Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Kitchen Divas and the Case of the Ghostly Written Cookbooks

There's a bit of a kerfuffle amongst food writers a-brewing,as an article written by Julia Moskin for The New York Times Dining section that chronicles her experiences as a professional ghost writer of cookbooks,some of which are credited in full to celebrity chefs.

In addition to talking about the ups and downs of culinary/literary collaboration,Moskin also mentioned that other cookbook authors had assistance in putting their books together,such as Rachael Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow. That riled up Paltrow quite a bit,who tweeted her denials as fast as she could:

Rachael Ray also joined Paltrow in insisting via Twitter that she and she alone wrote all of her cookbooks and that the guy quoted in the article as her ghostwriter is just her food stylist and friend,nothing more.

Moskin,in reply,has defined what she considers to be the standard for cookbook ghostwriting,aka "ghost-cooking" in a follow-up article:

"Ghost-cooking is rarer than the routine work of wrestling hot, messy, complicated recipes onto the page in comprehensible English. That work can include transcribing scribbled notes into logical sentences. Measuring out ingredients and putting them in order. Producing the routine bits of the book like the glossary and the guide to ingredients.

That is cookbook ghostwriting, as I and many others have experienced it. The food itself, and the story that surrounds it, usually comes from the chef in varying stages of page-readiness."

In other words,ladies,no one is saying that you can't cook or didn't write a single word or recipe. Clearly,you had some help there,in one insistence this being your first cookbook and other that you already have a lot of stuff on your plate to begin with.

There is no shame in admitting that you had some of the grunt work done by someone else,a person who worked along aside and with you to get your culinary vision on paper. What is shameful is thinking that you're too good to say so in public.

It's understandable that you would want to be respected as an author in your field of expertise(or in Paltrow's case,a favorite family pastime)and yes,there is a romance to the notion of bringing all of your best recipes together to share with the world and have others be inspired by your tasty talents:

However,do keep in mind that even the great Julia Child collaborated with two other people to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking and that all of their names were put on the cover.

Giving credit where credit is due is simply the right thing to do and it speaks volumes more about your kitchen skills and credibility than any of your Twitter complaints.

Mario Batali and Jaime Oliver,don't think that I'm overlooking you two. You've been on this denial wagon,too and all I have to say is this: if Bobby Flay can fess up about doing this,so can you. I have more respect for Flay,due to his honesty on the issue.

Rachael,I'm still a fan and wish you well. However,it would be nice if you weren't doing the whole "the lady doth protest too much" routine. Gwyneth,I think you need to find a recipe for humble pie and try a slice,it'll do wonders for your ego there:

Writing is an art form that occasionally requires more than one hand on the tiller and in many cases,a writer's best work comes from getting a much needed boost from a partner. Whether it's a play,TV sitcom or a cookbook,collaboration can be a beautiful thing and can be a real strength instead of a weakness. Don't be afraid,ladies, to say that you couldn't do it alone. Your fans will admire you all the more for it:

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