The best comics can teach you something.
Spider-Man can teach you responsibility. Superman can teach you how to be selfless.
Haha #5 can teach you how to make a cauliflower casserole.
In the latest installment of this clown-themed anthology series, writer W. Maxwell Prince teams up with Eisner-winning artist Gabriel Hernández Walta. And this issue delivers more than just a story; it also delivers a detailed recipe for cauliflower casserole.
So guess what? I made the cauliflower casserole recipe from Haha #5.
Reader beware—if you’re avoiding spoilers or carbs, you might want to skip to the end of this review.
We learn a lot about the protagonist from her circus name: Pound Foolish.
At first blush, it’s a play on “Pennywise,” the demon clown from Stephen King’s It. “Pound foolish” is just the second half of the idiom, “penny wise but pound foolish.” This wouldn’t be the first time Prince paid homage to King in the pages of Haha.
But there’s more to it. In her life, Pound Foolish has been pound foolish—in a way that goes deeper than finances.
She disdains the modern world. She longs for the days of traveling with her “merry menagerie of marvelous, mystifying mischief-makers.”
Circus memorabilia stuffs every corner of her house. We get the sense that she has clutched onto these items like bits of a shipwreck, struggling to keep afloat in a strange world by clinging to pieces of a past life.
But that life no longer resides in the pieces.
Pound Foolish has been “penny wise.” She has saved up the little things—all those trinkets and reminders of past joy. But she’s been “pound foolish.” She’s lost the big picture—the very joy and life that all those trinkets represented.
We soon meet Billy, a nervous neighborhood kid whose friends have started a Mischief Club. In the very items that remind Pound Foolish of joy, Billy finds strangeness and terror. His friends put him up to sneaking into her house to steal a souvenir.
With confrontation between Billy and Pound Foolish inevitable, we expect the worst. Prince doesn’t shy away from dark twists, and Walta’s gorgeous pencils establish a dark, grounded mood.
But instead, the story offers hope.
In Billy, Pound Foolish rediscovers what she thought was gone from the world: that youthful spirit of mischief. The outer shell has changed. It no longer wears clown makeup and rides a unicycle; it wears a hoodie and rides a bike. But the spirit is the same.
This story tells us something about the generational divide and cultural divides in general. So often, beneath what we think of as “other,” there’s something deep and human and shared. And when we find that shared joy, we can stop treating the world with disdain. We can start to become neighbors.
Even though Pound Foolish and young Billy have different-looking versions of youthful mischief, they connect over cauliflower casserole. At least one relic of Pound Foolish’s past—the casserole recipe—still carries some of its former joy.
And speaking of casserole . . .
Pound Foolish herself gives us the recipe for her famous cauliflower casserole. So naturally, I had to give it a try.
Oddly enough, the only ingredient lacking an exact measurement is the cauliflower itself. I used about 24 ounces of cauliflower florets (precut, for authenticity).
The book provides clear instructions, from measurements to bake-times. I followed each step, including the recommended crushed cornflakes, using the art for reference if needed.
A bit of boiling, a bit of mixing, 30 minutes at 325, and finally . . .
The Haha #5 Cauliflower Casserole.
So is Pound Foolish’s famous casserole everything the book says? What’s the verdict on this comicbook cuisine?
It’s so good.
It’s creamy and crunchy and everything the issue promised: pure comfort food with just enough vegetables to trick your brain into feeling like it’s healthy. The peppers add a lot of depth to the flavor. The parmesan on top creates a perfect cheesy crust. As somebody who has historically felt ambivalent toward broccoli’s paler cousin, this casserole blew me away. And your home will smell amazing while it’s cooking.
Francis Ford Coppola included a spaghetti sauce recipe in The Godfather so that, if the movie flopped, at least people would have a great recipe. But like The Godfather before it, Haha #5 doesn’t flop as a story or a recipe.
This issue is one part killer art and one part insightful storytelling, with a great recipe sprinkled on top. “Delicious” is the word that suggests itself.