Pages Watered and Potential Lost -or- My Own Cuthulu Mythos for the Kitchen

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So recently we discovered a small leak coming from the bathroom upstairs. According to Murphy's Law, the leak trickled down into the kitchen cabinets. Specifically, the one I keep all my cookbooks.

Cookbooks that are now moldy, solid paper bricks of nasty stink.

Many have been ruined beyond use. The pages have melded together, adhered for eternity. Any attempt to pry the pages apart only makes them rip apart, tearing the paper and words into illegible confetti. Stinky confetti.
Oh yes, and the books that I can pry the pages apart? The mold. It's creeping, overpowering stench. A terrifying, organism of darkest pitch clawing across the pages. Nature's odorous blackwine. A black stench of death which causes men to weep, paint to peel, and priests to give up all hope. My roommate and I have given the mold a name and it is Unyielding (Apollyon was taken, as was Cthulu).

The cats actually back away from these decrepit and cursed culinary tomes. Unyielding is strong and I do believe saying it's name can cause you to spontaneously break out in rashes.

So goes it though. Demon mold in the kitchen. Potential destroyed, and that's what upsets me the most. The lost POTENTIAL.

A few of these cookbooks I never got around to using. Purchased at sales or obtained as gifts, they waited for the right moment. I kept them around for that one day of inspiration they might give. Sadly now, it's all lost. Some of them are no longer in print. 1000's of meals. Uncountable inspirations for other meals. Who knows? Maybe the next great recipe's secrets was hidden in one of those books.

But now the brine soaked papyral paperweights and their stinky clutch (we shall not say IT'S name) sit there. I've scoured through the pages, cutting out what few pages could be saved. They will soon be scanned at Kinko's and printed out in a last ditch effort to save them.

Then to the trash with them, and a check from my landlord (he damn better) to try to replace them.

But beware the stanky grasp, of IT. It may come for you. It may already be in your home...


  1. Holy crap !!! Nooooooo. And an, awww mannn. You gots renter's insurance?

    Or maybe an opportunity for new and loverly additions?

    I'll light a candle for your books this evening.


  2. Ebay and Amazon are your friend. Particularly for the out of print ones. Or local used book stores if you're into that sort of thing.

  3. What a horrific and distressing situation. I know I'd be so lonely and lost without my books. If it's any consolation, many people where I live here in St Louis are dealing with life altering floods-it's painful to witness-good luck in replacing your most cherished volumes.

  4. Oh, poor Garrett! That's awful news. and amazon might have replacements. has a nice assortment of recipes too. I started saving all my favorites on computer a few years back. It isn't perfectly organized yet but at least the worst case scenario for the computer file is not having a recently backed-up file.

    Or, you could give us titles and see if any of us have the cookbooks and can send you copies of any recipes you know you can't live without.

    Good luck at kinkos...

  5. Oh no! (I actually gasped and brought my hand to my mouth!) Horrible, wretched (and how overly dramatic of them to break out into mold like that!)

    Give me your address - I'll send you a new one!

  6. Oh my goodness - this did happen to me and this is what I did - take pictures, write out a list (title, author, ISBN number, if first edition, hard or soft cover, price) and then presented the owner of my apartment with the list. I went on Amazon and filled in information I could not get from the books themselves. My problem came from a leak in the kitchen of the tenant upstairs. Fortunately I did not get as much mold as you have. Good luck.

  7. For the ones where the pages are stuck together, can you remove the binding and try to open them from the inside?

    I hope your grandmother's recipes were not damaged!

  8. A highly irrational, boogie monster-fearing part of me had to double check my own cookbook shelf to be certain I hadn't caught the mould via the internet! So sorry to hear about your cookbooks, I completely feel your pain. When's the service?

  9. I just finished dealing with a mold problem. You have my complete sympathy. What are some of the cookbooks, maybe I'll stumble across one or two at a garage sale.

  10. Wait! Don't throw them out! You can save them!

    I'm in Iowa City where many people here are trying to dry out from the flood waters that have yet to fully recede. The University library has a book online about flood recovery, _including saving books_. Check out the table of contents:

  11. I'm so so sooooo sorry! I would be freaking out. Definitely the loss of opportunities would have gotten me most down. Hope you can replace most of them and get lots of new ones to make you feel better

  12. We were hit by a tornado at the beginning of June (perils of life in Nebraska). My cookbooks were drenched and then began to mould in the 90 degree heat that followed. Here's what I did:

    Magazines (my vintage copies of Gourmet, cooking pamphlets from the 1930's, etc.)were hung to dry over the dowels of a wooden drying rack. Then, they were packed in open boxes with kitty litter strewn between the pages to absorb moisture. We ran a dehumidifier around the clock for a week. This pretty much saved the magazines. I also used one of those baby-gate things on a table to spread out magazines so air could circulate around. Worked great.

    Books were laid out on the floor, pages turned daily with the de-humidifier running, then packed in the kitty litter as well.

    There were many losses, but there were also a large number salvaged. Obviously, the ones covered in the black mould are ruined, but get some air circulating on the rest and try the kitty litter trick-it really works.

    Good luck-I know how awful it is to see that kind of destruction. Drop me an email through my blog if there's anything I can do to help, or you have questions.

    Losing those cookbooks was worse than losing my car, bed, and dining room set to the storm. A Volvo can't tell you how to make a good tomato aspic ;)


  13. BUMMER.

    I am surprised some say you can save any of them. I work for the library and if a book gets wet, we cannot keep them in the system because mold can transfer to other books and destroy them.

    I happen to have a second copy of "The Best Recipes In The World" by Mark Bittman. Its a great cook book, and it's yours if you want it! I'll give it to you next time I see you or mail it if you want.

    Hang in there! And I also hope your family heirloom recipes were spared!

  14. I haven't revisited the Cthulu Mythos since college. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    That said, I am TOTALLY feeling for you. I've been away from your blog for quite a number of days... and then I come back to see that horrible photo.

    A fond adieu to those cookbooks lost. (Could this be a happy welcome for something new??!!... I've got to see a silver lining here.)

  15. Better than Amazon or eBay for replacement books are sites built specifically for used books. Not that I wouldn't use the first two, but I'd go there if the two I will recommend here didn't have it or didn't have it at a price I was willing to pay.

    Both are indexers so that independent booksellers can have a central website. This isn't so very different from Amazon in some ways, since a decent portion of their used books are from independent places, but I still prefer these two. Also, a little competition isn't a bad thing.

    As for the recipe files from your family, I remember thinking about this when I first read your entry about them. Would you like a auto-feed scanner to scan all of them in? They be archived against leaks, or an eatbeast potty problem (not than I know anything about cats with issues -- my housemates peed on the wireless and housemate made me smell it to see if it had been cleaned enough to turn back on). Just as easily, they could be reprinted so that your working copy was semi-disposable and proof against oil, eggs, marinara or any other ingredient that has a habit of splattering. I value the splatters that my grandmother put in her Joy of Cooking, I don't want to add any of my own so it will last.

    There used to be several old feeder-scanners in the Bargain Barn at Davis. I don't see one now, but I can keep my eye open for them if you're interested. <$25.

    -Jeff F

  16. That's so sad! I'm so sorry to hear about your poor books.


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