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L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi with Tien Nguyen and Natasha Phan, photographs by Bobby Fisher

L.A. SonCheck out this toothsome battle-cry: “The kimchi revolution: How Korean-American chefs are changing food culture” by Paula Young Lee for Salon.com. The article’s first paragraph introduces a bi-coastal feast: Momofuku‘s NYC bad-boy David Chang (his signature cookbook is posted here) and L.A.-based Roy Choi. [The second paragraph judiciously adds southern Master Chef Edward Lee and his temptingly Koreanized Smoke and Pickles]. In case Choi’s name isn’t part of your household culinary vocabulary, he’s “best known as the L.A. Korean taco truck guy.” Now you’re nodding, I’m sure.

“I had to write this book,” Choi explains in the “Introduction” to his memoir-in-recipes (seemingly a growing genre for 21st-century celebrity chefs). “To tell the story of my journey from immigrant to latchkey kid to lowrider to misfit to gambler to a chef answering his calling.” He invites you to join him “through the crooked journeys of my life,” and along the way, “Let me cook for you.” How can you resist an invite like that??!!

Born in Korea to parents who originally met in L.A., Choi was destined to return to the City of Angels. By age 2, he was a southern Californian. By 5, he was a latchkey kid wandering the city streets “until I put holes in my soles” while his parents worked whatever jobs they could find. By 8, he was helping out in his family’s Anaheim restaurant where for the “first time I picked up on the feeling that food was important and not just a meal to fuel yourself to do something else.”

By the 1980s, his parents were millionaires, re-introduced to the jewelry business by Uncle Edward (as in the legendary Swodoba – “it really was like having Indiana Jones for an uncle”) who married Choi’s maternal aunt. The family moved into Major League Baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan‘s old house in an Orange County enclave – “I didn’t see another Asian, Latino, black, or Indian kid. For days. Literally.” In his new middle school, the 13-year-old Choi joined “all the Asian kids in school. All three of them” in honors classes. Then came high school with the Grove Street Mob, violently losing a buddy, commuter college, and a broken heart that led him to NYC and crack. From that low point (with worse to follow), Choi re-invents himself again and again … until he has plenty to fill this nourishing memoir. [If I tell you any more, you won't buy the book!]

The food, of course, need few words. Everything from “Perfect Instant Ramen” and “Ghetto Pillsbury Fried Doughnuts,” to “Seared Beef Medallions with Sauce Robert” ["This just sounded fancy, so I decided to make it for y'all"] and “Seared Scallops with Chive Beurre Blanc” ["If you can pull this off, then you can start to understand the first step to becoming a French chef"], to how to have a “kinky” spiritual moment washing rice, is included here. As skilled as he is with pots and pans, Choi proves he knows how to wield pen and keyboard, too – his words are as well-seasoned as his cooking. So make sure to grab napkins before you begin: you’ll need them for laughing and crying, not to mention the salivating!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Korean American

Recipe by Angela Petrella and Michaelanne Petrella, illustrated by Mike Bertino and Erin Althea

RecipeIn case you weren’t already aware, whenever you happen upon a McSweeney’s McMullens title, get ready for unpredictable high-jinks and not a little guffawing. Also, always remember to start with the cover: go ahead, it’s made to come off … this one is a two-sided poster that just might leave you … bug-eyed!

For would-be mini-chefs, here’s an adventure of the ‘don’t-try-this-at-home’-variety … unless you have the most indulgent parent in the whole wide world. Kristen, who decides “it was time for me to learn to cook,” has already secured her mother’s helpful agreement: “I’m the boss when it’s my turn, if I ask nicely. And yesterday she said it was my turn.” In case anyone had any doubts, check out Kristen’s definitive orange shirt: “Boss of Sauce”! Go, girl!

Her grocery list is long – not to mention rather eclectic – including 20 bags of marshmallows, a new puppy, a Cleveland Browns sweatshirt, horse meat substitute (she settles for tofu delivered on horseback since “‘tofu tastes good when you dump it into sauce’”), and the all-important helmet!

With Mom’s help, Kristen boils the water but hands over the hot bowl (some kiddie precautions are necessary no matter what!), gives Mom instructions while she takes “the puppy outside to think about my next moves,” goes back to add hot dogs, squirts a duck full of water, and adds the burnt french fries. Her deliciously mountainous creation is so large she decides she needs to share. Come and get it: “Recipe is served! No refunds.”

In an interview included with the PR packet (sadly, I can’t find an online version, although I did stumble on this one which is almost as funny), the Sisters Petrella reveal that their culinary adventure is “an homage to our now-departed great-aunt Katy, who was a nutty old bird with whom we created recipes every weekend.” As for the rambunctiously imaginative chef-in-training, she’s their younger sister: “We named the main character after her so we wouldn’t get grounded from our bikes for not including her.” No clues as to the true identity of the puppy, though. They do applaud their honey and Sriracha-eating illustrators, Mike Bertino and Erin Althea, for being “in sync with our syncs.” And how!

Family affair aside, they also admit to their ultimate goal: to “[empower] reckless children to make giant messes and waste food. Yes.” I have to admit, Recipe sure seems quite timely given our overprivileged post-Turkey weekend food coma hangover, ahem. Besides, the raccoons gotta eat, too, right?

Readers: Children

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Nonethnic-specific

Smoke & Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen by Edward Lee

Smoke and PicklesIn case you haven’t planned your Turkey Dinner coming up in exactly a week (who, me? menu? what’s that?), here’s a collection filled with irreverently toothsome suggestions. Having grown up eating kimchi with every chestnut-stuffed bird or surreally spiraled pink ham (or both), I couldn’t help especially salivating over the Koreanized southern creations – how about Collards and Kimchi or Kimchi Rémoulade or Kimchi Poutine (“This recipe falls under the category of ‘everything tastes better with kimchi’”!)? Admit it … your taste buds are totally perking up!

Meet Chef Edward Lee. If you’re a television watcher, you may know him from Iron Chef or Top Chef. If you’re southern, you might have visited his James Beard Foundation three-time finalist-ed restaurant, 610 Magnolia, in downtown Louisville, Kentucky; if you’re a theater addict headed to the legendary Humana Festival of New Plays, perhaps you’ve imbibed at his smaller venue, MilkWood, installed in the Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Brooklyn-raised Lee grew up surrounded by multiple cultures – “The great thing about Americans is not the identity we’re born with but our reinvention of it.” His beloved grandmother who cooked daily at home “refused to make ‘American food.’” If he wanted a PB&J sandwich, he had to make it himself. Her ability to recreate “all the Korean dishes she had learned before she immigrated to America … [as] a Korean widow yearning for a homeland that had been destroyed before her eyes,” would become the foundation for Lee’s eclectic palate: his worldly culinary training led him right back to the memories of his grandmother’s meals and inspired Lee to create his unique brand of award-winning Asian-enhanced southern cooking.

Moving to Louisville in 2003, Lee “reinvent[ed his] identity, both culinary and personal, through the lens of tobacco and bourbon and sorghum and horse racing and country ham … Over time, Louisville, and by extension, the American South, embraced me as an adopted son … What I didn’t expect was how I would come full circle and rediscover myself as a child of Korean immigrants.”

Blended with family memoir (his own and his German Catholic Midwestern wife’s – his mother-in-law apparently makes killer sauerkraut which she hides in a secret cupboard!), tidbits and anecdotes from the kitchen and beyond, friendly neighborhood gossip, and, of course, the outrageous recipes, Smoke & Pickles is a cookbook to read cover-to-cover, word-for-word. The immense (shocking) variety of dishes (Grilled Lam Heart Kalbi in Lettuce Wraps, Beef Bone Soup with Kabocha Dumplings, Curry Pork Pies, Bourbon-Ginger-Glazed Carrots, Rhubarb-Mint Tea with Moonshine) are really just a delicious bonus to an already savory, delectable read.

One cautionary reminder: just in case you’re ever tempted, don’t ever use the word ‘fusion’ around Chef Lee! “I can’t stand the word … not only because it is dated, but also because it implies a kind of culinary racism, suggesting that foods from Eastern cultures are so radically different that they need to be artificially introduced or ‘fused’ with Western cuisines to give them legitimacy.” I’m just agreeing: ‘everything tastes better with kimchi’!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Korean American

The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food from Around the World by Linda Lau Anusasananan, art by Alan Lau, foreword by Martin Yan

Hakka CookbookHow come no one is out there cooking their way through all the recipes of an Asian cookbook and blogging about it, then making a movie with … say, Jackie Chan fighting the good fight with woks and chopsticks?

Really, if I had any talent in the kitchen (the only thing I can do well is eat!), this is the culinary challenge I’d pick. Learning about Hakka cuisine (previously knowing absolutely nothing) and doing so by going around the world, sounds like the perfect premise for a most appetizing peripatetic eats fest. Any media mavens out there getting hungry?

Longtime favorite chef Martin Yan fills his “Foreword” with his own memories of Hakka cooking (which date back to his childhood in Guangzhou), throws in that a formidable 80 million people around the world claim Hakka ancestors (a Chinese subgroup, the Hakka are believed to have originated in what is now central China), exclaims “‘It’s about time!’” for a Hakka cookbook, and ends with the heartfelt query: “Honoring our culture through delicious food: is there a better way?”

Author Linda Lau Anusasananan does just that, taking us on a culinary journey channeled by memories of her beloved Hakka grandmother, Popo, who reminded her and her brother Alan (who contributes his dreamy art throughout the book), “‘You should be proud to be Hakka.’” After spending over 35 years writing predominantly about Western food for renowned Sunset magazine, Anusasananan’s “knowledge of Chinese food was superficial,” she confesses. “With this book, I’ve discovered my family history and how it merges into the Hakka diaspora,” she explains. “I’m recapturing the flavor and spirit of my Hakka culture through [my grandmother's] life and her food.”

Anusasananan begins her journey in “Popo’s Kitchen on Gold Mountain,” in California, where Au Shee arrived in 1921 via Angel Island as a new bride. When Anusasananan was born in 1947, as Au Shee’s first grandchild, Anusasananan’s birth transformed Au Shee into Popo. Decades after Popo’s death – as “reminders of my Hakka identity grew scarce” – Anusasananan returns to the family’s ancestral home in China, where the “taste of true Hakka food” gives her “a baseline for comparison.” She continues her culinary adventures – learning from home cooks and famous chefs – through Beijing, Luodai, and Hong Kong, and onto stops in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Mauritius. She crosses the Pacific to Peru, Hawai’i, and Tahiti, and back to North America to Toronto and New York, before coming back home to Gold Mountain. “Finally, I have fulfilled Popo’s wishes. Yes, Popo, I’m proud to be Hakka.”

Distinctive cooking, little-known history, heartfelt family memoir, and quite the global movable feast. Might I just add: mmm mmm good!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Chinese, Chinese American

Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop

Every Grain of RiceHow’s this for a fabulous first line? “The Chinese know, perhaps better than anyone else, how to eat.” Think about any little small town in the U.S. alone … no matter where you are, the one type of food you can be guaranteed to find sooner than later, is … Chinese. Really. On these here home shores (and everywhere in between), you’ll find more Chinese restaurants than McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s combined [check out this quick Yahoo! video on the all-American history of Chinese food]. That said, American Chinese food is not exactly authentic … so if you’re looking for some real cuisine, this gorgeous cookbook promises basic, fresh, healthy, delicious, and best of all … simple.

Meet Fuchsia Dunlop, who holds the distinction of being “the first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in central China.” She speaks fluent Mandarin (which always elevates any outsider’s status), and has spent two decades researching, crafting, creating Chinese culinary delights – she’s got two award-winning cookbooks and a memoir as proof.

Her latest is another feast, done simple: “I’m not talking here about [Chinese] exquisite haute cuisine, or their ancient tradition of gastronomy. I’m talking about the ability of ordinary Chinese home cooks to transform humble and largely vegetarian ingredients into wonderful delicacies, and to eat in a way that not only delights the senses, but also makes sense in terms of health, economy and the environment.” She reminds us (more than a few times, because we need it, ahem), “With all the fuss over the Mediterranean diet, people in the West tend to forget that the Chinese have a system of eating that is equally healthy, balanced, sustainable and pleasing. Perhaps it’s the dominance of Chinese restaurant food – with its emphasis on meat, seafood and deep-frying as a cooking method – that has made us overlook the fact that typical Chinese home cooking is centered on grains and vegetables.”

Instead of picking up the phone for that next delivery or take-out, Dunlop gives you the better, healthier, tastier option of staying in. She shows you how to stock your kitchen with easy essentials (including “magic ingredients”!) – sauces, spices, and equipment. She offers a basic primer on cutting (“the first basic skill of the Chinese kitchen”) and other how-to techniques. She helps you plan your table, from beginning to (healthy) dessert, even providing sample menus for two, four, and six. Then there are the recipes … with truly picture-perfect photography for almost every dish. Just leafing through a few pages will get you salivating. Please, do pass the bib!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2013 (United States)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Nonfiction, British, Chinese

A Kid’s Guide to Arab American History: More Than 50 Activities by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Maha Addasi

Kid's Guide to Arab American HistoryHere’s a common occurrence at our house: I can’t go to bed without a book, which usually means I’m a constant barrage of ‘Did you know that …? Were you aware that …?’ to the ever-patient hubby who’s trying to read something of his own. This is one of those titles, filled with surprising facts, little-known tidbits, and plenty of information all of us need to know.

In the opening “Note to Readers,” co-author Yvonne Wakim Dennis – who is hapa of Native American and Syrian descent – explains how she’s used her writing to “set the record straight about Native peoples”; her previous titles include A Kid’s Guide to Native American History and Children of Native America Today. Now the other half of her heritage beckons: “Over the years, I had become more angry and dismayed at the untruths and stereotypes aimed at Arabs and Arab American people.” The pen, as they say, is mightier than the sword! Together with her co-author Maha Addasi (White Nights of RamadanTime to Pray), Dennis definitely has a more accurate story to tell: “My very Syrian grandparents would be proud that I wrote a book that tells a bit about their history in America, and my very Cherokee/Sand Hill grandparents would be proud that I walk in balance and honor all of my ancestors.”

“Pick up any newspaper from a newsstand on any given day, and you are guaranteed to see news about the Arab world, most of which is negative,” the introduction soberly reminds us. “In spite of what the media portrays, Arab Americans are patriotic and loyal to the United States.” Here’s an even more sobering thought: without Arab inventions and discoveries, the world wouldn’t have “trigonometry, parachutes, coffee, cameras, universities, cotton …” and so much more. Here on U.S. soil, without Arab Americans, you wouldn’t have iNuthin’ because Steve Jobs (as well as his sister, the mesmerizing writer Mona Simpson) was Syrian American. Looking for other influential Arab Americans? Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, actor Danny Thomas, designer Norma Kamali, activist Ralph Nadar, and animal-specialist Jack Hanna too, all have Arab roots.

Arab Americans hail from 22 countries, from Algeria to Yemen, with Egypt, Mauritania, Qatar, and Tunisia in between. Almost 4 million Arab Americans live in all 50 states, with the largest Arab American populations in Detroit, LA, NYC, Chicago, and right here in D.C. Through a combination of history, storytelling, and 50-plus activities for your hands, feet, and brains, co-authors Addasi and Dennis celebrate and illuminate America’s own centuries-old Arab heritage – a vast mosaic of diversity and distinction. From dancing the Dabkeh, making your own oil soap, sewing a kaftan, designing your own Girgian candy bag, adults and children will find plenty to do together, all while gaining a better understanding of our Arab American neighbors, colleagues, and friends.

The delightful and informative ‘aha’-moments throughout are many … but (oh, there’s always that ‘but’!) one small change I might suggest for future editions is a layout modification. Each chapter has a narrative overview that is embellished with various stand-alone sections and boxes that provide additional information, including historic moments, an ancient tale, biographies, etc. All that is definitely helpful and not to be overlooked, but also rather disruptive when trying to read through any given chapter. Such interruptions should be relatively easy to fix … a bit of page-reshuffling and graphic adjustments to restore the narrative flow. That said, the inaugural edition has more than enough to learn from, appreciate, and plain old enjoy.

Readers: Children, Middle Grade

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, ..Middle Grade Readers, .Nonfiction, Arab American

Ten-Minute Bento by Megumi Fujii, translated by Maya Rosewood

Ready for the frenzy of going back to school? So long, summer … hello, morning rush! I shudder …

Since school lunch is not an option at our kids’ school, every weekday (early) morning we make two meals at the same time: breakfast and lunch. We’re constantly searching for quick, healthy, filling options as the kids quickly grow tired of the same-old, same-old. Ten-Minute Bento is full of toothsome, healthy ideas we’ll be trying too soon (how did summer whoosh by so quickly??!!).

“Just cook up some rice, and add a topping and your Ten-Minute Bento is done!” promises trained nutritionist and celebrated Japanese chef Megumi Fujii (who’s published some 40-plus cookbooks already!). She certainly makes the process look easy: a bed of rice with one or two toppings in one container and you’re done!

The good chef offers endless combinations for toppings (with minimal ingredients for non-talented kitchen crew like me, ahem!), that range from favorites like Korean bibimbap, chicken teriyaki, and even a hamburger, to healthy veggie sides and rice combinations, and pasta and bread bentos and more. The enticing photos (complete with various, fun packaging options from a Cool Whip container to Tupperware to takeout boxes) on every page just beg for a pair of chopsticks.

If this is the way I can get fed, maybe it’s time for me to think about going back to school and finally finish my abandoned almost-PhDs! Anything for a good meal, huh?

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Nonfiction, .Translation, Japanese

The Drops of God (vol. 4) by Tadashi Agi, illustrated by Shu Okimoto, translated by Maya Rosewood

No oenophile am I, but I sure am addicted to this delicious new series. To catch up to this latest volume which hits shelves today, be sure to click here.

The elusive chase continues between faux-siblings, Shizuku Kanzaki and his just-recently-adopted brother Issei Tomine, to identify 13 wines: “The Twelve Apostles” plus the eponymous “Drops of God,” as stipulated in Shizuku’s father’s will. The winner will inherit internationally renowned wine critic and collector Yutaka Kanzaki’s vast estate, including his priceless wine collection.

As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Issei is already heir apparent with his unrivaled reputation. Shizuku, in spite of his lineage, is a virtual newbie to wines and yet he managed to identity the First Apostle. Now the Second Apostle, called the “Mona Lisa,” awaits discovery …

Issei’s search leads him to the remote Taklaman Desert in Uyghur, Central Asia to rediscover his “thirst for wine,” and just happens to meet a gorgeous hapa-Japanese local more than willing to be his guide. Meanwhile, back in Tokyo, Shizuku and his sidekick Miyabi Shinohara lift a former classmate of Miyabi’s from his own label-obsessed shallowness and rescue a mystery writer from criminal intent, which just might lead them toward enigmatic Apostle Two. With such meandering journeys, who will grab the winning bottle?

Mystery, adventure, travelogue, love story, wine primer and buying guide (yes, all the bottles are real), and even a lesson or two on how not to live your life, are all presented in such finely-detailed drawings (representations of Da Vinci and his Mona Lisa, for example, are downright spectacular) that they hardly seem containable on a flat page. Go ahead: smell that toothsome yakitori, look deep into smiling eyes, reach for that elusive bottle, taste that radiant vintage … indeed, this series is a full-sensory delight.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012 (United States)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, .Translation, Japanese

Reel Cuisine: Blockbuster Dishes from the Silver Screen by Nami Iijima, photography by Elina Yamasaki

This cookbook is probably the most unusual little collection I’ve ever come across … and quite a treat for the brain as well as potentially for the stomach. The writer/chef, Nami Iijima, is a Tokyo-based food stylist who has created tasty dishes for commercials, TV, and film worldwide. She also writes a Japanese newsmagazine column, “Reel Cuisine,” which combines her love of food and film … read on!

“‘Slice of life’ is one of my favorite film genres, and in such films there’s almost always food,” she writes in her introduction. “But sometimes the food is only shown for an instant, or if it’s featured prominently I have no idea how to make it myself. I’m guessing there are other film fans out there that feel the same way.” So she began to “faithfully recreate the dishes shown in various films so as to appease film fans and movie buffs,” including 17 attempts she went through to replicate the perfect chiffon cake as shown in The Secret Life of Bees! But don’t be intimated … because she promises the recipes are “easy and accessible, even for people who are enamored with cinema but aren’t so confident in the kitchen.”

Divided into five sections, the first features dishes Iijima created for films for which she was the food stylist. Talk about behind-the-scenes: Chicken Nuggets (nothing like the fast food version!) in Antarctic Chef about a cook who creates meals to cheer up the workers in the coldest place on earth, Boiled Tripe from Villon’s Wife based on an Osamu Dazai story about the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic philanderer, Rice Balls for Seagull Diner about a Helsinki diner where the main offering is … rice balls.

In the second section, “Travel Around the World,” Iijama stops for Chicken Meatball Phở from Good Morning Vietnam, Silken Crab with Vegetables from Eat Drink Man Woman, Fish and Chips from Dear Frankie and Popcorn (!) from Welcome to Dongmakgol. She serves “Happy Brunch” in part 3, offering Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce from The Godfather: Part III, French Toast from Kramer vs. Kramer, Fried Rice from Tampopo, and Kidney Bean Soup from Red Like the Sky.

You can invite the relatives in part 4, “Delicious Family Dinners,” and serve Risotto from Big Night, Sauteéd Salmon from Life is Beautiful, Steak from My Date with Drew, and Samosas from The Namesake. You’re surely promised sweet endings with “Cinematic Sweets,” including Apple Pie from The Shawshank Redemption, Brownies from Notting Hill, and Iced Azuki from Glasses.

Hungry yet? Forget book club! I’m thinking it’s time to start a monthly (weekly?) movie night featuring one of these films with its corresponding dish! Anyone wanna join me?

At book’s end, Iijima includes a few days from her fascinating work diary with “I love cooking and eating,” written across the top of each page … and you can’t help but think, “Me, too! Me, too!” right along with her!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2011 (United States)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Translation, Japanese, Nonethnic-specific

The Drops of God (vols. 1-3) by Tadashi Agi, illustrated by Shu Okimoto, translated by Kate Robinson

I’m the first to admit that I’m no oenophile, in spite of the years we lived in Northern California when we wandered the wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and even the tiny boutique arbors scattered through the Santa Cruz Mountains (the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. – traumatized? who me? – had us fleeing not only the state, but the whole country; we moved to London before the year was out).

I’m sure my palate is just not that sophisticated, but nevertheless, I gleefully imbibed this manga series. I’m not alone – with three volumes out Stateside thus far, Drops began hitting the ever-coveted New York Times bestseller list for manga with its English debut volume last fall. It’s already been a major success around the world, affecting not only the publishing industry, but wine sales around the world! Volume 1 boasts quite a stamp of approval: Decanter Magazine insists, “Arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years!” Yup, you read that right! A manga!!!

Here’s the basic story: Shizuku Kanzaki has never tasted wine, a supreme irony as his late father, Yutaka Kanzaki, was an internationally renowned wine critic and collector. He’s been estranged from his famous parent, purposefully keeping a clear distance from his far-reaching legacy; Shizuku’s chosen a career selling beer instead! But now he’s called to the family mansion for the reading of the will, which his father has titled “The Drops of God.” In order to inherit his father’s vast estate, including his priceless wine collection, Shizuku must identify 13 different wines: the first 12 are called “The Twelve Apostles,” the 13th being the eponymous “Drops of God.” But Shizuku has competition – just before he passed away, Yutaka Kanzaki adopted another son (!), Issei Tomine, who seems – at least in terms of the wine world – to be Kanzaki’s heir apparent as he’s already a highly regarded wine critic in spite of his youth (and arrogance, ahem!). The two ‘brothers’ have exactly a year to identify the selected wines. Lest you think Issei has the clear advantage, no worries: Shizuku grew up with his legendary father who somehow managed to instill some phenomenal abilities in his contrary son. Shizuku also gets by with not-a-little help from his friends, especially sommelier-in-training Miyabi Shinohara.

Woven into the rather exciting treasure hunt are many other reasons why this series is so enticing:

  • Even if you’re not a wine enthusiast, you can’t help but learn some fabulously insightful facts here: about terroirmariage, vintages, regions, decanting, and so much more. Plus, all the wines mentioned are for real!
  • While chasing the Apostles, Shizuku and Miyabi run into endlessly entertaining characters who both help and hinder the great search, including lost lovers, an Italian wine expert who eschews all things French, a flailing restaurateur, twin wine salesmen with vastly different methodologies, an amnesic painter, and so many more.
  • The art, the art! Your palate might be intrigued by the various bottles, but your eyes are what will get the real feast. Every time Shizuku discovers a fabulous wine, his imagination blossoms across the pages – from heartfelt childhood memories to pastoral scenes, to a gorgeous masquerade ball to Freddie Mercury (!), to chanting monks and even Cleopatra. Shizuku’s competition, meanwhile, sees John the Baptist’s severed head. Go figure!
  • By the way, “Tadashi Agi” is the pseudonym for a brother-and-sister team – talent sure runs in this family!

So as the holiday weekend begins, you might celebrate with a few of the wines – depending on your budget, you can actually find a few affordable choices (volumes 1 and 2 offer an especially educational (emotional, funny) face-off between cheap French and Italian vintages of the $10, $20, $30 range!). Just know your limits … and à votre santé indeed!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2011-2012 (United States)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, .Translation, Japanese