Sunday, 5 July 2009

Love me tender: hugging salt-and-pepper set; and recipe thievery

I was enchanted by the clever design of this ceramic salt-and-pepper set when I saw it in a hotel gift shop in the Drakensberg yesterday, and I bought it (a snip at only R55). Separately, the shakers look like bewildered little ghosts, but they fit together in a most tender embrace.

The owner of the gift shop told me it was made by a local potter from the nearby village of Clarens - she didn't give me the potter's name - and I came away feeling encouraged by the high standard of South African design. I was a bit miffed, then, to discover (while Googling for the name of the set's creator) that this design isn't original, and is a rip-off of Alberto Mantilla's 'Hug' salt and pepper shakers.

Is 'a rip-off' too strong a term? Perhaps, because it implies intellectual thievery on the part of the maker of my set. Would the words 'inspired by' or 'adapted from' be more suitable? After all, the two designs are not exactly the same; in fact, I think that my set, with its rough, clinking surface and neutral colour, is the better looking. Whoever made this set improved upon an existing design, and I am very happy to have these little darlings on my table.

I'm not going to go into the ins and outs and ethics of ripper-offery here, because I have better things to do than poke an angry bear with a hot stick.

What I can say is that this little salt-and-pepper set represents the way I feel about food writers (and in this category I include authors, bloggers and celeb chefs) who don't credit the source of their recipes. I don't mean to sound grouchy, but, honestly, there are very few good recipes that haven't already been invented. So, if you nick a recipe off someone, why don't you just say so? Do you honestly expect me to believe that you invented vichyssoise or sticky toffee pudding or saffron mash in your suburban kitchen last night? Those are random examples, okay, and maybe I'm being a bit picky, but I have reason to be. My point: there is no shame in giving credit where credit is due. Whether you found your recipe in your grandma's battered old cookbook, or you got it from a 1978 Annette Kesler recipe in Fair Lady, or you were 'inspired' by Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook, the least you can do is nod in the directon of these clever cooks.

Read my full rant about crappy recipe-writing here.
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9 comments:

Nina Timm said...

I once wrote a letter to Taste Magazine, telling them of my love for their magazine and how I try their recipes and then blog about it on my website. The next week I received a letter from their Publicity lawyer to say that what I do is highly un-ethical!!! If they had taken the time to actually visit my site and see that I have actually directed people to their magazine, they would have felt otherwise. If I copy a recipe, I give credit, but if I was inspired by a recipe and make it totally my own by chopping and changing, that recipe is no longer original...it now belongs to me. I agree with you, but there is a fine line. Our sites will just be a list of credits, because everything I make was inspired by something or someone....

Juno said...

Oh, for goodness' sakes, what an overreaction on the part of Taste. Ridiculous. I hope you told them to take a flying flip at the moon.

I agree with you that there is a fine line: every recipe is inspired by another one, or builds on another one. But what I'm talking about here is people who lift an entire recipe, word for word, from a cookbook, and pretend they invented it!

Nina Timm said...

They did redeem themselves and voted me as Best SA blog for Photography in the TASTE! I do not know if they meant it or if it was some kind of an apology!!Nevertheless I made it to a publication.

Have you read Jeanne's take on this??

Joe said...

How cool is that! Where can I get one in England?

Juno said...

I don't know, Joe! I guess you will have to come to South Africa to get one...

Anonymous said...

I found the same salt & pepper set in Paris with different colour combinations on my recent trip in June!

Juno said...

Anon: well, exactly! Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I have this exact hug S&P set, in stoneware like yours. I live in Chicago and bought them on eBay. I love them and think both the stoneware and the actual design are nicer than the black & white original. I suppose they also came from your local potter?

Jane-Anne said...

Hi Anon! Thanks for your comment. I don't know who made them, but I can only presume they were the work of a local potter, who possibly copied someone else's design? Kind regards, Jane-Anne