Thursday, April 17, 2008

Recipegate - Just Plain Pilfering

You must forgive me for not commenting on this huge new story earlier, but it hasn’t been front page news in China…yet.

Recipegate, in some circles, is apparently THE big political story at the moment. So what if ABC held an issueless debate or the gap keeps closing in Pennsylvania, what I’m most concerned about are the reports that Cindy McCain tried to pawn off one of Giada’s recipes as her own.

In a closer examination of the facts (okay, it was 30 second perusal of some garbage-y and other websites) I have discovered that the McCain campaign is blaming an intern. In my political experience (I did run for and lose by 11 votes the presidency of my high school), things this egregious - claiming credit for a pasta dish from Everyday Italian and a cabbage salad - never happen without at least a wink from above.

I think I may know what’s happening here. I don’t think the senator’s wife wanted to be dragged into the division in this country between RR haters and RR boosters. It’s so much easier to call the recipe her own than to admit that she’s a follower of the perky infidel.

Political candidates these days have to walk a fine line between appealing to one group without alienating another. And is there a more compelling issue at the moment than the cons and pros of RR?

But this entire recipe issue is not just a problem in the McCain campaign, the presidential race or even in food journalism; it is a society wide problem with a reasonably easy solution. If you provide any intellectual matter that is not your own, say so!

If it’s a recipe, give credit to the originator. I often do that in the title of the recipe as in Madhur Jaffrey’s and My Zucchini Meatballs. Not only does that let me fantasize that she and I developed the recipe together, it is an accurate representation of how the recipe came about. I started with Madhur’s recipe as a guide and, basically, changed whatever I had the gall to think would make it better.

Eons ago, I worked my way up to the Food Editor job at the Johannesburg Star newspaper in South Africa. (The food editor was known as Angela Day and we were a team of food writers and home economists who wrote AS Angela Day. I started as the American Angela Day and moved up the ranks….) ANYWAY, the rule of thumb was if we changed 2 or 3 ingredients, we could call the recipe our own.

I’m even more careful these days, because I’m writing about professional cooks and chefs and I WANT to talk about their recipes and let you know whose food I’m cooking or whose recipes I’m ripping apart.

I am ambivalent about posts that print actual recipes from other sources, giving credit to them, of course, but nevertheless, posting an entire recipe that belongs to someone else. I know it is the most convenient method for the reader and blogging is 99.9% about the reader, BUT I still personally feel uncomfortable posting a recipe that is not my own, the author cited or not.

I have a policy on my blog of not printing anyone else’s recipes without express permission of the author. Unfortunately, I haven’t had sit-downs with Ina, Giada or even the Neelys and those permissions have not been forthcoming and so I provide links to the recipes. If I talk about a recipe that isn’t available online, I do invite readers to email me and I’ll email them the recipe in question.

The problem with the Cindy McCain recipe scandale is that it could have been so easily avoided. She could have talked about how much she loves the Food Network and these are the recipes she constantly uses.

It’s just not that complicated. Stealing is stealing, whether it’s a wallet, a term paper, another person’s theories as your own OR a brownie recipe.


Emiline said...

She should have known better. That's really, really obvious. The recipes are identical.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

It was kind of silly for them to do that. Why doesn't Cindy McCain just say, "I really don't enjoy cooking," or some such thing? If she doesn't have any steady family recipes, why not just say she likes a particular cookbook or cook?

Then again, I wouldn't admit to using a Rachael Ray recipe either. That would just be humiliation. ;-P Besides, Rachael Ray is a Democrat.

Anonymous said...

You're a great food blogger. Keep political jabs out of your posts.

Cynthia said...

I see that you are keeping tabs on the food news at home.

Paul said...

I agree with your posting 150%! Not only do folks steal written copyrighted material, but they also use other folks' copyrighted photography without permission. Bloggers everywhere are constantly posting images and articles without crediting the authors of the works.

Sue said...

Yes, Em, she should have.

Hi Shortie,
That's a good point about RR. And, of course, Ms.McCain could have said who her favorite recipes come from..

Hi Anon,

Hi babe! I can't help myself.

Hi Paul,
I just don't understand why people think that's ok...