Comfort food is a term that’s used to refer to delicious food that reminds you of old times, usually by being super bad for your health and simple to prepare, such as American classics like mac n’ cheese or deep-fried Twinkies. Now, different cultures have their own ideas of what generally constitutes comfort food, but comfort food is also a deeply personal thing. “Soul food” denotes a form of Southern American comfort food that’s often rooted in the dining of their enslaved ancestors (“unwanted” flora like kale and collards, and leftover offal.) Soul food, and comfort food restaurants in general, aren’t supposed to just be eateries, but gathering places. It is communal, and familial. It reminds us of our past and the people we have now, while making sure to fill your belly.
The man with the ruffled hair and unruffled demeanor is high school math teacher Kouhei Inudzuka. With him, interrupting his beauty sleep and just being the generally most adorable little scamp in the world, is his daughter, Tsumugi.
Recently, Inudzuka has a bit of a problem on his hands:
he can’t cook for shit.
And he can’t rely on his partner to make up for his shortcomings anymore.
Mr. Inudzuka and his young, mahou-shoujo obsessed daughter Tsumugi have had to make do in the wake of their recent loss. Tsumugi is too young to really understand her mother is gone, and Inuduzuka, while happy to be a father, is stressed out by having to go it alone. Between his long hours as a teacher and single-handedly raising a kid as precocious as the famous Yotsuba, he just does NOT have the time to learn how to cook. And so it is convenience store bentos every dinner at the Inudzuka household. And while Tsugumi is too good-natured to complain about the quality of the food she eats, her father can tell it’s not the best thing for her. And he, himself, misses the food his wife made for them. The food they eat is a constant reminder to him of what his family has lost, his own loneliness, and his inadequacy as a parent.
A brief aside: Earlier, Inudzuka and Tsumugi happens across a strange girl at a flower viewing, crying tears of satisfaction as she finished off a bento for two, all by herself. Tsumugi, in her youthful capriciousness, doesn’t hesitate to ask why she’s eating all by herself (much to Inudzuka’s horror.) Not offended, she introduces herself as Kotori, and explains that her mother was supposed to join her (hence the food for two).
But because Kotori’s mother is busy at work, she cannot join her. Kotori comforts herself by chowing down on the lunch her mother made, and cannot help but cry at how wonderful it tastes.
After seeing Tsumugi drool over her description of her bento, Kotori gives Inudzuka a business card with the name of her mother’s restaurant, and implores him to come should he and Tsumugi ever want something good to eat. He pockets it, but soon forgets about it.
And so the days of endless bentos go on, and on, and on. Until one day, Inudzuka snaps. He can’t take it, he can’t bear his daughter having to put up with his burnt food and convenience store bentos and smile about it because she knows nothing else.
And so he makes the call to Kotori’s mother’s restaurant. And he runs, and he runs, and he runs. Tsumugi doesn’t understand what is going on, except that she will get to eat “something delicious.” Inudzuka bets on Kotori’s restaurant, that Kotori’s mother can give him and his daughter the comfort (food) they crave. He bets that she’s there, like an light at the end of the darkness.
…Except Kotori’s mother is, predictably, out. But Kotori herself is there, and seeing the desperation on Inudzuka’s face, she decides to enter the kitchen herself. They make clay pot rice.
As he watches her wash the rice and prepare the pot, Inudzuka sees what his own family, and remembers watching his wife make rice for their family. It stings, he looks away.
Inudzuka ponder how he lives with Tsugumi now, and what it was like before, as Kotori blunders her way to a meal fit for human consumption
And it’s done. I’ll let the food speak for itself.
Comfort food is simple, and delicious. It is nostalgic in its style, and should remind you of the past, but it is also firmly rooted in the present by who you eat it with. It is meant to be consumed together, not alone. Inudzuka wanted to give his daughter the comfort he couldn’t give himself, the comfort his wife used to give but can no longer. And now, with Kotori and her mother and the restaurant there, he can learn to give that comfort to his daughter himself. Tsugumi won’t have her mother’s comfort anymore, but she can at least finally be comforted by her father. And maybe the food Inudzuka makes can comfort him, too.
I’ve only read two chapters (the only two Maigo scans translated), but I’ve heard from the great Deb Aoki (@debaoki) that Crunchyroll Manga is picking it up for release during their announcements at Anime Expo 2015. So hopefully, I will see more of this great series soon enough! I hope you’ll give it a try too.
May your food be comfortable, and your company even more so.