Matt Chats: Mike Slater on his Lovecraft cookbook THE NECRONOMNOMNOM

The author and designer of the Lovecraft cookbook explains where the idea came from, inventing recipes, and the importance of hardcover's design and presentation.

Lovecraft cookbook featured image

Maybe the last thing I was looking for in this world was a Lovecraft cookbook, but when I learned of it I had to check it out. Countryman Press graciously sent me a physical copy of The Necronomnomnom and two things immediately grabbed me. One was the inventive use of Lovecraftian lore to cleverly tie in the mythology with an extensive menu of food, drinks, and desserts, and the other was the high-end production quality of the hardcover. Because of that, I was very happy to speak to its writer and designer Mike Slater about the development of the project.

Lovecraft cookbook hardcover

What led you to combine a cookbook with, of all things, the work of H.P. Lovecraft?

A meme. Back in the 2000s when the “nom nom” meme became a thing – my mind immediately went to “Necro-nom-nom-nom” as a Thing That Must Be. I laughed. I filed it. It… wouldn’t leave me alone. I kept making notes.

What came first, the recipes or their specific Lovecraft theming?

Theming. The names came first almost always.  Over a period of years, I began to construct a list of what sorts of things must necessarily be in such a tome…and for the most part, we fit things to the names. In a few cases, we altered the dish to fit the book. Professional and backer submissions are the best examples, but there were a few family recipes that got the treatment, too. The “Curried Favor of the Old Ones” is my wife’s chicken curry recipe, with beets added in and cut to appropriately angled shapes, and drizzled with the purple juice at the end. It makes the recipe work perfectly without major changes in taste or preparation. Others were…not so simple. 

Was it challenging to create such a large menu when also adding unique elements of Lovecraft mythology to every recipe?

No – that was the fun of it. I very much wanted to avoid a formulaic approach, and the vast variety of characters, stories, and monsters of the weird fiction of the 20s and 30s made for a fertile playground while writing. It was important to me to get in as much of the Mythos as we could, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut a good pun. 

The writing of H.P. Lovecraft is a frequent inspiration for today’s stories, despite being nearly a hundred years old. What makes his stories and concepts so enduring?

He said it himself,  “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” It will never leave us, and he conveyed it so well. He lived in a time when Edwin Hubble had just proven that not only are we not special, we’re not even remotely important in a universe so large that virtually all of it is Unknown, and always will be. His universe wasn’t full of evil – it was full of powers that barely noticed us, and didn’t care when they did. It’s a universe we can’t understand and have no power over. That is a recipe for enduring terror in my book. 

Lovecraft cookbook DPS

The physical hardcover is beautifully designed. How big of a priority was its visual presentation during the book’s development?

HUGE! The aesthetics were always ascendant. It’s my business partner Tom’s fault that all the recipes are actually delicious – I was all about the look and feel of the work, and Countryman Press did an amazing job translating that into something gloriously true to the vision.

Did you design The Necronomnomnom yourself or work with someone else on it?

The design was mine, but Kurt Komoda was the one who pulled my ideas, terrible sketches, and scribblings kicking and screaming into reality. It was downright scary how he managed that. Tom Roache made it into a cookbook. He gathered the recipes, organized them, made them work, tested and retested them. It was a wonderful collaboration all the way around. It wouldn’t be what it is without them. 

What was your collaboration process with Kurt Komoda, who added spot illustrations to nearly every page?

Almost scholarly in his knowledge of the stories, well-known for his Lovecraftian art, Kurt was perfect for the project from the start. 

I gave Kurt a concept for each main piece of art in a paragraph or two. Often these were accompanied by (very) rough sketches in my own hand. Comparing one to the other is often comical – and shows the downright sorcery Kurt is capable of. These were also accompanied by photos of the finished dish, and a file called “Scrawlings”, which offered the handwritten notes intended to be included. That said, we wanted it to be a joy for Kurt to work on. So, as much detail as there was, he knew he could include or discard what he liked in the secondary and tertiary notes, and/or enhance or even replace them with his own – which he often did. His unguided inclusions were always enhancing flourishes, and I think we included every single one of them. 

Here’s a perfect example: 

The Side Dish Not To Be Named

A formal dining room, a costume ball/costumed guests in the background. Masks scattered about the floor and tables.

In the center/foreground (focal point – don’t go by my terms if I’m screwing them up or you have a better idea) – The King in Yellow dressed like a maitre d’ (if maitre d’s wore tattered robes and had tentacles for feet) – presenting a menu to a couple at a table, their faces aghast in horror (could be Zalgo-like eyes bleeding, empty sockets, etc.)

Investigator notations may be absent for this one, but feel free to add any that occur to you.

See my terrible sketch compared to Kurt’s finished work:

Lovecraft cookbook sketch

What’s the target audience for the Necronomnomnom?

It’s actually quite diverse. For fans of H.P. Lovecraft and his contemporaries, this book is validly deep in the lore. Sure, it’s funny – but I think the old man himself would have laughed at it. For horror fans, it touches many aspects of the pop culture of horror. Many are the “geekster eggs” to be noticed and chuckled at. Halloween fans, foodies looking for truly different culinary experiments…there’s something for all of you. 

Halloween is coming up! Do you have any special plans to market the book in connection to the holiday?

For sure. If you follow TheNecronomnom on Instagram or Facebook (and sometimes Twitter) we’re posting recipe photos and things like that every day to help get you ready. We have several local(ish) book signing events through October, and I’m even working with a local distillery to hopefully get “The Necronomnomnom Rum” in stores in time for the holiday. Halloween is like Christmas at my house. Always a huge gathering. 

What was most creatively fulfilling about writing and publishing the Necronomnomnom?

I’d have to say, the reaction. The pure joy and laughter that overtakes people when they first hear the name, and then see the content and it’s quality and continuing level of absolute humor…that’s been incredibly gratifying. Creatively? It was writing a cookbook with an actual story, written in 50 different voices, which honors a much-esteemed class of literature, and was done with a level of collaboration I could not have imagined or hoped for. It just came together beautifully. It’s almost like we had help…

You can follow Mike Slater on Twitter @BurnHenge. His Lovecraft cookbook The Necronomnomnom is available on Amazon and at bookstores near you.

Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and  Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at [email protected].

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