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Discussing food and comics with 'Yummy' creator Victoria Grace Elliott

Comic Books

Discussing food and comics with ‘Yummy’ creator Victoria Grace Elliott

For fans of food, comics, and history (and sugar).

Aspiring bakers who also love comics may want to check out Yummy: A History of Desserts, a new graphic novel by writer/artist Victoria Grace Elliott. Released by Random House Graphic earlier this week (November 30), the GN serves as a comprehensive history of seven key deserts: ice cream, cake, brownies, donuts, pie, gummies, and cookies.

As a fan of food comics like the manga Food Wars as well as Oni Press’ Space Battle Lunchtime, I was lucky enough to speak to Elliot about her debut graphic novel. We dig in (heh!) to her approach in melding history and food, her backstory with food, and even which deserts didn’t make the cut. There’s even some talk of more dessert with an in-the-works sequel.

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Along with the interview, check out preview pages from Yummy: A History of Desserts below.

Discussing food and comics with 'Yummy' creator Victoria Grace Elliott

Courtesy of RH Graphic.

AIPT: Your book is a history of sweets, where did your motivation begin with this project, the history, the food, something else?

Victoria Grace Elliott: The real passion behind it has always been the food. As a hobby, I’ve collected tiny dessert and bakery toys for what, over ten years now?? And I’ve always been drawn to stories and series centering around food–documentaries, travel shows, cooking shows, or even slice-of-life shows that feature food as a framing device. Shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, which I watched a lot growing up, or the Netflix series Midnight Diner. Recently, I’ve gotten into a lot of ASMR cooking channels and café vlogs. So wanting to draw food, learn about it, and center stories around it naturally came from this love.

AIPT: Do you consider yourself a foodie?

VGE: Oh, almost definitely. Whenever I travel to a city, I look up restaurants and dessert shops and make plans based on where I want to eat most. It’s so bad that I can sometimes be reluctant to go to comic conventions in cities where I haven’t found good food! I can’t help it. If I think of it as a vacation, I want to make sure I’ll have some yummy dinners.

I’m not necessarily into like, the fanciest foods or anything like that, but I really love getting tasty food wherever I go and trying new things. And I’m pretty obsessive about the stuff I do like. Once, I drove all around Houston with my partner looking for a particular cheese snack we couldn’t get back home, haha.

Victoria Grace Elliott Yummy: A History of Desserts

Courtesy of RH Graphic.

AIPT: Having read the book, I found it so endearing and cute/sweet/and informative. Were there any inspirations as far as the style of storytelling?

VGE: Thank you!! I’ve only read the books a long time ago, but I know I had Scott McCloud’s Making Comics and Understanding Comics in the back of my mind as a way to write non-fiction comic with a narrator.

Honestly, though, the main inspiration was from the anime adaptation of Cardcaptor Sakura. Sakura, the main character, has a sidekick who is essentially a flying lion plushie named Kero. At the end of the episodes, he hosts a little segment where he talks about her costumes. I just loved the idea of a little character like him fawning over desserts, researching them, and yelling about them. A lot of the humor and characterization of the sprites comes from that character and those parts of the show.

Victoria Grace Elliott Yummy: A History of Desserts

Courtesy of RH Graphic.

AIPT: I was curious about the food sprite Peri, did you land on this character design quickly or did it change over time?

VGE: This is such a fun question! This got me looking back at some of my earliest concepts for Yummy, and yeah, it looks like she pretty much sprang forth fully formed! The little puff ponytail is the first key detail, and then on the same page of sketches I added the circular glasses. Her proportions are what changed the most over time. Initially, I’d thought of her as just a regular person narrator, but eventually, she became a sprite with bigger hands and feet.

AIPT: Were there any deserts that didn’t ultimately work or fit into this book?

VGE: Unfortunately, there were so many! One of my favorites is Japanese-style strawberry shortcake, which had a backstory that would have made for a fun sequence. But there were so many other cakes to discuss! I just didn’t have space to talk about it. I’d thought about something like gelatin or hard candies, too, but those ultimately got folded into the Gummies chapter.

Victoria Grace Elliott Yummy: A History of Desserts

Courtesy of RH Graphic.

AIPT: If there were a Yummy Vol. 2, would you tackle a different type of food and its history?

VGE: Oh, good news! There actually is a second Yummy book! I’m working on it now. It’s called Yummy: A History of Tasty Experiments, and it focuses on a mix of sweet and savory. This time around, the food sprites team up with a water sprite who has some insight on histories that involve liquid components, like cheese and soda. They also explore pickles, packaged foods, and gelatin (I finally got around to giving it a full chapter!) So, a lot of really really old foods and some really young foods, all of which make us kind of go, who thought of that?

I found the chapter on packaged foods was one I was most interested in, because, especially when we’re kids, we take a lot of food in bags and cans and boxes for granted. They’re so recent, and the history that caused their popularity affects us more directly than the centuries-old history of pickles and cheese. Also, to be frank, I really love drawing food packaging!

Victoria Grace Elliott Yummy: A History of Desserts

Courtesy of RH Graphic.

AIPT: What is the hardest food to draw and why?

VGE: Hmmm…I’d have to say pie. Any of the more molded foods with complicated designs–like mooncakes, molded cookies, etc.– are difficult for sure. But the crisscross toppings of pies were so hard! I’d have to draw the strips over and over in sketches until they looked right, then give them depth as I was inking. Then while coloring, I had to make sure the pie crust looked like pie crust. With my style, I’d normally shade the edges and creases where parts of the pie crust meet each other. But with pastry, that’s where it browns the least while baking. Instead, I found shading those parts lighter really made it look well-baked and delicious. It felt more like a real pie. In the end, I think the pies came out really lovely, but I had to be meticulous and purposeful about it!

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