An email arrived about an error. It was the kind all cookbook authors all dread. Someone was making the Mac and Cheese Pizza recipe in the cookbook I co-wrote, The United States of Pizza. But something was wrong.
Here’s the recipe error the writer pointed out:
“The ingredient list calls for 16 ounces shredded sharp cheddar (4 cups), but the directions say the following:
Stir 1/4 cup of the sharp cheddar into the thickened sauce and keep stirring until it is smooth and melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir until it is all well combined. Scrape half of the mac and cheese into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cheddar.
And then he asked:
“Where does the other 3 1/2 cups of cheddar come in? Or should the recipe simply call for 1/2 cup of shredded sharp cheddar in the ingredient list? Any clarification would be greatly appreciated.”
My stomach twisted. I knew this mac and cheese recipe was one of our most popular recipes.
So, what do to next? First I controlled my impulse to berate myself mercilessly and call myself names. I failed. Then I had to figure out what happened. I dragged out the paper manuscript from my files. To my relief, the recipe I submitted was correct. But somehow, in the copy-editing process, someone (or maybe even two people) changed it to the incorrect version above.
The correct recipe should have read:
“Stir half the cheddar into the thickened sauce and keep stirring until it is smooth and melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir until it is all well combined. Scrape half of the mac and cheese into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar.”
The polite email came from Frances Kim, Associate Editor of Leite’s Culinaria. I sent her the corrected text and apologized. And fortunately, the correct recipe for our decadent Mac and Cheese Pizza appeared. Also fortunately, the publisher will do another printing soon and fix the recipe. Phew.
This is much more frustrating than if I had a recipe blog. If I got an email like that, I could fix the recipe right away.
Caca pasa, as they say
I know errors like this happen to many cookbook authors. We’re probably all OCD-type perfectionists, which is a terrific combination of disorders for our job. So we really hate it when this happens.
Here’s what I plan for the next time: read the edited version closely enough to find mistakes; and check each copy-edited recipe against the original manuscript.
And now I’d like to hear from you. If you’ve ever had to go through this arduous proofreading process, how do you keep errors from creeping in? What is your process?