Thursday, December 18, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Gone Fishin  Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
I just want to say Merry Christmas to you and yours this Christmas season. I haven't posted much this year, but hoping that will change in 2015.

I'm just planning to enjoy my family and friends this Christmas, bake a couple dozen cookies, listen to Der Bingle croon "White Christmas" and take a few pictures.

Peace and joy to you ~

Text and images copyright 2014, Lucy Mercer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Taste of Atlanta set for October 25 and 26

On Saturday, October 25 and Sunday, October 26, The Chef’s Table and The Kitchen Workshop cooking stages will offer attendees the chance to take epicurean arts into their own hands with direction from none other than the pros. With more than a dozen interactive demos and seminars spread throughout the weekend, attendees of all ages will be whipping up five star recipes like master chefs in no time.

Atlanta’s acclaimed culinary icons will lay all their cards on The Chef’s Table, hosted by Atlanta’s own Tom Sullivan. Guests can pull up a seat in this intimate setting to gain insight from these chefs, as they divulge their culinary journeys and offer expert tips, techniques and (of course) tastes.

Moments from the 2013 Taste of Atlanta/Laura Mercer

2014 Chef’s Table session highlights include:
  • Battle of the Burbs: There’s a clash across kitchens, as restaurants from two of Atlanta’s northern burbs gather for a friendly neighborhood rivalry. Featuring Chef Derek Dollar of Milton’s Cuisine and Cocktails and Chef Bob McDonough of Little Alley Steaks, the competition will surely spice things up.
  • From the Ground Up: Whether attendees take it with cream or steam, this segment – featuring Octane Coffee and Chef Jordan Wakefield of Smoke Ring – is sure to perk them right up as expert Atlanta coffee fiends spill the beans on at-home brewing.
  • Shop like a Chef: Explore local culinary haunts through the eyes of Chef Patric Bell of Barrelhouse and Chef Linda Harrell of Cibo E Beve. Attendees will gather insider tips to stock their home kitchens with the best seafood, meats, produce and more.
  • Southern Comfort: Y'all listen up! Guests will make room for a meal like mama used to make, as Chef Brian Sonoskus of Tupelo Honey Cafe and Chef EJ Hodgkinson of JCT. Kitchen whip up some good, old Southern cooking.
Opportunities to meet Top Chefs at Taste of Atlanta/Lucy Mercer

The Kitchen Workshop, presented by The Cook’s Warehouse, Le Cordon Bleu and Guy Gunter Home, will school guests in the culinary arts with hands-on cooking tutorials for any level of cooking expertise. Hosted by CNN’s Emmy nominated journalist, Holly Firfer, The Kitchen Workshop features renowned local and national chefs who provide step-by-step instruction for both skilled home cooks and those still learning to boil water. Every participant leaves with a recipe they can make at home and a feather in their toque.

2014 The Kitchen Workshop session highlights include:
  • BravoTV Top Chef Season 10 Champion: Kristen Kish, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate who is well known for winning Season 10 of Bravo’s Top Chef, will reveal expert culinary tips and tricks in her demo, “The Secret’s In The Sauce.”
  • Wok Shop: Learn the way to wok from Chef George Yu of Makan and have dinner on the table in a flash with this high-heat, quick cooking method!
  • Hook, Line and Sinker: Attendees can reel in a fresh shellfish supper and get schooled on sustainable seafood with this former “Chopped” champion, Chef Quentin Donnaud of Coast.
  • The Basics to Bon Appétit: Guests can pepper their kitchen with a taste of France, as they learn to prepare the crème de la crème version of bistro classic, French onion soup, from Chef Derek Wood of Vin Vie Bistro.
  • Tunisian Turnovers: Don't miss the chance to learn how to make the exotically flavored, simple and versatile Tunisia Brik with Le Cordon Bleu’s Chef Kyle Reynolds.

The Chef’s Table and The Kitchen Workshop at Taste of Atlanta are both open to all festival ticket holders on a first come basis. The Chef’s Table will host segments approximately 30 to 45 minutes each, and The Kitchen Workshop segments will last about 45 minutes each. General admission and VIP tickets are on sale now for $25 and $75, respectively.

Stay connected to Taste of Atlanta 2014:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Black Bean and Corn Salsa Recipe

Black bean  salsa/A Cook and Her Books
I’m sure I’m not the only who finds themselves hummin’ a little Gershwin in these sultry late spring days. After the trees leaf out, but before the tree frogs start their thrumming, a chorus of “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high…” plays through my head. The song, as I’m sure you know, is from George Gerswhin’s Great American Opera, “Porgy and Bess,” set in sweltering summery Charleston. The songs are grand and glorious and so infectious that I tend to forget that I’m not exactly Jessye Norman when it comes to musical ability.

And yes, I do know all of the words, and I will sing them off-key at the drop of any hat.

Here’s a summertime recipe, a little salsa that I put together with ingredients from my pantry and the farmer’s market ~ canned black beans, fresh tomatoes and corn make for an easy and delicious salsa that can be a snack, or on a sultry summer evening with the proper beverage, a meal.

Bean and Corn Salsa

1 can black beans, drained
3 or 4 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
3 or 4 scallions, chopped
Kernels scraped from 1 ear corn
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sweet mini peppers, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds & membranes removed, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro, chopped, optional
One avocado, diced, optional

1.       Combine all ingredients. Adjust seasonings and serve with tortilla chips. Refrigerate leftovers.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits

Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Introducing a new favorite around our house, Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits. Do I even need to tellyou that this is a Paula Deen recipe from the word go? My husband saw Miss Paula talking about her recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits a while back, and asked me to make a pan of them, after all, Pineapple Upside Down Cake is his very favorite cake. Miss Paula's innovation is to create individual servings by placing the pineapple and brown sugar mixture into a muffin pan. Miss Paula pops open a tube of biscuits to top off her little cakes and I thought why not make a homemade biscuit and wouldn't they be even better? And you know what? I was right.

Pineapple Upside Down Biscuits

1 (10 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained, with juice reserved
½ cup light brown sugar
½ stick butter, melted
12 maraschino cherries

1.       Preheat oven to 400. Grease muffin tins.
2.       Combine pineapple, sugar and butter in a small bowl and mix well. Divide mixture among the muffin cups. Place cherry firmly in center of each muffin cup.


2 cups all-purpose flour, White Lily preferred
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons shortening, chilled
1 cup buttermilk, whole milk preferred (I use Marburger brand)

1.       Into a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add shortening and cut the fat into the flour using a fork or pastry blender. I use my fingers to rub the fat into the flour ~ it’s messy, but I get a better feel for how the fat is distributed throughout the flour.
2.       Pour in buttermilk and using a large spoon, stir until a dough is formed. With a light touch, place dough on lightly floured counter, gently press out with your hands to a uniform 1/2-inch thickness and cut out 1 dozen, 2-inch biscuits. I usually end up with 14, so you may have extras to bake alongside the pineapple biscuits.
3.       Place biscuits on top of pineapple mixture. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 13 minutes. Biscuits will be lightly brown and spring back when done. Place muffin pan on countertop to cool for five minutes.
4.       Cover a baking sheet with foil and turn muffin pan out onto baking sheet. Serve biscuits warm. Store leftovers in a covered container and refrigerate.

Text and images copyright 2014, Lucy Mercer.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Asian Noodle Salad with Ginger Dressing

Asian Noodle Salad with Ginger Dressing/Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
I needed a potluck salad last week and found this delicious recipe ~ it caught my eye because of the mango. I just so happened to have a couple fruits ripening on the counter. The chicken was my addition, because the original didn't seem quite hearty enough. With the protein, this can be a main dish salad, perfect for packed lunches or a summertime dinner on the porch.

Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken and Mango and Ginger Dressing

6 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno
1 garlic clove, chopped

½ pound whole wheat spaghetti, broken in half, and cooked according to package directions
1 cup chopped, cooked chicken breast
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced ½ inch
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 firm but ripe mango, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
Cilantro, minced, used as a garnish, if desired

1.       Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until combined.

2.       For salad, place cooked, drained spaghetti noodles in a large bowl, add chicken, cucumber, scallions, mango and carrot. Gently toss with vinaigrette and garnish with cilantro, if using. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook.

Text and images, copyright 2014, Lucy Mercer.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Fool for Strawberries

Strawberry fool. Lucy Mercer, A Cook and Her Books
I'm a fool for strawberries, the tart and sweet fruits of spring. I know they are available all year round, but when the days get longer and the temps start rising, strawberries seem the perfect answer to every noshing question. "What shall I have for breakfast?" Strawberries with vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of granola. "What shall I give the girls to snack on after school?" A big bowl of strawberries with a teeny bowl of either white or brown sugar for dipping. "What about dessert?" you ask and I answer "Strawberries and Cream."

This version of strawberries and cream is called a "fool," an old-fashioned dessert that is simply sweetened, whipped cream with pureed fruit. You could use other soft fruits and berries such as mango and blackberries for a delicious variation.

Strawberry Fool
8 Servings

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
Additional strawberries for garnishing, if desired
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream

1. In a food processor, puree berries with sugar until smooth and lump-free. Add lemon juice and zest.

2. Beat cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Use a spatula to gently fold in 1/4th of fruit puree, gradually adding more until all is incorporated. Scoop mixture into covered container and refrigerate for at least one hour. When ready to serve, spoon into individual dessert glasses and garnish with fresh berries.

Here's the step-by-step. Honestly, this takes more time to describe than it will take you to make it. Pin this recipe "Super Easy and Delicious Desserts."

Red, ripe strawberries. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Strawberries ready for slicing. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

A dusting of lemon zest before pureeing. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Beat heavy whipping cream until it looks just like this ~softly swirling peaks. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Gradually fold in berry puree. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Incorporate all the strawberry puree into the cream. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

This post is part of #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter party from a global group of bloggers. May's theme is Fruit Fiesta. Visit these other wonderful writers for more cooking inspiration:

Cantaloupe Pie at Tea and Scones.
Mango Refrigerator Cake at Asian in America.
Sticky Pears at Monday Morning Cooking Club.
 Mango Kale Salad at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Atlanta Blooms at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 I have taken many pictures of this sweet cherub, but I never tire of seeing how the Atlanta Botanical Garden surrounds the statue with seasonal plants. In this case, the tulips were a riot of color in early April, for the annual Atlanta Blooms event.

Here are some pictures from our afternoon at the garden, including a stroll through the orchid garden.
Tulips. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

The Canopy Walk is at the entrance of the garden and allows tremendous views of the woods and an upcoming exhibit...
Canopy Walk. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Imaginary Worlds will open in early May and features this beauty.

Imaginary Worlds. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

The Botanical Garden showcases fancy plants, but also tried and true varieties, like Lenten Rose.
Lenten Rose. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books
And flaming native azaleas.
Native azaleas. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

A few treats from the Orchid House...
Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

Orchids. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Bromeliad. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A visit to Juliette, Georgia

Wish I could say that this was my ride to the Whistlestop Cafe. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I love places with literary connections. I've been to Hemingway's house in Key West and heard all the stories of carousing and six-toed cats. And I toured Mark Twain's house in Hartford, Connecticut, a stylish Victorian filled with books and stories. Closer to home, I've visited the Wren's Nest, home of Georgia's version of Twain, Joel Chandler Harris. My latest literary stop has all the charm of the others, but the advantage of crispy, crunchy fried heavenliness ~ fried green tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe in Juliette, Georgia.

Juliette, Georgia. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Juliette is the middle Georgia town that became Whistlestop, the fictional town in Fannie Flagg's essential novel of the South, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe." When filming completed in 1991 in this sleepy former mill town, the business owners banded together and made a tourist stop out of the picturesque setting, a charming street of buildings next to the train tracks.

We visited Juliette a few weeks back and here are some of my favorite scenes:

Haven't seen these prices for awhile. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

Luzianne Coffee. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

Texaco sign. Lucy Mercer/ A Cook and Her Books

Outhouse. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Ruth and Idgy. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Whistle Stop Train Station. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

As charming as the stroll around town was, the very best part of the visit was the basket of fried green tomatoes at the WhistleStop Cafe. They call this sauce a "radish sauce," but I could detect no radish in it. It was a spicy (is there any other kind?) remoulade with a healthy kick of cayenne.

Fried green tomatoes. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

If you ever find yourself near Forsyth, Georgia, on I-75, drive about 10 miles off the interstate and take in a meal and a stroll in Juliette. Ever been to Juliette? What's your favorite town or house with a literary connection?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easier Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings. Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

If there is one hour in my day that I wish to have all to my own, it would be 3 p.m. Back in the day, before work and school schedules conspired to block that hour nearly every single day of 30 something weeks of the year, 3 o'clock was naptime for the kidoodle and my time to leisurely begin supper. Two to three hours was a generous amount of time to prepare a meal ~ enough for a braised chicken with vegetables, or maybe a pot roast. I could turn out a dessert in that time frame, too, with a bit of luck and the right ingredients in my well-stocked pantry.

These days, I rush from work to two different schools, gather and sometimes redistribute children to piano lessons, play practices, what-have-you. And I rush back home to come up with supper. Sometimes, my wonderful husband will cook, usually a roast or lasagna that he prepared ahead of time, or a quick meal of fish and vegetables. And I get my act together occasionally, making stir-fries and fried rice and roasted chicken. And there are other nights when dinner is a grilled cheese sandwich or its South of the Border cousin, a cheese quesadilla.

So I await with interest what my fellow #LetsLunchers will create under the theme "3 Ingredient Recipes." #LetsLunch is a monthly gathering of food writers and bloggers who post on a given subject. This month's topic is quick recipes using just 3 ingredients. My go-to 3-ingredient recipe is pimento cheese, so maybe I'm not the best choice for this go-round.

Back to that magic hour that I wish I could call my own ~ in the past year, I've given up on Top 40 radio and NPR and switched to the Fish, the contemporary Christian radio station. All the girls in the car, from elementary to mommy agree. And one of the best reasons to listen to the Fish is afternoon drive host Beth Bacall ~ she's a mommy and a foodie, so I'm fed spiritually and mentally while I'm listening to her. 

One day Beth happened to mention that she had a recipe for "3-Ingredient Chicken Parmesan" and she would happily reply to email requests for the recipe. Here's the link for the recipe ~ it's one of those "dump and do" recipes that I need more of in order to turn out a tasty dinner in a reasonable amount of time. The recipe calls for boneless chicken breasts, coated in mayonnaise and shredded Parmesan cheese and baked. I served it with rice and a green vegetable and my girls ate every bite. I'm sad to say that I didn't get a picture of the chicken, it was nice and roasty-toasty looking when it came out of the oven.

I decided to make the recipe a second time and grab a picture for this post, when my eldest daughter revealed what she really wanted for supper, and it was not a 3-ingredient recipe: Chicken and Dumplings. Done properly, c and d is not a 3-ingredient recipe, it's a 3-part recipe: Broth, chicken, dumplings. The three components harmonize into a complete and completely satisfying dish.

Dumplings. Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

In the spirit of 3 ingredients, I therefore present my streamlined recipe for chicken and dumplings, perfect for those weeknights when you have a little extra time and some helping hands.

Chicken and dumplings. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books.

Easier Chicken and Dumplings

My from-scratch recipe can be found here. It starts with a whole chicken. Here, I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and doctored-up stock-in-a-box to speed things up. If you have leftover cooked chicken, save even more time by using it here.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stars celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 (32 oz.) package low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the chicken until cooked through, about 10 minutes.

2. In a soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat, pour in oil and saute onion until translucent. Add celery and carrots, cooking until soft, about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
About 1 1/2 cups milk, more or less, for the dumplings
Additional milk for the stew

1. To make dumplings, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening by your preferred method (I’ve given up on pastry blenders; hands are my favored tool for this), until mixture is mealy and the particles are small. Add enough cold milk to make a workable dough, up to a cup and a half. Knead the dough and lightly press out 1/2 inch thick with floured hands onto a floured counter. Cut into 1 - inch strips.

3. Gently drop dumplings into broth, allowing each to puff up and rise to the surface. When all dumplings are in, add milk to the stew to achieve proper consistency, about a cup or two. Taste for seasoning. Let simmer about 15 minutes. Feed to your hungry family.

This post is part of #LetsLunch, a global blogging party. Check back here for more links to fabulous food stories.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cocktails with Gatsby

1920's couple. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 “There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be pulled out of the young, breath-giving air.” ~ Nick Carraway, in The Great Gatsby.

I love this picture from my Granddaddy’s photo album. To my mind, it could be Gatsby and Daisy, or better, it’s Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker, enjoying a laugh on Gatsby’s patio before dancing and drinking the night away at one of Jay’s parties designed to lure Daisy across the bay and back into his arms.There are no identifying notes on the photograph, but whoever they are, they stick with me because of the way they're dressed - his long legs and 28-inch waist, the flip of her skirt and the way her head leans into him. The kicker, though, are the feet - I have a spectacular weakness for spectator shoes - and the way they're crossed in opposite directions. 
“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is, hands-down, my favorite novel, one I try to re-read every few years. Fitzgerald’s wordsmithing and narrator Nick’s observations are new to me each time I’ve read it as an adult, but I hated it the first time it was assigned to me in high school. The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg taunted me from the cover and I didn’t understand why Daisy didn’t leave brutish Tom and run off with dashing Jay. It’s one of those books, I think, that reads better once you’ve seen more of life. In other words, it’s wasted on so many teenagers.
I’ve read the novel many times, seen three movie versions (I thought last year’s Leo DiCaprio/Baz Luhrman version was fantastic ~ Leo was perfect in the pink suit.), and just last week, saw it as a play, produced by the Georgia Ensemble Theatre in historic Roswell. The production challenges – automobiles are significant to the story, and scenes that require a dock, two mansions and a pool, were neatly overcome and the actors met the challenges of the characters, as well. Nick’s wry humor came across more so than in other versions, and Daisy was unexpectedly sympathetic, a difficult task for a woman responsible directly for one death and indirectly for two. If you’re in Atlanta, make a date ~ it’s playing through March 16.
For a book written about an opulent life in abundant times, there’s remarkably little food mentioned in “Gatsby.” Of course, there's the sandwiches and pastries that Nick serves when he invites Daisy to tea (and a clandestine meeting with her old love, Jay.), prepared by the cook, the “demoniac Finn.” While there may not be food, there is booze ~ fountains of champagne at Gatsby’s soirees and bottles of whiskey at the Buchanan’s.
“Every Friday, five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York – every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his backdoor in a pyramid of pulpless halves.” ~ The Great Gatsby
Old-fashioned cocktails. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
And so, to celebrate my favorite novel, here’s an old-fashioned cocktail made with peach-infused bourbon, something I make up each summer when local produce stands offer crates of sun-ripened fruit at giveaway prices. For six weeks, fresh peaches and lemon peel soak in Kentucky bourbon, the infused mixture is then strained and combined with simple syrup and aged for two more weeks. This ambrosia can be served in a myriad of ways - on its own, in cocktails, in grown-up ice cream desserts, or as a glaze for grilled meats. The mix is called Southern Succor and just like re-reading Gatsby, it gets better with age. Cheers, old sport.
Southern Succor by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Southern Succor
adapted from "American Home Cooking" by Cheryl & Bill Jamison

6 peaches, peeled and chopped into chunks

Zest and juice of one lemon

750 ml bourbon whiskey

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1. In a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, place peaches, lemon zest and juice. Cover with whiskey, seal jar and place in refrigerator to steep for up to six weeks.

2. After six weeks, open jar and strain out the fruit and zest. Press lightly to get all the good stuff out, but not so much as to push the fruit into the liquid. Discard the fruit. Pour the liquid back into the jar.

3. In a saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil. When sugar dissolves, cool syrup to room temperature. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then cool to room temperature. Add the sugar syrup to the bourbon, return to the refrigerator and let age for another two weeks before using.

The peachy bourbon may be between steps 1 and 2, but is still delicious in an old-fashioned, the legendary first drink to be called a "cocktail." It's sweet and fruity, and just perfect for viewing the sunset from the front porch.

Joey's Old-Fashioned. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Joey's Old-Fashioned

Joey is a mixologist and philosopher and this is his version of an old-fashioned, with the exception of the lemon - he uses orange. Because he lives in the South, he'll sometimes finish the drink with tea instead of water.

In an old-fashioned glass (a short tumbler), place maraschino cherries, a wedge of lemon and a teaspoon of sugar. Muddle. Pour 2 ounces of peach whiskey, then a splash of water. Stir and garnish with lemon and cherry.
This post is part of #LetsLunch, a Twitter party featuring food writers and bloggers from around the world. Please visit these sites for more #LetsLunch stories.

Lisa’s Pop Cakes from Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy’s Old Fashioned from A Cook and Her Books
Jill’s Orange Tarts at Eating My Words
Linda’s Homemade Tagalongs from Free Range Cookies
Annabelle’s Eggs for Bren at Glass of Fancy
Linda’s Oaxacan Mole Rojo at Spicebox Travels
Cheryl’s Hemingway Hamburger at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Betty’s Leche Flan from Asian in America

Text and images copyright 2014, Lucy Mercer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Protecting your work, for bloggers

Buttermilk Chess Pie. Baked and photographed by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books and I'm not sharing.
 Well, it's been a busy week at A Cook and Her Books headquarters, setting the blogging and business worlds straight on acceptable uses of my pictures. It all began with my weekend rant on the unauthorized use of my photographs that are copied from my blog and posted without acknowledgment with other recipes on business websites and other blogs. 

These things usually straighten themselves out, but the emails to and fro show a real lack of understanding of what's acceptable when "borrowing" pictures and presenting them as your own. In my original story, I didn't mention that a food company used my picture to accompany its recipe for chess pie. I contacted them via Facebook and this is just a portion of the emailed reply:

To whom it may concern:

We received a facebook message stating that we had taken an unauthorized image of the Chess Pie from your blog and placed on our website. We assure you that the Chess Pie image was not taken from your blog or any blog, but if this is causing problems let us know and we will gladly remove it. We are a Christian company based on integrity and believe in doing things the right way. Again I assure you, that there was nothing unethically done in using this picture. If you have any additional questions or concerns please let us know. Thank you.

My reply stated that indeed, the picture was mine and included links to their post and my original post with a polite request asking that they take their own picture to accompany their recipe. Within an hour, this was the reply:

Thank you for your prompt response and we assure you that your photo will be taken down this week from our website. Thanks and well wishes. God Bless!

Readers' responses to my story, both on Facebook and the blog, about the aggravation of protecting my work has been encouraging. With that in mind, I thought I'd pass along a few resources, both for bloggers who may not know their rights, and businesses who may be tempted to copy photographs from blogs.

First of all, know your rights as a food blogger: A group of top-notch writers and food bloggers, including Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and David Lebovitz (Living the Sweet Life in Paris), researched and put together some excellent information on copyright at “Food Blog Alliance.” I’ve read through many of the pieces and go back again and again. As they say, if it’s your work, you don’t have to state that there’s a copyright on it. They also provide the ever-escalating steps involved in pursuing sites that steal pictures and content.
Second, I picked up the steps to seeing where my pictures end up by using a reverse image search tutorial from the ever-so-helpful blog Kevin and Amanda. They are a treasure trove of information on food, photography and blogging. 

And lastly, for the food businesses, restaurants, bakeries and caterers who rely on small-time web designers to put together their internet package, by all means subscribe to the blog “Your Kitchen Camera.” It’s put together by food stylists and photographers, professionals whose goal is to educate non-professionals in the tips and tricks to putting together web-worthy food photography by themselves. After all, folks, if you’re surrounded by the food product, isn’t it easier to just take a picture of your actual product than it is to steal from a blogger.

Meanwhile, I'm learning to watermark my pictures, to prevent further appropriation of my work. Any tips or advice along these lines would be great appreciated. Back to food tomorrow, I promise ~

Text and images are copyright, 2014, Lucy Mercer.