Hot Dog Taste Test
Lisa Hanawalt’s Hot Dog Taste Test is a treasure trove of food porn, sometimes punctuated by cute porn, with occasional forays into regular porn.
This collection of comics and essays made me laugh so hard, I was concerned that I’d get kicked out of the ‘quiet car’ on the train into work. Hanawalt has a distinct outlook on life. She has a way of turning the mundane into the magical - like her short 4-panel that suggests that if she had a time machine, she’d use it to see how people across history go to the bathroom.
You may recognize Hanawalt’s art from the amazing Netflix series BoJack Horseman, where she serves as producer and production designer. Hanawalt also works as a James Beard Award-winning humor columnist for culinary magazine Lucky Peach.
Hot Dog Taste Test is a collection of Hanawalt’s previous columns, which are told both through her prose and her one-of-a-kind illustrations. The collection also includes new comics, illustrations, photographs, and stories.
Hanawalt brings a very funny perspective to everything she does. In an early column reprinted from Lucky Peach, she shadows acclaimed chef Wylie Dufresne. While doing her writerly duty, she covers the hectic kitchen and delicious meals, but also includes, “I wish more food writers would write about going to the bathroom, because it’s funny and interesting and it’s the inevitable result of all this.”
While reading Hot Dog Taste Test, the phrase that kept running through my mind was, “Lisa Hanawalt is all of us.” Though I suppose “all of us” could be limited to how much you enjoy a good poop joke.
My favorite piece follows an excursion Hanawalt made to a nature sanctuary, where she was allowed to swim with baby river otters. She illustrates the experience by drawing a self-portrait while wearing a T-shirt that says, “Every day I’m not covered in otters is a piece of shit.” In attempting to describe her body’s physical reaction to how overwhelmingly cute the otters were, she coins the term “chorny” - cute horny. This is an affliction I am deeply aware of and am forever grateful that Hanawalt put a name to it. Now I can describe my emotional state as I scroll through my Instagram feed of 96% foster kitten videos (oh god their tiny mews I just wanna rub their bellies on my face).
There’s a lot of nudity in Hanawalt’s art, though none of it is sexy in the traditional sense. It’s a bit pornographic and challenging, which is a weird thing to say as much of the nudity is illustrated as anthropomorphized naked birds, but there we are. These illustrations aren’t included to stimulate and titillate but rather to expose how weird and silly pornography can look when it’s taken out of its sexy context.
Hot Dog Taste Test makes me happy. Hanawalt’s feminist reimagining of menstrual huts as vacation cabanas where everyone free bleeds and drinks wine fills me with regular yearning once every 28-35 days. Why won’t my office let me work remotely from my menarche yurt?
Hot Dog Taste Test is completely unforgettable.