefits of insect proteins. Throughout the 150-page story, we get fascinating insights into why certain cultures have been more readily accepting of insects and actually preparations of mealworms and honey larvae. In fact, after the main narrative is complete, there are recipes in the back for some of the dishes that were presented.
Delliquanti and Ho make a wonderful team. Yarrow’s emotional arc in connecting with her heritage and rediscovering her passion for cooking is a wonderfully paced turn and gives her plenty of time to interact with the incredibly diverse cast. From her cute meeting with Milani to the tense job interview with head chef Chanda, Yarrow is a likable character, who’s willing to self-improve and self-reflect and is a welcome facet of a cooking protagonist. There is a great reverence paid to the different cultural influences, and you can tell a fair amount of research was done to make sure entomophagy was presented properly.
In addition, Delliquanti’s artwork is warm and inviting. From the opening splash panel of a monarch butterfly to every dish, the characters have unique profiles and the illustrations are joyful. It’s a fun graphic novel to parse through because it’s a novel that prides itself on being fun. The quirky nature of eating insects is merely a way to examine our cultural biases and find a deeper meaning in what we consume and how it ultimately consumes. It’s about connecting with the past to build a better future, and that’s the type of cooking medium I want more in the future.
Meal is a quick read, but this multi-racial, queer love story with culinary trappings is a fun production that teaches us all to have faith in ourselves and have the bravery to find connection in a scary, unforgiving world. Yarrow’s arc is rendered with a loving care and the combined creative efforts of a comic artist and professional food critic have created a paradoxically niche piece of fiction that appeals both to those in want of a good story and a good, if not slightly odd, cookbook.
9.6 “Special Ingredients” out of 10
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