Penguin Group Australia had to reprint 7,000 copies of its new cook book, Pasta Bible, last week,when it was discovered that the recipe for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto called for “salt and freshly ground black people.” (“It’s a cook book!!!!!“—“To Serve Man,” The Twilight Zone)
Guess what it was supposed to say. That’s right.
Despite the fact that some media reports did everything they could to imply a sinister motive or disgraceful insensitivity behind the obvious typo, most centering on the publisher’s statement that it was a “silly mistake,” which it obviously was (“Silly? You call that silly? I bet if a recipe book called for you to be ground up and cooked you wouldn’t think it was so silly then! Huh? Well?“), nobody bit. There were no angry protests or speeches from Al Sharpton, or demands that the proofreaders be sent racial sensitivity classes. It was not used to launch an N.A.A.C.P. fundraising letter arguing that it prove that there was still “work to be done,” and anyone who laughed about the mistake was not immediately condemned as a racist cannibal.
It was a just funny mistake, embarrassing to Penguin, but obviously innocent. When blacks, whites and in-between can all laugh at such things without feeling guilty, threatened or uncomfortable, it means that fairness, respect, proportion, common sense and humor are finally beginning to be standard ingredients in the recipe for healthy race relations.
Progress. It’s delicious!