What do you get when you combine a comics artist, a comedian, a horse girl, and a foodie? You get Lisa Hanawalt. Hot Dog Taste Test is primarily about food. Eating food, making food, types of food, foodie culture, and also … that place you go after you’ve digested food.
Hanawalt often pokes fun at foodie culture and foodie hopefuls. For example, one page depicts Tuca (a toucan person) describing why combining wet and try foods create a “slushy mouthfeel” and how it’s “the core of [her] cooking philosophy. It informs [her] approach as a chef.” To which her friends ask what she has served them, and she replies, “Bananas and ranch.” Ew. Another comic depicts a “Holiday Food Diary: The days before holiday are for simple, fresh food and meals prepared out of mom’s garden and dad’s garage.” She draws each item like one would on a foodie blog, but the food is … um, not quite like the food on a blog: “13 spoonfuls of juice, 1 tofu dog (measured and ate 1 inch every hour).”
She’s hilarious, and I found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of a few pages. But perhaps even more interesting is her travel diary and her restaurant experiences. In the beginning of the book, Lisa shadows Wylie Dufresne of WD~50 (which actually closed last year). She provides a timeline of her activities for the day, from 12:10 pm to 10:20 pm when she is drunk at home doing yoga poses (badly). She describes and draws a lot of the food served at the restaurant, including some sort of square-shaped egg-ravioli. And, she joins Wylie during his massage therapy appointment, where we learn that there’s another chef besides Gordon Ramsay who drops a lot of f-bombs!
The travel diary chronicles Lisa’s trip to Argentina with her parents, brother, and boyfriend. Her mother is from Buenos Aires, so she goes to Argentina yearly, but this is Lisa’s first time back in 10 years. She remembers visiting as a child: the super-thin walls at the cabin they stay in; the huge spiders in the bathroom; the horses; and the food. We learn more about her love of horses, about her brother’s life, and about soccer. After her visit to a cemetery, though, things get a little darker. She makes comics about birds trying to kill her. She lists things that make her feel old. She describes when her ancestors escaped the anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Ukraine. She finishes with “Life is mostly meaningless,” and then a comic called, “what will it be like to die?”
Things brighten up afterwards when Lisa writes about the time Lucky Peach Magazine got her and her boyfriend a hotel in Las Vegas so she could write an article about buffets. Plenty of hilarious observations ensue. She imagines people eating so many crab legs that they turn into crabs.
At the end of the book she buys a horse.
Lisa Hanawalt is the producer of BoJack Horseman, an animated series on Netflix about an aging celebrity horse-man in a world where humans and animal-mans live together. She is a writer and artist living LA. I would advise you to listen to her podcast and follow her on Instagram because she’s great.
This post was written by Stacia Oparowski, a library assistant in technical services. Besides reading and reviewing graphic novels, she also participates each year in NaNoWriMo and writes the November updates. If you have a suggestion for a graphic novel she should review or if you would like a graphic novel recommendation, please email her at email@example.com.