Thoughts and Musings

How to Grill Our Love Volume 1 by Shiori Hanatsuka

Kenta and Chihiro enjoying backyard BBQ

There's no easier way to someone's heart than through someone's stomach. Or so I've been told. But from what I've experienced, good food does tend to bring people closer. Especially when it's made with passion and love.

I've been on a manga craze these past few months, mostly because I can read it at my own pace and I don't really have time for anything else in my breaks other than doom-scrolling on the blue bird app. Since I haven't really read manga in years before this current phase, it's been fun reading a lot of new material and works, rediscovering what mangakas have been doing and putting out as compared to my last manga phase back in around 2010 in my high school era.

Kenta and Chihiro first date

In this period of discovery, I found a manga that combines both my passion of food and romance stories (well technically I found two but I'm only going to talk about the one today). The first chapter stars this nerdy-looking 30-year-old guy down on his luck, thinking his dating app date stood him up. As he's leaving his reservation, the girl finally shows up and instead of leaving, he decides to take her to a local grill-it-yourself yakiniku place that he likes. Of course, he's nervous because he does find her pretty and he thinks he made a weird decision to be at this grilled meat restaurant where people normally come after work to drink their worries away in sake and beef fat, but it works out in the end since he's in his comfort zone. By sharing his passion for food and grilling, he breaks down a wall of nervousness and allows himself to be a little bit vulnerable, sharing a fear of rejection amid his failures in online dating. The girl sees this passion and also sees a little of herself in him, and in this moment of relatable vulnerability, she accepts him in the form of eating his cooking for the very first time - a piece of thinly-sliced grilled steak. But it's enough to decide that this is the person that she wants to marry.

Kenta and Chihiro conversation01

Kenta and Chihiro conversation02

What a first chapter. But it hooked me so hard. To me, cooking food for someone is kinda like an extension of yourself - your life experiences, your personality, your expertise, your emotions, and your feelings. Everything that is you is also part of your cooking and what you put out. It's all in your preparation and your planning, then all in your execution and how you choose to present it.

Some might say, "It's not that serious, bro". To that, I say that you must live a sad life to have never eaten anything so fulfilling and satisfying. May your food forever be underseasoned and boring.

Just kidding.

Well, kinda. To each their own, I guess. But one cannot deny the power food has in basic humanity and society. Food has the power to destroy economies and societies while also creating wealth and influence that spans beyond the limits of borders. Food is an exchange of cultures, ideas, and information in a way that mirrors no other.

Kenta and Chihiro conversation02

To me personally, food is just fun. It's fun for me just create something through chemistry, science, and artistry. It also is fun for me to share food with others, to bring a smile to their face, or just give them something that makes their day even a little bit brighter. That's why I worked in the food service industry for almost 6 years. That's why I woke up at 5 am every day during my last two years of high school - to make a bento lunch for my closest friend at the time. Food means a lot to me.

This manga does a whole lot for me too. Kenta and Chihiro make a fantastic newly-wed couple, definitely relationship goals there. Kenta's passion for cooking, grilling especially, is influencing me to finally learn how to cook using charcoal. I see so much of myself in him. And it's not just the age thing.

Kenta Depression Grilling

Their relationship is so cute and adorable, but it does make me a bit tad sad realizing how lonely I am and my desire to one day have a relationship like theirs. To be able to cook again for someone I love. The bento story I mentioned earlier was kinda like that for me. I still remember the last bento I made for her, the day we broke up. Our relationship was already kinda getting rocky and dicey, but the optimist in me thought I could save it. Especially this being my first relationship and all. The main dish and sides were a blur, but I do remember the rice part. I remember using my nori stamps to make some music notes, and I cut a nori heart to put in the center. It's been a while since I did something like that, so it's sure to be a hit, right?


Long story short (and because I'm not ready to write it all out), an incident occurred and we broke up.

But at least it didn't kill my love of making food for others. I'm just glad that I at least got to make her happy with my food, even if it was a little bit. I didn't need any thanks for her or appreciation. I was just happy that at least she liked my cooking, even for a little while.

Anyways, I cooked for a lot more people after that. I sure do like making people happy with food. And what I appreciate about the artist are all the closeups of pure bliss and joy when eating and making food. For all the years I have been alive on this planet, there's still a lot to enjoy and be surprised about food.

Kenta and Chihiro Delicious Meal

Kenta and Chihiro Delicious Meal

Kenta and Chihiro Delicious Meal

Gosh, I love this manga. I need to read more.

Highly recommend. I give this volume a big Mog Stamp of Approval.

Kenta and Chihiro Delicious Meal