After about a year of blogging, one learns much about this creative endeavour.
To me, a food blogger writes; writes about food; and shares recipes (some they may create, and recipes of others are shared ethically with attribution).
So far, my site / blog has shared mostly recipes from other sources – and I always aim to identity and acknowledge the source.
If you have inherited a box of typed or hand-written recipes on 3x5 cards, the source is unclear. Did your mother or grandmother invent the recipe or transcribe it from some other place? If they are called “Ann’s Cookies” – who was Ann? Where did she get the recipe from? If I get a recipe from a friend and they do not know or remember the source, I still tend to do a bit of research.
Just a few examples:
- How do I credit a recipe I got from a nutrition demo when I have no one to contact? Oddly I found a source from over twenty years ago. Who knows where the person doing the demo got the recipe from – she may not have even known of the original source.
- I have shared a cupcake recipe made countless times in my kitchen and I know it was from Canadian Living 35 years ago! Google the recipe title and that exact recipe comes up over 1 million times – seldom being attributed to Canadian Living – many say they don’t recall the source.
- I share a favourite recipe from Edna Staebler from 1979. I have found her exact recipe countless times online – in one case a 2006 website claimed copyright!
Here’s what I aim to do:
- Name the recipe source and provide some sort of link – to the recipe if it is already on the internet; to the author / publisher if they have a website.
- Often the recipes I share from hard copy sources are already on the internet, perhaps on a large corporate site – e.g. a magazine or newspaper, Food 52, @thekitchn etc. - in other words, though still owned by the author, the recipe is already in the public domain, and presumably the author has consented to this.
- When the recipe seems to exist only in a hard copy publication, I hope my sharing encourages readers to learn more about one of my favourite cookbook authors, and buy the publication.
- In some cases, when it seems possible, I contact the author / source for permission to share the recipe.
- For whatever it's worth, my sources and inspiration are varied. I have no intention of sharing every single recipe from a single cookbook or source, or copying their writing, photographic or design style - thought it has been said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" [wink].
- Lastly, all food bloggers acknowledge that basic recipes for such things as a basic salad dressing, or a sugar cookie belong to the great cooking collective and are not “owned”. I still list my own source.
Through reading and conference presentations, I have learned that recipe “ownership” - and therefore “copyright” - can be problematic. As far as I understand it at the moment, a list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted, but the prose of the instructions can be and is.
One cannot claim a recipe as one’s own unless there have been three major modifications to the ingredients list. So far, I have had had no interest in claiming recipe ownership – I have no plans to be a cookbook author. Sometimes, in search of a food memory I create a mash-up recipe, combining several sources – but I always link to each of the sources that provided guidance and inspiration.
In the early months of blogging, and without any advice, I had thought it best to name the source, and share the recipe precisely, ver batim – ingredients and method – as in the original. I then listed all the changes I made under Notes and Tips. Recently, as my understanding of attribution has developed, I have begun to use my own words in the instructions – resulting in shorter Notes and Tips. I now have the intention and project of checking all older posts to make this modification.
I have appreciated the thoughtful and supportive words of David Lebovitz on the topic of attribution.
“You’re never wrong to give attribution, and to me, finding inspiration from someone else invariably makes excellent headnote material.” He goes on to say “Food writer Laurie Colwin once said that if it wasn’t for people sharing recipes, mankind would not have survived. Hence the long-standing tradition of sharing recipes. It’s something that makes food blogs special. But it’s always a good idea, ethically and legally, to cite your source of inspiration.” [Source]
I invite you to contact me if you have a concern about attributions on this blog / site. Email me at kitchenblissca [at] outlook.com