If you haven't read about Melissa's Cook's Illustrated problem click here.
It's been twenty four hours and I am still pissed off. I don't do well with two things... arrogance and picking on the little guy and when you mix those two together, it's not pretty.
If you're tempted to make linguine with clams according to the kitchen's preparation, you should understand that the only ingredient that's measured is the pasta. (A serving is four ounces.) Everything else is what you pick up with your fingertips, and it's either a small pinch or a large pinch or something in between: not helpful, but that, alas, is the way quantities are determined in a restaurant. (When a cookbook is prepared, a tester comes to the kitchen, picks up all the ingredients needed to make a dish, and takes them away to translate them into quantities that people at home might recognize. In the foodie publishing world, these testers- who have very white kitchens with carefully calibrated ovens and computerized weighing devices- are despots of the written recipe. But I've never been persuaded by the reliability of the translation. Bill Buford, Heat
While this is talking about cooking in Batali's Babbo restaurant. I think this paragraph sums a few thing up for me.
Here's what made me so upset about CIs response to Melissa recipe. In bullet points 'cause I'm pissed off.
1.) Most chefs, cooks or the mom and dad slaving away at the stove are not measuring when cooking dinner. Baking a cake, yes, you are measuring but cooking... not so much measuring. If you are measuring ingredients for dinner either a.) it's your first time making a dish or b.) you are very inexperienced in the kitchen, and that's okay. I think most chefs would tell you cooking is an improvisational art. Once you can make that switch from measuring to doing, you have truly became a cook.
After your first time making a meal, I am assuming you start switching out ingredients, adjusting cooking times to make it YOUR OWN. Melissa switched out 4 ingredients of potato salad and to me that makes it her own, not CI's. If CI is going to be upset that she modified their recipe they better get a whole gaggle of lawyers and start suing everybody. From the caveman who started barbecuing to all of us. They are going to sue your grandmother who has a family recipe that's been handed down for generations just because it has the same list of ingredients and cooking instructions as July 1988 edition. Do you think I am joking? Because I'm not.
2.) I want to know how you can copyright ingredients and methods? If this were the case, Bourdain would sue Ripert (maybe just a cage match, because I have a dirty mind that way) Joy of Cooking would sue Alice Waters because all their recipes call for peel the potato or turn the oven to 350 degrees. This argument doesn't work for me. A kitchen is a place with many variables. Heat, humidity, cookware, even my measuring cups are different than anybody elses.
For example: Give Melissa and I the same recipe to cook and the dish will probably in all likelihood taste different than hers. Not much but you would be able to tell. Why? All sorts of reasons. She cooks with gas and I have a lousy electric stove. I have heavy duty restaurant cookware that retains heat, she doesn't. I threw in a splash of wine and she added parsley. I could go on and on. The same recipe does not equal the same dish. Never has, never will.
For example: Katie makes chocolate chip cookies for the family all the time. Guess where she gets the recipe from... the back of the Toll House bag. She modifies the recipe by adding one fricking ingredient, almond extract and it dramatically changes the flavor of the cookie. Is it a Toll House recipe anymore or is it Katie's?
3.) My problem is that everyone and their great-grandma's uncle second cousin's dog Duke (Bush's baked beans, and he's trying to give away that recipe!) has a recipe for potato salad. My ex's mother gave me a potato salad recipe, 17 years ago, that's pretty damn close to this one. Adding pickle juice to potato salad is not a new idea. I have at least 20 potato salad recipes because I'm a potato-ho that way. All of them are similar, can I post them? Should I post them? If I made pretty clear modifications to the recipe, who does the recipe belong to now? Is it my own recipe, or is it theirs? Should I write inspired by or when I serve dinner should I announce to my family this meal is trademarked by so and so. When does it become my dish and not the creators of the recipe?
4.) No one recipe is perfect... see reason #2.
5.) Permissions, Credits, and Linking.
phillygirl64 (i'd link you but I can't find anything to link you to.) left an interesting comment on my blog as I was typing this post that I think needs to addressed because I do understand where she is coming from.
A few posts down you say you felt you had to ask permission first from another blogger to print a couple of recipes, but then you criticize CI for requiring permission to print theirs? Or let's say you write a major report...you do all the research, write and revise a number of drafts, then finally type it all out...then someone else comes along, copies it, changes a few things, and calls it their own...how would you feel?
I feel like I have to ask for permission even for a dish that was only inspired by a blog because that is who I am. I don't want the guilt or my reputation to go down the toilet. I want to be a stand up gal. Melissa is the same way. Melissa asked permission* and told them she made modifications to their recipe. (and as most food bloggers do, she would have linked back to them) What pissed me off was the arrogance of the emails. Their recipes are perfect and have been tested over a hundred times (i.e. because they work.) Again see reason 2. Or better yet this comes off sounding like the Soup Nazi. 'No potato salad for you!' or a harpy shrieking about 'how dare you change my recipe!' Sorry CI folks, recipes are changed all the time. I'm smart enough to know if you cook my recipes either...
a.) you are going to change them to suite you and your families taste
b.) it might turn out like shit.
I'm putting myself out there so I'm willing to take that risk. If it does taste like shit, let me know so I can figure out where the recipe went wrong. Hell, knowing me I would probably also take your suggestions and incorporate them into my recipe with permission and links, of course. Also, I think that the food bloggers work on some sort of trust and honor system. I am hoping that you will either e-mail me to ask for permission to post my recipe or at the very least link back to my blog. A bloggers way of bibliography or footnote.
....and yes, I would be pissed about a report phillygirl... talk to Artie who went to UCLA off of all my school work but cooking is a little different. I think we could agree that it like comparing apples to oranges. A potato salad is so common and every recipe is so different but the same, it would be like trying to re-invent the wheel. If you come up with a new cooking style and recipe to go with it, then patent, copyright, do what ever you need do but potato salad, come on. I mean food bloggers rarely put Thomas Keller's recipes on their blogs because they know that his recipes are unique. Oysters and Pearls, anybody? You won't find them anywhere else and that's the difference.
I think everyone is so up in arms because we love food and it threatens our community. (ugh, my bullshit meter went off, but I have no other way of putting that.) We try to run on an honor system and when we try to abide by it and The Man says "Oh no. Can't do that." It upsets our little world. The laws aren't clear and we try our best to work within what we think is right.
Melissa, I'm so proud of you for taking a stand and sticking it to that little prick with the bow tie. I got your back and I'm sure most of the food blogging world does too.
'Cook's Illustrated Go Fuck Off!'
* my misunderstanding... she did not ask for permission but did give credit. duly noted and corrected. sorry.