A clever solution for those times when both you and your spouse are too hungry to think of anything on your own.

“What do you want to eat for dinner?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to eat?”

“I asked you first!”

“But I don’t know!!”

That’s an exchange that couples all over the world have, including those in Japan. Decision-making on an empty stomach can be hard, even when you’re trying to choose what to eat, and the topic gets even trickier when you’re talking about a home-cooked meal. No one wants to cook something the rest of the household doesn’t want to eat, but at the same time, no one wants to force whoever’s cooking to make something they don’t want to make.

So after the umpteenth occasion where Japanese Twitter user Nono Inaba (@inaba_nono) asked her husband what he wanted to eat and he said “I don’t know,” she came up with the idea of making a list of things she doesn’t mind making. Of course, “a list of food options” is also the definition of a menu, so…

…that’s exactly what Inaba made!

“Grand menu” proclaims the cover proudly, using the Japanese food industry’s terminology for a restaurant’s complete bill of fare. Turn to the inner pages, and the first two are devoted to Japanese main and side dishes, such as karaage (fried chicken), niku jaga (stewed meat and potatoes), yellowtail with daikon radish, kinpira gobo (sliced burdock root and carrots), and Koya-style tofu.

▼ The Japanese food pages of Inaba’s menu

But Inaba’s skills aren’t only those of a cook, but those of an artist as well. As aspiring illustrator hoping to publish her own picture books, Inaba’s menu also has illustrations to whet the appetite and solidify cravings, in order to help suss out the answer to “What should we have for dinner?”

Other sections of the menu list options for Chinese food, fusion cuisine, and donburi (rice bowls), such as mapo tofu, gyoza (pot stickers), Spanish paella, Korean bibimbap, katsudon (pork cutlet bowl), and kaisendon (mixed sashimi bowl).

There’s even a section for yoshoku, Western-inspired dishes, such hamburger steak, curry rice, and beef stew.

Every single item on the menu is popular dish in Japan, and while most of them aren’t all that difficult for someone who knows their way around a kitchen, the sheer size of the list is staggering, with well over 100 options.

Inaba’s clever and artistic way of avoiding the frustrating conversation loop of “I don’t know. What do you want?” has won her praise online, with reactions including:

“I never would have thought of this!”
“That’s amazing that you know how to cook so many different things.”
“Your illustrations make everything look so delicious.”
“Only one way to describe this: incredible!”

Surprisingly, Inaba didn’t have a natural knack for cooking. Back in her student days, she even had a home economics teacher tell her “You’d be better off not even trying to cook.” But she kept at it, reading cookbooks and watching instructional videos while developing her own binder of recipes.


▼ Oh, and if you’ve been charmed by Inaba’s drawings, she has a set of Line stamps available here.


But while Inaba’s menu might look like one you’d find at a restaurant, thee are a few important differences listed on the front cover:

● The chef reserves the right to make recipe changes and substitutions.
● The chef may not be able to accommodate all orders exactly.
● Diners are asked to assist in plating and setting the table.
● Future meals will become even more delicious if the chef’s cooking is complimented.

So in the end, this isn’t a way for one spouse to order another around, but a way to help them communicate more efficiently so that they can more fully enjoy their time, and meals, together.

Related: Nono Inaba website
Source: Twitter/@inaba_nono via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Twitter/@inaba_nono
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where his default answer to “What do you want to eat?” is “Soba and salmon.”