So, an interesting story via Peter of Kalofagas, regarding a run-in that another blogger, Melissa of Alosha’s Kitchen, had with the folks at Cook’s Illustrated (Cook’s Country / America’s Test Kitchen).
She found a potato salad recipe of theirs, adapted it to her liking, and posted the results, with credit for inspiration given to their recipe and ended up in a email exchange with a representative of their publicity company after being asked to take her recipe down.
Oh really, you say?
Cook’s appears to be operating on a few bizarre assumptions here….
Every recipe published under their regime has reached perfection, and any further modification is both blasphemous and unnecessary. If you change or adapt the recipe in any way, you know, to tinker with the perfection they’ve achieved, and decide to write about it, you’ve broken the law.
Did their publicist really think she’d be able to write such condescending messages with claims like that without having them put up for everyone to see?
So…where did they get their recipe from? Did they invent Potato Salad? Was it handed to them from the Heavens, carved word for word into a tablet of stone?
As Melissa and all of her commenters have noted, not only is it ridiculous to consider a recipe sealed forever in a state of perfection, but to actually try to prevent someone from modifying and discussing it?
That’s why I’m here and that’s why you’re here. That’s why we love to cook. Taking an existing recipe as inspiration, as a starting place, and seeing where we can take it is exciting. Having it turn out well is wonderful. Sharing it with others is redeeming.
If we had to come home everyday and make a recipe word for word from a book, like an assembly line robot automaton, cranking out identical widgets ad infinitum, what would be the point? And if we can’t share our excitement and ideas with others?
(Do the writers at Cook’s read food blogs for inspiration and ideas?)
We owe a debt to the first ugly-looking caveman who had the grand idea to toss the bird he just caught into his fire. Imagine his excitement, charred feathers and all. Every roast chicken since then is just a derivative of his recipe, scratched onto a cave wall somewhere.
Stepping off the soapbox and silly-angry ledge I seem to have worked myself onto, I think it comes down to this – if she had published their recipe verbatim (with or without credit), that’s one thing, and they’ve got a right to be pissed. But publishing a potato salad recipe that’s been heavily adapted (with love) and giving a “thank you” for inspiration? Their reaction to that? As Peter eloquently put it: Bullshit.
So here, in honor of this mess, is a recipe, Not Inspired By Cook’s Illustrated Hummus, named so because it seems like Melissa might have been better off in the end by just publishing her recipe without doing Cook’s the favor of any sort of mention. It certainly wouldn’t have been illegal, at least from my understanding.
So this recipe, is, uh, all mine.
I will thank the writer of the Cook’s recipe for the earth-shattering revelation that the food processor will make the hummus smooth. No credit was given, so I assume that idea was all theirs.
(Not Inspired By Cook’s Illustrated) Hummus With Fresh Herbs
The cashews are optional and certainly not traditional, but I like the added texture and the nuttiness. They do make it less creamy though. They also tame some of the bitterness in the tahini. Fresh herbs make just about everything better, so feel free to go crazy with them.
1 can (14 oz) chickpeas
2 lemons, juice and zest
4 TB tahini
1/3 C water
1 clove garlic
Fresh herbs (I used parsley, mint and oregano in this one)
Handful of cashews
Big pinch of salt
Put everything but the cashews and the oil in the food processor and pulse until almost smooth. Turn the machine on, and drizzle the oil in (like you’re making pesto or mayo) until it’s really smooth and silky. Keep the machine going after you’ve got enough the oil to get it as smooth as you want. Add the cashews and let it go for a little longer. Add more salt if it’s necessary – if it’s too bitter from the tahini, I think a little more salt/lemon will help.