A Book and Herb Review: Basil and Oregano by Melissa Capriglione

the cover of Basil and Oregano

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Basil and Oregano is a sweet, safe, very cute and inclusive graphic novel about two girls who fall in love while competing to become top student at their magical cooking school. While chock-full of softness and cuteness, the story also includes serious themes that keep the stakes high. I never exactly worried while reading the book—I knew things would turn out well—but I often wondered, because how would they?

Each main of the main girls faces challenges during the story. Basil has attended the same school for years, but must become top student in at least two quarter-finals to keep the scholarship that lets her follow her dream, knowing her dads can’t afford tuition. Oregano is a new student whose famous magic-using chef mom expects only the best. Luckily, between their budding relationship, excellent friends, and adorable plant-puppy, the girls have a strong support network.

The Aesthetics

Biggest warning: do not read this book at the start of a shift when your lunchbreak isn’t until four hours from now, because you will be looking at drool-worthy food!

I don’t have the strongest visual literacy, and often the deeper meanings of artwork are lost on me. Luckily, this graphic novel mixes a literal setting with amplified elements to tell even a reader like me the important pieces of the story. The food, as mentioned above, looks delicious. The familiars—a mix of magical and realistic, like a puppy growing a leaf of a cowlick or a kitten with dragon wings—are beyond adorable. In some ways, the art style cranks up to eleven. But it also stays safe. Even when danger looms, something stylistic assures you: it’ll be okay in the end.

The Relationship

“Relationship” is a better descriptor than “romance,” because this isn’t exclusively a romance. This is a story about two competitors with mutual crushes who become friends and how that develops into something more. It’s sweet and gentle. Anyone who does any sort of cooking knows basil and oregano get along, and these two are no exception! They work well together. They help each other through different challenges, such as family stress and educational burnout.

I appreciated the lack of relationship drama. The girls sometimes worry about each other, but resolve matters with communication and kindness. It was just what I like in a story.

At the same time, other relationships shine throughout the story. Basil and her besties, Villy and Addy, are friends and competitors at once. Her dads love her, even if they can be so embarrassing sometimes. Teachers at the magiculinary school are tough, but not without compassion for their students.

The Conflict

If I have a criticism of this book, it’s that its conflicts are resolved too tidily. That might sound both silly and expected—haven’t I been going on about how sweet and cute and gentle this book is? Well, yes, I have. But to me, the mean girl crosses a line that is just not addressed when she eavesdrops and blackmails Oregano. Oregano’s mom is cruel, and it’s sort of shrugged off with a hug. This may be more of a flaw in myself as a reader. In a way, the book does challenge me to consider that: everything has worked out well, so why can’t I be happy with that? But I do wish some of the themes that challenge characters throughout the book were less simply concluded.

That’s my perspective, though. Maybe you want to read a fluffy book with a fluffy ending. Either way, I strongly recommend Basil and Oregano. Is it perfect by the standards of a nitpicky reader? No. Is it still a five-star read? Definitely!

The Herbs

Since I brought it up, both are delightful! Basil has a lovelier taste and oregano is easier to grow.

A Slice-of-Life Manga Good Enough to Eat: She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki

the cover of She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Yuzaki Sakaomi

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When I was younger, I wasn’t aware of many f/f manga about adults, so I’m glad to be able to enjoy series like She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki. After reading the first three volumes of this ongoing series, I’m gobsmacked by how exponentially my investment in it grew over the course of just three volumes. 

Usually, if I find it difficult to express why I like a work without spoilers, it’s because the initial premise is in some way flipped on its head. She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat is exactly what it says it is: a story about two women who bond over food, with one providing for the other. It remains a slice-of-life series focused on their relationship as they cook and eat various meals together. That premise builds on itself beautifully as their routines develop new layers of significance. 

The first volume introduces Nomoto, a woman with a passion for cooking that outmatches her appetite, who dislikes the societal pressure to use that interest to provide for a man. When she meets the woman who lives two apartments down, Kasuga, and happens to learn that she has a large appetite, Nomoto offers to cook for her. The two enjoy this so much that they continue meeting up to cook and eat. 

I was already charmed by this premise, especially with how Nomoto outright swoons over Kasuga voraciously eating her food; it usually isn’t depicted as desirable for women to have big appetites. However, at that end of volume one, I still felt that the series had a chance to become somewhat forgettable or repetitive. I’m rarely this glad to be wrong. By the end of volume three, this series had thoroughly gripped my heart. 

As said, it’s difficult to get into why. What I’ll say is that the characters begin to open up about their lives outside of their time together, which adds new context to their interactions. By the time the reader learns why the main characters’ dynamic is particularly meaningful, that dynamic is well established, letting the reader sit with the implications of that meaning as it continues to deepen. Over time, new characters are also introduced as effective narrative foils to the protagonists, and a delightful ensemble dynamic develops. 

What really struck me about this work is how affirming it is. It affirms that women should be allowed to have whatever relationship to food suits them, and explore that in their own way, without judgment. Ultimately, it’s a story about how special it can be to share space and time with others, and the importance of being able to choose who you share that with—specifically, people who accept you for who you are and accommodate whatever needs come with that. 

The food itself is, of course, rendered in many drool-worthy panels. I also appreciated the depiction of asexuality within the lesbian community, and how sexuality is portrayed as something with no one-size-fits-all mold. I’ll definitely be gobbling up the rest of this heartfelt series as soon as more volumes are localized.

Content notes: This manga includes content warnings before the relevant chapters. As a general overview, I’ll warn for one chapter depicting homophobic language, as well as depictions of familial abuse, food-related trauma, and misogyny. These topics are brought up thoughtfully rather than gratuitously. 

An Inclusive Magical Boarding School Story: Basil and Oregano by Melissa Capriglione

the cover of Basil and Oregano

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Since reviewing Grand Slam Romance, a heartwarming, sexy, and inspiring graphic novel set in the world of a magical queer softball league, I’ve been searching for another graphic novel to scratch that very specific itch. To my delight, Melissa Capriglione’s Basil and Oregano did just that. Though intended for a slightly younger audience, the book offers a similarly high-stakes competition setting, complete with tireless preparation, hostile rivalries, and underdog determination.

Porta Bella Magiculinary Academy is home to the world’s most gifted magical chefs-in-training, and Basil Eyres is among the school’s star students—because she has to be. If Basil doesn’t maintain the status of “top student” for at least two quarters of her senior year, her tuition reimbursement will be denied. Determined not to disappoint herself and her supportive dads, Basil toils away at her schoolwork, sometimes at the cost of hanging with her best friends, with whom she originally bonded because of their shared financial woes (those magic culinary schools aren’t cheap!). Basil is so laser-focused that nothing can distract her… until a cute transfer student, Arabella Oregano, walks into her life. Arabella seems to have it all—money, fame, looks—but it turns out Arabella is hiding some secrets of her own.

According to the author, Basil and Oregano is “a book about finding the true source of your passion and nurturing that which brings us joy.” This rings true, as Basil and her friends exude enthusiasm and curiosity about cooking, the passion that binds them. Instead of giggling about boys, they’re busy brainstorming recipes and raving about a delicious slice of cake. In fact, cishet boys are seemingly absent from this book. Something I love about both Grand Slam Romance and Basil and Oregano is that the authors have taken queer artistic license to fill their stories with queer, nonbinary, and trans characters, without those being controversial markers of their identities.

This book conjures a lot of the cozy feelings that we wish (ahem!) all magical boarding school novels could evoke. From the cathedral-like dining hall to the sun-drenched dorm rooms to the quirky professors, the pages just ooze magical charm. And don’t let the cover’s muted hues fool you—the book bursts with a huge range of colors, big poofs of magic, and delectable food illustrations. As fun and easy as it is to read, Basil and Oregano also explores themes of belonging, class, even mental health and burnout, concepts that I wish I had been introduced to as a teen.

Culinary Combat School: Cooking With Monsters by Jordan Alsaqa & Vivian Truong

the cover of Cooking with Monsters Vol 1

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Recently, I read and loved Basil and Oregano by Melissa Capriglione, a sapphic YA graphic novel set at a magiculinary school. I am delighted to say that Cooking with Monsters—one of my most-anticipated books of the year—is also a sapphic YA graphic novel set at a fantasy cooking school. In this case, though, cooking is only one half of the challenge. Just as important is the students’ ability to fight monsters, which they will then prepare as gourmet meals.

This was such a delight to read, and I can’t wait for volume two. This book establishes a diverse cast of characters and their relationships with each other, as well as the basics of how training happens at Gourmand School of Culinary Combat.

The main character is Hana. When she was a kid, her and her best friend Bobby were rescued from a monster by a warrior chef, and ever since, it’s been her dream to become a warrior chef herself. Now Hana and Bobby are both starting their first year. The cast is rounded out by Hana and Bobby’s roommates as well as Hana’s love interest and academic rival, Olivia.

While Hana is immediately smitten with Olivia, after a promising introduction, they quickly get off on the wrong foot. Hana is disappointed that her hero isn’t the one to mentor her, while Olivia is resentful that Hana doesn’t appreciate the mentor she does have: Chef Graham. Unbeknownst to Hana, Chef Graham is Olivia’s grandfather, and he swore he’d never take on another student. Olivia is hurt that he’d decide to train Hana over her. This initial misstep spirals into more rivalry and miscommunication between them. Meanwhile, Bobby is becoming closer with Olivia and he and Hana are drifting apart.

While I felt like the beginning of this volume was a little bumpy, I was soon pulled into this world and the well-rounded characters. First of all, there are the monsters, which are all part animal and part food (think Mooseshrooms, which grow mushroom from their antlers). Some are violent and are defeated through combat. Others are cared for, with their fruits responsibly harvested. They’re such a fun visual element.

I mentioned already the diversity of the cast, but that really is woven into the story. Hana and Bobby are coded Japanese and Vietnamese, and they face racism and anti-immigrant sentiments from some people in their community—including a second year student who used to harass them. Olivia is Black. One side character is nonbinary, and another is a trans man with top surgery scars. I often lose track of a long list of characters, but each of them is distinct in both design and personality.

It’s this group of characters that, alongside the monsters, is the main strength of the graphic novel. I can definitely see how this can support a whole series, because I’m intrigued by even the characters we’ve only seen briefly. We’ve also gotten a look into Hana’s own weaknesses she has to overcome in her training, and I look forward to seeing what subsequent years are like at the academy!

This definitely lived up to my (high) expectations, and as I just keep saying in this review, I can’t wait for volume two to come out!

A Tender Foodie F/F Manga: She Loves to Cook, She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki

the cover of She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Yuzaki Sakaomi

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They say the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but in Sakaomi Yuzaki’s latest manga, that proves just as true for women.

She Loves to Cook, She Loves to Eat is a lovely, heartwarming story about two neighbors who bond over a shared love of food. Nomoto, an office worker with a passion for cooking and no one to finish off the epically-sized dishes she dreams of making, finally meets her match in Kasuga, her very tall, very reserved neighbor with a very, very large appetite—an appetite perfectly suited to dishes containing, say, eight eggs and over three pounds of rice.

The dialogues flow naturally in this excellent translation by Phil Christie, as does the character growth. While the two initially get off on a slightly awkward foot, a series of shared dinners slowly bring them closer together.

But what starts as mutual appreciation is beginning to show signs of developing into something deeper in these first two volumes. Between bashful daydreams, thoughtful gestures, and small steps outside of their respective comfort zones, the two women find themselves wanting to spend more time with each other. And more time looking at each other.

And as their feelings become more and more obvious, it shows clear as day on the page. Blush-lines and all.

a manga panel showing Nomoto and Kasuga eating together. Nomoto is looking at Kasuga and smiling with faint blush lines over her cheek and nose

Tell me this isn’t the face of a woman in love.

The slow simmering of the romance is poised to make it all the more satisfying. This is such a perfect comfort read—clever, funny, sincere and so full of love. The second volume has a bit about the cultural meanings of take-out boxes that had me in stitches.

The focus on food includes some truly delicious descriptions and illustrations, so I’d recommend reading this either on a full stomach or with some savories handy. For example, crab cakes and spicy peanut sauce (which is what I got up to make halfway through volume one!) or popcorn with melted cheese and sun-dried tomato pieces (the accompaniment to volume two).

If you prefer Japanese food inspired by the story, there are also recipes at the back of the books, so you can open to the last page and prepare something ahead of time…

the cover of She Loves to Cook, She Loves to Eat Vol 2

Fans of Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon and that soft, low-stakes romance-with-a-side-of-social-commentary centering two working women will find a similar slow-burn story here, albeit with more overt observations on gender roles and norms in modern Japan. It doesn’t shy away from nuisances like marriage pressure, misogyny and uncalled-for assumptions, but it does not let them take center stage, either. Unless it’s to gently, elegantly skewer them.

Whether portion sizes, passion or paychecks, the women are constantly expected to make do with less. But these diminishing encounters are subtly contrasted with the genuine appreciation, acceptance and admiration that Nomoto and Kasuga’s budding relationship is based on.

a panel showing Kasuga saying, "Speaking up sometimes makes a difference."

They really do care for each other so much and it’s so lovely to read. There are so many warm fuzzies, but it’s the grounded sort of tenderness that comes with age. I was smiling so much at the little kindnesses and considerations they had. It’s such a healthy relationship that never loses its sense of humor.

I mean, no one says that the quickest way to a woman’s heart is through her period cravings, but the author certainly understands!

Chapter 16 was the one that deviates a little from this vibe and delves into some heavier topics. It comes prefaced with an author’s note stating such. But it also has a Frog and Toad reference that proves a well-placed picture can express a thousand words. It’s a reminder of the ways queer youth find and make meaning from media that was never explicitly about them, but which made space for stories like theirs nonetheless. For a manga focused on acceptance, it is a series of fitting visuals.

The manga might also appeal to fans of the older m/m series What Did You Eat Yesterday by Fumi Yoshinaga. Granted, the plot seems to take precedence over the food so far, while it was the other way around in Yoshinaga’s manga, but I’m excited to see where it goes. Preferably, with a plate of loaded egg-battered fries on the side.

Volumes one and two are currently available in English, and Volume three is available for pre-order!

Alien Donut Shops, Cybernetic Tea Rooms, and More Sapphic SFF for Foodies!

a collage of the covers listed with the text Sapphic Sci-fi and Fantasy for Foodies!

Is there anything more comforting than reading a cozy fantasy book? Maybe watching The Great British Bake Off. That’s why I love sci-fi and fantasy books that incorporate food, whether it’s a magical bakery or an alien cooking competition. And of course, any book is better with queer characters.

Interestingly, I found this list neatly splits into two categories: there are the prose novels that take place at least partly in a shop (a cafe, tea shop, bakery, or donut shop), and then there are YA and middle grade graphic novels. Some of them I’ve read, and some are at the top of my TBR. Let me know if you have any other sapphic SFF recommendations where food plays a big part!

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels

the cover of Legends and Lattes

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree

This is the book that kick-started the popularity of cozy fantasy! It follows Viv, an orc who has hung up her sword in order to open a coffee shop—even though no one in this town has heard of coffee. This is such a low-stakes, comforting fantasy that really focuses on the design, construction, and beginning of the coffee shop, including the menu. You will definitely have a craving for cinnamon buns while you’re reading this. Plus, there’s a very cute, slowly developing romance between Viv and Tandri, the succubus who runs the shop with her.

Check out Nat’s review for more!

the cover of The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

Sal is a robot who has been running a tea shop for hundreds of years, since her “master”/partner died. Since then, creating sentient robots like her has been outlawed, but the existing ones are in a legal limbo. When tech Clara enters her shop, the two of them immediately hit it off, despite Clara’s wanderlust and Sal’s complicated situation. Both Clara and Sal are also asexual, although that label isn’t used. The tea shop plays out in the background of this story, but it is the setting for most of the novella, as you’d expect from the title!

Check out Danika’s review for more!

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies cover

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp

When I think of magical baking stories, I think cozy fantasy and comforting reads. But that’s not the only direction it can go in. In the Pies Before Guys mystery series, bisexual baker Daisy runs a pie shop with a secret. She can bake vengeance into her pies, and she has a side business in delivering justice to men who harm women. When she starts getting blackmailed, though, she has to find out who is behind the notes before she loses everything. Besides, she has a statewide pie contest to win!

The next book in the series has her competing in a baking reality show!

the cover of Light from Uncommon Stars

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

There is so much going on in Light From Uncommon Stars that it’s hard to pull out just one thread: it’s about aliens and demons and curses, but it’s also a grounded, realistic character study. It’s hopeful and comforting, but it also contains abuse, bigotry, and a lot of brutal descriptions of transmisogyny.

One aspect, though, is that Lan, a refugee from another planet, runs a donut shop with her family. Over the course of the book, she learns that baking isn’t about using a replicator to achieve the best donut. It’s a celebration of the things that make life worth living, like food and music. Plus, there’s a slowburn sapphic romance subplot between two of the main characters.

Check out Danika’s review for more!

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Sci-Fi and Fantasy Graphic Novels

the cover of Basil and Oregano

Basil and Oregano by Melissa Capriglione

I am eagerly anticipating my library hold on this YA fantasy graphic novel finally come in! It promises to be The Great British Bake Off meets magical boarding school plus sapphic romance.

This follows Basil Eyres and Arabella Oregano, two students at the Porta Bella Magiculinary Academy. The two immediately hit it off, and they decide to work together to rise to the top of their classes before the end of year culinary festival. But then Arabella’s secret she’s been carefully hiding comes out, and it could change everything.

Did I mention there’s a little tomato dog on the cover?? This looks so stinkin’ cute.

Space Battle Lunchtime Vol 3 cover

Space Battle Lunchtime series by Natalie Riess

I adore this all-ages sci-fi graphic novel series. Peony agrees to be in a competitive cooking show, only to be transported onto the spaceship it’s being filmed on. That’s when she realizes that this isn’t space-themed, it’s literally in outer space. But she takes the existence of aliens in stride, and concentrates on the competition. And, okay, maybe one of the cute alien contestants.

I highly recommend reading the first two volumes back to back, because they feel like two halves of a story (the cooking competition). Volume 3 is a fun bonus, which is a mystery that takes place on a living spaceship!

Check out Danika’s reviews of volumes 1 & 2 and volume 3 for more!

the cover of Cooking with Monsters Vol 1

Cooking With Monsters: A Beginner’s Guide to Culinary Combat by Jordan Alsaqa, illustrations by Vivian Truong (YA Fantasy Graphic Novel) (September 5)

This one isn’t out quite yet, but it’s one of my most anticipated releases for the rest of 2023!

Hana has just joined the Gourmand Academy of Culinary Combat, where you learn not only to fight monsters, but also to deliciously prepare them. How efficient! She’s having trouble keeping up, though, and she’s somehow already gained a rival in the form of another girl at school—and also a crush on said rival. Can’t wait to get my hands on this!


For a bonus queer magical baking story that isn’t sapphic, I have to recommend The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta, which has an agender main character and a genderfluid love interest. When Syd accidentally bakes brownies that make everyone who eats them break up, Syd and Harley, the bakery delivery person, embark on a mission to track down everyone who’s been a victim of broken-hearted brownies and find a way to fix it.

Let me know in the comment if there are any other sapphic SFF books you’ve read that are focused on food! I would love to read more.

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Nat reviews Chef’s Kiss by Stephanie Shea

the cover of Chef's Kiss

Late last year I started really getting into reading sapphic romance after discovering that a guaranteed happy ending is nothing short of a potent drug. A shot of serotonin right into the veins! As I ventured down the queer romance rabbit hole, I realized that some books are certainly more of a balm than others, and reading Chef’s Kiss was a reminder of why I fell for the genre. While our main characters pull grueling shifts in a Michelin star kitchen, Stephanie Shea’s book provides a heaping serving of your favorite comfort food. 

It’s always fun to read a book set in a city or town you live in and let me tell you, a restaurant romance set in San Francisco was right up my alley. Valentina Rosas is a passionate chef and recent graduate of the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, not the organization that makes you disappear) who’s just landed a stage, a working interview, at her dream restaurant in the Mission. Through Val’s eyes, we get a glimpse of restaurant life starting from the very unglamourous bottom rung, and I think Shea did a great job of showing the not so shiny side of the industry. The shifts are grueling, the hours brutal and exhausting, even the lowest positions are ridiculously competitive, and some stage positions aren’t even paid.

Shifting perspectives, we get the view from the flip side with renowned Chef Jenn Coleman. A child of a Black mother and Italian father, Jenn knows that it’s hard enough to be a woman in this industry, but as a woman of color? She’s had to work hard to get to the top, and comes across to many as a no nonsense, career first, workaholic. While she has a reputation for being a hardass and a perfectionist, you can see that Coleman uses food as her love language. I really liked that she’s very protective over Val, whose character is Mexican American, and that Shea brings attention to the struggles of women of color in a very white and cis male dominated industry. (Which, to be fair, is like almost every single industry.) I also really enjoyed the inclusion of the Spanish dialogue between Val and her parents! 

While workplace romance is not an uncommon theme, and IRL restaurant hook-ups may be a dime a dozen, the potential for a problematic power dynamic here is something that Shea doesn’t shy away from discussing.  Don’t worry, there’s an HR department to make sure everything’s on the level. This is explored through Chef Coleman’s POV, and we get some mention of the #MeToo movement and the predatory behavior and toxic environment that exists in restaurant culture. 

While Val and Jenn may have their differences, their love of food and community unite them. And, speaking of food, Shea has some fun with her fictional restaurant Gia and its Mexican-Italian fusion menu: spicy enchilada raviolis! spaghetti tacos! taco lasagna! Shea’s romance had all the right ingredients for me: memorable characters, the perfect amount of tension, good pacing, and timely injections of comedic relief, making the title of Chef’s Kiss right on the nose. 

Danika reviews Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi cover

This was such an impressive book that I have been intimidated to write about it! It was longlisted for the Giller Prize, and it was on Canada Reads! (If you’re not Canadian: this is a big deal.)

Trigger warnings for suicide and suicide ideation, miscarriage and child death, as well as rape and child sexual abuse, both for the book and this review.

This is a book about three Nigerian women: Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Taiye and Kehinde. This is split into four books, which you may have guessed are titled Butter, Honey, Pig, and Bread. In the first book, we’re introduced to Kambirinachi. She is an obinje, which is an Ebo term for spirits who are said to plague a mother by repeatedly being born and dying early. She finds being alive boring; it makes her restless. She can hear her kin all around her, always calling her back, so dying is a simple thing. After she sees how much her mother is tortured by her miscarriages and early childhood deaths, though, Kambirinachi decides to stick with life, much to her Kin’s disapproval.

We then jump to Taiye and Kehinde visiting their mother as adults. It has been a long time since the sisters spoke to each other, and the three of them have drifted apart due to an unnamed Bad Thing that happened. We find out that this bad thing was the rape of Kehinde as a child while her sister stayed silent under the bed. They have never openly talked about this, and it’s driven a wedge between them. The whole story spirals around this point, and we see their lives before and after this point out of sequence.

Although this isn’t told chronologically, it flows smoothly and is easy to follow. I hardly noticed that it was jumping around in time, because it always seemed like a natural transition. We follow each of their perspectives, and they all feel realistic and deeply flawed, which I think is the strongest part of the novel.

Kambirinachi struggles with life. Her daughter describes her as “beautiful in an impossible way, a delicate thing. Too soft for this world.” She loves her children, but falls into a deep depression after her husband (their father) dies, unable to take care of them or herself.

Taiye and Kehinde define themselves in opposition to each other. Kehinde feels inferior, like Taiye is the perfect twin and she is made up of the castoffs, especially because Taiye is the thinner twin. Despite having a husband and being successful, she always feels as if she’s in her shadow. Taiye, on the other hand, constantly feels rejected by Kehinde. As a child, she relied on her sister to talk for her. Now she feels lost in the world, overcome by her voracious appetite both for food and sex. She is constantly thinking about the women that she’s been with, but none of them seem to last.

One of her exes mailed a box of Taiye’s letters to Kehinde–except that Taiye never meant to actually send them. When they meet again, she avoids talking about the letters or acknowledging how painful she’s found their separation. This is an exploration of these flawed people and their complicated, layered relationships with each other.

Although it deals with difficult subject matter, it feels hopeful. There are plenty of fractured relationships here, but there are also supportive, kind, gentle relationships with healthy communication that makes me swoon. There’s also, unsurprisingly, a food theme. Each of the foods in the title shows up repeatedly, with slightly different meanings: a bee hive is a life-altering outing, a secret indulgence, or a staple of the household. Characters cook for each other when they don’t have the words to explain themselves

I highly recommend Butter Honey Pig Bread for fans of literary fiction, queer books, food writing, and anyone who wants a good story. If you’re on the fence, here is a video with the author reading excerpts–I’m sure you’ll quickly be hooked.

Danika reviews Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 3 by Natalie Riess

Space Battle Lunchtime Vol 3Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

I adored the first two volumes of Space Battle Lunchtime. It’s an all-ages graphic novel of a cooking competition(!) in space(!!) with a cute F/F romance (!!!) What more could you want? The first two volumes felt like two halves of a whole story. It finished with a happily ever after that made me sigh contentedly when I closed it. I wanted more, sure, but it had wrapped up. I accepted that this was a precious gem of a self-contained two volume story.

And then! I randomly stumbled on a third volume! I didn’t know this was coming out! As someone who obsessively tracks new sapphic book releases, this was a shock to me. How could I have missed that this was getting a sequel at all, never mind one that was already out? I could hardly believe my luck.

This volume has everything I loved from the first two. There’s no baking competition this time–instead, Peony is baking for a fancy jubilee hosted by a space empress! It’s crucial that everything goes perfectly. Of course, that’s not what happens. In fact, the empress is poisoned, and now it’s a murder(-ish) mystery! This is a fun little puzzle set on a spaceship that is part plant.

I also really enjoyed Peony and Neptunia’s developing relationship. We get a glimpse into Neptunia’s past that explains why she’s so guarded and secretive. There is no drama here, though; they continue to be a happy, adorable couple.

If you are looking for a cute, cozy, comforting queer read, I can’t recommend Space Battle Lunchtime enough. Will this be the real final volume? I can’t find any information on there being a volume 4, but there was also 3 years between volumes 2 and 3, so that’s not saying much. Whether this is a charming epilogue to the original story or the beginning of an ongoing series, I am a big fan.

11 Sapphic Chefs for Your Cookbook Collection

Graphic reading 11 Cookbooks by Sapphic Chefs

Is it your New Years’ resolution to cook more in 2021? Is lockdown forcing you to spend more time in the kitchen? Are you just tired of eating the same dishes over and over again? From solo feasts to fantasy dinner parties, here are eleven brilliant cookbooks by sapphic chefs to make your meals as queer as possible.

Flavour by Ruby TandohFlavour by Ruby Tandoh

If you’re a fan of The Great British Bake Off, Flavour from Season 4 runner-up Ruby Tandoh is the perfect match for you. Organised by ingredient, the cookbook is a great way to follow what you have in the fridge to a brand new recipe – some sweet, some savoury. Tandoh also writes delightful anecdotes about the inspirations behind her meals, including a spaghetti dish dedicated to Adèle in Blue is the Warmest Colour, and the Dutch Baby dessert which is (allegedly) a favourite of Harry Styles.

Now and Again by Julia Turshen

Fed up with food waste? I know I am, but working out how to use up that half-a-shallot sitting at the back of my fridge is a source of constant stress. Thankfully, Julia Turshen’s Now and Again will inspire you to stop worrying and embrace your leftovers. The accessible, affordable recipes are accompanied by notes on how to prep in advance and handy tips on what you can do to repurpose any remaining food. For cooks of all skill levels, these are staple recipes that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again.

A Simple Feast by Diana Yen and The Jewels of New YorkA Simple Feast by Diana Yen and The Jewels of New York

As beautifully designed as it is informative, A Simple Feast features gorgeous photography from Diana Yen and her creative studio The Jewels of New York – who unsurprisingly specialise in food styling. Split into four seasons, the recipes are arranged by situational themes such as ‘Brown Bag Lunch’, ‘Snow Day’ and ‘Rooftop Barbecue’. It’s a charming way to navigate a cookbook, and to bring a little New York fantasy and glitz to your kitchen.

Vegan(ish) by Jack MonroeVegan(ish) by Jack Monroe

Are you trying to eat fewer animal products this year? Known for their shoe-string budget recipes, food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe has the answer in Vegan(ish). Not only are these plant-based recipes a great way to cook on a budget, they also help to reduce your environmental impact, whether you’re taking the vegan plunge or just bored of eating steak for every meal (er, you probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway!). Another bonus are the deliciously punny recipe titles, such as Beet Wellington and Chilli Non Carne.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe AdjonyohZoe’s Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh

Based on the pop-up restaurant of the same name, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen celebrates – you guessed it! – Ghanian cuisine. Part memoir, part cookbook, the recipes trace Adjonyoh’s heritage through food, from traditional dishes to ways to incorporate flavours into contemporary dishes. The book also includes a guide to sourcing ingredients – another passion of Adjonyoh’s, who has spent the past year focusing on how to decolonise the supply chains, farming and agriculture systems that export spices and produce from the African continent.

My Drunk Kitchen Holidays by Hannah HartMy Drunk Kitchen Holidays by Hannah Hart

Not confident in the kitchen? With helpful instructions such as ‘take a drink!’ and ‘post it to Instagram’, the recipes in My Drunk Kitchen Holidays are well-suited to even the most amateur of cooks. If you’ve ever watched YouTuber Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen series, then you’ll know what to expect from her cookbooks: chaotic hilarity. This one covers a year of holidays and observances, from New Year’s to Middle Child’s Day (apparently that’s a thing!); ideal for a time when finding anything to look forwards to is a blessing.

Kristen Kish Cooking by Kristen Kish and Meredith EricksonKristen Kish Cooking by Kristen Kish and Meredith Erickson

When you want to cook something a little more ambitious, Season 10 Top Chef winner Kristen Kish is a great person to turn to. Her mouth-watering recipes are accompanied by personal anecdotes and notes, and preceded by a soul-bearing introduction that delves into Kish’s childhood and later experience on Top Chef. While some of the ingredients may be tricky to come by, the dishes have a ‘wow factor’ for when you really want to show off your skills.

Repertoire by Jessica BattilanaRepertoire by Jessica Battilana

Although it’s exciting to cook new dishes, it’s also useful to have some tried-and-tested meals that you can create while running on auto-pilot. In Repertoire, Jessica Battilana shares the 75 recipes that she relies on most. From Garlic-Butter Roast Chicken to a dependable Chocolate Cake, these are simple, accessible dishes that don’t require years of practise to master.

Atelier Crenn by Dominique CrennAtelier Crenn by Dominique Crenn

At the opposite end of the scale, Atelier Crenn is the daunting cookbook from three-Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn. Crenn’s dishes are ambitious, inventive and beautifully artistic. While I’m not brave enough to attempt such lofty recipes as Sea Urchin with Licorice or Beef Carpaccio, I’m happy for colleagues to think that I am when they spot it on my bookshelf during a Zoom.

Solo by Anita LoSolo by Anita Lo

Now more than ever, living alone can be tough, and it’s often hard to find motivation to cook if it’s just for yourself. Luckily, Anito Lo is here to help with Solo, a recipe book bursting with meals for one. The book is structured like a restaurant menu, with sections on vegetarian meals, noodles and rice, fish, poultry, meat, sides and sweets – there’s truly something for every taste. Practise a little self-care this year and treat yourself to some delicious solo meals!

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate YoungThe Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a book-lover as well as a foodie. Featuring 100 recipes inspired by literature, The Little Library Cookbook is a perfect combination of these two passions. Sample Paddington’s marmalade, bake cookies with Merricat, or – for something extra sapphic – dine with Virginia Woolf in a room of one’s own.