Braddy Reads/Cooking with Braddy: Dry Curry from Sweetness and Lightning

So stick with me. This one get weird. There’s this Japanese comic out there about a high school girl who has a crush on her teacher…

Wait! Come back! Let me try again.

One of my favorite genres of fiction is the “lonely single guy has to take care of a charming young girl” genre. Yes, there are enough of these stories (particularly in manga/anime) that I feel pretty secure in calling it a genre.

Another thing I really like? Cooking.

So imagine that there’s a comic book that combines the carnal pleasure of eating with the emotional manipulation of watching a reclusive, broken young man learning how to love again thanks to the precocious antics of his young ward. That’s Sweetness and Lightningin a nutshell. And it’s really wonderful.

Sweetness and Lightning is the story of Kohei Inazuka, a young schoolteacher still reeling from the loss of hi wife just a short time ago. He now finds himself raising his young daughter, Tsumugi, all by himself. And neither of them, it seems, have really dealt with their grief from losing a loved one. However, a chance encounter with a student from Kohei’s class leads to the two of them learning to reconnect, as well as really deal with life’s myriad challenges, by making some of the dishes their wife and mother had made for them before she dies.

…Okay, yes, there is this ongoing subplot about Kotori Iida, the teenager who maybe has a crush on Kohei? It’s a bit awkward, and it totally smacks of unhealthy wish-fulfillment fantasy. But she’s not simply some manic dream waifu. She’s a pretty well-realized character in her own right, who uses her cooking sessions with Kohei to feel closer to her own mother, an accomplished chef who taught Kotori how to cook before more or less disappearing completely from her life.

The central theme of Sweetness and Lightning is on family, and how important it is to break bread with those we love. Good food and good company don’t simply have to be hedonistic rooms or momentary distractions. The bonds we forge over a bowl of soup or a plate of homemade donuts can actually make us more emotionally resilient after we leave the dining room. It reminds me of something I swear I heard Alton Brown say in a podcast or something once about how the most important bit of kitchen hardware for a young family to buy is a kitchen table… but I couldn’t actually find that quote. So you get this one instead:

“You know we fixate on the food so much itself: “Oh, the ultimate brownie or the ultimate this or that” — well, let me tell you something: It’s all poop in about 12 hours, okay? The real power that food has is its ability to connect human beings to each other — that’s the stuff right there and, to me, everything else is secondary to that.”

Of course, we still want our food to taste good. One of the neat tricks Sweetness and Lightning pulls is that it ends each chapter with the recipe for whatever dish Kohei attempted during that part of the story. And so, it was with a great deal of excitement and only a little trepidation that I decided to attempt one of the recipes from this Japanese comic book.

I’m basically trying to be the Binging with Babish of weaboos, I guess.

So I made a few judgment calls. I chose to replace the boullion with vegetable stock in an attempt to control the sodium. I replaced the Japanese eggplants with a single conventional American (?) eggplant, although I suspect two eggplants might have been a better choice. Lastly, I replaced the brown rice in the picture below with burned rice that I threw away, because I’ve been cooking for how long and I STILL can’t cook rice without burning it?!

Frankly, the veggies themselves were so colorful and tasty-looking that I could have probably just added some salt and pepper and walk away with a pretty satisfying meal:

But I persevered. I added everything to the pot that the recipe called for. The recipe took a few curious turns. The addition of grated apple reminded me of a pie filling recipe I made with my mom once, where the drained flesh of an apple was added to a berry mixture as a sort of naturally-occurring pectin meant to help the filling set up. I suspected that the apple here served a similar purpose, but I didn’t notice the sauce getting especially thick.

Meanwhile, the raisins actually somewhat reconstituted in the liquid. Nearly whole grapes seemed like a curious addition to a savory dish like this, but they were sweet and delightful and absolutely worthy of inclusion. I wound up saving the raisins for last, because they were just so good.

So, yeah, this recipe turned out really well. One of the best things I’ve made in recent memory. Who knew one could get such good culinary advice from the back of a Japanese comic book?

…REALLY could have used some rice, though.

My Birdie Buddy

I took a trip to the San Diego Zoo last week. Every time my group walked through the aviaries, I got super distracted:

“Oh, look at the birdies!”

“Hey, buddy! You’re a pretty buddy, aren’t you?”

“Hey, come look at this pretty green bird!”

This happened enough that people started commenting on it. “So,” they said, “I guess birds are your favorite animals”

I mean, I guess they are.

The Witch’s Pantry

So I thought I would skip a drawing this week, because I left my Apple Pencil at work. But then I got this idea and really wanted to get started on it. Drew this thing with just my finger… which actually hurts more than I remembered.

An Angry Goddess

Noticed recently that most of my drawings over the last little while have been almost exclusively about people or people-adjacent subjects. You know, like orcs, fairies, or, um, clowns. Next drawing or two will try to focus on scenes, rather than just people. In the meanwhile, here’s a giant naked lady terrorizing a schlubby bald guy without even a hint of Freudian subtext.

Braddy Reads: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Paperbacks are a good thing to carry on you during a flight from Salt Lake City to San Diego, especially when San Diego fogs over and you have to redirect to Phoenix when you’re over halfway there. I had time to finish reading Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. I still had time leftover to switch on the satellite TV to the Cartoon Network (long enough to see they were only showing Family Guy, at which point I turned the TV right the heck back off).

I actually started reading back in November but set aside for completely arbitrary and unimportant reasons that had nothing to do with that new Zelda game. Even though I put it off so long, I really liked the first fifty pages or so that I read. Haddon tells the story from the perspective of a young man with a cognitive impairment, similar to portions of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, although with a much clearer understanding of what that sort of condition would actually entail. The result is a choppy, straightforward writing style almost completely devoid of embellishment, which is actually highly engaging and beautiful in its own way.

Additionally, the book is full of nice little touches that really allow the reader to get a good peek inside our protagonist’s head. Christopher fills his story with very clinical and dry scene descriptions (because good books have scene descriptions), but he goes into exquisite detail about mathematical proofs and scientific concepts. Christopher’s faith in absolute science and logic help him to cope with the death of his mother, and he believes he can use these same skills to solve the murder of a neighborhood dog, Wellington.

Christopher’s investigation takes quite a few twists and turns, almost none of which will surprise the reader. The joy in reading comes not from experiencing a good twist, but rather from seeing how Christopher copes with each revelation. Thus, the ending of the book, which really backs Christopher and his whole family into an extraordinarily awkward situation, comes as a bit of a disappointment, as the drama isn’t really resolved. Christopher simply declares his investigation a success and concludes the story with another math proof. The ending certainly feels in character for Christopher, and I can’t help but feel that the author meant something by the abrupt finish that I’m just missing.

In the end, though, a middling ending doesn’t ruin a good book, especially one with as compelling a narrator as Christopher. I’d hesitate to say a person could learn about a specific illness by reading Christopher’s story. His condition is never actually specified and, although it meets certain diagnostic criteria, likely does not fit into a specific diagnosis. There is a lesson to be learned about empathy, as well as the simple beauty of clarity and mathematics.

I would recommend anyone pick up a copy the next time their flight gets redirected.

Cooking with Braddy: Pasta Aglio e Oglio

Does food look more delectable up close? You be the judge:

Did the pasta just get out of the pool?

As a nerd and a burgeoning foodie, I’ve really latched onto the Binging with Babish YouTube channel, where an apparently headless cook with a sexy voice tries to recreate prominent dishes from television and movies. In particular, I was drawn to this delectable dish from the movie Chef, which I have never seen. I’m not sure what attracted me to this particular dish the most – my intense love for pasta, the six simple ingredients involved, or the clip of Scarlett Johansson making sexy eyes at John Favreau in the video clip.

I mean, there’s a reason I decided to try this dish while on a date…

So did it work? Well… no. But that wasn’t the recipe’s fault.

First, I neglected to save some of the pasta water to help set up the sauce. I tried to compensate by just adding a bit of warm water, which worked probably about as well as I would expect it to in hindsight. Eesh. Couple that with adding way, WAY too much lemon juice, and the end result was…

Well, it was lemon-flavored pasta. Which was fine enough for what it was, but it was only barely enough to get ScarJo sexy eyes from my date. In the end, I think I only got the eyes because she’s got a thing for beards. So the date was a win, even if the dinner wasn’t quite. Still, I’ll definitely try it again, if only to prove that I can actually read the gorram directions.

Riding the Rails to Mordor

He’s a transient goblin. A “hob-orc,” if you will.

At some point, I’m going to have to take a good hard look at my technique and see if I can’t make it a bit less “coloring book.” Still, for the style I’ve developed, I think I did pretty good on this one. I’m especially please with the houndstooth scarf, which I did myself rather than using a pattern.

2017 Art Dump

Blogging wasn’t the only thing I wasn’t able to do much of in 2017. I also found myself less and less inclined to dedicate any significant amount of time to drawing. I found a few moments here and there to do up a quick doodle:

I was surprised to discover that I actually stopped blogging pretty much right after the 2016 presidential election. I suspect I may have been a bit frustrated by the proceedings…

A rare dalliance with color. Not exactly my strongest suit, but this one was fun.

Concept art for a failed NaNo project about a girl who gets super powers from Santa Claus. I’ll still probably go back to it at some point.

I also managed to complete the Inktober challenge (in that I completed a drawing every single day, although my preferred medium probably excludes me from actual Inktober notoriety). Here are the highlights:

Yeah, I even managed some Taylor Swift fan art. I’ll admit to holding some fondness for good ol’ T-Swizzle, pre-Reputation. Not a fan of the new Taylor.

Braddy’s Pick: The Best Movie of 2017

One day in, 2018 is looking good, but it feels wrong to begin a new year with such a fresh, optimistic start.  No, the appropriate way to begin a new year is with a sleepy, half-dead gaze back into the year just completed, even when that year was the rampaging, odious dumpster fire that was 2017.

(Generally speaking, I mean.  2017 was actually pretty good to me on a personal level).

Now, it’s been a real molasses minute since I last wrote… well, any dang thing.  I’m making it a goal in 2018 to do more writing generally, and so the time felt right to dust the ol’ WordPress account off and ease myself back in to writing by effusing at length about my favorite movie of the last year:


Best movie of the year.  Definitely the best of the Marvel films.  Might even be the best “comic book” movie of all time.  Fight me.

I’m a little hesitant to try to say anything about GOTG2, as there are already a fair number of insightful takes out there.  Heck, I’ll even link you to my favorite, which probably says a lot more of substance about the film than I could.  Still, no movie came even close to eliciting as strong an emotional response from me as this big-budget special-effects blockbuster about an emotionally-stunted man-child who likes Pac-Man a little too much.

…which actually sounds a little too familiar, now that I’ve typed that sentence out…


So here I sit, at 1:30 in the morning.  I’ve got a head cold and can’t sleep, and I’m trying to put into words exactly why I found this, the popcorniest movie of the year, just so revelatory.

I could bring up the way each character carried over from the first film experiences their own story arc that builds on the place where we left them at the end of GOTG part 1.  That may not sound like a big deal, but it’s pretty darn rare, especially in these serialized movie franchises.  If you don’t believe me, name the James Bond movie that ends with 007 actually learning something about himself.

While you’re doing that, I’ll point out how Drax, having gotten a handle on most of his anger issues in the last film, now serves as something of a mentor/father figure to Peter Quill in the new film.  I’ll also point out how Gamora and Nebula use their obligatory girl-on-girl fight to actually deal with their history.  I’ll also (also) point out how Peter Quill, a noted womanizer, is now warming up to the idea of a single-woman relationship, but he still struggles to understand what he can really offer in such a relationship, and so he finds himself stuck in the “teammate zone”


I could bring up the absolutely inspired use of licensed music.  GOTG: Part the First brough a lot of really iconic songs to the soundtrack and managed the feat of making “The Piñat Colada” song almost listenable.  The songs ing GOTG2 aren’t quite as timeless, but they are put to far greater effect – in particular, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”

I’m a bit late to the idea that Fleetwood Mac is better than their reputation as “my dad’s music” would imply.  While I still have absolutely no use for “Landslide,” I’ve got nothing but love for “The Chain,” a song which explores the resolve of a couple on the rocks to make their commitment work while simultaneously describing the exact moment their relationship completely implodes.  It’s either cognitive dissonance of the highest order or the type of rich, emotionally complex lyricism that these durn kids with their “dabbing” just don’t hear anymore.

”The Chain” plays twice in GOTG2.  During the first scene, the team is splitting up in the middle of a pretty nasty fight between Quill and Rocket.  None of their grievances have gotten resolved, mainly because neither party is owning up to what’s really bothering them (Quill’s acting tough to mask his insecurity, while Rocket’s trapped in a self-loathing spiral which causes him to actively push people away).

The second time we hear the song, it’s during the big climactic fight between Quill and his father, the Celestial Ego.  We’ll leave aside the on-the-nose metaphor about how Quill has to overcome Ego in order to save the day and focus on the familial relationship.  Quill lost his mother at the start of the first movie; now, he’s losing his father, too.  At the same time, though, he’s reunited with his team, and they’ve been joined by Yondu, a man who, for all his flaws, has very much been a father to Quill.  Although his biological family is now shattered beyond repair, Quill finds himself part of a different family, one of his own choosing, and they make a chain that can never be broken.

Hey, that’s kinda like what the song says…


Neither of those points really touch on what really grabs me about this film, though.  The real reason I love this movie so much is that it made me cry, repeatedly, every time I watched it.  And I watched it three times in a single month, which is kind of ridiculous for me.

Although 2017 was, as I said, a pretty good year for me personally, it was also the year where I lost my grandfather.  He spent the last several years of his life in a rest home for U.S. veterans, lying in bed and watching military documentaries.  When he died, he received a military funeral, complete with a flag ceremony.

I have… complicated feelings about patriotism in general.  Those feelings get even muddier when you start to mix in the military. That said, I am nothing but grateful for the way the armed services took care of my grandfather in his final years, and I will always remember the respect and reverence showed by the soldier in his uniform, who folded up the American flag and presented it to my grandmother.

In the concluding scene of GOTG2, Yondu gets the Ravager sendoff he thought he would be denied after his death.  As his remains are scattered through space, the lights of hundred of fireworks blaze around him.  The pomp and ceremony that accompanied Yondu’s funeral remind me of a similar ceremony conducted at my grandfather’s graveside.

But that’s not the image that gets me.  We cut, for just a few seconds, to one of Yondu’s ravager buddies, played by Sean Gunn.  Gunn’s character sees the lights and cheers rowdily, tears running as he pounds his chest in a military salute.  He mourns his captain, of course, but he feels a great surge of joy, knowing that his friend has been remembered.

It’s a powerful moment, perhaps the strongest I’ve ever experienced while watching a superhero flick.  Would I have felt so strongly about this scene if I hadn’t just buried my grandfather?  Possibly.  I doubt it, though.  I also don’t think it matters much.  In the end, art is really about the bond between the piece itself and the consumer.  Although there were probably more important movies I could be talking about, I bonded with none of them as strongly as I did with this one.