Wordalicious Wednesday: Damage Control

This is a word that everybody ought to become familiar with, cooks and chefs included.

Cooking, at home and in the industry, is where a lot of action happens, and making sure that something that is absolutely perfect comes out takes a lot of work, practice, and keen sense for precision. Kitchens are full of people and food that can go bad if not taken care of properly, and even with proper systems in place, there’s no guarantee that things will turn out looking like they belong on a plate in front of The Queen Mum, or more importantly, your grandma.

Sauces split, immaculate towers of goodies flop over, tiny splatters manage to show up (and multiply!) on the plates you just wiped clean before even putting any food on them, orders are still coming in and you somehow have to remain collected and organized through all of this craziness. Especially if some British Secret Service suit is watching your every move in the kitchen, like they did at Seasons In The Park in the 80’s, when TQM visited and my dad served her. I do say!

There are a lot of types of damage control, because there are so many things in life that can go wrong. Preparedness and not doing stupid things helps for sure, but things go wrong every day anyway, and so of course people get mad. Even if you don’t work in a kitchen or food-related environment, chances are that something, somewhere, some day is going to make you lose your shit (unless you’re a monk in Tibet or joined Bikram’s Hot Yoga) or make you look foolish and you’re going to have to apologize.

I’m going to put it out there right now: A true apology is not a sign of weakness, but a lack of one, or a fake one is, and a quick “sorry!” uttered 100 times a day is annoying and empty. Thanks cards are easy to go out and buy, but Hallmark stocks might go up if they started printing cute “I’m sorry I called you a ———–” cards, too.

So if you’re thinking of working in a kitchen or are in/about to go to culinary school, get your damp mop-roll towel ready for plates, learn some breathing exercises, if/when feeling stressed, wait before you say something regrettable, and if you do let it slip out, make sure you know how to fix things before you’re the mayor (or mayorette) of Toxic Wasteland. If you do try and practice, you’re working hard at becoming a better-rounded person who wants to be in a healthy environment. And if you don’t…you should be a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen.

Below is a prime example of how not to repair a bad situation. I woke up this morning, clicked through to CBC news, and thought “What the —-!!!”

* * * * * * * * * *

Aussie publisher reprinting cookbook after recipe typo calls for ‘freshly ground black people’

Published: Saturday, April 17, 2010 | 11:11 PM ET


SYDNEY, Australia – An Australian publisher is reprinting 7,000 cookbooks over a recipe for pasta with “salt and freshly ground black people.”

Penguin Group Australia’s head of publishing, Bob Sessions, acknowledged the proofreader should have caught the “silly mistake.”

He told The Sydney Morning Herald for a story printed Saturday that, “We’re mortified that this has become an issue of any kind and why anyone would be offended, we don’t know.”

The typo was in the “Pasta Bible” recipe for spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.

Sessions said the publisher would replace the book for any buyer “small-minded enough” to complain. The reprinting will cost 20,000 Australian dollars ($18,500).

There was no answer at Penguin’s offices Sunday.

© The Canadian Press, 2010

* * * * * * * * * *

Spelling and grammatical errors are a pet peeve of mine and it bothers me when they slip through here, after several read-throughs. I copy edited 2 yearbooks back in high school and you can imagine how much work that was. Improper usage of the word your should be an offense punishable by repeating the third grade. But freshly ground black people? That’s glaringly obvious and stands out like…an extremely offensive typo that isn’t even close to the word pepper.

Multiple people must have read this before it went to print. Whomever wrote the recipe, their agent, the copy editor, and the head editor, bare minimum. Did anybody test the recipes out or even read them closely? If so, did they shrug off the misprinted ingredient in question, or ask about it?

It’s ridiculous that something like this could have gone to print, and even crazier still that the head of publishing thinks that nobody should be offended and furthermore, accuses people of being small-minded if they should choose to voice their unhappiness. If you’re going to get pissy about having to spend $20, 000 because of a mistake, make sure to do things right the first time and don’t lash out at your customers for having human values.

Looks as though the company is prepared to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many. A few words of advice: Pull your heads out of your butts, unless you plan to write a page about cold crow macaroni salad in The Pasta Bible: New Testament.


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