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Recipes: Share Them or Hoard Them?
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 1:38 am    Post subject: Recipes: Share Them or Hoard Them? Reply with quote

For such a simple subject, this one got some people's blood boiling and could have resulted in fist fights at one site that I post at.

It was Christmas, and in a cooking thread, we were all sharing thoughts and ideas about Christmas Cookies. Many of us were posting and sharing our recipes with others but some posters would say, "I make the BEST cheesecake/fruitcake/cookies in the WORLD but I never share a single recipe! It's what makes me unique and brings people back to my table! "I am taking the recipes to my grave!!!"

Woah! Serious much?!

Now, this response was to nothing!; no one had asked for their recipes or hinted at it, so it wasn't as if they were defending themselves to someone who got nasty on the board. Obviously, these people have issues, and it goes wa-a-a-a-y beyond cooking and recipes.

But their response generated pages and pages of people asking "Why" they didn't share or posts that brought tears to your eyes, where the poster wishes they had their Grandma Betty's Apple Dumplings or Aunt Marge's Pickle Recipe but "she took it to the Grave".

I've also heard, but not experienced, where someone will 'share' their recipe, but leave out a key ingredient. WTF is that all about?!

I'm flattered when people think my recipes are good enough to try them at home and share with anyone who asks. My God, if that coveting of recipes was pandemic, then there wouldn't be such a thing as cook books!

So, do you share or take it to the grave?
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 2:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll share anything I've got. Which reminds me of the time I went looking for a recipe for a lemon cake. The one that popped up over and over again on Cooks.com was one I had posted on a recipe BB on AOL. Now, I didn't orginate the recipe and it was soooo good I always credited the source I got it from (a Pasadena, CA Junior League cookbook from the late 70s) but I knew it was mine because all my own personal notes and preferences were still in the text.

I know what you're saying about how hot under the collar some people get. Back on the AOL recipes BB (actually it was recipes in a gardening group; typically pretty laid back and gentle people) there was a group that had been together for years. For many of them, from the early days of the public internet. They knew one another's kids' names & bdays. They always planned trips to include detours to "meet" anyone within an hour's drive of the destination. Until one day when someone got offended at the posting for a novelty cake that was assembled to look like a used kitty litter pan.

Someone was offended. People chimed in to say, "relax and it's OK to cook and giggle at the same time". That only made the offended party feel targeted. Other people chimed in to support her. Next, .... well, I guess you've all seen a flame war somewhere or other. But this was over a cake for a kid's party! Who knew cooking could get this "hot"? Freindships were inextricably severed over this.
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a story, Rainey! I've not only seen the Cat Box Cake, but have made it! With the melted Tootsie Rolls, etc. It was a gag cake for a Divorce Party and we had a blast with it!!! Hard to believe that people could end friendships over something so silly.

I know what you mean by your infamous lemon cake and YOUR specific instructions. I posted Louisa May Alcott's Apple Slump recipe on a website, and now that recipe, the history and all the instructions are kicking everywhere on the web, including a site where they 'doubted' that it was actually her recipe. Whatever. Too bad you and I didn't get a 'nickel' for each time our recipes were copied.

At the board where the recipe war broke out, posters were trying to be helpful and revealing to the stubborn recipe with-holders; they were giving stories of their past where a favourite relative died and how nice it would be to have those special dinner rolls of Aunt Sally's again, for Thanksgiving. I have friends of my own who will remember some relative's lost recipe from over 60 years past and still get upset and sad that it wasn't passed down to the generations.

I can understand some recipe that you've created and possibly entering into a contest or event, but come on....ALL of them? It was just weird how these posters enjoyed 'talking' about their Famous Roast Beef or Gingerbread, and would hint at ingredients, but then they'd get mean and nasty when posters would say, "Hey, M.O., I'd love to have a copy of that recipe!" and they were met with a stingy response.

My consolation is that I'm not genetically related to any of these nut-balls!
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Judy



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 1196
Location: buried under a pile of books somewhere in Adelaide, South Australia

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey you have made the perfect connection - recipes and gardening. I love sharing my recipes as much as I love sharing cuttings from my garden. I think both are meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends, aquaintances, what the heck, even strangers.
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't imagine NOT sharing a recipe if someone shows the interest! It would be fun to trace a recipe actually if you think of it. For example i got a wonderful butternut squash soup recipe that incorporated pancetta in it from Erin and produced it for Christmas. I have since shared that recipe with 2 friends who were very interested in trying it. These women are both great cooks and dinner party givers so I know it will only be a matter of time before someone will ask them for the recipe----and on and on it goes!

As for a lot of those recipes "Aunt Betty's famous dinner rolls", I think a lot of the time the secret ingredient is Aunt Betty.
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At first I thougt Dairy_Queen was joking when I read the title of this thread. Why would anyone possibly want to protect their recipes?. I wondered? I guess some people can be competitive even with the most basic of human needs. I wonder if people protect their cleaning methods or other things? Or are these habits reserved for their food recipes?

To me, I like to see how other people react to my ideas. That's one way for me to gage my behavior, i.e., me thinking I'm a misfit. I am certainly on the edge of what's commonly accepted as far as cooking and eating habits. I would certainly fall more in the mainstream in a country like France, where meals are talked about, anticipated, and enjoyed.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David and Bee both have excellent reasons to share: a special favorite keeps going and isn't lost and can actually be improved by letting others take a hand at using it and allowing it to keep evolving. Sounds compelling to me! Wink
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just got so excited to read that David enjoyed my recipe so much that he has passed it around. I can think of no greater compliment!
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sarape- I'm thinking that most people who enjoy food would be of a mind to share. The ideas of hospitality/nuturing go hand in hand with loving food in my mind and a person who gravitates to these things would strike me as one who would share and be flattered and pleased to have provoked a request to share.

More than likely, a person who would prefer to keep a recipe or ingredient for themselves would be someone who competes or anticipates making a commercial product, on the one hand, or someone who has a controlling nature on the other. There are theories about women and bad eating habits that are rooted in control and feminist issues. They suggest that when women had limited lives and control over very little, food was how they made their families depend on them or punished them. Also, how they comforted themselves.

These theories may or may not be valid, depending on the times and situations. But there are current theories that some women, particularly young Arab women who have been raised in Europe and married off to families in unfamiliar Middle Eastern countries, are using kitchen duties which entail hot oil to commit suicide or render themselves so disfigured that they are returned to their European families. I don't know how isolated or reliable this phenomenon is, but it highlights how fundamental food is to our emotional as well as our physical survival.

This is much more dire stuff than refusing to share a recipe but my mind is wandering this morning.
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rainey wrote:
They suggest that when women had limited lives and control over very little, food was how they made their families depend on them or punished them.


Very interesting. Not something I would have thought to be true, but now that I've thought about it, I see references to that kind of behavior in some people I've known. I do see that controlling the "keys" to the kitchen can lead to some strange relationships and behavior within a family.

Guess this is a small part of the larger issue of control -- control of food or money or sex.
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brighidsdaughter



Joined: 02 Oct 2004
Posts: 233
Location: Canton, TX USA

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am a giving person by nature, and am thrilled when someone asks me for a recipe. That being said, I'm an intuitive cook & so I can't always give exact amounts of certain ingredients -- that's where the creative part of cooking comes in, and you make a recipe your own. How much key lime juice in lime vinaigrette? However much tastes right to you.

After I stopped catering, an acquaintance still in the business constantly griped about how she couldn't keep competent kitchen help. I offered to help her a couple of times when she was in stressful situations, but she always turned me down. Later I found out she was afraid I would *steal* HER special recipes. Good grief. Like I didn't have enough to do developing my own, quite a few of which I shared with her when asked. Just how many ways are there to "unvent" rice pilaf? Does someone think she's the only person who ever thought to put lemon zest and dried apricot bits in it before?

I think unwillingness to share may be tied into self-esteem, or lack thereof. When someone asks me for a recipe, I see it as a compliment, and it definitely gives my self-esteem a boost.
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What amazing insights and responses to this thread! I am so glad to read all the responses and gain the knowledge that several of you have shared. David, in particular: "More than likely, a person who would prefer to keep a recipe or ingredient for themselves would be someone who competes or anticipates making a commercial product, on the one hand, or someone who has a controlling nature on the other. There are theories about women and bad eating habits that are rooted in control and feminist issues. They suggest that when women had limited lives and control over very little, food was how they made their families depend on them or punished them. Also, how they comforted themselves...I couldn't agree with you more! I didn't want to tip the hat too much when I wrote my first post, in case there WERE hoarders at this site, so I was glad when you brought up the psychological aspect of it.

The two posters on the site that were "foot-stomping" mad over being asked, politely, to share a recipe that THEY had mentioned are very much of the 'controlling' ilk. What they will do is say, "I make a wonderful pork stew with apricots, brandy and blah-blah-blah." Then, they will PM the reipe to some of their favorite board friends (High School clique, anyone?!) and what makes it worse, the people who received the recipe will PUBLICLY thank the malcontent posters, on-line, for graciously granting THEM, the few, with the recipe! Talk about bad manners, all around! After reading hundreds of these people's posts, you can just tell that something isn't 'right' upstairs and it makes you so glad that you don't have to deal with them in them in your own life.

Last night, I had a wonderful dinner with my partner and her female roomate. I made the turnip soup that I posted in the What's Cookin' thread, but because the roommate has severe food allergies, I made it vegan, leaving out the butter and parmesan cheese. She was so enamoured over the turnip soup, and the fact that it could turn out THAT GOOD without dairy, that she immediately requested the recipe! Nothing made me feel better, than to make something that she can repeat, in her own fashion, and also that she could feel 'part' of a dinner party; usually her food allergies make her a pariah so she doesn't eat with others. This only has encouraged me to make other traditional dishes that we can all eat together, that are mainstream and not so "health-food like".

It's nice to hear that so many others here enjoy the entire process of cooking: from the creating, to eating, to sharing.

Again, loved the deep analysis that David and Rainey provided to this subject.
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ejm



Joined: 01 Feb 2005
Posts: 51
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We were talking about this strange phenomenon the other day at my sister's house. We know someone who will NOT share her shortbread recipe because she is afraid that if she does, people won't be excited about getting her shortbread (we all agreed that that is just too weird - wouldn't anyone be thrilled to be given shortbread??) She DID give me the recipe with explicit instructions that I was NOT to give it out as presents. Well, no problem... we made her shortbread and we suspect that she left out an ingredient or step because it just wasn't quite right. (We have since made stellar shortbread from someone else's recipe. Sorry, I don't have it online or on the computer. But I do have an equally good ginger shortbread recipe, just so nobody will accuse me of refusing to share. Wink)

And then, back at my sister's house, we went on with the discussion. No matter if the whole recipe is given to the letter, it still will turn out differently in another kitchen. Over Christmas, my sister made fudge for us. It was fantastic fudge. She gave us the recipe with explicit instructions and STILL the fudge didn't turn out correctly when we made it. It was good but not fantastic.

And then there is that great episode from the old Dick Van Dyke series where the Laura character gives her famous dip recipe to the Millie character. The dip is different and it turns out that the Laura character purposely left out an ingredient. Of course, the dip tasted better with the ingredient missing.

I'll just drone on a little longer about this... it's my feeling that if someone doesn't want to share, then it really doesn't matter. There are so many fantastic recipes out there that missing one or two won't really matter. And who's to say that the person who claims to make the best "pork stew with apricots, brandy and blah-blah-blah" really does make the best one? Sounds like posturing to me....
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When we interviewed photographers for our wedding we asked them all if they minded guests taking pictures, most said yes. The pair we went with said "I am not worried about your grandma's pictures showing me up, and if they do I should find a new job". At our wedding he actually let a guest follow him around and even taught him a few secrets.

Insecurity really causes some negative behavior. Sad isn't it.
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Dairy_Queen



Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 342
Location: Chicago and other places

PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2005 1:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ejm wrote:
We were talking about this strange phenomenon the other day at my sister's house. We know someone who will NOT share her shortbread recipe because she is afraid that if she does, people won't be excited about getting her shortbread (we all agreed that that is just too weird - wouldn't anyone be thrilled to be given shortbread??) She DID give me the recipe with explicit instructions that I was NOT to give it out as presents. Well, no problem... we made her shortbread and we suspect that she left out an ingredient or step because it just wasn't quite right. (We have since made stellar shortbread from someone else's recipe. Sorry, I don't have it online or on the computer. But I do have an equally good ginger shortbread recipe, just so nobody will accuse me of refusing to share. Wink)


Interesting, isn't it, ejm, how you can bring this topic up to most people and they will definitely have something to say about it! And thanks for sharing Wink you Ginger shortbread recipe.

I started thinking about this subject this past Christmas when I handed out my yearly Christmas Cookie platters. A dear friend, who is in his 70's, asked me, with GREAT trepidation, for the macaroon cookie recipe that I had included in the platter. I gave it to him without hesitation, which prompted him to share all of his stories about his relatives in the past, who steadfastly refused to share their recipes for Chicken Soup, Baklava, etc. He mourned the loss of so many of these tastes, and had tried for years to duplicate them, without success.

This is pure conjecture on my part, but I'm wondering if AGE and GENERATION has anything to do with it. All the women that I know or heard about who would NOT share were "old", at least in their 60's and above. My friends relatives, long deceased, would have been alive up to the 60's or 70's. In those days, about the only creative outlet open to a woman was her cooking, so maybe she felt like she was her version of Bill Gates and people were asking her for her MicroSoft secrets!? Who knows. The two cantankerous posters on the other site I frequent are both over 60 years old. (Before anyone accuses me of Age-ism, I'm 52 years young!)


ejm wrote:
I'll just drone on a little longer about this... it's my feeling that if someone doesn't want to share, then it really doesn't matter. There are so many fantastic recipes out there that missing one or two won't really matter. And who's to say that the person who claims to make the best "pork stew with apricots, brandy and blah-blah-blah" really does make the best one? Sounds like posturing to me....


I agree, ejm, there ARE loads of fantastic recipes out there. I think that this might have been a much bigger problem before the Internet, where now you can just do a 'search' for anything, and come up with 20 different versions. However, not surprisingly, I was doing a search for Milk Pie, and when I found the recipe on a site, one of the reviewers of the recipe thanked the poster profusely, stating that "my husbands mother refuses to share this with me so we will come over to her house! Thanks ___ for allowing me to make this for my husband whenever I want to do it, without having to visit the In-Laws!"

I guess there's always an ulterior motive behind most things!
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