Culinary Alchemy

I’ve noticed that there are a fairly large number of people in the world that enjoy cooking, or at least claim to enjoy cooking. They apparently gain some sense of satisfaction in spending long hours chopping, grating, stirring, simmering, flipping, frying, boiling, and even occasionally flambé-ing. For those people, the culinary arts are a true art form, one that satisfies their need for a creative outlet.

I am not one of those people.

The only cooking that I undertake has as its only goal survival. And generally, considering the types of foods I prefer to consume, the goal is not even “long-term” survival. Its always been somewhat of a mystery to me how someone could find satisfaction in producing a fine product only to see it utterly consumed within less than an hour, leaving you with nothing other than a memory of an enjoyable repast, a large amount of begrimed cookware, and possibly a few extra pounds of fat about your midriff. I would much rather spend my time producing a more enduring variety of artwork.

Thus, I have always tended to limit my food preparation to methods that require the least time, the least effort, and the least number of pieces of soiled crockery. Despite these self-imposed limitations, I have generally managed to produce meals that I found edible, sometimes even somewhat savory.

However, the few occasions on which I have been forced, by circumstances beyond my control, to prepare a meal for others have tended to result in less than enthusiastic diners. Although I have usually found my cooking skills to be adequate, others have expressed the opinion that those skills were, basically, non-existent. In fact, those who have consumed dinners that I have prepared have usually tended to lodge complaints relating to gastro-intestinal disturbances of various sorts.

So, when it came to pass that circumstances once again obliged me to undertake the production of a meal for several associates, I found myself experiencing a certain level of anxiety. This distress was heightened by the fact that my financial future depended, to a great extent, on the continuing good will of these individuals. I was not, therefore, at liberty to subject them to culinary cruelty. Moreover, I definitely could not risk accidentally exposing them to salmonella, botulism, trichinosis, or any of my other specialties.

As I pondered my best course of action, it occurred to me that if I were to purchase a professionally written cookbook, and adhere to its instructions scrupulously, that I might be able to actually prepare a dish that was palatable. With this idea in mind, I set out for one of my favorite bookshops.

I tended to favor this book vendor due to the fact that he often stocked tomes that were rare and arcane in nature. I have always been fascinated by occult subjects and this bookshop pandered to that interest. As it turned out, while I spotted a sizable selection of interesting looking volumes amongst the dusty shelves, I saw few that specialized in the subject of food preparation.

Finally, I settled upon one volume that contained recipes that appeared to have originally been of ancient Babylonian origin. I felt sure that a dish prepared from one of these rather unique recipes would undoubtedly impress my guests.

The text actually contained a rather small number of recipes. It seemed to deal mainly with a variety of issues having to do with religion, the sciences, and philosophy, but I managed to find at least five or six recipes that appeared to hold some promise.

After purchasing the work, I hastened back to my study to examine my latest acquisition. After perusing the tome for some time, I decided upon a dish that was called, “Mrita Amortuu”. The description of the recipe indicated that meal would be almost magical in nature – causing those who dined upon it to become nigh like unto the ancient gods themselves.

Well, if it was good enough for gods, I figured it would certainly be good enough for my guests!

As I began going over the needed ingredients, I began to have second thoughts about the recipe. I realized that some of the ingredients would be rather hard to come by. At first, I was tempted to substitute other ingredients for some of those called for in the recipe. However, I then recalled that I had determined that, in this case, I had to follow the recipe to the letter! This dinner party was simply too important to risk any experimentation. I would have to soldier onward and gather the needed components no matter what effort it required.

I decided to begin by making a list of the ingredients and heading off to the local shops. There was a small Middle-Eastern grocery in a nearby town that I thought might stock many of the herbs and other items that I did not recognize offhand.

My shopping excursion met with mixed success. The grocer at the Middle-Eastern shop had been extremely helpful but had appeared to be totally confused by some of the ingredients.

In the end I was left with several items that seemed like they would be challenging to locate. Foremost among these was a requirement for nearly a gallon of human blood. I was sorely tempted to substitute pig blood, even possibly even tomato juice, but then I once again reminded myself that it was absolutely crucial that I follow the recipe to the letter. This dinner was too important to my financial well being to allow myself to be lazy or slipshod.

After considering the problem for several hours, I finally came up with a viable solution. I first went to a medical supply shop in town and purchased the needles, tubing, and other equipment necessary to extract blood. I considered simply using my own blood at first, but then decided that a whole gallon was simply more than I could spare.

I had a vague idea that I had spied a storefront in the seedier section of the town that paid vagrants for their blood. I supposed that if that business could get vagrants to sell their blood, I could probably have success with a similar venture.

I, therefore, journeyed to the location of the blood-buying business. I noted that there were several vagrants in the area and decided to approach one.

“Excuse me sir,” I said.

“Yeah wah?” replied the bum, his eyes bleary and unfocused. I sensed that he might be under the affects of some manner of narcotic.

“I was wondering if you ever sold your blood to that nearby shop?” I asked, indicating the storefront that billed itself as a “Plasma Center”.

“Yeah, but they only let ya do it every coupla weeks. They won’t let me do it again for ‘nother week,” replied the vagrant, “They give ya twenty bucks and juice and some cookies too.”

“Really?” I replied, “How odd that they would put a limitation on such a thing. You know, if you would like to sell some more of your blood, just to make some extra cash, I would be willing to make a purchase. I will even go so far as to pay you thirty dollars as opposed to their twenty.”

The indigent seemed interested. “Wadda bout the juice and cookies?” he inquired, obviously trying to sweeten the deal a bit.

“Yes, I can also provide juice and cookies,” I conceded.

“How bout whiskey and cookies?” he asked, with a gap tooth grin.

“I’m afraid I don’t have any whiskey available,” I replied, “However, I have most of a bottle of vodka somewhere in my cupboards I believe…”

The vagrant managed to looked both surprised and somewhat tranquilized at the same time. “Thad’ll do!” he replied.

I was tempted to just go ahead and take the whole gallon from the vagrant since there hadn’t actually been a negotiated limit to the amount of his blood that I had purchased. Unfortunately, the bottles that I had found at the medical supply store only allowed for one pint to be taken at a time. I suspected that the vagrant might grow surly if I began to attempt to fill bottle after bottle from him. Since I was forced to undertake the bleeding procedure in my own home, I certainly didn’t want to upset him and have an irate bum trash my house.

Therefore, I merely extracted one pint and then sent him on his way with the agreed upon thirty dollars, most of a bottle of vodka, and a package of Oreos, (with double-stuff).

At eight pints per gallon, this recipe was obviously going to prove rather expensive to prepare! The blood alone was apparently going to cost me $240, eight bottles of vodka, and eight packages of cookies! Once again I was tempted to cheat on the ingredients. But then, as I thought back on some of my prior culinary disasters, I steeled my resolve and decided to stick to the recipe. I did decide to buy cheaper brands of vodka and cookies for the rest of the bums, however.

After several intensive days of bum-bleeding, I managed to finally have a whole gallon of human blood cooling in my refrigerator. Unfortunately, due to the poor hygienic practices of my recent guests, I noticed that my front room had acquired something of a nasty odor. I was, therefore, also forced to invest in some room deodorant and some flea powder, (just in case).

I was now ready to move on to the next challenging ingredient. Unfortunately, the next section of the recipe was something of a conundrum. It read:

“Therefore it behooves us to mortify two Argent vives together, both to venerate and be venerated, viz., the Argent vive of Auripigment and the oriental vive of Magnesia.”

I wondered if, by “mortify”, it meant to crush? Could “venerated” mean that the ingredients were supposed to be aged? Like cheese? Was “the oriental vive of Magnesia” the same thing as “Milk of Magnesia”? I decided to come back to that part of the recipe later.

The next ingredient was something called “rennet”. I had some trouble locating this item at first. Apparently, rennet is a dried extract made from the inner lining of the fourth stomach of calves. Why such a substance would actually have a name, I cannot quite say.

I was beginning to fear that I might have to actually slaughter a calf and somehow try to figure out which of its stomachs was the “fourth” stomach. Finally, in my search for the substance, I happened to learn that rennet is used by cheesemakers to cause milk to curdle. After spending some time calling around to wholesale dealers for cheese manufacturing supplies, I finally found someone who was willing to ship me a small quantity of the stuff.

With my spirits somewhat buoyed by my latest success, I then turned to the next component of the feast I intended to prepare. I was somewhat disheartened to see that the ingredient was something called “Vitriol of Mars”. I had a sinking suspicion that I might actually have to acquire some material that actually had come from the Martian surface. However, after a bit of research, I was overjoyed to learn that Vitriol of Mars is a substance that is now-days referred to as “ferric sulphate”. I was pleased to discover that I could order the substance from a chemical supply house.

The next ingredient, “Saffron Wood”, proved to be a yellowish wood that came from a South African tree, the Elaeodendron Croceum. Once again, I went to work phoning all manner of botanical shops and supply houses. In the end, I had to actually order a chunk of the stuff shipped all the way from South Africa. The shipping charges were usurious.

After Saffron Wood, my next quest item was “Powdered Golden Marcasite”. I was greatly relieved to eventually learn that “Golden Marcasite” was a rather obscure and obsolete term used to refer to common tin. Thus, with a quick trip to a hardware store, and an even quicker application of a power sander, the “Powdered Golden Marcasite” was in my possession.

The next ingredient on my list was Azoth. This, at the first glance, gave me some pause. For I thought that perhaps the recipe might be calling for some morsel of the Great Lord Of Dark Chaos to be added to the mix. Luckily, it turned out Azoth, (not Azathoth), was merely a different word for the element known more commonly as mercury. Unfortunately, stores didn’t seem to sell bottles of mercury. I noted, however, that the recipe only called for a rather small amount of mercury, not more than a couple of drops. I was lucky enough to still have a couple of old glass thermometers in the back of my linen closet. Thus, with the aid of a small hammer, I was able to acquire the drops of the needed element.

The next few items on the list were likewise peculiar and archaic names for chemicals that I was able to order from the chemical supply house. Cinnabar was a reddish mercuric sulfide. Ceruse was a white lead that was sometimes used in cosmetics. Realgar turned out to be a soft orange-red arsenic ore that was often used in making fireworks.

After a great deal of research, phone work, and expense, I finally managed to gather the whole mass of items needed to prepare the dish known as “Mrita Amortuu”. The dinner party wasn’t slated to occur for several days, but as I glanced over the instructions for processing the ingredients, I decided I had better just go ahead and start right away.

It turned out I had to buy several new types of cooking implements to prepare the dish. The most difficult of these to find was called an “alembic”. It seems that an alembic was a device that used to be used for distillation. The advent of more modern chemistry equipment had made alembics obsolete and no one manufactured or sold them any more.

I decided that, seeing as how the implements were not actually part of the meal itself, I could fudge a little on such things. Therefore, I substituted a more modern distillation apparatus for the alembic. I was a little nervous about such a decision, but I was running low on time.

I also had to invest in a small vacuum chamber for one extremely odd process of the recipe that called for several of the ingredients to be mixed, fired, and then sublimated.

After several days spent crushing, burning, distilling, filtering, sublimating, extracting, mixing, and then finally a quick fermentation, I managed to finally complete the process. The Mrita Amortuu was ready, with only hours to spare.

I was rather surprised that the final result of the recipe was sort of a grayish-red sauce. I had hoped for something a little more substantial. The recipe had said the meal was meant for gods after all!

Finally, I decided to serve the Mrita Amortuu over spaghetti noodles. I also tossed in some chopped hotdogs. The dish still didn’t smell quite right. I was afraid that, after all my work, my guests might be afraid to actually try any. In the end I panicked and mixed in several jars of tomato sauce, some cheese sauce, and some oregano. After that, it seemed a bit more palatable.

When my guests arrived, I attempted to be as gracious a host as I could pretend to be. A couple of my guests sort of eyed the Mrita Amortuu suspiciously; I suspect that they might have been warned about some of my previous attempts at preparing meals.

Everyone looked a little nervous when I announced that I had prepared a Middle-Eastern/Italian dish that I called Mrita Amortuu Parmesan. However, when I served my concoction, it apparently looked enough like common spaghetti to lull them into acceptance.

I was much too nervous, (and exhausted), to actually eat any of the meal myself. I was, however, extremely pleased to note that none of my dinner guests either gagged or collapsed during the meal. This was a very nice change of pace from some of my previous dinner parties.

In fact, everyone actually seemed to be rather impressed with the meal. All of them declared that they had never tasted anything quite like it before. Several of them actually asked for the recipe.

As I thought back on what some of the ingredients had been, I decided to tell them that it was an old secret family recipe that I couldn’t reveal. I didn’t want to take any chances on being sued, after all.

However, I did tell them that it had a rather ancient history. In fact, I stated, it was a dish that was supposed to have been originally created by priests in ancient Babylon, or possibly even before then. I even decided to reveal that, originally, there was a special customary prayer that the book had mentioned – a prayer that was said specifically for those who dined upon that dish.

The special prayer information caused a few eyebrows to go up slightly. However, everyone seemed intrigued. Finally, everyone begged me to read the prayer to them, just for the fun of it. I told them that it was in a foreign language and they wouldn’t understand a word of it, but they insisted. So, I went and fetched the ancient tome containing the recipe.

Just to add a touch of dramatic flair, I also grabbed an old music stand I had sitting around and used it as a podium. I stood before my guests as they sat around the table. I set the book on the music stand and raised my arms into the air and began chanting the prayer, much as I suspected an ancient Babylonian priest would have done. I figured that if they wanted to hear the prayer, I might as well make it as entertaining as I could.

“Araza og ‘eer-et ka th’oon’ii vok’ok’heh-la!” I chanted, “Yakkarna ezz’ii-pozz’ii cthulhu uoo-oopok tr’tllon’ya!”

The words were a bit hard to pronounce, so I really had to concentrate to get them out correctly.

“Gaharrrantoo’ii shub’g’g-rath viirio cakk’yu’za teelegruu!”

As I chanted line after line of the weird text, I sensed that my guests were getting a bit fidgety. I thought about stopping halfway through. However, I sort of felt that once one started an ancient chant to the old gods, it might be wise to actually finish it. No sense in taking chances on upsetting someone who has nothing better to do than hit you with a couple of curses.

“Op’op’okka-noth kiiriitakuu repara’tem quee’ool trokk!!”

I thundered the last line as dramatically as I could, hoping to at least finish my performance with something of a bang.

I was rather surprised when I suddenly heard a real bang! Actually, it was more of a bang, and then a crash, and then a bunch more bangs, and a couple more crashes. As I looked up from the text, I was rather mortified to note that some strange force had seemingly tossed my dinner table to the far side of the room, where it had apparently done considerable damage to my piano.

For no reason that I could imagine, it seemed that all of my guests had then formed a hog-pile together in the center of the space that the table had once occupied. I couldn’t imagine why they would be piling on top of each other in such a way. Was it some sort of kinky after dinner activity in which they all had spontaneously decided to participate?

Then I noticed that the entire pile of guests was writhing in a most peculiar fashion. It didn’t seem like human bodies should have been able to move in such a way, even if they were all in a big pile. Moreover, I definitely doubted that they should be starting to melt into each other in the way that they had begun doing.

After previous meals I had prepared, which had been eaten by people with particularly weak digestive tracts, I had seen some truly bizarre things happen to people. The actions of my current guests, however, far exceeded any type of ptomaine-inspired convulsions I had ever witnessed.

I stumbled back against the far wall as I helplessly watched my entire dinner party begin to merge into one hideous, pulsating, glob of guest-flesh. As I stared, numb with emotions that went beyond any emotions that have ever been described, the guest-glob began to shape itself into a more cohesive, but still extremely disturbing, form.

Finally, I ended up cowering against the far wall, as a huge entity stood in the middle of my disheveled dining room, regarding me disdainfully. The entity was quite large, it’s head nearly touching the ceiling. The upper portion of its form was slightly human in appearance. Its head was about twice as wide as would be the human norm for its size. The width of its head was obviously necessitated by the fact that the thing had at least a dozen eyes. Each of the eyes was of a different color, each hue more garish than the last, and all of them firmly affixed upon me.

Its mouth was huge and ghastly in appearance. The orifice was devoid of anything that might play the function of human lips or teeth. Instead, both the lips and teeth were replaced by innumerable rows of vitreous structures that, in shape, resembled wickedly barbed fishhooks. This uncountable mass of hook-like features covered the entire surface of its oral cavity, surrounding the orifice and seeming to continue all the way down the creature’s gullet. The hooks appeared to be moving independently of one another, each of the barbs seemingly reaching out to ensnare some unfortunate bit of prey. As a whole, it appeared that the appalling function of the hooked mass was to shred a carcass while simultaneously dragging it down the beast’s throat.

It’s neck was so thick as to be nearly non-existent, almost more of an extension of the torso. I believe that the creature bore seven or eight arm-like limbs. These “arms” were attached at about shoulder level, but were positioned about the whole circumference of the creature. Each of the arms terminated in one large, viscious looking talon.

The thing had no legs. Instead, it had a fleshy “trunk” that was supported by tentacle-like “roots”, giving it the appearance of having a tree trunk for the lower portion of its form. The flesh of the creature seemed to pulsate between a black-ish red and a red-ish black.

It stood staring at me for several moments, then it finally decided to speak, “I am the great Avatar of Uugarog – Lord of the Ninety Spheres of Misery! The Great Dark Fiend of Dar’Harok!! The Progenitor of the Uug’ok-karok!! High Master of the Beasts of Viirothnaog!!” The whole house shook when the thing spoke in its thundering voice. Personally, I continued to shake even after it had stopped speaking.

“You have brought me forth, forming my avatar from the flesh of lesser beings!” the great beast continued, “You have spoken the ancient words of binding. You have invoked the greater powers that stay my hand from smiting your pitiful form into the dark and screaming voids of nothingness. For what purpose do you summon me? What is it that you wish?”

Wish? Did that big horrible thing just say it was going to give me a wish? What was that thing? Some sort of demented version of a genie?

I elected to continue with my current strategy of cowering in the corner for a while as the thing stared at me impatiently. Finally, the horrible monstrosity thundered, “Speak now pathetic mortal!! You test my patience!! You do not want your weak and foolish name to be set into my mind as one I would have destroyed as a pestilent annoyance!!”

As it appeared that my ploy of cowering and whimpering was not going to see me through this situation, I decided that I had better do as the horrible creature indicated. I decided that, since it said it wanted me to make a wish, I had better make a wish.

Seeing as how my financial future was probably in a great deal of jeopardy due to that fact that all of my important dinner guests had just been melded into an hideous avatar of primordial evil, I decided that it would be best to ask for plain, old fashioned, wealth. “Ah-ah-c-c-can I-i-i w-w-ish for a huge pile of gold?” I managed to stammer out.

“Is that your entire wish?” the Fiend of Dar’Harok inquired.

“W-well the gold and that you would also go away and not ever come back or hurt or kill or do anything else to me or have anything else do anything bad to me!” I gasped out in one quick blurt.

“LET IT BE SO!!!” bellowed the terrible, nightmarish abomination. There was a great blast of foul smelling fumes and smoke, a huge thundering flash, and then the thing was gone. In its place was a pile of gold nuggets that nearly reached the ceiling!

Aside from a need to make fairly frequent visits to a local psychiatrist, I have never actually suffered any real harm from that awful visitation. I had to answer some awkward questions about where all my guests had gone, and why all their cars were still parked in front of my house. However, the police could never prove I did anything, so I didn’t do any jail time.

The massive pile of gold has pretty much insured that I will be able to live a life of comparative leisure. Best of all, now that I’m rich, I don’t have to do any more of my own cooking! Nevertheless, no one ever accepts dinner invitations from me any more…

2 Responses to “Culinary Alchemy”

  1. Julio Wrote:

    Mr. Eric Norton–you, sir, are a genious. I cannot remember how I stumbled into your story, but let me tell you–it grabbed me since I read the first word and it never let go of me. I loved the humor and the bizarre nature of the story. Simply as Lovecraftian as anything can get. However, I would’ve expected the “visit” to damage the protagonist more, as is common in the original Lovecraft stories. I’m glad I found this site. Thank you for a great read!

  2. Christian Wrote:

    That was very clever and funny. It’s certainly unique as a Mythos story in making me laugh.

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