It wasn’t so long ago that expressing a passionate interest in either comic books or food would have you branded something of a nerd. But somewhere along the way, between the rise of the Apatowian man-child and the crowning of the first Top Chef, the nerds were vindicated—and these days, they’re teaming up in ways we never imagined.
You don’t have to look hard to notice the mingling of comics and food culture. We’ve seen chefs like Eli Kirshtein team up with Spider-Man and Chris Cosentino sharpen his knives alongside Wolverine’s claws in Marvel cameos, and last year DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint published Anthony Bourdain’s graphic novel Get Jiro!, about a knife-wielding young sushi chef engaged in all-out culinary war.
But perhaps more surprising has been the use of comics to share recipes and tell the types of stories that before would have ended up in traditional cookbooks. Lucy Knisley’s graphic memoir Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (First Second, 2013), which was released earlier this month, is the latest to adopt this format. (Knisley is also one of several artists who’ve contributed to Saveur‘s “Recipe Comix” series.) And before that, Dirt Candy chef Amanda Cohen turned to words-with-pictures when it came time to publish Dirt Candy: A Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2012), featuring recipes and behind-the-scenes tales from her gamechanging vegetarian restaurant in NYC.
In order to better understand why comics and food make so much sense together, we caught up with Knisley and Cohen to find out what made them want to tell their food stories in a medium that’s more famous for depicting dudes with bionic arms than chefs armed with whisks. Here are four key reasons why comics and cooking make a winning pair.