As It Happens

A storm at sea means this author's new cookbooks may be 'hanging out with the fishes'

When New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark found out her book release would be delayed six months because 50,000 copies may be lost at sea, she was stunned.

2 cookbook releases delayed after tens of thousands of copies potentially lost in the ocean

Melissa Clark's new cookbook Dinner In One was supposed to hit shelves in March. But a shipping accident at sea means it won't come out until September. (Stephanie Stanley, Clarkson Potter/Penguin Random House)

Story Transcript

When New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark found out her book release would be delayed six months because 50,000 copies may be lost at sea, she was stunned.

The first print run of Dinner In One was being shipped by sea from Singapore to New York on Jan. 7, when a storm caused dozens of cargo containers to spill into the ocean. Nobody was harmed, but the books may be damaged, or worse, on the ocean floor.

"I couldn't believe it because, you know, you don't hear things like this. You just never think that your cookbooks are going to be at the bottom of the sea," Clark told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Clark is one of two cookbook authors whose release dates have been delayed because of the container collapse aboard the MV Madrid Bridge in the North Atlantic Ocean. New Orleans restaurateur Mason Hereford's book Turkey and the Wolf was also being shipped aboard the vessel.

"Shout out to Turkey and the Wolf," Clark said. "We're literally in the same boat."

Status of books unknown

Neither author knows for sure what has become of their first print run. 

"They don't really have a map of where the cargo is in different parts of the ship," Clark said, "The books may be perfectly fine on deck, they may be crushed or they may be hanging out with the fishes."

As It Happens has reached out to the shipping company, One Ocean Network Express, for comment.

Poseidon really wanted to give a banquet, and I think he needed some good recipes.- Melissa Clark, author and food columnist

In a statement on its website, the company said the ship is briefly docked in Charleston, N.Y., for inspection and repairs.

"We regret the inconvenience caused and thank you for your understanding in this regard," it said in a memo to its customers.

Dinner In One, which was supposed to hit shelves March 22, is now scheduled for a Sept. 1 release. Turkey and the Wolf's release has been pushed from March to June 21.

Ocean-themed memes

In an Instagram post, Hereford called the incident "wild and unfortunate."

"The good news is that there were no critical injuries, as can happen in these situations. But the bad news is the books might be in a cargo container at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean," he wrote in a post featuring his book cover superposed over the famous swimming baby from Nirvana's Nevermind album.

It was one of several ocean-themed memes the author has shared since the news broke.

"I love y'all to the moon and back for preordering and supporting the book, and I'm sorry for the delay bummer," he wrote. "We're still gonna party and we hope you do, too."

As It Happens has reached out to Hereford for comment via his restaurant, which is also called Turkey and the Wolf. 

Clark, meanwhile, is taking it all in stride.

She joked that perhaps Poseidon, the Greek god of the seas, called upon a storm so he could get a copy of her new book, which contains several seafood recipes. 

"I think Poseidon really wanted to give a banquet, and I think he needed some good recipes," she said.

But mostly, she says she's just grateful nobody was hurt.

"After what we've all been through over the past few years, the fact that only merchandise was harmed and not people … it really puts things in perspective," she said.


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Melissa Clark produced by Chris Trowbridge.

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