By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Ahh, the home cooking of Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy. You can almost smell her Ahi tuna with Napa cabbage slaw or her rosemary chicken with warm spinach salad as you peruse the recipes on her husband's campaign Web site.
Or you could have, until yesterday, when that part of the site was taken down after bloggers revealed that several of the "McCain Family Recipes" were, in fact, copied word for word from the Food Network.
Cindy McCain's tuna recipe was actually developed and submitted to the Food Network by cookbook author and former "Cooking Thin" host Kathleen Daelemans. The recipe for farfalle pasta with turkey sausage, peas and mushrooms was a "quick pasta classic" from the TV show "Everyday Italian." That old McCain standby -- rosemary chicken -- was a creation of TV chef Rachael Ray and was lifted, with a few changes, from the same Food Network site.
All three were listed on a McCain Web page titled "Cindy's Recipes."
"Apparently a Web intern added Rachael Ray to our policy team without her knowing it," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds deadpanned yesterday. "He was swiftly dealt with, and the page is down for revision."
But not quickly enough to avoid becoming the latest "gotcha" of the presidential campaign. McCain's advisers dismissed the gaffe as irrelevant; it was revealed on the same day that their candidate gave a wide-ranging speech about his economic philosophy.
But it was unearthed as McCain and his rivals -- Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton -- continued to argue about who is more in touch with working-class Americans, in the wake of Obama's comments about "bitter" small-town voters at a fundraiser last week.
Even if the recipes had been Cindy McCain's own, it's hard to see how the campaign thought it could win over Middle American voters with dishes such as crab scampi served over whole-wheat spaghetti.
A blogger for the Huffington Post, freelance writer David Weiner, first reported the plagiarism, mocking the incident as "Farfallegate? The Rosemary Chicken Dome Scandal?" He attributed the discovery to Lauren Handel, a New York lawyer who had been searching the Internet for recipes and found identical ones on the Food Network and McCain campaign sites.
"Personally, I'm not sure how an intern can be responsible for messing up the McCain 'family' recipes," Weiner wrote. "Did the intern lose Cindy's recipe box only to haphazardly try to replace them with Food Network recipes?"
Daelemans, who is developing a new cooking show for public television, said yesterday that she created her Ahi tuna recipe after living in Hawaii for five years. She said she ran to her cookbook to compare her recipe with McCain's when she heard the news.
"Am I offended?" asked Daelemans, a Democrat who said she voted for Clinton in the Michigan primary. "Absolutely not. I'm flattered. I'd love to cook it for them personally."