Seinfeld's wife accused of plagiarising cook book idea

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The Independent US

She is definitely the less famous of the Seinfelds, but Jessica, wife of the comedian Jerry Seinfeld, has gained notoriety with her best-selling cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. The book shows parents how to trick their kids into healthy eating. It was a winning idea for a nation confronted by obesity especially among children weaned on a diet of junk food.

But the book contains remarkable similarities to a manuscript offered last year to the same publishers by the food writer Missy Chase Lapine, who is not married to anyone famous.

When Ms Seinfeld was invited on to The Oprah Winfrey Show her book of recipes rocketed to the top spot on the hardcover Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous list in The New York Times. There is some publicity that money cannot buy and Ms Seinfeld was so thrilled that she sent Oprah Winfrey 21 pairs of designer shoes, worth $20,000 (£10,000).

Ms Lapine submitted her 42 recipes and 139-page proposal for The Sneaky Chef to Ms Seinfeld's publisher, HarperCollins, twice. Her first attempt without an agent was in February last year. After a rejection slip she followed up two months later with an agent. HarperCollins rejected The Sneaky Chef saying was "too similar" to another title on their list. Ms Lapine went off and found another publisher and her book was published in April.

Like Ms Seinfeld, Ms Lapine's book recommends that parents puree spinach and sweet potatoes and disguise them in their children's' favourite food, such as pasta and even muffins. Her Power Pizza contains vegetables and beans. Her peanut butter and jelly muffins contain vegetables, whole grains and nuts.

"There are uncanny similarities between my book and Ms Seinfeld's," she said. "I was brave enough to put out a proposal that took five years to write, but I was naive not to use an agent when I sent it off to Harper Collins. I cannot possibly speculate about the similarities with Ms Seinfeld's book and I'm not going to accuse anyone of anything, but I suppose it's possible it's a coincidence that there are so many similarities."

Despite being trumped by Ms Seinfeld's book, The Sneaky Chef is also doing very well. It has sold 127,000 copies, far more than anticipated and people are talking about it. "I'm delighted it's getting out there and helping eliminate the food fights and getting some healthy stuff into kid's food," she said. "My next book is How to Cheat on Your Man in the Kitchen."

Ms Seinfeld, who worked with a chef and a nutritionist on the book, claims that she got the idea more than two years ago. She was pureeing butternut squash for her youngest and cooking macaroni and cheese for her husband and two oldest children. "I've been obsessed with this for the past two years," she told The New York Times. "I don't need to copy someone's idea. I've got enough going on in my life."

Jerry Seinfeld then joined his wife on the phone saying: "Let's be realistic – my wife isn't in this for the money or the publicity." He added: "I really don't think we have another Watergate here."

Harper Collins now says it rejected Ms Lapine's book because it has another title on its list with a similar title. But they say they agreed to meet with Ms Seinfeld when she sent in a near-identical proposal two weeks later because of her name and because she was represented by one of the highest-powered literary agents: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of William Morris Agency.