Friday 1 August 2008

There is a great disturbance in the blogosphere

I'm a bit late jumping on this bandwagon, but this is outrageous. To summarise, a blogger called Melissa made a potato salad, inspired by a food site's potato salad. She modified it in a few ways, wrote it up her own way and gave them credit. Then she got a notice telling her to take it down because this mob don't give permission to reproduce recipes because theirs are tested and perfect.

How ridiculous. Is there a cook in the world who hasn't used almonds instead of hazelnuts because that was what was in the cupboard? Or used basil because their family doesn't like coriander? Or stuck the pot in the oven instead of stirring it on the stove? And then decided they preferred it that way. We all have. My cook books are littered with handwritten amendments "takes longer", "use half water half lemon juice", "good with beef as well". When my mother sends me recipes for things she usually tells me what the recipe says as well as what she did differently. That is how cooking works. You taste stuff, you change stuff and you share it.

The cooks I don't like are the mean-spirited ones. The ones who won't tell you a recipe, or who leave out an ingredient because they don't want you to get it right, or who tell you they followed x recipe without telling you that they used 3 different ingredients and a totally different method.

So leaving aside the patronising tone the PR person took with Melissa, or the legality of copyrighting potato salad, the approach they have taken is terribly miserly and entirely against the whole spirit of generosity and love that underpins cooking. Have they not read Like Water For Chocolate? I'd never even heard of these people before, but I am determined that they will not undermine the way I do things - eating the way I like to, taking inspiration from wherever I can find it and passing on everything I learn.


The P & A Food Chronicles said...

i agree a recepie... can and is most of the time chaged...and recepies can be similar sans being copies... thats just @$@#%@#

Bettina Douglas said...

Outrageous. I think using recipes without attribution is a form of plagiarism. But we all tweak recipes to taste or to fit with what is available. Would the potato salad gurus prefer that they were not given credit? I'm sure my potato salad is better anyway...

mscrankypants said...

I read her exchange with interest and I think she's correct in her understanding and application of copyright law. The passive-aggressive tone and lack of lawyerly logic from the company rep is appalling, let alone lacking a bit of common decency.

Who holds the copyright on cheesecake, unless it's from the Kraft kitchens and specifies Philadelphia brand? No one. Jelly, unless it's Nigella's slut-red named dessert? No one. Chocolate chip biscuits, unless it's the Mrs Field's recipe that's done the internet a gazillion times.

What's your recipe, The Cat's Mother?

Bettina Douglas said...

Swiss potato salad

750g - 1kg potatoes (washed, but unpeeled)
1/2 cup hot vegetable stock (using one of the powders or cubes)
Finely chopped onion, fresh herbs, oil and vinegar

Boil potatoes and peel while hot. Slice or cube and place in bowl with onion and pour over hot stock.
Add oil & vinegar and herbs. Stir gently. Allow to cool to room temperature & serve.

When I learnt this recipe at a school cooking class in 1969, onion = white onion, oil = sunflower oil and herbs = parsley and chives. (And potatoes were potatoes.)Now we can use all sorts of alternatives and I note that the Berner Kochbuch 1961 (26th edition)suggests "salad sauce according to choice with onion and herbs".

Its different from the creamy, egg and ham laden versions sold in cafes and delis today, but very tasty and Bill (who isn't keen on rich food) loves it.

Thank you for asking Nicole. Enjoy.

Alicia Foodycat said...

That is much more to my taste than the one - for example - that Robert makes with about a dozen boiled eggs in!

I remembered the intro to one of Delia Smith's recipes, that writing one book she'd got caesar salad as perfect as it could be, but then she got sick of eating them. Variety is the spice of life etc, so it is natural to mix it up a bit when you are cooking! And then it is only polite to say you have done it.

Bettina Douglas said...

Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer are always cross-referencing each others' work and both are very good at acknowledging & appreciating the people they have worked with.

My other food writing icon is Claudia Roden. And while telling how steeped in tradition Middle Eastern food is, she also comments that every cook mentioned individual variations.

BeadBag said...

I have to agree with Foodycat that variety in cooking is definitely the spice of life! I also make beaded jewellery and sell the patterns, (as well as cook!), and copyright is really almost impossible - but why should it be? You cant stop people from being creative. How daft!

mscrankypants said...

Thank you, The Cat's Mother, I'm looking forward to trying vegetable stock to accentuate the taste of the potatoes and herbs. I find a lot of creamy potato salads creamy but not much else.


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