I’m not the only one. The annual Saveur Best Food Blog awards doesn’t even list “restaurant blogs” as a category.
I’ve written many times about how individual recipes can’t be copyrighted here in the US. But did you realize that you can defend a copyright if parts of your recipe contain “substantial literary expression?”
What exactly is that, and why should you bother?
“Substantial literary expression” establishes the information in a recipe as yours. That could be just as important as copyright, when it comes to theft.
Let me explain. US copyright law defines substantial literary expression as:
Recently I edited a cookbook manuscript for a publisher, where the author used “perfect for every occasion” in one too many headnotes.
I lost it. I struck out the phrase and then went back and struck it out every time it appeared. “Perfect for every occasion” screams 1950s housewife to me. And it doesn’t make sense.
1. Most of the time, readers don’t need ideas for “occasions.” They need food for meals.
Okay, they might need the occasional dish for a potluck, a baby shower, or a new neighbor. Those are specific events. A dish cannot be perfect for every occasion. I guarantee you that the author’s Asian sandwich with cheese (oh yes, I did
Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor and recipe editor at the Washington Post, is obsessed with good recipes. She tests and edits a slew of them every week for the paper’s Food Section, and wrote the Post’s first cookbook.
She also manages a crew of 30 testers, sometimes makes dishes at home for the photo shoots, and is not above running around town to find a prop or ingredient for a dish.
We met on e-mail, when she told me she was reading my book, Will Write for Food, while on vacation! More recently she interviewed me on cooking smarter, and after discussing my rant on not specifying the amount of salt in recipes, she wrote this feature article: ‘Salt to taste,’ taken with a grain of regret. Here are her thoughts on what makes a good recipe for the Washington Post, should you wish to pitch her:
Q. Where does the Washington Post get its recipes ?
A. It’s a mix. I choose some from new cookbooks, some come from
A guest post by Garrett McCord, co-author of Melt
One of the greatest fears of cookbook writers is that their readers — the people who have dedicated time, money, and ingredients –- will be unable to successfully execute the recipes. When Stephanie Stiavetti and I started working on Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, we resolved that recipes would be properly tested and that every single one would work flawlessly.
So how to go about this? Years ago I tested recipes for Jaden Hair’s first cookbook. Stephanie and I discussed the process and decided that the best way to test the book was with our blog readers. We put out a call on our
- Sammy, and
While editing a cookbook manuscript for a publisher, I decided the author must have been a Rachael Ray groupie. How else to explain her use of these three terms, not to mention “easy-peasy” and exclamation points in almost every recipe headnote? At least she didn’t add “Yum-O.”
You’re sick of writing “add” and “place” in recipes, aren’t you? (If not, you should be.)
Here’s help. Use powerful action verbs, the way that Julia Child did. I spent a pleasurable hour reading through Mastering the Art of French Cooking to