Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Stealing" Recipes

Will Write For Food interviews Amanda Hesser on the concept of attributing/adapting recipes. The title of her blog post is a little overstated, since Hesser the reference to stealing is fairly mild. The two key questions:
Q. This blog has had heated discussions about what constitutes recipe writing and adapting. What is your definition of an adapted recipe?

A. There are two definitions.

At the New York Times, any recipe that comes from another source will always say “adapted from” because it goes through the copy-editing department, and there are little tiny changes that have to do with the stylebook. It means it’s not a word-for-word replica.

The other definition is when it’s someone’s own recipe has been inspired by another’s, for instance, if someone has cooked Alice Water’s Braised Leeks enough times that they’ve personalized it. A lot of people read recipes for inspiration, looking for a flavor combination to play around with. Then they go in the kitchen and do their own thing. But it’s important that they credit the source from which they adapted their recipe.


Q. What about the idea that if you change three ingredients, it’s now your recipe?

A. You can do that, but is that really what you want to call a creative endeavor? Is that what you want to put your name on, as a creative author?

Over the long term, bloggers or anyone who does that kind of thing is not going to gain a lasting following. Personal voice, experience, and conviction are what come through. If you’re just tweaking to legally call something your own, that lack of genuineness will surface.
This is the main reason you won't find many recipes on this blog. I am not a skilled enough cook to really write recipes that I could reasonably call my own. I can execute them, talk about my experiences doing so, and take (hopefully) pretty pictures of the results. So I post a link to an online version if I can find it, or otherwise make sure it's clear where it's coming from. I guess that means I'll never get a cookbook deal, but I at least hope it has some utility and I don't think anyone could reasonably call me a recipe thief.

She also makes some other points about writing with a clear voice that I probably could stand to work on.

I feel like I've been posting too much meta food blogging stuff lately... I really need to get back into the kitchen.