My first newspaper job was writing a recipe column for a weekly paper. I used to make up the 100-word introductory flannel, talking about stews that dated back to Chaucer, the aphrodisiacal qualities of nettle soup, and dishes named after made-up minstrels.
For Newbury Pork Chops, I’d written: “This traditional country recipe dates back to a time when only the fattest and most succulent pork would be used. Newbury pigs were taken through the woods to sniff out truffles, and some chefs would add one or two to enrich the flavour...”
I had no idea whether there were even any truffles in Newbury. About the only thing I knew about the place was it had a racecourse. But it all went horribly wrong when I went travelling to South America. I’d written up the recipes beforehand, and each week my mother sent one in.
But I got held up in Colombia and ran out of recipes. My mother covered for me for a while, dutifully copying out recipes from cookbooks, until she did one for chocolate cake and the editor got calls from readers saying their cakes had come out “as flat as kipper’s piss”.
It turned out she had forgotten to put the eggs in.
But as mistakes go, it was a minor one compared with this one in a local newspaper in the US - which goes to show even the most tried-and-tested recipes should never be set in stone...
But then at least the howler wasn’t on the front page...