In November, I started thinking about Junpei Inazuka’s Resturant to Another World novel series and what it means to love food and celebrate meals.
Now, it’s the final day of the year, and I’m proud to present Comfort Food: Food Positivity in Resturant to Another World, my 2021 writing project.
Comfort Food came about from a conversation with a collegue and friend over Twitter. It was, as I said above, about Junpei Inazuka’s Resturant to Another World, which is perhaps one of my favorite Japanese novel series in localization. I honestly can’t remember how the novel came up, but it did.
If you don’t know about this series, or simply haven’t heard about it, here’s the gist: every Saturday -known as The Day of Satur- doors appear in a fantastical world, leading to a small, family-style resturant called Western Cuisine Nekoya, a charming eatery tucked away in real-world Tokyo.
All nature of creatures -including elves, halfings, demons, and even dragons- come through, simple to enjoy a special meal. Sometimes, that’s something like omelet rice: sometimes, it’s a delectable chocolate parfait. Whatever their desire, the chef and master of Nekoya is here to serve up each dish with all the care a good cook takes in the kitchen!
I devoured this series up to the current volume, though I sadly had to forfeit my volumes when I left Japan. I’ve since repurchased vol. 1 and vol. 2, and have plans to buy the other three volumes in the new year. Still, when I had them in my collection, I practically ate the pages: the stories -told in episodic vingettes- were easy to devour in between work, play, and general adulting.
I found it refreshing to have little bites of story versus having to keep an overarching, big plotty backlog of information. While there’s definitely callbacks and foreshadowing in this series, it’s ultimately at its best in multiple sittings: a chapter or two at a time until you reach the back cover.
Cut to this November when I was talking with a colleague about this series. I mentioned that it made me think of “food positivity”, a term that I’m 50% sure doesn’t exist, 50% sure I made up. When asked what that meant, I explained it in a few messages.
You know what? I’ll just quote myself for ease:
Food positivity is eating without shame: indulging in food that makes you feel your best, whether that’s a salad or a cheeseburger or a second slice of cake. Eating in ways that make positive memories, that become touchstones for when you’re mental health might be at a limit.
Eating in ways that celebrate your body and it’s systems and the fact that we can taste and indulge, even in simple snacks or meals. Eating with the heart and soul in mind.
That’s kind of the abstract way I define it: [food positivity is] basically forming positive associations with food that heal and help restructure how we treat our bodies -namely, our stomachs- and how we engage with food on all levels.
That’s messy, even now, but sometimes? Messy can good. I’m sure that the above will change quite a bit as I get into the weeds with this series.
You might be asking, “Why Resturant to Another World? Why that series specifically?” Well… food is a love language for me. I give thanks, share affection, and express some of my deepest emotions when I cook. I’ve had victories and flubs and foibles and triumphs in many a kitchen.
I see that same idea -rather, the same ideals- in Resturant to Another World. The series is full of people exploring tastes and sensation and flavor. They’re celebrating their bodies -and their desire to eat- on a weekly basis with specific meals. The entire series is, to me personally, a celebration of food and food as one of the most expressive ways to engage with the world.
And I want to translate those feelings into writing through the lens of an amazing novel series.
What this series is, ultimately, is a fairly fortnightly (that’s biweekly, or every two weeks) chapter-by-chapter read-through of the Resturant to Another World novels. I’ll be starting, naturally, with the first volume, which is currently avaliable both physically and digitally from Seven Seas. I’ll be doing a range of things, though mostly, I’ll be reflecting on each chapter and picking a “theme” to look at food and the character through. Whether that’s emotion, a quote, or a focus phrase… well, we’ll see during the week.
What this series isn’t is a critique of eating habits or just eating in general. It’s not going to be a critique of bodies or health or “proper” size. While I’ll certainly talk about my own Fat, Black body, I’m not here to tell you how to eat right or eat healthy or how to diet. I’m here to celebrate food and hopefully, restructure how we enjoy eating, a thing necessary to human life.
After all, that’s the whole point of food positivity: it’s a concept that eliminates shame and encourages eating as a way of loving yourself, loving your stomach, and enjoying your senses. In fact, I’m purposely avoiding any conversation about size or healthy eating. Instead, I’d like to encourage a healthy, healing relationship with all kinds of food, and hopefully, provide a space for healing from potentially harmful or hurtful relationships with food as well.
So yeah: that’s basically the gist of Comfort Food. Thanks goes to The Afictionado, who gave me the gentle nudge and encouragement -as well as the thinking space- that ultimately resulted in this project. I highly suggest checking out their blog: Alex is an amazing blogger, as well as someone I deeply respect. They’re definitely worth the follow.
Now… time for the links.
You can follow Comfort Food via my Substack, which is where the fairly fortnightly blog posts will be coming from in newsletter format. Like I said, I’ll be going chapter by chapter, meaning that most of 2021 will be consumed with Volume 1, which has a grand total of twenty chapters.
We’ll hopefully get into the first few chapters of Volume 2 before the year is out, though right now… I’m just taking this project very, very slowly. If I’m able to pick up the page and do more chapters, then I will, but for now, 2021 is going to be focused on going through volume one and finding my stride with the blog.
Thank you in advance for your support. I’m really excited about this and what it means for my writing in 2021. I can’t wait to get into it and kick this series off properly!
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