If you have not already read Julia Moskin's piece “I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter” in last week's New York Times food section, you really should. And after you finish reading it, go read yesterday's blog post from the Sussman brothers — titled “#Cookbookghostgate” — on the same subject, which is as hilarious as Moskin's story is relevant. (The Sussman brothers being chefs, cookbook authors and food bloggers.)
Because if you are an ardent reader of cookbooks, particularly celebrity cookbooks, or cookbooks written by television stars, or cookbooks written by people who seemingly publish said books every six to eight months, or cookbooks written by troublingly illiterate chefs, then this is a topic well worth considering. Even if your favorite cookbooks are written by people who do not fall into any of those categories (Deborah Madison! Dorie Greenspan!), it's a great story.
As Moskin notes:
Many real-world cooks have wondered at the output of authors like Martha Stewart, Paula Deen and Jamie Oliver, who maintain cookbook production schedules that boggle the mind. Rachael Ray alone has published thousands of recipes in her cookbooks and magazine since 2005. How, you might ask, do they do it? The answer: they don't.
And, of course, there was a backlash. To quote from the Sussman brothers' blog:
We were ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED (bolded for serious emphasis) that the NY times article was inferring that Rachel sic Ray, Paula Deen, Martha Stewart and other food celebs do not write their own recipes. Wha….WHAA…WHATTTTT????? THEY DON'T WRITE EVERY SINGLE WORD ATTRIBUTED TO THEM? So says a group of publicity hungry liars by claiming they are ghostwriters (and therefore demonstrating they clearly don't value their their own lives by going up against this culinary Cosa Nostra).
There's a lot more of that, which you should just go read for yourself. It's very funny. Satire being much more biting than, well, the food (literal, metaphorical) itself.
So, which side of the fence — it's an imaginary fence, built with books and mortared with butter — are you on? Do you think Rachael Ray develops all her own recipes and Gwyneth Paltrow writes every word and Paula Deen tests every dish? Maybe they do. Who needs sleep when there's that much food.
Disclaimer: This writer is the co-author with Kim Boyce of Good to the Grain, which happily won a James Beard Award in 2011. Sure, there's a backstory, but it's not nearly as interesting as those in Moskin's piece. Sorry.