Editors commonly commission illustrations to accompany feature stories, lifestyle stories and other such fare. But how often has a news organization ordered up an illustration for a correction?
At least once. Sam Sifton, food editor for the New York Times, went to illustrator Lisel Jane Ashlock for a drawing to accompany the correction at the foot of this massive New York Times compilation of recipes that “evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico),” titled, “The United States of Thanksgiving.”
The issue to be illustrated? That would be the difference between a pawpaw and a papaya. In the West Virginia item of its recipe package, the Times had chosen pawpaw pudding: “The weird, goopy-textured, tropical-ish fruit whose name sounds like a punch line on ‘Hee Haw’ can be found scattered all over the country, but recipes (for cakes, pies, puddings) abound largely in West Virginia and nearby states like Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana,” notes the U.S.A. recipe collection.
That’s true, and the recipe was correct, too. But, as today’s correction notes, “An illustration with the West Virginia recipe, for pawpaw pudding, depicted a papaya — not a pawpaw, which is correctly depicted above.” Fixed!
Pawpaw vs. papaya was just one of the missed details that surfaced in the aftermath of the massive recipe project. The full correction also visits Connecticut, Arizona, Delaware and the District of Columbia:
Correction: November 26, 2014
An article last Wednesday recommending a Thanksgiving dish from each state, with a recipe, contained numerous errors.
The recipe from Connecticut, for quince with cipollini onions and bacon, omitted directions for preparing the quince. It should be peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks. An illustration with the West Virginia recipe, for pawpaw pudding, depicted a papaya — not a pawpaw, which is correctly depicted above. The introduction to the recipe from Arizona, for cranberry sauce and chiles, misstated the origin of Hatch chiles. They are grown in New Mexico, not in Arizona.
The introduction to the Delaware recipe, for du Pont turkey with truffled zucchini stuffing, referred incorrectly to several historical points about the Winterthur estate. It was an ancestral home of the du Pont family, not the sole one; it was established in 1837, not in 1810; the house was completed in 1839, not in 1837. The introduction also misstated the relationship of Pauline Foster du Pont to Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. Pauline was the wife of Mr. du Pont’s grandson, not his daughter-in-law.
And, finally, the label for the illustration for the nation’s capital misspelled the District of Columbia as Colombia.
For context, consider that the recipe special spanned 16 pages.
“Recipes are devilish,” says Sifton. “You have to be in recipes exceedingly careful. If you forget to say, ‘Dice the onion,’ you’re gonna hear from readers, ‘I put the whole onion in.'”
Nor do recipe corrections count less than more traditional newspaper corrections. “We want the food to come out right. . . . This is Service Journalism 101 — we’re trying to build a food world here at the New York Times that depends on recipes,” says Sifton, referring to the September launch of NYTCooking.com, a sprawling and colorful site with thousands of recipes and food-porn photos. “We have 17,000 recipes and I would like to be able to say, Erik [Wemple Blog], every one of them works. If we run a recipe in the paper where we don’t dice the persimmons and the persimmons need to be diced, we’re going to run a correction.”
When a recipe does carry an error or omission, Sifton says, “We hear from a lot of people right away. People are cooking our food.” Referring to the Connecticut recipe in the correction above, Sifton says that an expert cook would easily figure out how to handle the quince. “But beginner cook, who I want to serve as much as the expert, is confused.”