In Defense of Pinterest [Recipe: Chicken-Tomatillo Chili with Sour Cream and Cilantro]

by Maris Callahan on March 10, 2012

My Canon Rebel is my achilles heel. I love to write, I love to develop recipes and I love to take photographs, but I only consider myself to be good at two out of three of these things. All things considered, this ratio is not a bad one since writing essentially helps pay my bills and well, eating is essential for sustaining life, in addition to it possibly being one of my very favorite things to do.

So, while I wish I could take prettier pictures, the fact that I am only average at photography doesn’t keep me up at night. I would give my right arm to take a class, purchase a lens that actually focuses, but for now, I am content in assuming that people read my blog because they enjoy my recipes and don’t hate my writing.

Enter, Pinterest, which is a highly visual virtual pinboard for sharing the pretty pictures you see online. Recently Pinterest has come under fire for having cloudy copyright terms, which I wholeheartedly agree is an issue that should receive attention. While many people rapidly deleted their Pinterest boards and denounced the service for inciting copyright violations, I can’t help but shrug my shoulders and think: “so what?”

Before anyone jumps to conclusions and thinks that I am blatantly stating that I condone the violation of federal copyright laws, I am going to state outright that I do not. However, I am not a lawyer and therefore I don’t think like one. I am not even a photographer. I am a person who likes to share what goes on in her kitchen and Pinterest provides another forum for that. While I completely agree with anyone who thinks that Pinterest, as a company, needs to regroup with its lawyers and do whatever needs to happen to remove these widespread copyright infringement concerns, I also like it when people “pin” my photos.

When I see that someone has “pinned” one of my photographs or recipes, I’m flattered that others think looked good enough to share, not angry or suspicious. I do not feel violated and I do not feel as though my work has been stolen (again: not a lawyer, not a photographer). In fact, I check in almost daily to see who is pinning my photos and who has pinned recipes that they have made and liked from my blog. I found that one of my elementary school friends reads my blog and pinned my chocolate butterscotch brownie recipe. I was flattered.

Likewise, when I pin someone else’s work I am not trying to steal it. I’m trying to say “this is awesome.” If someone asked me to remove a pin that I had posted, I would happily oblige. I think of it as I do posting recipes from a cookbook:  if you’re pinning a few things and encouraging people to check it out on the original web site, great. If you’re pinning an entire site so that your readers/fans/followers don’t need to visit the original source, that’s not cool.

It might be narcissistic, but I love knowing that people are reading, eating and enjoying what I do here. I hope that Pinterest is able to alleviate the legal issues that have recently come to light because I see it as a venue that lets us support and compliment one another’s work. There is a lot of bad news on the internet these days so it’s nice to have a place to go where you’re a few clicks away from beautiful white sand beaches, triple-layer chocolate cakes and shoes you can’t afford.

Chicken chili might not be as indulgent as a triple-layer chocolate cake, but I promise you that it’s healthier and probably more appropriate for dinner on a busy weeknight. I’ve made this twice in the past few months and while I’ve eaten it like chili, it’s very thick and could probably be repurposed as taco or burrito filling.

Chicken-Tomatillo Chili with Sour Cream and Cilantro

Serves 4
Adapted from Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook

What You Need:

1  tablespoon canola oil
4 (1/2) pound chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup fat-free tomatillo salsa
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream

How-To:

Heat oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, turning frequently, until golden brown, about 10 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Sir in garlic, cumin, salt and cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.

Add broth to Dutch oven. Cook, stirring constantly, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pot, about 3 minutes. Stir in the salsa. Nestle chicken in the onion mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a work surface. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken with two forks. Stir chicken, cilantro and sour cream into chili mixture.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Lana March 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Maris, I hear your woes about photography:) I have been trying really hard to be patient and learn how to use my Canon Rebel better. I also cook regular food for my family which is definitely tasty and nutritious, with good ingredients, and from scratch, but it’s not always pretty:)
I can’t afford to make only pretty recipes (desserts always come out the best and you can take photos of them at leisure:) and have to be satisfied with a bunch of drab and not very photogenic pics.
I don’t know what to think of Pinterest. I really like it and enjoy gawking at the beautiful stuff. I am not afraid of anyone stealing my photos, but what if someone somewhere decides that his photo I repinned cannot be there and sues Pinterest, which passes it on to me? That scares me, just because I am not a lawyer and I reluctantly pin photography on my boards unless I “know” the person and know they are on Pinterest.
I love the ingredients in your chili and know that it has to taste good, even though it is not all shiny and sparkly:)
Have a great weekend!

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Meal Planning March 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Although, the link back to the source is irrelevant in copyright terms… Pinterest still doesn’t violate copyright laws because in the US, there is a fairly well established common law that thumbnail catalogs of images constitute “fair use” under copyright law.

Glad that to hear that you don’t care if someone Pins your photos! Everyone should have that mentality… if anything, it’s free publicity for you.

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T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types March 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

So, I just entered the Pinterest world the other day. No sooner had I signed up then several people were following me. It was very stressful as I hadn’t even figured out what to pin yet! It’s an interesting discussion about copyrights, but isn’t it just a fancy, visual bookmarking tool? (I’m also realizing I haven’t yet pinned anything that is all that pretty.) Either way, I love a good chili and yours sounds delicious!

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camille March 10, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I am with you on the writing/recipes vs pictures thing (although my pictures are less good than yours since I don’t even make a big effort to make them particularly fabulous). And I feel, or felt, the same about Pinterest and the couple of times someone pinned a picture of mine. The only part of the copyright debate I feel a little dodgy about is the part where Pinterest now owns my stuff. Other people sharing it with their friends? Great! They like it, they want to talk about it, you know, that’s awesome. But I don’t feel like that’s the case with the website itself claiming copyright ownership.

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Aggie March 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I always love your posts Maris. I too am not a huge fan of food photography, I’m not great at styling & I really just dont know what I’m doing!

I love Pinterest. It’s a shame that it has so much negativity surrounding it. I love when my recipes are pinned. And I think you’re chipotle pizza was actually the first recipe I pinned lol.

I love tomatillos! This chili sounds great!

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Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen March 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm

I love recipes. A picture is a nice frame of reference for me but I think what defines a picture as beautiful is so different to each person. That’s why I don’t like to hear people complain when their photos are denied. Be proud of your work- photos, recipes, whatever. Just be proud of it. I have plenty of pictures that I am proud of that maybe aren’t magazine quality. :)

And I agree about pinterest. I wouldn’t put my work online if I didn’t want it to be shared …but I’m just a wee blogger. :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking March 10, 2012 at 11:46 pm

I love Pinterest! I do feel sad when someone actually pastes a recipe into the pin caption, because I feel that’s a clear means of circumventing my blog entirely, instead of leading people to it to see a recipe for themselves if they’re interested. But the simple way around this is just to use Pinterest as it was designed — as a visual pinboard of “bookmarks,” so to speak, that lead back to the original source. When used this way — as the vast majority of folks use it — I think it’s wonderful! I’m also flattered to see folks have pinned a recipe of mine.

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Mom March 11, 2012 at 7:28 am

Great post

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Autumn@Good Eats Girl March 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

I feel the same way about Pinterest….I love it when someone pins a recipe! I love having somewhere to store all of the fabulous recipes, etc. that I find so that I can find them instantly!

Your chili also looks wonderful!

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Susan March 11, 2012 at 11:20 am

I agree with your about Pinterest. To me, there’s nothing different there than on Facebook or any other ‘sharing’ website. If you don’t want something shared or copied, don’t put it on your website!

Love that chicken chili!

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bellini March 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I totally agree with your view on the copyright issue and I am sure that the majority of bloggers feel the same. It is just my opinion but there are a few high profile bloggers that have asked other bloggers to take their recipe down from their site. One particular blogger I no longer follow, and the same for a certain cooking site. I would be flattered if someone shared my work but perhaps they do not feel the same so who am I to say. As for the chicken there’s our comfort food right there.

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Amanda March 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I’m still at a loss about pinterest. I understand the copyright issue and I feel like many people probably aren’t checking out blogs to get the full story behind the pictures like they should be. On the other hand, I’ve become acquainted with several blogs I enjoy immensely just because of pinterest. I know the issue is deeper than that, but I don’t have a solution.

the chili looks delicious!

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Marsha @ The Harried Cook March 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm

All this talk about Pintrest is confusing me. I’m just going to keep enjoying it and see how it goes :) This sounds like a delicious bowl of comfort! Love the recipe… Thanks!

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Courtney March 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm

You’ve read my mind – about the photography and about Pinterest. I, like you, check daily to see what’s been pinned from me, and it makes me happy. :) Lovely chili, too!

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Sam March 12, 2012 at 5:42 am

I’m with you both on the photography (I’m terrible…when people actually DO pin photos from my site, I’m shocked) and the copyright issues, but the people who actually have pinned things have caused others to look at the post (why else would that be my only post to top 500 page views?). I’ve also, like others who have commented, found some very interesting food blogs (and other types of blogs) via pinterest. However, what I really dislike is when bloggers link to photos on pinterest instead of to the original source (blogger posts a photo of some recipe or decorating idea you’ve seen on pinterest and it just links to blogger’s own pinterest page instead of to the source). That’s really not ok, but in terms of fairness to the originator of the content and to me who has to click through all sorts of nonsense before I can get to the content I’d like to see.

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Emma March 12, 2012 at 6:44 am

I’m clueless about Pinterest, but I’d sure like to give your camera a swift kick in the pants and encourage it to focus a little better! It’s probably just being lazy:)

Tomatillos! I’m so looking forward to growing them in my garden this year:)

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Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray (soon to be Rachel Cooks) March 12, 2012 at 8:19 am

Amen! Why is everyone hating on Pinterest? ;)

PS: This chili looks delicious….I think I’ll pin it!

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Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine) March 12, 2012 at 8:19 am

I hear ya on the photography stuff. My Canon Rebel is decent, but I’m realizing good photography isn’t just a nice camera. My food styling leaves a LOT to be desired, and I’m rarely home early enough and cooking in the sunlight to be able to get that nice natural lighting thing. Plus I do not have the endless supply of decorative place settings that all other food bloggers seem to have. Oh well. I hope my quirky writing style and lens of “Young Girl With No Money” is enough to intrigue people! I, for one, love your writing and your style and all of your recipes, that’s enough for me! The food photography will come in time for both of us, I’m sure :)

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Kitchen Belleicious March 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

Amen sista! I completely agree! So What! This chili looks out of this world!

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Nicole@HeatOvenTo350 March 12, 2012 at 10:43 am

I completely agree with your assessment of Pinterest. Good job!

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The Waspy Redhead March 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I feel like I am in the exact sample place about blogging. Confident in my narrative, confident in my cooking ability, confident that only 40% of my photos will turn out decent. I will admit Pinterest makes me feel even more pressure to take better photos.

Oddly enough, the post that got pinned the most, and got the most referral traffic from pinterest had terrible photos… the secret to pinterest is two simple words: MASON JARS. If you put it in a jar, they will pin it. I have no clue why this is the case.

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Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef March 26, 2012 at 1:53 am

Maris, I love your no-nonsense style about Pinterest. Unless someone pinches our photos and claims them as their own, I don’t have a problem with it. However, I’m not a professional photographer and I can understand their pain at losing potential sales.

Personally, I’m getting a ton of traffic to my blog from Pinterest and I couldn’t be more pleased. (it’s okay to shoot poisoned darts at me if you disagree, folks)

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