cover image Cuisine Chinoise: Tales of Food and Life

Cuisine Chinoise: Tales of Food and Life

Zao Dao, trans. from the French by Brandon Kander and Diana Schutz. Dark Horse, $19.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-50-671776-0

This dark and fantastic collection of food-themed stories showcases the stunning art of an up-and-coming Chinese avant-garde illustrator. Two hungry ghosts crash a royal party while hunting insect spirits for their meal; a young chef’s gruesome cooking experiments (“Aren’t those eggs a la rotting fish?”) turn off humans but delight passing demons; grinning old women reveal the bizarre secret ingredient in their New Year’s dumplings. The stories are a blend of old and new, mixing Chinese folklore, traditional monster and spirit designs, and traditional ink-and-watercolor techniques into wholly original stories with modern visual touches drawn from manga, European comics, and fantasy genre artists like Yoshitaka Amano. Dao switches up her visual style from story to story, alternately lavishing attention on detailed, jewel-like watercolors; rendering action in rough, thick brushstrokes; or washing a street scene in nostalgic sepia tones. The plots are likewise eclectic, united by a dreamlike fairy tale mood with a touch of surrealism and a wicked, cheerfully vulgar sense of humor. The food also always looks delicious, even when it’s made from disgusting origins. This visual feast is tantalizingly short but peppered with unexpected pleasures. [em](June) [/em]