I picked the feature image for today’s Webcomics Wednesday very intentionally. Did you notice the chanterelle mushrooms in the top left corner? Those golden beauties are close to my heart. My parents live in a very remote part of Washington, which can be kind of a drag, except for one thing: the glorious food! They have a neighbor who lets them forage for wild chanterelles FOR FREE. My parents’ friends bring them wild-caught salmon FOR FREE. Someone delivers fresh-baked bread to their house in the morning! It’s a veritable wonderland of delicacies, I’m headed there in only a few days, and, like every time I visit, I get to bring a Ziplock bag full of chanterelles back home with me. I’m clearly already salivating about my vacation menu, and Sarah Becan’s beautifully f00d-centric I Think You’re Sauceome is only making me hungrier.
Becan begins her comic as a journal of her goal to lose weight, chronicling her meals, her size, and her cruel internal voice who tells her she’s going to fail. Refreshingly, however, her journey is less about the actual numbers on the scales and more about being happy with her body in general, and she doesn’t give herself some kind of draconian food regimen. Becan loves food, loves good food, loves making food, and that comes through in even her simplest illustrations of meals. Still, her relationship with what she eats is a little uneasy. She’s acutely aware of how her diet affects her self-image, but she doesn’t want to sacrifice a thing that gives her so much joy.
Becan’s archives go back several years, and with such an intimate glimpse into her daily life and thoughts, it’s remarkably empowering to witness her process. Anyone struggling with self-acceptance would do well to peruse her comics, particularly for the honesty she brings to her experiences. It’s not an easy undertaking, nor does it follow a purely upward, linear path. Even years after starting the project and successfully losing weight, she still feels the vicious self-doubt that plagued her at the beginning—and that’s not a mark of failure. Her comics emphasize the importance of balance and acceptance rather than blind positivity and rigid conformity to what our culture might say is best, and that’s a critically important take-away.
But let’s get back to the food, because Becan is so great at that part, too, and she takes it super seriously. In addition to illustrating meals and recipes and reviewing restaurants in her (and my!) native Chicago, she draws fascinating and informative comics about food history and science. Did you know about the process for cultivating, processing, roasting, and preparing coffee? Becan will show you! Did you know that we basically only eat one variety of banana in the U.S.? You will after reading this. And Chicago readers, if you’re wondering what to do with all that Malört you have around, this might (or might not) inspire you to do something with it other than pour it down the drain.
Her colorful, expressive artwork is clearly influenced by graphic design, particularly in her later spreads, which have an intuitive layout and simplified but accurate depictions of ingredients, dishes, or plants. They’re like a modern version of classic botanical drawings. (If you think one might look dandy on your kitchen wall, you’re in luck.) Becan posts sporadically now, but the archives of I Think You’re Sauceome are all still available online, and they’re definitely worth a look for both food geeks and memoir lovers, or anyone who couldn’t get enough of Lucy Knisley’s Relish. Delicious!