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Disturbing Similarities Between Seinfeld’s Wife’s Cookbook and a Non Celebrity One

We’re no strangers to plagiarism here at Dear Author. While out and out copying is easy to spot, strong similarities is a more murky area. The number 2 book on the USA Today bestseller list and the Number 1 hardcover on the Advice, How-To and Misc NYT list is Jessica Seinfeld’s “Deceptively Delicious“.

Book CoverA number of readers at mommy forums, Amazon.com and Oprah.com have begun pointing out the similarities between “Deceptively Delicious” and “The Sneaky Chef“. Seinfeld says that the idea to puree vegetables and add them to recipes sprouted sui generis a couple of years ago
but in 2006, a chef and cookbook author of “The Sneaky Chef” submitted a 42 recipe proposal with the same ideas to Seinfeld’s eventual publisher HarperCollins. The New York Times found the following similarities:

  • parents purée healthy foods like spinach and sweet potatoes and hide them in childhood favorites like macaroni and cheese or brownies
  • spinach in brownies, avocado in chocolate pudding and sweet potato in grilled cheese sandwiches appear in both Lupina and Seinfeld’s cookbooks
  • an early publicity brochure for "Deceptively Delicious" showed an illustration with the same drawing on the cover “The Sneaky Chef”

Jerry Seinfeld claims that of course there was no copying because his wife doesn’t need the money or the publicity. We know that the desire to see one’s name on the cover of the book has little do with either money or publicity. It could just be a case of whacky similarities. Both Rachel Gibson and Deidre Martin had hockey related romances released within months of each other and both books had heroines who consult the Hockey for Dummies book to help them understand their hockey playing boyfriends.

Since Perseus Publishing, the current distribution rights holder for “The Sneaky Chef” is not pursuing legal action at this time, the only court to decide this issue is the one of public opinion.

Via the New York Times.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

12 Comments

  1. Maya Reynolds
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 14:02:55

    {Grin} Jane: This story also hit both the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Lunch today, too.

    According to PL, after receiving a complaint letter from Perseus Books about the fact that Seinfeld’s cookbook had a mom hiding carrots behind her back just like The Sneaky Chef had, HarperCollins changed their cookbook’s cover.

    Perhaps all the publicity will help both books to sell.

    ReplyReply

  2. Robin
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 14:16:41

    It’s so funny how things coalesce at the same time. I was on Amazon the other day looking at Seinfeld’s book, and there’s a review by a couple of women who put the books up to a side by side cook-off, and they comment that there are some “duplicate” recipes, as well, although they are not identical. It’s tough to believe that Seinfeld didn’t consult existing resources, but in the world of recipes, it’s difficult not to have a fair level of similarity, IMO, especially in such a specialized arena. And, of course, the titles suggest the same idea. What did make me kind of mad was how Oprah and Seinfeld made it seem like she had invented this concept, like it was wholly new. That’s not the most gracious or honest approach, IMO.

    ReplyReply

  3. Robin
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 14:18:10

    Oh, and by the way, the moms who did the cook-off preferred The Sneaky Chef — or rather their kids did.

    ReplyReply

  4. Anji
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 14:56:12

    I mean, if the cover is such an important marketing tool, why would you as a publisher/marketing department even THINK to use the same cover?

    On a side note – avocado in chocolate pudding??? I’ve a recipe substituting chickpeas for flour when making brownies (it turns out pretty good!), but hmmm, I can’t quite imagine the avocado in chocolate pudding.

    Has anyone tried it? How does it taste?

    ReplyReply

  5. Maya Reynolds
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 15:11:19

    Anji: THAT’s the one that makes me wonder. Who on earth would even think of combining those two flavors?

    Of course, there’s always those monkeys typing Shakespeare’s plays.

    ReplyReply

  6. Anji
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 15:34:55

    I like avocado – and I’ve had this avocado soup dessert before (with condensed cream – unhealthy, but so good!), but avocado and chocolate? I just can’t see that…

    ReplyReply

  7. Jennifer
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 15:40:44

    Actually, I’ve seen avocado used in several recipes as a substitute to add a creamy, buttery texture with not much flavor. I think a dark chocolate could overpower the light taste of avocado. After all, in my husband’s guacamole, all I can taste is citrus due to the fact that he uses half a lime.

    ReplyReply

  8. kardis
    Oct 20, 2007 @ 09:05:22

    I have been making a recipe from a raw foods cookbook for chocolate mousse that uses avocado instead of butter, and dates instead of refined sugar. It is delicious, and you really can’t tell the avocado is there. So honestly, it’s not a new idea for either or these cookbooks to include it.

    ReplyReply

  9. Kay Sisk
    Oct 20, 2007 @ 09:11:44

    FWIW, 20 years ago I grated zucchini and hid it between the crust and the tomato sauce on a pizza. I was 1) never found out because the kids and spouse ate every bite and 2) I’d found the idea either in a book or newspaper.

    Everything old is new again.

    ReplyReply

  10. Joy
    Oct 22, 2007 @ 19:40:58

    My mom hid veggies in lots of things when I was growing up. Once, the chili was green (she put in spinach) and we looked at it very confused but ate it anyway.

    ReplyReply

  11. Pyre
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 06:52:04

    1) Has anyone suggested that Ms Seinfeld submitted the cover design, as well as the text, to her publisher? If not, why attribute that specific “plagiarism” to her?

    2) If the topic of a book is how to hide “healthy” (but unpopular) foods in children’s meals, does the image of a mother literally hiding such a foodstuff behind her back not suggest itself? Carrots would not only be a typical example, but are easily stylized and highly recognizable at a passing glance. What else would come close?

    ReplyReply

  12. It’s Plagiarism Week: Seinfelds (both of them) Sued Over Vegelicious Book | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Jan 08, 2008 @ 01:20:45

    [...] blogged about the similarities a while back. The similarities between pre publication drawing of the [...]

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