- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

Celebrity recipes

“Here’s a true story. A famous chef is persuaded to write a cookbook, but he isn’t a native English speaker, so a specialist translator/editor is hired to help him polish up his work. When translator gets manuscript, he sees that the recipes, such as they are, are completely unusable — mere notes, often scribbled on scraps of paper. The translator spends the next seven or eight months clarifying, rewriting and repeatedly testing the recipes, in addition to writing introductory texts from material supplied by the author.

“Result: the book is a best-seller and prize-winner. But the translator/writer/recipe tester does not have his name on the cover, even though he wrote the book. The chef, meanwhile, is hailed as a genius — which he happens to be, in his own kitchen, but he can no more convey that genius in print than my cat can explain how to catch flies. Welcome to the murky world of culinary ghosting. …

“It’s hard to understand the reticence about owning up to ghostwriting. … The problem is that in our celebrity-obsessed age, readers of cookbooks don’t just want recipes that work. They also buy into a dubious notion of personality.”

—Richard Ehrlich, writing on “Cooking the books,” July 15 in the Financial Times

Kissing cousins

“I’d always thought marrying a blood relative as close as a cousin was immoral, and certainly risky if you plan to have kids. Conventional wisdom says only primitive people who live in isolated places marry cousins. It leads to stupid children. But that’s a myth.

“It’s the sort of myth that leads to stupid laws. Half the states in America have banned cousin marriage, but there’s no good reason for it. You can marry your cousin and have perfectly intelligent kids.

“Take Albert Einstein — was he intelligent enough for you? His parents were cousins, and he married his cousin. So did Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria. Worldwide, 20 percent of all married couples are cousins.”

— John Stossel, writing on “Think your cousin’s cute? Relax,” Wednesday at www.townhall.com

Too late?

“The question I was asked Wednesday [before going to a concert at Madison Square Garden] by more than one person was: Is it too late to see Madonna? …

“I understand that there are a lot of people out there who have never seen Madonna and who don’t consider it a missed opportunity. But I am a 31-year-old American woman. I was 9 when I watched [Madonna] … in the ‘Like a Virgin’ video. …

“Twenty-two years later, she is, at 47, the most famous woman in the world — at least the world I grew up in. Even without having been a truly devout Madonna fan (too young to be a wannabe, I was a wannabe wannabe), I managed to own every one of her albums back when people owned albums. … Madonna has been the soundtrack to my life.

“Here is the thing: Because I have never actually been to a Madonna concert, and because going is something I considered doing at 9 and 13 and 25, it is not something that makes me feel old at all. In fact, it makes me feel rather spry.”

— Rebecca Traister, writing on “Touched for the very first time,” Thursday in Salon at www.salon.com

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