ERRATA

The bane of every food writer’s existence is the careless mistakes we can make: mistyping the amount of an ingredient or a detail in the directions, thereby sending out to trusting readers a flawed recipe. It happens all too often.

After my book The Pleasures of Cooking for One had gone to print, I discovered to my horror two such mistakes in it. The first disturbing revelation occurred when I was describing to a friend the flavor of the Sauce Gribiche that I love as “mustardy and pickly,” and she looked at the recipe and said, “But there’s no mustard in it.” She was right—it didn’t cut the mustard!

Then recently I had a letter from a former rector of the church I have been a member of for many, many years here in New York. He is now living in a retirement community in Ohio and was enjoying a copy of my book. In fact, he said he was cooking his way through it à la Julie with considerable success. BUT he met his Waterloo over Blanquette de Veau. Not enough liquid, so what there was boiled away and left the veal dry and stringy. With trepidation I looked up the ingredients listed in the setting copy, hoping it was the printer who had been at fault. No such luck: I had called for only ¼ cup broth, when clearly I had intended 1 ¼ cups.

Usually a sharp-eyed copyeditor can catch most errors, but in both these instances the omissions were hard to spot. There was no reason than anyone would know that the Gribiche had ½ tablespoon of Dijon mustard in it (except for me—after all I wrote the recipe and have made it dozens of times) and you’re not going to know that the blanquette needed that extra 1 cup broth until you see that the pan has almost dried out.

Fortunately, the errors have been corrected now in subsequent reprints, and I hope those who have early books will find this blog and make the changes. Meanwhile I am consumed with guilt over my pastor’s dried-out veal. I console myself that it at least put us in touch again (food has a way of doing that) and that he revealed himself as an instinctive cook by adding more broth, even if it wasn’t quite enough and a little too late.

What is important is for the author to come clean and confess to the mistake and then for the publisher to correct it. In the old days errata slips were sometimes tucked into copies in the bookstore but in this automated age that is hard to do. And many publishers would rather not be embarrassed by admitting errors. With good reason. Years ago, when Craig Claiborne was the food editor at The New York Times, I persuaded him to do a cookbook for beginners, which we called A Kitchen Primer. Alas, the first printing contained about a dozen errors. As soon as they were discovered we printed one of those errata slips and they were inserted into the books. The Primer was very successful and was nominated as one of the best books of the year by what we then called the Mustard Awards (this was before the days of the James Beard Foundation and the IACP cookbook awards and the modest ceremony was sponsored by French’s mustard). But when the company discovered those errata slips they withdrew Craig’s name and he was disqualified—for being honest.

It isn’t just cookbook writers, of course, who suffer the humiliation of errata. Mysterious things can happen to any writer’s work—usually beyond his control and often without his knowledge. For years every edition of Yeats’s Collected Poems contained a slip of the printer’s finger which changed the whole meaning of a line in one of my favorite poems of his, Among School Children. Aristotle in the botched version was called “Soldier Aristotle,” which never made much sense to me. Finally it was discovered that what Yeats had written was “Solider Aristotle,” comparing him to Plato in the line above, who “thought nature but a spume that plays/Upon a ghostly paradigm of things.” And that did make sense. Poor Yeats. All those years of being misrepresented.

Was it Yeats’s fault? Was it the printer’s? We’ll never know. Whereas with the cookbook writer, it is usually the careless author who is to blame.

Mea culpa.

73 Responses to “ERRATA”

  1. Nikki says:

    O happy luck I chose to read this right before making the mustardy, pickley gribiche!
    Thank you for a book that’s equally a great read and a great cookbook.

  2. As I just recently began my journey into recipe writing, I was relieved to read your “Errata” post. Sometimes I’ll read a recipe of mine over and over again and it’s only on the 20th reading that I notice an error. I will continue to read with such care but I will also attempt to give myself a break when those errors slip through. Thanks for the inspiration and the humility.
    phyllis grant (www.dashandbella.blogspot.com)

  3. Megan says:

    As an editor, I completely understand how mistakes can sometimes make it through. I always cringe a little when I find them. In this case, would it have been helpful to have a recipe tester in addition to an editor? Recipe testing is something new that I’m getting into. I think with recipes it might be the better way to figure out if amounts are incorrect or if ingredients are missing.

  4. Philip says:

    Ms. Jones did not mention another error (one of omission) that I had noticed. On page 113, for the Strata recipe, after “cut in half, over the ham.”, she indicated one should add “Spread the squeezed crumbs over the top and salt lightly.”

  5. cindy says:

    I love this book. I have a first edition from the library and my personal copy just came in the mail today.
    Its the 4th reprinting. It doesnt have the first 2 corrections in it. It does have the correction Philip mentions above.
    Thank you so much for this book. I have already made a few things from it but also it inspires one to branch out. My mother wants to borrow the book, but it will be hard to share!

  6. Suzanne says:

    Judith, thank you for the corrections! I was eyeing those recipes recently. I was intimidated by the gourmet flair at first of your book but I thought I would try something simple. I made your Steamed Eggs Nestled in a Bed of greens last night,with toast. I had leftover spinach and OMG was it was amazing,fast,and so tasty!
    Thank you for sharing you love of cooking for one.. I had a cookbook 30 years ago called Cooking for One or Two that still inspires me. I will continue the cooking adventure thanks to your inspiration!

  7. Thank you. It can be to find well written and interesting books on cooking in general – and even harder to find ones that focus on serving one person. Most books are more about the picture and receipe then the process – this book was a pleasure.

  8. Dear Judith: Just finished reading your book, “The Tenth Muse” and loved every word. I don’t know what else to say except that after I finished reading it, I pulled out some roast chicken from two nights before and made a chicken tarragon salad for lunch today. Really an inspiration. With kindest regards, Brian

  9. isabella says:

    i have been trying to collect all of the “Knopf Cooks American” series, but am having difficulty finding the titles of all the publications. i googled and googled and googled, as well as visiting knopf’s site. so far, i have 14 titles in my library, but i know there are more. could i trouble you to advise me of each of the titles? i would be sincerely grateful for your assistance. cheers ~

  10. Philip says:

    Just to set the record straight–cindy’s comment indicates that my correction above about the Strata recipe only applies to the first edition. It appears that later editions were corrected.

  11. Traci says:

    Judith, I wanted to praise you on “The Pleasure of Cooking for One.” I tried your skirt steak recipe with wine reduction last night, and as a novice cook, I can’t describe the feeling of triumph to eat one’s first perfect steak. Thank you!

    I was just swooning over my lunch (leftover steak and non-mustardy gribiche) and happened upon your post. It just goes to show that even mistakes can lead to pleasure…

  12. Nan says:

    Hi! I’m so glad to have a copy with the mistakes…only makes me love the book more! I’m terrible with my favorite cook books – I write in them, make all kinds of notes and usually some doodles…so you’ll be happy to know that the corrections you posted, and that I made note of in my book, were not the first bits of ink…THAT’S how much I love you book! With just the mister and me at home now, “Cooking for One” has made cooking for two so much easier!

  13. SuzanneF says:

    From a copyeditor/proofreader: I realize that very often, the author has been over the recipes so many times that her/his eye no longer sees those goofs. So I try to point them out as gently as I can: “Did you really mean 1 teaspoon cayenne for 2 servings?” All I can do is hope they take a harder look then. And as a proofreader, I am sometimes shocked at how many errors get through to second pass — I suspect that some copyeditors who do cookbooks don’t know how to cook! Horrors!

  14. For one alone after cooking for 40 years for many-your book is a treasure. Most of all because it works-make sense-and receipes are great

  15. Dee Wojciehowski says:

    Thank you for the Errata info, I have made the changes in my book. The first recipe I prepared from your book was Boeuf Bourguignon. Even though I suffered as ‘Julie’ did and burned the dish (on 3 of the 5 times I prepared it), I was able to still save the dish and can only say YUM!! I learned that I need to lower the flame and check on it after 15-20 minutes to make sure that I don’t continue to burn it.

  16. edie sousa says:

    The copyeditor should have noticed that Tetrazzini is spelled incorrectly. It’s a tricky word, but that’s why we have copyeditors.Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s always horrifying to see them in print, but the world always keeps spinning, right along with our heads. This book is a treasure nonetheless.

  17. Joeth says:

    I had made your Sauce Gribiche — a fabulous concoction — but said to myself, “This could use some Dijon mustard!” and so added it. I laughed when a friend sent me a link to your errata posting.

    Your book is a wonderful resource. We have a “foodie” book-sharing group at work that got started with “My Life in France” when the Julie and Julia movie came out, which led quickly to The Tenth Muse and Cooking for One. We’ve all loved them both.

  18. Brad says:

    Judith, I wanted to praise you on “The Pleasure of Cooking for One.” I tried your skirt steak recipe with wine reduction last night, and as a novice cook, I can’t describe the feeling of triumph to eat one’s first perfect steak. Thank you!

    I was just swooning over my lunch (leftover steak and non-mustardy gribiche) and happened upon your post. It just goes to show that even mistakes can lead to pleasure…

  19. Steven says:

    i have been trying to collect all of the “Knopf Cooks American” series, but am having difficulty finding the titles of all the publications. i googled and googled and googled, as well as visiting knopf’s site. so far, i have 14 titles in my library, but i know there are more. could i trouble you to advise me of each of the titles? i would be sincerely grateful for your assistance. cheers ~

  20. Dave says:

    Thank you for the Errata info, I have made the changes in my book. The first recipe I prepared from your book was Boeuf Bourguignon. Even though I suffered as ‘Julie’ did and burned the dish (on 3 of the 5 times I prepared it), I was able to still save the dish and can only say YUM!! I learned that I need to lower the flame and check on it after 15-20 minutes to make sure that I don’t continue to burn it.

  21. Alan says:

    Dear Judith: Just finished reading your book, “The Tenth Muse” and loved every word. I don’t know what else to say except that after I finished reading it, I pulled out some roast chicken from two nights before and made a chicken tarragon salad for lunch today. Really an inspiration. With kindest regards, Brian

  22. Nick says:

    Just to set the record straight–cindy’s comment indicates that my correction above about the Strata recipe only applies to the first edition. It appears that later editions were corrected.

  23. Sean says:

    The copyeditor should have noticed that Tetrazzini is spelled incorrectly. It’s a tricky word, but that’s why we have copyeditors.Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s always horrifying to see them in print, but the world always keeps spinning, right along with our heads. This book is a treasure nonetheless.

  24. Tony says:

    From a copyeditor/proofreader: I realize that very often, the author has been over the recipes so many times that her/his eye no longer sees those goofs. So I try to point them out as gently as I can: “Did you really mean 1 teaspoon cayenne for 2 servings?” All I can do is hope they take a harder look then. And as a proofreader, I am sometimes shocked at how many errors get through to second pass — I suspect that some copyeditors who do cookbooks don’t know how to cook! Horrors!

  25. Simon says:

    Judith, I wanted to praise you on “The Pleasure of Cooking for One.” I tried your skirt steak recipe with wine reduction last night, and as a novice cook, I can’t describe the feeling of triumph to eat one’s first perfect steak. Thank you!

    I was just swooning over my lunch (leftover steak and non-mustardy gribiche) and happened upon your post. It just goes to show that even mistakes can lead to pleasure…

  26. Bill says:

    Hi! I’m so glad to have a copy with the mistakes…only makes me love the book more! I’m terrible with my favorite cook books – I write in them, make all kinds of notes and usually some doodles…so you’ll be happy to know that the corrections you posted, and that I made note of in my book, were not the first bits of ink…THAT’S how much I love you book! With just the mister and me at home now, “Cooking for One” has made cooking for two so much easier!

  27. Bruce says:

    i have been trying to collect all of the “Knopf Cooks American” series, but am having difficulty finding the titles of all the publications. i googled and googled and googled, as well as visiting knopf’s site. so far, i have 14 titles in my library, but i know there are more. could i trouble you to advise me of each of the titles? i would be sincerely grateful for your assistance. cheers ~

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