Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt
When I first read this book, I hated it. I thought, this is what happens when an illustrator tries storytelling. It’s just one drawing after another, and the only semblance of narrative is because one page happens to follow a previous one. It’s like reading someone’s sketchbook. Boring. But then I realized how brilliant Hot Dog Taste Test actually is.
Hot Dog Taste Test is more like a stand up comedy routine than a comic narrative, with Lisa Hanawalt as its comedian. Like the comedy sets of Louis CK or Amy Shumer, Hanawalt’s drawings present a series of narrative vignettes, and, boy, are they funny. They seem to bounce from one topic to the next, like a casual conversation with a friend over beers. Over time, you realize that the “aboutness” of a stand-up’s work has more to do with how it makes the audience laugh, than if they explicitly told you, “My comedy is about socially-acceptable misogyny.” or “This joke will be about the double standards of neo-liberalism,” as is the case with Shumer’s and CK’s work.
The brilliance of Hot Dog Taste Test is that it dismantles the gendered assumptions about cookbooks and memoirs as clean reflections of a feminized lifestyle. As Hanawalt proclaims upon entry, there will be, “No diets; no juice cleanses, I will drink juice but you won’t know it, no recipes, no actual food included.”
In other words, you will not get what you expect.
Hanawalt messes heavily with stereotypes of food memoirs by the lady gender. She hijacks topics like domesticity, the trials of clothes shopping, food preparation, and menstruation, and turns them into carnivalesque instances of over-sharing. That’ll teach you to think that “Eat, Pray, Love” speaks for all of us.