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by Rebecca Silverman,

She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat

GN 2

She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat GN 2

Nomoto and Kasuga have evolved their shared meals into a real friendship, even as both women occasionally worry that they're taking advantage of the other. But they're also slowly opening up, and when Kasuga tells Nomoto about why she doesn't like to go home to her family and how they treated her as “the girl,” Nomoto finds herself touched—and questioning what Kasuga really means to her.

She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat is translated by Caleb David Cook and lettered by Phil Christie.


Note: You can read our review of the first volume here.

Kasuga and Nomoto are still at it—Nomoto enjoys putting her culinary talents to use in ways she's never been able to before, while Kasuga is happy to eat what she provides, and the two genuinely enjoy spending time together. Things have gotten to the point where they plan to spend the holidays together. Simply put, most of this book is a (delightful) lather-rinse-repeat of volume 1: Nomoto cooks. Kasuga eats. There are many shots of Kasuga putting food in her mouth. It's calm and lovely, unless, of course, you dislike those detailed images of Kasuga taking a bite.

Then comes chapter 16.

The chapter opens with a trigger warning, and I suppose it's warranted. But rather than triggering, I found it achingly familiar and incredibly grounded. Nomoto is starting to realize her feelings for Kasuga, but no one has ever put forth the possibility that she might be a lesbian, so she goes into an internet deep dive to try to understand herself and her feelings. At times, that goes exactly how you'd expect, but mostly this is the moment when Nomoto finally understands herself. She's queer. And that's okay.

It's difficult to overstate both how good a chapter this is and how important it is, both for readers and for Nomoto as a character. Both this volume and the previous one have shown Nomoto roundly rejecting ideas that her culinary talents are best used for a man, and a large part of her decision to spend Christmas and New Year's with Kasuga is that she doesn't want to deal with her mother's matrimonial ambitions. It's a line her mom just can't retire—she constantly reminds Nomoto that time is “running out,” presumably meaning “time to have kids.” While Nomoto isn't repulsed by men in general, she's also plainly not attracted to them, and people framing her skill as suitable only in the context of marriage to one is a major thorn in her side.

But she doesn't feel that when it comes to cooking for Kasuga, and in chapter 16 she begins to think about why that is. For readers in places where there's a broader range of LGBTQIA+ acceptance, Nomoto turning to the internet may feel more 1993 than 2021 (the book's original Japanese publication date), but that doesn't detract from the feeling far too many of us have experienced: the sense that we're not “normal” and the search for something to tell us that we are. While Nomoto began this journey in volume 1, seeing her take such a large step forward on it is a highlight of the book.

We don't know what Kasuga's feelings are, but there are some hints that she's aware that she has a crush on Nomoto. She, too, has an important moment in this volume, albeit on a different topic: how she came to have issues with food based on insidious gender-based expectations. When Nomoto asks why Kasuga is reluctant to go home for the holidays, Kasuga truly opens up for the first time, telling Nomoto how she was railroaded into socially acceptable femininity by her family. Most significant is the fact that she was never allowed to eat her fill—as “the girl,” she was served less than her father and brother and seconds were not permitted. This led to Kasuga beginning to sneak food after everyone else went to bed, which in turn eventually spurred her to move as far away from her family as possible when it was time for college.

If Nomoto was made to feel ashamed of not wanting a man, Kasuga was shamed for being insufficiently feminine in a case where actions absolutely spoke louder than words. Her largely solo lifestyle prior to meeting Nomoto is an indication of how much this affected her, and while she doesn't have disordered eating (and it's never presented as such), she's also clearly leery of sharing a meal with someone because she was shamed of her appetite growing up.

She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat's second volume is both a foodie manga and a thoughtful exploration of how sharing a meal can help people. In Kasuga's case, eating with Nomoto is validating, because not only does the other woman enjoy her company, she also doesn't judge her. For Nomoto, her relationship with Kasuga not only allows her to practice her craft, but also to find peace within herself. If this is a romance in the genre sense, it's a low-key one, and that's really more than okay. Watching the characters come to care about each other as they realize that there was never anything wrong with them in the first place is rewarding, and that's something that this series excels at. Add in some delicious-looking food and simple but effective art and you have a real winner that lets you know that no matter what, everything's going to be okay.

Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B

+ Simple but deft handling of Nomoto's and Kasuga's revelations, food looks very tasty. Low-key and lovely story.
Scenes of Kasuga putting food in her mouth won't work for all readers, very slow plot progression.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Sakaomi Yuzaki
Licensed by: Yen Press

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