There’s been an accusation that Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, helped itself to some surreptitious string bean tricks from The Sneaky Chef, written by Missy Chase Lapine. Both books encourage fooling your kids into eating vegetables by hiding them in kid-friendly food. Lapine claims, “There are uncanny similarities between my book and Ms. Seinfeld’s,” pointing out they both suggest concealing cauliflower puree in mashed potatoes.
Does this constitute plagiarism? That depends on whether or not everyone is hiding spinach in brownies, in which case it’s public domain and not grounds for a law suit. I, for one, never hid vegetables in brownies. My generation had a different take on what you hid in brownies. When our son was young, I wanted to generate trust, so was explicit when mixing liquid medicines and grape juice to avoid his gagging. I pointedly minimized fast foods and sweets, hoping to encourage a fondness for healthy foods. “You never give me chips,” he spit at me with unrestrained resentment after a play date. My plan didn’t work and I’m not sure he entirely trusts me, but I feel above reproach.
Beyond the deception, these books encourage bad eating habits as they involve a regular diet of macaroni, lasagna, grilled cheese sandwiches, chocolate pudding, and other desserts, all contributing factors to childhood obesity and diabetes. These books require keeping your children out of the kitchen. How would you explain the presence of broccoli that never makes an appearance at a meal? “Oh, I’m keeping it for a neighbor? I mistook it for a Sara Lee cake?”
Both Seinfeld and Lapine have no qualms about lying to their kids. If the case goes to trial, whose testimony would the jury find less credible?