Cookbook typo: "salt and freshly ground black people"

Penguin Group Australia accidentally published copies of the Pasta Bible containing an unfortunate spell check error. A recipe calling for "salt and freshly ground black pepper" actually read "salt and freshly ground black people." The company is destroying and reprinting 7,000 copies of the book, but not recalling ones that have already hit bookstores. According to the company's head of publishing, Bob Sessions, it was an honest mistake. From The Age:
"We're mortified that this has become an issue of any kind and why anyone would be offended, we don't know," he said...

"In one particular recipe [a] misprint occurs which obviously came from a spellchecker. When it comes to the proofreader, of course they should have picked it up, but proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable.

"We've said to bookstores that if anyone is small-minded enough to complain about this ... silly mistake, we will happily replace [the book] for them."
"Hot water over spell check"


  1. I worked with a nurse once who announced that her patient wouldn’t eat red meat but was fine with eating fish and children.

  2. All this hullabaloo over a single word. Nobody would’ve given it a second thought if they’d just said “ground people.”

  3. My guess is that the typo for pepper was peoper; the o is next to the p on the keyboard. Then someone running a spell-checker accepted a proposed correction of peoper -> people, and didn’t bother to check the results.

    1. I thought that myself but my spell checker returned ‘proper’, ‘pepper’ and ‘peeper’ not people.

      1. I tried it with Adobe Framemaker, which is notorious for bad/hilarious spell-check suggestions (I’m pretty sure it’s based on the soundex algorithm). “Pepper” was the second suggestion. “People” did not appear as a suggestion at all.

  4. Damn racists. That line had better read “salt and freshly ground African-American people” in the reprint…

  5. Holy crap, was this the wrong time and place for the classic “I’m sorry you’re being such a fussy, prissy victim that you had to get offended over what I did or said” non-apology.

    “Freshly ground black people” is a forgivable typo; HOW DARE YOU SMALL-MINDED TWATS IMPUGN MY ALMIGHTY COOKBOOK means you’re just an asshole.

  6. Another reason to pirate books. Sleezey guys can’t even proof-read. And they expect us to pay for these things!

  7. Interestingly worded press release that puts across the idea that you are ‘small-minded’ if you challenge what has happened. A good example of manipulating a situation to your advantage. Also, hasn’t it turned into a great marketing exercise for the book? I wonder how many extra copies they have sold now…

  8. It’s not racist to say that black people just taste better, is it? I mean, the truth is the truth, right?

    1. You’re right. If it was racist, it would read something like:

      “salt and freshly ground white people. For a low-fat (but less flavorful) alternative, substitute ground black people.”

  9. Since they didn’t have a proofreader actually check the book the first time, did they at least make sure that this wasn’t the recipe for Soylent Green before they changed the ingredients in the re-release?

  10. The publisher could’ve handled this many ways, from apologizing to taking it in stride and having a sense of humor. Instead, they’re going to cause a shitstorm with this response. Well done.

    And no, it’s not too much to ask for a proofreader to catch a typo like this. “People”? Really? I haven’t done a ton of proofreading, but I’d think the word “people” in the ingredients list of a pasta recipe would stick out a wee bit while proofing.

    1. I have done a ton of proofreading, and it’s harder than it seems. Old-style it was done with two people, one reading aloud while the other followed the text, but I doubt if anyone (other than perhaps legal publishers) does that any more. It’s very easy to miss one or two things. Partly it’s because your eye can often “correct” things: people reading a recipe expect to see “freshly ground black pepper” and so that’s what most of them will see. An excellent recent example is the Chilean coin where the country was spelled “CHIIE.” In all caps it’s very close visually to the correct spelling, and it was in circulation for nearly two years before it was noticed. (Of course, there’s no excuse for poor proofreading of something with just a few words on it.)

      1. I’m an editor at a legal publisher, and I can assure you we don’t proofread the old-school way, with a proofreader reading aloud to a copyholder. The last time I did that (as I think I said in some other thread not so long ago, heaven help me) was back in my law review days, some time during the Cenozoic Era.

        Roach @33, thanks. You’ve saved me from making the same point rather more intemperately.

  11. Before we condemn this “typo,” has anyone actually tried following the recipe as listed? It might be delicious.

  12. My wife works at a facility that takes care of people with severe development disabilities. One of her coworkers was typing a letter to the board of directors and signed it “Best Retards” instead of Regards and mailed it.

  13. Oh, this is just dreadful. One of the most horrific and offensive mistakes I have ever seen in a book.

    I don’t think anything, short of tracking down every copy, and ensuring that it is destroyed, can be good enough here.

    I am absolutely fed up with this increasing ignorance of the hyphen. People, it should read:

    Freshly-ground black people

  14. I’m a black woman and I think this is just hilarious, especially dculberson’s comment.

    I’m going to take it as an honest mistake. Besides, everyone knows Filipinos are the most premium meat…

    Just sayin’…


  15. When I was younger, errors in books were handled by including an errata sheet, a leaflet with list of errors. If it is good enough for reference books and engineering tables, why it should not be good enough for a cookbook?

  16. I’m afraid that proofreading at most organizations has turned into “once all the red squiggles are gone. We’re done.”

  17. I have a hard time believing it’s just a typo. I could accept that if it were one letter off (like the ‘regards/retards’ mix-up above), but to get from ‘pepper’ to ‘people’???

  18. I believe the typo must have been peopre because the o us next to P and sometimes people are in a rush and mix e and r around, then the spell check dictionary says people, then pepper…

  19. For all the people trying to replicate the mistake, keep in mind they were likely using an australian dictionary which would yield different results than an american or even british dictionary.

  20. “Proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task”? Pull the other one, Bob, it’s got bells on.

    Funniest typo ever, though.

  21. This was not a typo. “Best retards” was a typo. This one looks like deliberate sabotage.

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