I love food, and the foods I love I really love. Many of my favorite foods and meals are the ones I ate with my family and are part of my cultural heritage as the son of Greek parents and the grandson of Greek immigrants. It was a fundamental part of festivals, holidays, family gatherings, church life, and even everyday meals.
Growing up, I learned very quickly how integral food is to one’s culture and as a means to express that culture. I also learned that even in a category like Greek food, there is a wide range of tastes and traditions based on where people’s families originated. The food of my mother’s family, who originated in the Pontos region that is now part of Turkey, was different than the food of my father’s family, who came from the island of Chios.
Furthermore, within a generation of living in the United States, American culture influenced and changed that cooking. For instance, my Pontian grandmother was initially very confused by the Thanksgiving foods, especially by the tradition of stuffing a turkey, which was unlike anything she had done before. After a disastrous mistake with the bag of giblets, she adapted the flavors and recipes she knew into a homemade stuffing that became a family tradition that continues to be passed down through the generations.
These traditions and stories are wonderful to share with others and, in many cases, these stories and traditions turn into and inspire copyright-protected works. That is why the U.S. Copyright Office explored food and culture with the virtual event Copyright Office Presents: Food and Copyright on October 27, 2021. This program centered on food and copyright by showcasing copyright-protected works and authors who focus on the culinary aspects of a culture and use food to tell diverse stories in various mediums, including film, blogs, photography, short stories, and more.
The event featured two engaging speakers. First was Bryan Ford, best-selling author of New World Sourdough, which critics say incorporates Ford’s Central American roots and changes the way we think about sourdough by making it more inclusive. Our other speaker was Adam Ragusea, a YouTuber who creates videos about recipes, food science, and culinary culture. His cooking videos have over 345 million views. Both have extensive experience in exploring and documenting their own experience in baking and cooking, while sharing stories behind recipes and traditions that influence cuisines through their blogs, social media, and cookbooks. Our moderator tied these themes to copyright, which encourages people to share those stories and, in turn, bring people together and inspire new works.