Tag Archive for alisa harris

Dirt Candy and the joys of comics about food

Here’s something you didn’t know about me: I once considered seriously going to cooking school.

Well, I’m not quite sure how “serious” the “seriously” part was, but at age 20 and obsessed with the Food Network (when it was good!) and the original Iron Chef, all I wanted to do was cook. But there was the pesky fact I was a vegetarian that got in the way of pursuing cooking school.

I still love to cook. I still love the Food Network (well, not as much as I did) and I spend more Saturdays than I should enjoying the cooking shows in PBS.

So of course, when I read that New York’s “vegetable” restaurant Dirt Candy‘s cookbook was going to be in comic form, I was automatically sold. Chef and proprietor, Amanda Cohen, wrote it with her husband, Grady Hendrix, and Action Philosophers artist Ryan Dunlavey provided the art. It’s a delightful glimpse into the burdens of opening and running a restaurant (harder than you think!) and the ups and downs of cooking (especially vegetarian food to skeptical audiences). Cohen’s voice is light and fun although she doesn’t shy away from the harder aspects of this life. Dunlavey does a wonderful job of keeping the pace with his playful artwork and animated style.

The recipes are amazing — many are more complicated than I want to tackle. One soup takes two days and there’s a lot of smoking and dehydrating and other impractical things, but they’re inspiring. I love the flavors Cohen comes up with and I’m happy to incorporate them into my own cooking. I also hope if I make it to NYC this year, that I can get to go to Dirt Candy.

My one complaint about Dirt Candy, though? Not enough images of the food. Both Dunlavey and Cohen kind of skimp on this area — the recipes are clear enough, but I wanted more illustrations.


Japan, unsurprisingly, does food comics better than we do in the West. Oishinbo, written by Tetsu Kariya with art by Akira Hanasaki, is 100 volumes but it’s broken up by subject in the U.S. They’re not cookbooks, but there’s plenty of information and history on food and many dazzlingly illustrated panels of dishes. If you still retain an interest in Japanese cuisine (and constantly threaten to make your friends vegetarian sushi), I don’t know why you’re not reading this series.  It’s fun just to look at. I wanted a few more elements of that from Dirt Candy.

As far as this year’s other major food-related comic, Get Jiro, which was co-written by celebrity chef/wild man Anthony Bourdain.  While I did enjoy the images of food, part of me kept wishing there were recipes instead of violence.

After all, recipes taking comic form is pretty logical. Recipes are, for the most part, sequential narratives and there are steps that can be easily illustrated.

Luckily for me, as far for fulling my need to see recipes in comics form, webcomics are were it’s at right now.

Every so often, Saveur invites a comics artist to create a piece about food. Some, like Lisa Hanawalt’s recipe for Hearty Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup are more or less straightfoward how-tos. Others, like Lucy Knisely’s Tanzania Travelogue, are more narrative pieces about the food eaten amongst the experiences the artist had.

Speaking of Knisely, she has an upcoming book that’s all about food called Relish and if that’s not quite enough, her blog, Crave This features plenty of simple recipes and fun images of food.

Panel from L. Nichols' Drawn ButterShe’s not alone there, though. I’m a big fan of L. Nichols’ Drawn Butter, especially for the drink recipes. Sarah Becan’s I Think Your Sauceome isn’t always about food, but they are often enough (and she sometimes has guest strips, which adds to the diversity of the food covered).

Of course, as a vegan, I sometimes feel alienated by a lot of cooking shows and even cooking webcomics. I watch and read to get ideas for flavors and techniques, but still, lessons on how to cook bacon are a waste of my time. That’s why Alisa Harris’ Cooking Up Comics is so delightful. Her recipes aren’t all vegan, although they’re usually at least vegan-friendly, but her clear illustrations and personal stories make all of her recipes fun.

And to me, that’s what it’s all about — food is something we all have in common. Food is a story we can all share with each other. I think comics are a perfect vehicle to tell these stories. So while I’d never claim this is any sort of comprehensive roundup of food comics, it’s the ones I delight in and they do fill the time between cooking show marathons. (And I absolutely welcome finding more!)

And maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll try out some of my own recipes on you.

November minicomic review roundup, part 1

These are comics I’ve accumulated during the past few months. I was waiting until I had several different things and then before I fully realized it, I had a huge stack. I think I’m catching everyone who has sent me something recently, but if it’s not here today, it will go up tomorrow.

As always, in no particular order.

Urban Nomad #1-3: Alisa Harris
There are a ton of creators making autobiographical comics and so they can often become a blur of relationship dramas and pretentious introspection. Alisa Harris, however, has a charming eye for the ups and downs of city life. The vignettes presented here showcase a smart young woman with a sense of adventure and her clear-eyed style capture moments perfectly. My favorite is the story of how she and her boyfriend Allan became domestic partners (for health insurance purposes — which I think is totally great). It’s sweet and simple and if you don’t want to hang out with them after reading this, something is wrong with you.

And speaking of Allan …

Things I’ve Seen at Shows (#1): Allan Norico
This is what it say: things (and people) Allan Norico has observed at rock shows. His commentary is funny and all-too accurate. Norico’s art evokes Jaime Hewlett at times, but he has a cleaner, bolder style filtered through a designer’s eye. I would love to see his work on T-shirts.

O.G.: Road Trippin’: JustJENN
Everyone’s favorite stationery-designing, Star Wars-party-throwing, cake-maker to the stars also makes comics. Based on actual conversations Jenn had with her grandmother while driving, this is hilarious and adorable. Jenn’s art here mostly consists of basic, bold shapes, but the simplicity works perfectly.

Thanksgiving Party and Hey!: Chris Uphues
Chris Uphues draws adorable cartoon hearts with arms, legs and big eyes. As a vegetarian, I dislike the punchline of “Thanksgiving Party” but it’s gentle and obvious enough (and suggests that his work may not be as cloying as it seems). “Hey!” would make a lovely Valentine, however. Uphues also sent along a book of images draw on paint chips. Looking at his website, he’s obviously interested in color and surreal design. I’d love to see more of his art, comic or otherwise.

Spaz #3: Emi Gennis
Emi Gennis presents herself — or at least, a version of herself — as a highly neurotic young woman. I actually had the thought while reading this that she’s like a younger, more vulgar version of Cathy, and I mean that as a compliment. Her one-page comics “Shit I Worry About” and “More Shit I Worry About” has small panels illustrating everything from the plausible “Everyone laughing at me” and “Debt” to the less-than-likely “Being pushed in front of the subway” and “Being poisoned.” She also feels conflicted over possible procreation — illustrating conversations with a person-sized zygote. Her art is cartoony and loose — all huge, round eyes and just enough detail. Her comics aren’t going to be everyone’s thing, but there is fun to be had here.

Review copies provided by Chris Uphues and Emi Gennis.

King Con was much fun

If it wasn’t getting late and I wasn’t feeling so brain-dead, perhaps I could’ve come up with something more descriptive than that.

But it’s still pretty accurate. King Con was definitely fun. I am very happy I went.

It’s a small, laid-back show. The Brooklyn Lyceum has a pleasantly rough industrial aesthetic and I think it lends itself well to DIY culture. The space for exhibitors wasn’t very big so there wasn’t that many of them, but I liked that it was small.

I’ve been to a bunch of comic-related shows this year so I’ve seen many of the same people multiple times, so I sought those I hadn’t. Among them were Alisa Harris and Allan Norico, a fun, artistic couple.

I also had a nice chat with Dave Roman, who I was surprised recognized me. Roman and Raina Telgemeier are always awesome and I think they’re really good for comics.

As fun as the exhibitors were, King Con’s strength is in the programming. On Saturday I caught most of the Kyle Baker presentation with Chris Irving and it was delightful. But honestly, it’s Kyle Baker. How could it not be? I am always impressed by Baker’s work and I need to read more of it.

Next up was the Bored to Death panel. I don’t have HBO because I have the cheap cable, so I’ve never seen Bored to Death (yes, I know about this thing called the “Internet” and these things called “DVDs” but nonetheless, I’ve never seen the show). This panel was packed — I think quite a number of people came to King Con just for it.

Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel have an easy chemistry with each other and it was fun to hear them talk about the show, even though I was only vaguely familiar with it. Moderator Jeff Newlett did a great job — directing the conversation when he needed to but mostly just letting it evolve organically. I really enjoyed it. Even the giant drawings of penises.

(My friend says she saw Jason Schwartzman in the audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had been, but I didn’t see him so I can’t confirm.)

I stuck around afterward for the Daily Cross Hatch panel because I was interested in everyone on it (Robert Sikoryak, Julia Wertz and Lisa Hanawalt along with Alex Cox, hosted, of course, by Brian Heater) but I think most everyone can agree it kind of ended up being a mess.

I actually don’t think that was anyone’s fault in particular that it went badly — the room was cold, it was getting to a slumped part of the day (it started at 4:30 p.m.) and while there’s nothing wrong with comic book people not actually talking about comics, I think the creators were a little thrown off by being initially asked about sports and fast food. There was plenty of fun — Sikoryak is wonderfully sharp and Cox would randomly give people points for certain answers — but once it went off track, it never really recovered. I think everyone pretty much knew it (it will be interesting to see what the podcast version ends up being).

Today I did attend the Kid’s Stuff: Making Comics for All Ages panel, but that will get its own post, likely later tomorrow.

Other than a couple other small things (there’s a panel in town next week and maybe a couple of other events), King Con has capped off a very busy year. It did serve as a great finale.