ATLANTA—A federal judge said Monday that magazine writer Nancy Steuber will be held in contempt of court if she continues to withhold the source of a recipe for maple-glazed ham published in Redbook magazine in February.
Judge Antonio Pelicore said that Steuber has until Thursday to reveal the name of the "culinary miracle worker" responsible for the recipe, which was included in a Redbook feature titled "Easter With Zip."
"It is the opinion of the court that this is the most devastatingly succulent ham to come across our docket in a very long time," said Pelicore, enjoying a sandwich made of leftovers. "The state has a vested interest in learning the identity of the person responsible for a dish of this mouth-watering magnitude."
Pelicore added: "I'll ask you again, Ms. Steuber. Where did you find this amazing recipe?"
Steuber, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for recipe reporting in 1996 and 2001, said that to divulge her source would jeopardize her First Amendment rights, as well as relationships with high-level recipe sources she has worked for years to develop.
Despite Steuber's staunch refusals, prosecutor Wendy Hardin said that she "absolutely must be allowed" to probe the recipe to the fullest extent, which means interviewing the individual who leaked it to Redbook. Many close to the case believe that the source of the recipe is a member of a tight-knit family with a glazed-ham dish that has endured for generations.
"I think the people have a right to know what inspired this cook to create a sweet glaze that doesn't overwhelm the savory taste of the ham," Hardin said. "Such deliciousness cannot remain hidden any longer."
"It's a crime," Hardin added.
Some journalists have suggested that Steuber's refusal to reveal her sources is motivated by self-interest, not by a desire to protect free speech.
"Steuber exerts incredible power through her ability to determine how much of a source's information is exposed," said Annette Scotti, whose articles on recipe-ownership issues have appeared in The Nation. "If she's withholding valuable information that is preventing Americans from enjoying a savory dish, she's doing an enormous disservice to the country. What if this maple-glazed ham source also has a tantalizing recipe for turkey stuffing?"
Steuber, a Redbook staffer since 1989, is best known for her articles such as "Dealing With Newlywed Stress" and "Colorful Autumn Ponchos You Can Crochet Yourself!" While she has never before faced jail time, she remained determined to honor her professional obligations to her editors and sources alike.
"It's a women's magazine journalist's job to report on recipes of this caliber fairly and accurately," Steuber said. "But when it comes to who is behind those recipes, or how best to use the leftovers, I'm afraid I'll have to remain silent, no matter the personal cost."