Plagiarism or Paean: Stealing Recipes.

So whose recipe is it? At what point may I claim a recipe as my own? I have read thousands of recipes, made many, and modified some beyond recognition. When does Marcella Hazan’s OssoBucco become mine? Or Tyler Florence’s onion toast? When I change ¼ cup chopped parsley to ½ cup? Obviously not. But all cooks base their cooking on something they have seen, or read or eaten. When does modification merge into creation? I have created dishes that I think are original, but I am sure that I can find something similar in pretty famous cookbooks! Am I a plagiarist?

No, I am not. But with age-old techniques and classic preparations there is always going to be some similarity. The trick is knowing when your changes have made a new dish rather than a rehash of an old one. That’s one of the reasons why so many cookbooks read the same. But no one is accusing Jacques Pepin of copying Raymond Oliver’s stuff! And I will happily read both of them to see whose recipe for beef stew I like better. And if neither appeals to me, maybe I’ll blend the two, and throw in a dash of Craig Claiborne! And then it will be mine…I think.

2 Replies to “Plagiarism or Paean: Stealing Recipes.”

  1. Once you modify a recipe, it becomes yours. Many great chefs write cookbooks where they modify traditional recipes and interpret them to suit their own style of cooking.

  2. Yes, I agree, but the question is, how much modification is necessary before the recipe becomes one’s own? May I take one of Escoffier’s intricate recipes, substitute one cup of chicken broth for one cup of vegetable broth and call it my own?

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