Monday, August 31, 2009

Today In NYT Obituary Errors: Dining Reporter Julia Moskin Misses Key Facts Of Sheila Lukins's Fascinating Life.

In June of 1993, NYT reporter Catherine Manegold wrote a 1,977-word NYT home section cover story about the ultimate food fight -- a fued feud between former cookbook collaborators Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso, who wrote the bestselling Silver Palate Cookbook.

Yesterday, Lukins died of brain cancer at the age of 66. And Julia Moskin's by-the-book obituary curiously leaves out the part of Lukins's story everyone remembers -- her split with Rosso -- and generally doesn't do justice to the famous cookbook writer's life.

"But their high-profile pairing, which resulted in cookbooks that have sold 4.5 million copies, has come to a bitter end," Manegold wrote, in a fascinating story that also cast doubt the recipes in a Rosso solo cookbook. "The two women haven't spoken in a year."

Their split took place after Lukins suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1991 that nearly killed her. The earlier brain illness is also missing from Moskin's obit.

And another mistake: Moskin also quotes the note of an unnamed copy editor on the manuscript, telling her that "no one puts 25 cloves of garlic in ratatouille!" Moskin claims that the authors "retested the recipe and kept it."

But The NYTPicker has in its possession a first edition paperback copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook from 1982 (thanks, Gwen!), and we've checked the ratatouille recipe on page 167.

"Two tablespoons of minced garlic," the recipe says. No mention of 25 cloves.

Internet estimates vary, but it seems generally accepted that two cloves of garlic makes a teaspoon. That would mean twelve cloves of garlic, not 24. Even the most awakened taste buds don't want that experience.

Is there some reason that a NYT editor or writer would purposely leave out of an obit a central anecdote in a famous person's life? True, this one is controversial, but many people knew and remembered it. It's hard to believe that Moskin did so little research that she didn't know about it -- it's in Lukins's Wikipedia entry, for chrissakes!

As an aside, "Sheila Lukins, 66: Awakened Taste Buds" will not be winning a Publisher's Merit Award for best headline this month.


Gastropoda said...

Travesty would be an understatement.

Anonymous said...

A third NYTPicker! Howdy, Gwen.

Anonymous said...

Wah. It's clear that long ago, NYTPicker tried to squeeze 1200 words of ideas into 600 words of space but forgot the pain now that the web delivered infinite room for infinite picking. Maybe the garlic cloves is an error-- maybe-- but leaving things out is just part of the job. So cut the reporter/editor some slack. Most of the people who get an obit in the Times lead lives that could fill out an 400 page bio and some could even fill out 1200 pages+. Something has to give.

Gastropoda said...

Lede also contains an error: Unless you count the anniversary edition of the first book, there are only three Silver Palate cookbooks: the first, "Good Times" and "The New Basics." All other titles are Sheila's alone.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the article, but I wonder if the Times misspelled "feud" as "fued" like the nytpicker.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the "leaving things out" commenter usually but not in this case. Lukins became famous because of her relationship/collaboration with Rosso, so if they broke up, I want to know about it.

The Dog Report said...

No one knew about Sheila the cross country skier and lover of nature when she was on vacation in Aspen. As her guide and friend, she was generous and courageous as she attempted things so foreign to her.
She will always be remembered with love and admiration for her work and her play. She was a great woman and a good friend. I will miss her and regret I did not spend not enough time with her.- Jean Vives,
founder, Aspen Alpine Guides

Anonymous said...

i haven't got the cookbook in front of me, but i believe the recipe is for duck with 25 cloves of garlic. never tried it myself but it did sound divine. i stick with the silver palate's chicken marbella or chili receipes when it comes to large parties. the book was a godsend when i lived overseas.