Copying and Copyright in Food Blogging

I was browsing some pages about card-making the other day and it sparked some thoughts on food blogging.  I know, kinda random, right?  Someone had posted a card which they’d made, linking back to the almost identical card which they’d copied.  Now, normally this might have tweaked my plagiarism sensibilities but, in this case, it was ‘ok’ because they were following instructions given on how to make the card – the ‘recipe’ for it had been shared.

You can see where this is headed, right?

I’ve never posted recipes for things I’ve made on this site  and only mention where I’ve considerably changed something.  I link back to the original recipe and have always felt that was what I should do.  In looking at the card maker’s site I realised that I’ve brought certain biases from my background to my blog and let them run around without truly examining the nature of their effects.  It has always me vaguely uncomfortable to see someone repost a recipe and instructions – even in their own words and it’s only when I scrutinise this fact that I realise why I feel that way and, perhaps, why I shouldn’t feel that way.

When I was at University I studied history.  Plagiarism and its effects were usually a core part of most courses’ introductory lessons and plagiarism in even one essay would lead people to lose the ability to finish their degree.  It was harsh, in some ways, but right.  There was no reason not to include other opinions, thoughts and inspiration so long as they were properly credited – copying word for word, though, is plain and simple cheating.   History, in part, relies on making sure you know and include a wide range of opinions of others who’ve written about the same subject as you (historiography) and it is almost necessary to quote, in part, sections of another’s writing.  Claiming another’s original work on your own, though, is illegal and morally wrong.

Another side to my background is that I’m an artist.  I feel awkward saying even that much, because I’m only a dabbler, but I’ve always been part of the community.  Within the online art community plagiarism and copying is a major problem.  Both outright stealing images someone else has done to claim as their own but also copying an image – taking, say, a picture of a cat on a window and copying or tracing the composition but changing the colours and media used.  It’s this last bit which is probably most contentious as whilst people feel their hard work has been violated, the work is derivative and some others feel that most artists find it necessary to copy at some stage whilst learning to get better at certain techniques.  Even amongst that group, though, many don’t believe that ‘copies made for practice’ should be displayed as your own work – especially when you don’t make a reference to the original.

So, food blogging.

My slight squeamishness on posting recipe lists and re-doing instructions comes from my history and art background, where directly derivative / partially copied works are sometimes seen as a form of plagiarism – especially where not credited.   Now, most food bloggers I know credit the original source when re-posting a recipe and use their own words when it comes to describing ‘how to’ – so why do I still feel weirded out by it?  In part, I think, it’s the issue that, unlike other art forms, cooking does not have as strict laws concerning its propagation unlike art and history:

1. The literal text of a recipe is automatically protected by copyright, as are photographs.

2. One can protect the name of a dish, like a brand name, as long as it is not simply descriptive, like ravioli aperti.

3. One can protect (part of) a procedure to prepare foodstuffs, if original, by patenting it. This may be done by industries using special machines, etc.¹

The list of ingredients could be protected by copyright through the surrounding rights that is as a compilation or table. The list will have to conform with the requirements of originality, that is the author or copyright owner must show that she exerted “labour, skill and effort” and that the recipe is not merely: “automatic and only requires painstaking accuracy”. However, the originality criterion would be very difficult to surpass, this is particularly the case in the EU were arguably the standard of originality is much higher than that in the UK.²

So, you can protect your personal text and images but not ingredients lists unless you can really prove there’s a high degree of originality and even then, not likely.

This is where I start to see a big divide, though, between amateur cooks and restaurant chefs – especially those at the ‘forefront’ of food preparation and design.   For one chef to take a recipe from another and present it as their own, especially where there is a great amount of ingenuity and imagination in having created the dish is bad form but it does happen as mentioned in this article where a young chef took very original ideas from those he worked for and directly copied them, profiting from such behaviour in terms of awards and fame.  Not many people would condone that sort of behaviour, but how often do you see other food in restaurants credited to their creators?  Although some original artists will be lost to the sands of time, others are well known but the recipe and techniques associated therewith are considered common property.

There’s a difference, though, between amateurs and chefs or even between innovating chefs and less innovative chefs.  But, mainly, I’m concentrating on the former since that’s where I reside in terms of interest in the subject.  Amateur chefs often have no monetary incentive to keep a recipe to themselves.  There’s the odd person who won’t pass on their amazing apple pie recipe but, for the most part, people love sharing.   Amongst amateurs sharing seems to be seen as the norm – very few people are stingy with their recipes in the online era and, in fact, many people are positively profuse about sharing their recipes.  Innovation comes from the sharing and blending of ideas amongst the community – not from being forced to innovate through necessity to create one’s own version of certain flavours and looks.   The reason the community is so big and flourishing is, in part, because everyone can grab a recipe and do it themselves, then proliferate the recipe via links or word of mouth.

In the end it really comes down to a moral question:  is linking back to a recipe ‘enough’ credit to the person who originally made the recipe.  Often, if I find the right recipe, I don’t go down the link trail right back to the original progenitor.  By posting a recipe, even in my own words, with my own pictures and my own trials and tribulations alongside, would I be affecting how much traffic went to them or, so long as I’m linking back to them, is my link keeping their version higher ranked within the mysterious land of google search?   How different is it from page scraping sites which repost the text of an article?    Some would argue a lot, and certainly there’s more originality involved in writing it ‘in your own words’ but both have the same effect of taking site views away from the original source.

On the other hand – would I be doing a disservice to the ‘consumer’, the person looking for a recipe, by making them wade through six sites just to find the recipe they want?  Is honesty and linking back enough credit for re-doing a recipe?  After all, that person probably based their recipe on a technique or base they learned somewhere else – so where do you stop?  I am beginning to think that it’s not such an odd thing to post ingredient lists and rewritten recipes on your own blog – so long as they are properly and clearly credited – as it widens the range of a recipe, bolsters creativity and increases the shared lot of the ‘community’.  The other point that Andy brought up when I asked his thoughts on the subject was the fact that, unlike printed books, many blogs eventually go down – especially self-hosted ones.  By having the recipes on multiple sites you are preserving these recipes from disappearing entirely or becoming too obscure for casual searches to be able to find them.

Sources

¹ http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/letters/letter–how-to-protect-a-recipe-food-copyright-not-original-1360450.html

² http://www.lawdit.co.uk/reading_room/room/view_article.asp?name=../articles/20-APR-%282%29-recipes.htm

Further Sources / Reading

http://www.megnut.com/2006/10/keep-recipes-free.html

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/new-era-of-the-recipe-burglar

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Saturday Soup – Parsnip & Potato with Feta

This week I’ve ventured out into the big wide internet in search of interesting soup recipes rather than staying within my little BBC comfort zone.  Knowing I wanted to use up some leftover potatoes, I took that as a starting point and eventually came across the interesting ‘parsnip & potato with feta soup’ recipe over at taste.com.au.

I was first introduced to parsnip soup by an aunt of mine when we went to visit her – I’d never liked parsnips so I was a bit dubious about the notion of them as a soup but it was thick, creamy and delicious.  My palate has grown up a little since then and I relish parsnips alongside other things I hated when I was younger such as tomatoes, mushrooms, and chickpeas.

The only downside I’ve found to parsnip soup is that it can wear a little bit by the end of the bowl – getting a wee bit cloying because of the rich, thick parsnip flavour and texture.  The addition of the feta takes that away – it’s a nice, sharp, light note alongside the soft, sweet rooty veg.  The portions with this recipe are good too – the recipe is for four and each of those would get a generous portion and it’s easy enough to make with the ‘toppings’ being the only fiddly bit.

I decided to have a small second bowl with dinner – adding some beetroot salsa to the bottom of the bowl instead of the feta on top and it tasted quite nice – having the same cutting effect as the feta had though in a less sour way.  Both the beetroot and the mustard contributed to this flavour explosion and I’m tempted to actually try some sort of parsnip-beetroot or parsnip-mustard concoction.

My aim, next week, is to try to pick a very different soup!  Almost all of the ones I’ve done so far have been creamy or potato-ey.  Perhaps it’s time for a go at the classic french onion soup, or a thai noodle soup?   With the millions of recipes out there, I’m sure I can find something along that vein ;)

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Oh Dear…

It’s been more than a week since my last post and, whilst I refuse to be apologetic about writing at my own pace I do wish I could keep to schedules I make for myself.  However, it’s been a very pleasant and busy week which has kept me away from writing  so I can’t really complain too much or berate myself too harshly.

Wedding

Last Saturday was Scott & Kirsty’s wedding.  It was a beautiful day and everything was perfect – from the picturesque Roman Camp Hotel and it’s surroundings to the touching Humanist ceremony; the wonderful meal to the swingin’ ceilidh.  It was really nice to meet Kirsty’s family and those from auntie Beth’s side whom I’d last met when I was quite young.  The photos I’m restricting to facebook, though – too many people in them whom I don’t wish to expose to the open mercies of the internet via my little spot.  Suffice to say that everyone had a great time and that Andy and I both wish the couple a great deal of happiness in their continuing adventure through life together.  Much love to you both, and thank you for letting us be a part of your big day!

Saturday Soup

So as not to back things up for next week, I’m going to throw my Saturday Soup from last week onto the blog today.  I went for a sweet potato and chilli soup recipe from my usual haunt at BBC GoodFood.

Unfortunately, in the rush of Friday and Saturday, I forgot to take a picture when I first made it and hence had to make do with hastily microwave heated versions.  Unfortunately this is not quite as striking  as I’d have liked ;)  So be it, however, as I’m determined to keep up with and record my souply trials – even those which go slightly awry.

The cheese here is not the Gruyère suggested by the recipe, but Emmental. I was surprised that it actually went rather nicely with the flavour of the sweet potato – I’d never considered them bedfellows and especially would not have thought to put them together in soup – any cheese, that is, not just Emmental.  The soup was tasty and the little kick of chilli with sweet potato always brings out the flavour of it wonderfully but it suffered a little from being overly thick – almost like a watery ‘mash’ than a dense soup. It certainly gave my little plastic hand-blender a run for it’s money trying to whiz it into a smooth(er) soup.

I don’t know how often I’d make this but, given my propensity for having ‘spare’ sweet potatoes it might happen more often than I’d like.  Perhaps I need to try to find another sweet potato recipe!

Also, because it’s been a while since I assailed the blog with kitty pictures here’s one of Sam being uncharacteristicly playful :)

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Saturday Soup – Shallot Soup with Watercress Purée

This soup was plagued with difficulties in the making, which I admit may have somewhat biased me a little against it.  A litany of niggles turned ‘trying out a new soup’ into a severe annoyance – used up the cream I needed for something else, 1/3 of the shallots I bought turned out to be rotten, conflicting recipe instructions and so forth.  I also hate peeling and cutting shallots, even large ones: it just takes forever.

The watercress purée seemed a little superfluous – it had an almost identical flavour to the soup, albeit a litter stronger and with a green note, but there didn’t seem much reason to have it as a topper – you might as well have just added it into the soup… which I think I may do with the leftovers.

All that said, the soup did turn out rather tasty.  It was relatively mild, with mainly a stocky-garlicky taste to it, and very filling for a thin soup.  Making it again, I think I’d just go for onions and cut down a bit on the stock as well as, possibly, adding the watercress directly to the soup just before blending.

A beautiful soup, tasty, but not worth the frustration in making it this time around.  I might try it again another time ;)

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Saturday Soup – Judy’s White Bean Soup with Chilli Oil

You’re beginning to see a pattern as to where I get my soup ideas, right?  Of course, this week’s one is another BBC GoodFood one – it’ll take a while to plumb the depths of their soup selection even with a few ‘repeat’ recipes.  Still, if anyone wants to throw a suggestion from another site my way I’d totally appreciate it!

This recipe uses butterbeans.  Dried butterbeans: which you soak overnight and then must peel before using in the soup.  To say this is a tedious task is not even the half of it.  However, I looked to the other commenters, who said that it was worth it and, dubious, watched tv whilst popping beans out of their flimsy shells.  All said, it took me nearly an hour – though I wasn’t going at any great speed, if I’m honest.  Still, it was an impressive pile of discards at the end:

At least I have a compost heap to throw them on, too.  Maybe next year I can grow some of my own from that self-same compost =)

The soup itself is thick, tasty, and not over-seasoned.  If you’re used to salt-and-peppering most soups vigorously I’d strongly suggest holding off on this one – it’s got a superb subtle flavour, especially with the chilli oil, which would, I think, be overwhelmed by too much seasoning – especially salt.  It was, as the commenters on the recipe had said, totally worth the effort to make.  A beautiful soup and none too skimpy a portion.  I’m not sure how often I’d make the effort, but it’s certainly a soup I’d make again.  It’s an impressive soup, in looks as well as taste, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to serve up to guests.

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Green Pea & Pesto Soup with Fish Finger Croutons

Peas.  I’ve not been that lucky with my peas this year in the garden, so I couldn’t pull off a pea soup from my own stocks, but I was determined to try this soup (courtesy of my usual go-to site for recipes, BBC GoodFood) anyway.  The topping of fish finger croutons is simply a wonderful extravagance that turns a lunch into dinner.

Unfortunately, this weekend Andy is away to London and has taken our camera with him.  I dragged out my old Kodak EasyShare which was a pretty decent camera for me, back in the days; simple and easy to use…. but slow.  I’m so used to my shiny little Casio Exilim which is pretty speedy, much smaller and less bulky, lighter and has a wider range of features (like decent shake correction for my wobbly hands).  Neither are super-amazing cameras compared to the big shiny DSLR’s that everyone and their auntie has these days, but they’ve both served me well over the years.

Anyway, the upshot of using my old camera was that something weird went on and I didn’t get pictures of the first bowl of soup so I had to have a second – which is why my Saturday Soup post is on a Sunday this week.  As much as I liked the soup, it was way too filling for seconds just to take more pictures!

The one thing I really loved about this soup was being introduced to the idea of part-blending.  I like chunky soups, but I also like ‘thick’, blended soups.  By blending two-thirds of the ingredients and keeping one third aside to add back later, I can have chunky pieces in a blended soup.  Souperb! (ba-dum tsh)

Pesto goes surprisingly well with peas, and gave the soup the necessary oomph.  I added, as the recipe suggested, a bit of fresh (well, frozen) parmesan to increase the flavour of the jarred pesto and was also pretty generous with the black pepper which I felt was needed to bring out some of the flavour of the soup.

This soup is really easy to make, and I think I could happily add it to my repertoire – it’s cheap, filling, makes a decent amount because you don’t need a tonne of it to fill you up, and it’s got a nice flavour which I think would do well in summer or winter.  Potatoes and frozen peas are something I always have around and there’s usually a jar of pesto in the cupboard or fridge – the fish fingers are nice, but totally not a necessity.  If I was making it for an actual dinner, I might serve a small bowl of soup beside a breaded fish fillet and some bread rather than fish fingers, or even do home-made fish fingers but either way it’s a damn nice dish.

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Super Saturday Soups

I love soup – I have it about 2-3 times a week for lunch or sometimes a light dinner.  Until about a year or so ago, most soups I’d tried to make turned into a thick, often grey, gloop – edible enough, so long as you don’t actually look at it… Since those experimental days of University, I’ve learned to make a passable lentil soup based on a recipe from my mum – it’s very much a vague recipe, with nothing measured out – but makes a super-tasty soup every time.  Lentil gets boring though – especially when you can only make it in 8-10 person quantities!

I’ve especially become fond of the carton-soups Tesco makes as they do a wide range, they’re fresh, and some are seasonal.  Given the price of them, and the waste of packaging, as well as the urge to improve my kitchen skills, it seemed like learning to make more of my own soups would be totally worthwhile.  So, I’ve decided to set myself a mini challenge of sorts: a weekly soup!

The one recipe which really set me on this particular trail was parsley soup, from a site by the same name.  I had been looking for something to do with the rather large, and growing, pile of parsley from the garden which was taking up space in the freezer and this recipe fit the bill.  It was rather unusual to me as I’d never have thought of making a soup based on parsley!  It was surprisingly tasty, savoury but still light – a very nice summer soup.

The picture at the top of the post is of the soup I made yesterday: Sweetcorn and chilli soup from my usual recipe source – BBC GoodFood.  It was really light and creamy and tasty. The combination of green chilli and coriander was one which worked well with the sweetcorn and I was surprised by how much one small green chilli came through in the flavour – especially because ‘tesco green chillies’ are not exactly super-flavoursome chillies compared to home-grown or named variety chillies.  The recipe also uses a huge amount of coriander – I was beginning to wonder, whilst crushing seeds, chopping stems and leaf, if this wasn’t some sort of ruse to make a sneaky coriander soup by another name.  However, despite using cheap frozen sweetcorn (because I forgot to get actual corn when I was at the shops, d’oh!) the flavour of the corn really did come through – I can only imagine how it would have tasted with fresh kernels in it.  It was an amazingly tasty soup!

I did have a few gripes with the recipe, though: mostly the portions.  It’s a recipe which is supposed to feed four but I found that once it was blended (zhszed, as I call it) and strained to create the smooth soup the recipe intended there really was barely enough for two people.  Add to that the fact that there was so much ‘waste’  from straining and I’m not sure I could really bring myself to make it again.  Perhaps fresher kernels, with softer skins, would have left less waste – but given I re-blenderised it after straining the first time, I’m not sure how much that would change the proportions of ‘leftovers’.

So, super-tasty but wasteful.  It’s a shame, as I love sweetcorn and, despite the fact Andy doesn’t, he liked this soup!  I think I need to figure out how to minimise the waste and up the quantities.

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Daring Cooks – Peirogi

Yet again, cutting it fine on actually posting, despite making this month’s challenge in plenty of time!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Pierogi are something I’d only tried once before I got my hands on these recipes.  Andy had insisted we should give them a go as he’d wanted to try them for awhile but  the supermarket ones we got were very bland to my taste and rubbery to boot.  Home made ones, though, are a totally different kettle of fish!

Since we were challenged to try local food variants for our pierogi, I went with haggis. I figured it would work well, with some added mash. Since fresh is a little expensive as a ‘filling’, I ended up using one of my comfort food easy-meal items:

Because I’d used haggis, I made a couple of my pierogi haggis-shaped, the rest ‘normal’ and folded up:

I noticed some people using wholemeal flour for theirs, and figured that would work for haggis filled ones (I went for 2/3 plain, to 1/3 wholemeal), and also added some ground black pepper to the dough. Served on a bed of lightly fried cabbage and onions, drizzled with garlic-chilli sauce and marigold petals from the garden.

The recipes and instructions for making your own are here.

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Swirly Rolls

Outside of the Daring Kitchen challenges, I’ve not done anything much ‘new’ to me. I’ve done plenty of cooking –  Andy’s parents, sister and her partner as well as his cousin have been over here for dinner in relatively quick succession – but when relatives come by, I like to try to cook something I’ve done before so that I know it’s not going to be too dreadful.  However, the two things I have tried this month have been thematically similar – whirly breads!  One was a sweet cakey, chelsea bun-esque recipe, the other a super-savoury batched whirly roll, the dough for which I adore and will definitely be using again.

Sweet Bread Whirls

The first, sweet, recipe was based on this one here from, of course, BBC GoodFood. I didn’t have apricots, so I decided to go for something a bit different and used some mixed fruit with chocolate chips.  When I was making them I forgot to put the yeast in and only realised after I’d already kneaded the dough for a few minutes.  The subsequent addition and re-kneading contributed to them being a little over-dense, I think. Other than that, though, they were ok and whilst Andy preferred the fruit sections whilst I liked the moistness of the chocolaty bits!   I really think I’ve found a niche I like here – bready recipes which can be converted into tasty sweets or, like the other thing I’d made this week, savoury yumminess.

Super-Savoury Bread Whirls

Again, this was a recipe I had to modify and, again, the original came from BBC GoodFood.  It was an Olive Swirl bread recipe, but I only had half the number of olives needed and, besides, I don’t really like olives all that much.  Remembering a recipe I’d found (and subsequently lost) a while ago, I decided to throw some cheese into the mix (since it needed to be used up) as well as some pesto for extra flavour.

These were possibly the most savoury thing I’ve ever made and delicious so long as you eat them carefully – otherwise the insides are prone to dropping all over the floor.  And no,  I didn’t learn after the first one… or the second… Ahem.

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Daring Bakers – Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

I had this month’s daring challenge prepared way early in the month, but I’m playing catch-up with the post.  My blogging has been sporadic lately, but at least the Daring Kitchen gives me some deadlines I have to meet and thus keeps things turning over.  I’ll hopefully  get working on the backlog of photos, cat news, food and garden stuff I haven’t managed to get down here once my cold is away ;)

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

This definitely wasn’t the prettiest thing I ever made, not touching the other beautiful entries for this month, and the photographs were hurried as they were taken when it was served – after a dinner with Andy’s parents, his sister and her partner.  I’d wanted to do the dessert when they were over as otherwise it’d have taken Andy and I weeks to eat it all up – we still ended up taking extra over to M&M’s the next day with some extras stuffed in the freezer!

As you can see, it’s not quite like the recipe / guidelines.  I’m not a huge fan of chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate, so I wanted something lighter.  I decided, eventually on a ‘trifle’ theme for it – custard ice cream, mixed summer fruit sauce, vanilla ice cream, and plain swiss roll with brandy-cream filling. Whilst I can’t say it was even an unreserved success taste wise, I certainly learned a lot from making it.

I had never made my own sponge cake before and, though the first one was a failure, the second one turned out perfectly – despite being gluten free (Andy’s father is coeliac) and I learned how to make ice cream!  As if I needed yet another way to put on weight ;)  The custard ice cream was interesting, if a little odd.  I think both ice-creams suffered from being under-beaten (I was a bit rushed, trying to get everything ready at the same time) and our over-zealously cold freezer.

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