Last month The L.A. Times published an
article that delved into a thorny problem in food editing - who
actually owns a recipe? When can you claim a recipe as your
In The complicated
case of the simple cookie The
Times described how a rosemary apricot bar cookie had
been declared the winner of a recent baking contest. Several
readers wrote in that the same cookie had already been published.
And, as The Times explored it further, they found quite a
recipe path for the cookie. (They do note that the winning recipe
had not been required to be original, so the prize did not have to
be returned, and that the winner had previously given attribution
for the cookie in her food blog.) However this inspired
Russ Parsons, who ran the bakeoff, to share some thoughts on
Now we've always heard that the standard rule-of-thumb is that
at least three significant changes (ingredient or technique) to a
recipe must be made to take personal credit for the recipe.
However, that procedure still doesn't credit the original source.
So we like The Times' three approaches to crediting the
"...at The Times, we try to follow three levels
of attribution for our recipes. All recipes that we get from other
sources are credited. Most are attributed with "adapted from,"
because almost every recipe we run has been changed, even if only
slightly, either in testing or copy-editing (this also protects the
writer from any errors we might have introduced in the
Sometimes in either the developing of a recipe, or in our
testing process, we change a recipe more dramatically. In that
case, depending on the specifics of the situation, we might go with
"adapted from" or we might think it's better to write "based on a
And sometimes, someone else's recipe might simply give us an
idea for a dish of our own -- maybe it's a particular pairing of
flavors, or a technique that we've adapted in a very different way.
In those cases, we'll usually write something like "inspired by" or
"based on an idea from."
In short, unless you truly dreamed up a recipe entirely without
inspiration, it's a good idea to give some form of credit - no one
loses and everyone wins. And credit goes where credit is due.
(Photo credited to Glenn Koenig, L.A. Times)