Comic recipes, created by everyone from artists to food writers, bloggers to home cooks, are an enchanting blend of entertainment and instructions

“Johnny Boyo could have had it all. Women. Money. Fame. He was one of the premier chefs in the galaxy, and his culinary skills could have made him a star.”

Instead he chose to be a hero. Move over Batman. There's a new guy in town. And he makes a mean lasagna. Welcome to a whole new genre of food literature: culinary comics.

The Japanese seem to have had a head start here. Fumi Yoshinaga's classic ‘Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy!' There's ‘Embassy Chef', weaving food with politics. ‘Yakitate!! Ja-pan' by Takashi Hashiguchi, is about a boy who's determined to create a national bread for Japan. The heroic ‘Third Generation Tsukiji Fish Market Man' by Masaharu Nabeshima and Mitsuo Hashimoto is about a high flying banker who quits his job to work at the fish market with his father-in-law.

If graphic novels leave you cold, there's another way to access Culinary Comics — comic recipes. Quirky, kitschy, funny, they're an enchanting blend of entertainment and instructions. Created by everyone from artists to food writers, bloggers to home cooks, they're accessible and easy to follow. In response to the challenge of distilling all instructions into a couple of panels, these recipes are necessarily simple with clear, illustrated instructions.

Since every artist approaches the project in his or her signature style, every one is a piece of art. Written recipes tend to be rather soulless — after all they're just a set of ingredients, measurements and techniques. However, if ten artists are asked to illustrate the same set of instructions to make, say, a banana milkshake, each one will come up with a completely unique piece of art.

Popular food magazine Saveur's asked a dozen of their favourite comic artists to draw them a recipe. They described the results as “fantastic, beautiful, hilarious, thoughtful, informative, and often all of the above — and they prove that a recipe doesn't just have to be words on paper.” (http://www.saveur.com/comix).

Next time someone asks you how to make your signature chocolate cake, as an experiment try drawing out the process. Then send it to ‘They Draw And Cook,' a blog run by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell, a brother and sister design team. The blog was born on a family vacation, when Nate was making fettuccine with figs in a balsamic butter sauce, while Salli sat at the counter painting the crate of figs. Realising how much fun illustrating food was, they invited friends, family and eventually the public to contribute. (www.theydrawandcook.com)

Salli and Nate email me to explain comic recipes are capturing popular imagination. “There is so much photography in the food industry we think it's refreshing to see a recipe told in more of a story form and infused with humour and personality. It puts the fun back into cooking without the pressure of ‘will my meal look as wonderful as the photo in the cookbook?'”

Today, the blog has over 1,500 recipes by over 800 artists around the world. India is well represented by panels showing you how to make Masala Chai, Indie Pindie Channa and Anjeer Burfi. Salli says, “While many are practicing illustrators and designers, many submissions have been created by people who are inspired to participate and want to share their recipe. These are some of the best recipes because they are so genuine and from the heart!”

French artist Elise Collet Soravito won ‘Best Cookbook Illustrations in the World,' at the Beijing Gourmand World Cookbook Awards when she translated desserts into women. For example a bright- eyed, tousled girl for Cherry Crumble and dark, pouting mafia-style godmother, for the Cannoli alla Siciliana. The book proved so popular she's been creating a lot more work in this line.

She explains how dishes have personalities. “Red, fatty meat sounds to me more masculine than apple tart. “Apple tart is more ‘grand mother' than butter cookies, called galette bretonnes. They're like beauty queens in traditional hats.” The trick, she says, is to imagine ‘who' that food could be. Hmmm. I see dal-chawal with a bushy moustache and rippling muscles. Time to get out those watercolours.

Keywords: recipe blogs

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Shonali MuthalalyMay 11, 2012