While Jesus Christ may be our lord and savior, he’s not known for his cooking. For that, you need to turn to the old gods…. Hence we present the new cookbook, The Necronomnomnom: Recipes And Rites From The Lore Of H.P. Lovecraft (hardcover, Kindle). In the following email interview, writer Mike Slater — or should that be vessel for the master’s bidding — discusses how this grimoire came together and how much of humanity will be left when it’s done….
Let me start by saying, ALL HAIL THE OLD GODS!
Good start! Yes — they wanted this thing to exist and wouldn’t leave me alone until it did. You think robocallers are bad? Try a not-dead-but-sleeping extra-dimensional entity with nothing better to do — who’s got you on speed dial for some reason….
So, to start, what is The Necronomnomnom?
(one could imagine the shadowy cowl from which the author’s voice emanated as he answered)
The Necronomnomnom is several things. As one might expect, it is a cookbook based on H.P. Lovecraft’s archetypal “ancient spellbook of DOOM!” But instead of allowing you to summon the malefic entities he and his contemporaries made up for their stories, it allows you to summon Lovecraftian comestibles ranging from cocktails to dessert. Done correctly, they are “horrifying to the eye but delicious to the tongue.” It is a tome designed to mimic an ancient grimoire, from its yellowed pages to its lavish illustrations. The raving notes in the margins are thematic extras that betray that this “cookbook” has a story to it, should one care to delve deeply…
Where did the idea for The Necronomnomnom come from?
[laughs] Everyone asks that. At shows, at signings, online…The answer is not complicated. Back in the early 2000s when the “nom nom” meme became a thing…my mind (or…something) immediately whispered that “There should be a…Necro-nomnomnom….” I laughed. I scribbled it down somewhere. I kept quiet until I could figure out what to do with the idea. It would not leave me alone. The names of recipes that would necessarily go in such a tome began to occur to me at odd times. They went in the file. Eventually, there were some 37 or so of them. Critical black mass was achieved.
There are actually two finished versions… The first went to a phenomenal group of Kickstarter backers, and is a very niche tome meant to look and feel the part of the forbidden ancient grimoire. It accomplished that to much acclaim, but was not as readily accessible a cookbook, admittedly. This was fine for the most part, because it was expected. Countryman Press came along and made it something wonderful in a different and more broadly appealing way. I couldn’t be happier with the version in bookstores. It balances the utter madness of the original concept, with nifty “book-like” things such as…an appendix, a table of contents…page numbers… [grins]. Countryman knocked it out of the park, from the cover, to the gentle demystification of my arcane ingredient lists and terminology in the Appendix (which features all the same recipes repeated in plain language).
Along with the recipes, The Necronomnomnom has illustrations by Kurt Komoda. Whose idea was it to hire him?
Tim Carl’s. Tim is like a brother to me, and a lot of other people. I call him the “Great Connector.” I knew of Paul Komoda (Kurt’s brother, obvs) from a Kickstarter that he did amazing Lovecraftian miniature sculpts for, and Tim knew Kurt and what my crazy project idea. He introduced us, and I asked Kurt to rough out a sketch and a “translated” roast beef sandwich recipe into a couple of pages like they were from an ancient text.
Here’s a snippet from the actual first email to Kurt about the project: “The idea is to have it look like a folio with a recipe, photo, and ‘journal entry’ like an old timey field journal.
What I need from you is sample art to start a Kickstarter. Basically, we’d buy two sample pages, and use those to gather the needed interest. If it gets funded, you get the rest of the work (if you want it).
Attached is the sample pic for The Sandwich Horror. the journal page could be like the dissection notes from a 19th century biologist. Crazy scrawls in the margins, the whole 9 yards. We can help generate some of that, and/or you can just go nuts if you have ideas.
Let me know what you think, if you’re interested, or if you run screaming into the night.”
He didn’t run screaming into the night (at least, not that night) — and off we went!
So what made you think Kurt was the right guy for the job?
Tim put us together, but this sketch that he turned in is what sold me.
Did any of his drawings inspire you in any way? Like, did any make you think, “He’s really good at drawing tentacles; we need more octopus recipes”?
I don’t think so, because all the recipe names came first, and I drew (for very loose definitions of “drawing” as a skill) or described what I wanted for each page — and we provided reference photos of finished dishes. The book does not have photos (they’d ruin the aesthetic of it) but all the food illustrations are from photos (and are spot-on). You can see many of them on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Now The Necronomnomnom is obviously a bit of a goof, but are these real recipes?
A reasonable question. The answer is a resounding “YES!” — they are all real recipes, all tested, all delicious, and many quite unique. But, there’s a story there… [looks a little embarrassed] I was fine with it being a joke. There’s a reason the first thing we made was a roast beef sandwich: that was the extent of my culinary skills at the time!
Thankfully, our CEO and Chief Culinary Executive, Tom Roache, could actually cook. He insisted that everything be a real, working, tested recipe — and he was 1000% right. It would not be an awesome cookbook without him. What was not a family recipe with small aesthetic tweaks, or a professional submission — was Tom turning my vague description and punny named thing into a real dish. There were conversations and email threads that went like this, “Here Tom, make grapes, wasabi, and wonton shells work together! Muhahahahaahahaha!”
“I…hate you. Sure. I’ll get right on it.”
You could hear his eyes roll over the phone.
How easy or complicated are these recipes? Can anyone cook them or do you need multiple tentacles?
Look, if there wasn’t at least a chance of going mad from using the book — we wouldn’t have done our jobs, now would we?
There’s something for all levels of skill. Like I said, I started with a sandwich, and today I can make most of the stuff. There are a couple that require a bit of skill, and those were professional submissions. But by The Great Dreamer…they come out awesome when you’re done.
And how many of them involve squid or octopi?
Zero. None. Squid ink pasta is as close as you get. Was it the Great Old Ones protecting their kin? Maybe. But mostly it was a deliberate choice not to be lazy about making these recipes fit the Mythos without resorting to predictable and cheap tricks.
So, which is your favorite? And I mean to eat, not make.
My favorite was actually a submission by a woman named Deanna Vissale. She gave us The Formless Spawnghetti. It’s like shrimp scampi in a dumpling, but with black squid ink pasta — and they’re heavenly. Um, I mean “infernal.” [sings] “They’re tragically malicious!” Please tell me you remember the Lucky Charms jingle… Never mind.
Oh, I do. So, in writing these recipes, did you ever look at any other similar books, such as The Star Wars Cook Book, to see what to do and, more importantly, what not to do?
No, and again very deliberately. I find that with a project like this, external ideas interact in a way that interferes with me getting things done. I don’t go looking for “how to” advice unless I get stuck, or the cost of failure is high. I had a very clear vision, and didn’t want some other cool idea insinuating itself and complicating things.
We also had the incredible guidance and expertise of the Countryman team. It all came together beautifully. Almost like we had help… [chuckles mysteriously] I’ve made that joke elsewhere…but it really felt like it was meant to go well.
What about real cookbooks? Did you look at any of them for ideas?
As our poor editors for this project might say, during visiting hours at the asylum, “obviously not.”
Now, The Necronomnomnom is available as both a hardcover and digital book. Given that it’s a recipe book, not a novel, did you add anything for the digital edition, anything interactive or something to make it easier to use in the kitchen? Or the forest during a full moon, as the case may be?
[chuckles appreciatively] It is not a novel, but there is a story. Some of it may be a little easier to apprehend in the digital edition — just by the nature of the media. Other than that, it’s just beautifully done and fun in either format.
Finally, if someone is unfamiliar with H.P. Lovecraft, which of his books would you suggest they read before attempting to cook anything in The Necronomnomnom?
Well, because I’d want anyone to get cooking quickly — so I’d say read The Call Of Cthulhu. But, Pickman’s Model, The Horror At The Museum, and At The Mountains Of Madness are where I’d start if I had the opportunity to read my favorites for the first time again.
Images excerpted from The Necronomnomnom: Recipes And Rites From The Lore Of H.P. Lovecraft. Copyright 2019 by Red Duke Games LLC. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.