05 September 2012

Copyright Law - 225 Years On

Good or bad, American copyright law turned 225 years old today.  Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution includes the sentence that "The Congress shall have Power" ... "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" - words that were submitted to the delegates for their consideration on September 5, 1787.

There are many people who think that this clause needs to be stricken.  Many people who feel that this right is used to coerce money from people and limit creativity.  And as an attorney who focuses in non-patent intellectual property law, I could be accused of being one of these, on behalf of my clients.

However - the origin of the statute was to protect the rights of artists.  This is the part that so many people forget.  If you are a creator, this langauge was written to prevent others from stealing your livelihood.  If you are an artist, or a writer, or a musician, or one of the many other creative types whose works are protected by the Copyright Act, you understand what I am talking about.

At the time the Constitution was written, there was no protection for creative persons in the Colonies.  Only those in Mother England could protect and defend their creative works.  For authors, artists, and others in what would become the United States of America, there was no protection - and so it was authors and musicians who fought for the U.S. Copyright law.  Today many of the cases we hear about in the courts feature people who are suing because they believe that someone else has misused their creative work - photograph, music - for monetary gain.

The greater danger to artists, however, is not people who don't misuse their work for monetary gain - it is people who take their works without paying at all.  Recently, an intern on NPR's All Songs Considered wrote an article in which she admitted that most of her music library comes from stealing.  She doesn't pay for music, she swaps tracks with friends or copied albums from the physical discs at her college radio station's library.

Other people copy patterns, recipes, articles, or even whole books and share them.  I was appalled at one of my first knitting guild meetings after I moved to Dallas when one of the members - without a single word from anybody - handed out copies of a pattern from a recent magazine because she thought that people would enjoy making it.

Whenever this type of activity occurs, the person making the copy prevents the creator of that work - the songwriter, the musician, the designer, the writer - from receiving a royalty.  Royalties are how these people are compensated for their efforts.  It is the same as someone eating a meal and not paying the tab, or walking out of a store with a coat for s/he they didn't pay.  It is as if they said "I really like your work, so I am going to take it and not pay you."  Don't you think it should be the other way around?  Shouldn't we say "I really like your stuff and I'll be happy to pay you for it"?

As one author that I enjoy said it:

The same applies to any creative person.  When you respect their copyright, you help these people make a living doing something they love:  MusicWriting.  Painting.  Sculpture.  Choreography.  Graphic Design.  Pattern DesignMaking movies.  Photography.

Respect their copyrights.  Help the artists survive.  Help them make a living doing what they love to do.  Buy their works - don't steal them.

I haven't mentioned plagiarism, although with the starrt of the school year we start a new season, because the problem with plagiarism is not just stealing the writing, but taking credit for someone else's work.  Although money may not be involved, academic accomplishment is.  An author recently posted an article telling other authors what to do if they find out that someone has plagiarized their work.  Students increasingly think nothing of plagiarizing someone else's writing and taking credit for it, even when they face expulsion.  Give credit where it's due.

02 September 2012

Tomato Tart

I love tomatoes.

In the summer, I mostly eat them raw - out of hand, chopped in salads, chopped with just a bit of herbs or salt to perk them up a bit.  I slice them into salads, sometimes with little more than the tomatoes involved:
This was my breakfast in mid-July:  A fresh heirloom tomato, not too thinly sliced, arranged between two slices of wholegrain bread lightly spread with a fresh chevre from my CSA.  It was FABULOUS.

Last year I read a recipe in Food and Wine magazine for a tart that was little more than tomatoes piled in a simple crust and slowly baked.  With my CSA's annual picnic coming, I made one to take and share:
For its simplicity, it is marvellously good, and surprisingly substantial.  Of course I have been tweaking it, using my own piecrust recipe instead of the magazine's, and every time I make one it comes out a little differently.  So here is a step-by-step summary, combining two different tarts because I get caught up in the cooking and don't always remember to take pictures.

Step 1:  Make the Dough
Piecrust has a reputation for being tricky and difficult.  Many years ago a friend taught me to make it in the food processor, which takes out much of the intimidation, at least for me.  Just put the flour(s) into the machine, add a pinch of salt and the fat, and use bursts to combine until it is like grains of sand.  I generally start with a cup to a cup-and-a-half of flours and one-third as much butter, or butter and chevre, or whatever other fat(s) I am using:
You can also use oil, or vegetable fat, or lard, or whatever.  The key is to cut up a solid fat into smaller pieces, which are easier to combine, and to use bursts, not running the machine constantly.  If you do that and are using gluten-containing flours it gets gummy and tough.  I often add some cornmeal to my mixture because I like the texture it adds.  Sometimes I add some of the herbs to the dough - basil, thyme, savory, and sage are good choices.

Oh - I mentioned "if" and "gluten-containing flours"!  Yes, you can use almost any combination for this recipe.  So if you don't eat gluten, use other flours.  If you don't do dairy, use vegetable fat or nut oil or olive oil or whatever.  It's flexible.  Your dough might be a bit more crumbly, but since we're not doing a raised dough the flours don't matter as much as they might otherwise.

Then, with the machine running, add ice water through the feeding tube.  I put some ice and water into a measuring cup and dribble in from the spout.  Start with a couple of tablespoons and add more carefully.  If you put too much in, the dough gets gloppy.  If you think it's close, stop the machine and open it and pinch the dough.  When it's about the same feeling as your earlobe, it's right.

I am not more precise on the amount of ice water that you need because it depends upon the flours and the fat.  You will need less if you use oil.  You will need more with some flours than others, or if the weather has been very dry as your flour may be drier.  You can always add a spoonful or so of water if needed.  And if you do add too much?  Either add in some more flour (or grated dry cheese) or do a pat-in instead of trying to roll out the dough.  It will take a bit longer to bake.

Step 2:  Constructing the Tart
Roll out the dough to fit into your pan.  Sometimes I put a bit of cornmeal on the counter for the last roll, again to add texture.  Otherwise I just use lots of flour.  In the righthand picture the dough contains some basil and was rolled out with cornmeal mixed into the flour.
The leaves are purple basil that I couldn't resist
buying at the farmer's market because it is pretty.
I had eaten a lot of my tomatoes so this is a
rather small tart - make it as big as you like.

There is basil in this dough.  I learned last year that using a
tart pan with a removable bottom is a BIG help when serving.
Then you add the tomatoes.  Mostly I use tiny ones - grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes.  But earlier this summer I wanted to make one and I didn't have too many of the little ones.
My CSA also gave us eggplant and very
large heads of garlic.  The tomato in the
sandwich at the top is from this delivery.
However, my CSA had given us a number of what they call "paste tomatoes" which have more flesh and less moisture, and I thought they would be perfect to use as a bottom layer, in slices, as shown in the photo at the right:

When I just have the small ones, I will cut larger ones in half, as I did with the "black" tomatoes around the rim in this tart:

I added a sprinkle of chopped basil and kosher salt to the first layer.  You can sprinkle herbs in by layers or mix them in wherever you like, or leave them out.

As you can see, sometimes I make designs and sometimes I just pile in as many tomatoes as I can:
Step 3:  Baking the Tart
This can be tough, because it takes about two hours.  The recipe has 100 minutes, I sometimes do a bit more if I have piled the tomatoes in especially thickly.  Do NOT be tempted to "speed it up" with a higher temperature, you will just burn everything.  Keep the oven at 300-325(F) degrees and be patient.  In fact, unless you are making a small tart, don't even bother to look until 90 minutes have passed.
The goal is to have the tomatoes slowly roasting and carmelizing slightly.  The end result, as you can see from this photo, is to keep it juicy but to have the tomato flavours concetrated and richer:
Another good thing about this tart is that it can be served hot, warm, or cold.  It can be the vegetable side dish or the main course.  Add some salad, and it's a meal.
One guess what I'll be doing with these heirlooms from Urban Oaks Organic Farm?