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Old 01-05-2015, 03:57 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larry_stewart View Post
Im sure we've had this conversation before.

If you start with a recipe ( that has been published in a cookbook, website...), and you:
-Change some of the ingredients ( add some/ take away some)
-Mess with the amounts ( doubling/ halving initial amounts)
-Change cooking methods and times

How much of this has to change before you can actually or I guess should say ' legally' claim it as 'your own' recipe ??

Not that Im planning on publishing any of my recipes, but sometimes I look back at what i started with, and the final result, and they are unrecognizable to each other. Maybe the original recipe looks like a distant cousin or just an inspiration to the final creation.

I would never want to take any credit away from anyone, but at some point, I would have to think that the recipe becomes your own, since most of what we do when we cook is based on past experiences ( whether it be something we've seen, read, tasted ...)

Just curious,

Larry
Many years ago I started with a recipe for a fruit cake from Delia Smith's Book of Cakes. I've now made it so many times with so many changes that it is no longer anything like the original so I call it my own recipe.

There are recipes like the English cake called a Victoria sponge which involved 2 ounces each of self-raising flour, sugar and butter to each egg (depending on how big you want the cake). There seems to be no copyright on the recipe as it appears in every book on cakes printed in English and I expect the name of its inventor is lost in the mists of time.

And then there is the British cookery "celebrity" who shamelessly copies other writers' recipes, word for word, without any acknowledgement at all.

I did read that in America the ingredients can't be copyrighted but the method is copyright. I don't know if this is correct but if it is it sounds a bit odd to me. Would make more sense if it was the other way round, I think.

I think you'd really need to take legal advice on this as a mistake could cost you more than you make on sales of the book.
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Old 01-05-2015, 04:07 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Interesting question!

A quick sidetrack recalling my days as a moderator. You cannot copyright a list of ingredients but you can copyright the instructions.

I realize that's not what you asked but it can provide a framework. I think we all fiddle a little with recipes, even if it's just to add more salt. I think you'd have to do more than that to own a recipe. For example, changing a significant ingredient or two and fiddling with the herbs and spices.

Changing the process is probably less common. If you're making a stew, how much can you change the instructions?

I guess if the chef that wrote the original recipe tastes yours and recognizes it, it's not your own yet.
"You cannot copyright a list of ingredients but you can copyright the instructions." I'd read that before and thought it a bit odd. The precise method for making a particular type of cake, for example, is surely in the public domain and has often been so for a century or more but all cooks play about with ingredients

I'm inclined to think that your last sentence is right.
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Old 01-05-2015, 04:11 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad Cook View Post
"You cannot copyright a list of ingredients but you can copyright the instructions." I'd read that before and thought it a bit odd. The precise method for making a particular type of cake, for example, is surely in the public domain and has often been so for a century or more but all cooks play about with ingredients

I'm inclined to think that your last sentence is right.

It may seem odd to you, but it is accurate. It doesn't have to make sense, it's the law.
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Old 01-05-2015, 04:32 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
It may seem odd to you, but it is accurate. It doesn't have to make sense, it's the law.
Well, yes!
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Old 01-05-2015, 06:13 PM   #25
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I think there are so many recipes that its almost impossible to come out with something absolutely new.. As far as calling something your own, if you make it the first time "by the book" and then figure it needs a little more of this less of that and add raisins, then its yours as far as I am concerned, you made it your own... That may not be legal to go copy someones book and call it your own because you put 10% more sugar in each recipe...

I use a recipe for pastry dough that is tough to make and a friend of mine showed me, you freeze everything, the mixer bowl, hook, use ice water with fine crushed slush, sift, dehydrate and freeze the flour, butter as cold as you can get it without freezing it..

And there are a few other steps, but the result is the most light flaky pastry crust you have ever seen in your life... Someone should copyright it... Anyway my buddy calls it his own..
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Old 01-13-2015, 02:52 PM   #26
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I’m not so much concerned about legal matters because I’m not in the business of selling anything related to food, but I have struggled with this question in the past, as it relates to whether or not I’m justified in telling my friends/family that the recipe is “mine” vs. something I found on a website or in a cookbook.

Lots of my most successful meals have started with reading recipes on the internet, reading the reviews of that recipe (if available), getting the “gist” of what is going on, and then just doing it my own way, by adding/deleting/substituting ingredients, using alternative cooking methods, etc. I mean, how exact are most print recipes anyway? I bet most of them—the good ones, anyway—come from talented/experienced cooks attempting to put down on paper their best approximation of the seat-of-the-pants approach they would use when making a given dish, and as such, I see no point whatsoever in getting out the measuring spoon when a recipe calls for half a teaspoon of cumin or a tablespoon of soy sauce (for example). Yes, I know there are examples where exact measurements matter; I’m simply saying that oftentimes they do not, and adhering to them may actually do more harm than good.

I remember eating at a trendy Thai restaurant in San Francisco a few months ago, and there was a quote written on the wall, attributed to Marcel Boulestin. It has stuck with me since:

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.”

I took a photo of it so I wouldn’t forget it. Words to live by, right there.

I catalog all of my recipes in Microsoft OneNote, and it’s revolutionized my kitchen “workflow” in all of its facets, from searching to organizing to shopping. Every recipe has its own “journal” tucked behind it with comments and photos documenting every instance of the recipe. By making notes like “This time, I did such-and-such and it ended up perfect” or “I followed the recipe on salt and thought it was too much”, etc., I eventually zero in on a favored approach that may only loosely resemble the original print recipe. In those cases, I go guilt-free in telling people the recipe is mine. :D
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Old 01-13-2015, 03:08 PM   #27
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I thought about this some more, including what I learned regarding copyright when I managed a large website, and I'm echoing Princess Fiona with a little more detail.

The legal matters aren't only for people who want to sell their recipes; they also protect places like this site. It's not uncommon for people to post others' recipes here word for word, which is illegal.

What's protected is people's original expression, whether it's a sculpture, a piece of music, or a recipe. A list of ingredients alone is not protected by copyright, but the way a person describes how to make the recipe is.

So the question should not be "how many ingredients do I have to change by how much?" but "is my description of the steps unique and original?"

Some people include instructional information in their recipes; some don't. Some have a certain "voice" when they write that others don't have. Some give more details about prep or options than others. All of these contribute to making a recipe your own. And copyrightable, whether you want to take that step or not.
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Old 01-13-2015, 03:30 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattdee1 View Post
...Lots of my most successful meals have started with reading recipes on the internet, reading the reviews of that recipe (if available), getting the “gist” of what is going on, and then just doing it my own way, by adding/deleting/substituting ingredients, using alternative cooking methods, etc.

There's nothing wrong with using an existing recipe as a starting point for your final creation.

I mean, how exact are most print recipes anyway? I bet most of them—the good ones, anyway—come from talented/experienced cooks attempting to put down on paper their best approximation of the seat-of-the-pants approach they would use when making a given dish, and as such, I see no point whatsoever in getting out the measuring spoon when a recipe calls for half a teaspoon of cumin or a tablespoon of soy sauce (for example)...

If it's a recipe from a reputable source, I would expect the recipe to have been tested with the listed measurements to ensure it comes out as expected. That's what I'd do. Every recipe I make public is a piece of my reputation and I would want to protect it.

I remember eating at a trendy Thai restaurant in San Francisco a few months ago, and there was a quote written on the wall, attributed to Marcel Boulestin. It has stuck with me since:

“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.”

I took a photo of it so I wouldn’t forget it. Words to live by, right there.

A lofty sentiment. However, if you create a great recipe it will be lost forever if you don't write it down with exact measurements for the rest of the world to enjoy.

I catalog all of my recipes in Microsoft OneNote, and it’s revolutionized my kitchen “workflow” in all of its facets, from searching to organizing to shopping. Every recipe has its own “journal” tucked behind it with comments and photos documenting every instance of the recipe. By making notes like “This time, I did such-and-such and it ended up perfect” or “I followed the recipe on salt and thought it was too much”, etc., I eventually zero in on a favored approach that may only loosely resemble the original print recipe. In those cases, I go guilt-free in telling people the recipe is mine. :D

When you want to make a recipe for the second, third or more time, do you follow the recipe?
Please see my comments inserted above.
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Old 01-13-2015, 03:30 PM   #29
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I belong to a jewelry-making and sculpting forum, the same issues come up. Folks steal and copy other peoples' ideas and teach workshops claiming the techniques as their own.
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Old 01-13-2015, 03:49 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by mattdee1 View Post
I mean, how exact are most print recipes anyway? I bet most of them—the good ones, anyway—come from talented/experienced cooks attempting to put down on paper their best approximation of the seat-of-the-pants approach they would use when making a given dish, and as such, I see no point whatsoever in getting out the measuring spoon when a recipe calls for half a teaspoon of cumin or a tablespoon of soy sauce (for example).
You would be shocked then by the amount of effort that goes into writing a cookbook. People who get a publishing contract have to perform.

I helped test recipes for a cookbook several years ago and the process was very meticulous. The author spent weeks testing each recipe before sending them to testers, along with a questionnaire that helped her decide which to keep and whether and what type of changes to make.

Experienced cooks might be able to increase, decrease and substitute easily, but there are a lot of beginners and people who cook occasionally and she wanted to appeal to cooks with a variety of experience.
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