Distorting Recipes on Purpose
Posted 26 January 2002 - 10:46 PM
Posted 27 January 2002 - 12:38 AM
Posted 27 January 2002 - 08:40 AM
I've also heard lots of stories of pros being less than candid with recipes, even for publication.....
Posted 27 January 2002 - 08:45 AM
P.S. B. Edulis was writing his/her post as I was writing mine; another way of presenting the same matter!!
(Edited by robert brown at 10:47 am on Jan. 27, 2002)
(Edited by robert brown at 10:49 am on Jan. 27, 2002)
Posted 27 January 2002 - 10:51 AM
1. By analogy to free software: Recipes are a noncompetitive good. If I have a recipe, I can give you the recipe without losing it myself. Therefore, to the extent that recipes increase human utility, I have an obligation to give you the recipe. The real recipe.
2. Giving out recipes is a way to enhance your status. I'm trying to imagine a situation in which I'd rather be known as a person who gives out falsified recipes than a person who is known as a source of recipes that faithfully recreate the food I've made for you, and I'm not thinking of one. Maybe if I were some kind of backwoods master cook like Adam on Northern Exposure, and my reputation hinged on being an obfuscating badass who happened to be able to deliver the goods.
There, that clears everything up, doesn't it?
Posted 27 January 2002 - 11:47 AM
So Matthew, do you think grandma should use the GPL, LGPL, BSD, Apache, APSL, or X11R6 licenses for recipe source releases?
Personally, my grandma must have been thinking along the lines of the Windows XP license agreement. I was wondering where Bill Gates got it.
Posted 27 January 2002 - 12:10 PM
Quote: from Jason Perlow on 1:47 pm on Jan. 27, 2002[brSo Matthew, do you think grandma should use the GPL, LGPL, BSD, Apache, APSL, or X11R6 licenses for recipe source releases?
Personally, my grandma must have been thinking along the lines of the Windows XP license agreement. I was wondering where Bill Gates got it.
please see jhlurie's first reply here.
Posted 27 January 2002 - 01:01 PM
Example to cook pasta: large amounts of water and salt in the water are recommended. After 75% of all American kids like their “noodles, spaghetti etc.” (And also eating them 2/3 times a week). Why do moms still have to read the recipe for the basic steps of cooking the pasta, and still do not understand the usage of salt? Excuses like the sauce is spicy enough do not make up for bland pasta.
So when I give friends the recipe for my “Original Smoked and Fresh Salmon Lasagna”, do I have to mention the salting of the water portion? But if I don’t they complain afterward “ Mine did not come out like the one I tasted in your house. Do I have to be specific to mention, for instance, the brand name of the lasagna noodles, or it’s durum wheat content? Should I mention to not leave the pre-cooked pasta in it’s cooling water, as it will get soggy?
Also, even as a professional, to follow someone else’s recipe is easy, but, and here is the “but”, exact duplication is nearly impossible. There are certain techniques, and quoting Robert (there is also a complexity or expertise problem involved), that may be the flick of the wrist, a pinch is not a pinch, and other problems like I always use “weights” as measurements vs. “by volume”. Some people will have a hard time to accurately convert – which they should not anyway.
But, to get back to Robert’s question, about leaving things out or adding, or even leading astray is OUT!!!
Something on a personal note. When I meet people, to whom I was not introduced previously, or just get to know them, and they learn about my work or profession, inadvertently will I be asked, “What is your favorite dish or favorite food you like to prepare?” I usually ask them, why do they ask, as they would not ask a plumber what his favorite toilet is, or an electrician if he deals better in watts or kilowatts. Do lawyers get asked about their favorite cases? Or writers about the font they use on their keyboard. Why me, Why me?
Posted 27 January 2002 - 01:24 PM
Peter, you raise a good point. I think a lot of accusations of recipe distortion do stem from unwritten assumptions about technique, ingredients, whatever. In Michele Anna Jordan's book Salt and Pepper she relates how a woman came up to her and said something like, "I made your soup recipe, and it was terrible!"
"How much salt did you use?" the author replied.
"Oh, I never use salt."
Most recipe misapplications aren't this outrageous, of course, but I can think of a few times I've totally screwed up a recipe and had to stifle the urge to blame the recipe. Of course, there are intentional distortions and there are recipes that just suck, but when in doubt, I point the chopstick at myself.
Jason, if your grandmother gets a pacemaker and a facelift, will Microsoft force her to reinstall her casserole?
Posted 27 January 2002 - 01:50 PM
Posted 27 January 2002 - 02:38 PM
Edit: I've had a couple of JEWISH GRANDMOTHERS, not facelifts. In case you were wondering.
(Edited by mamster at 6:58 pm on Jan. 27, 2002)
Posted 27 January 2002 - 03:34 PM
Most chefs and pastry chefs don't write their own recipes and don't write their own books. Usually a chef's recipe is filtered, tweaked, modified, co-opted, dumbed-down--choose one depending on your level of cynicism. Sometimes by that chef's pr person, an editor at whatever magazine feels like promoting said chef, a credited co-writer or an uncredited ghost writer.
The flip side of this is that most chefs don't have a lot of experience writing recipes to begin with--chefs work from lists of ingredients and weights or amounts that to an outsider must seem like code. That's because it is code. Add to this the inherent problems of translating Spanish and French into American cooking English--where most of our best cooking ideas are being stolen from these days--and you can just imagine how screwed up things can get.
The chefs I know that hide, deceive and with-hold are usually the least talented and most insecure--or the oldest and most bitter, part of an old-school that realizes their time has passed them by and are hoping someone, somewhere will pay them for their years of experience--as younger, free-spirited, more media savvy and enthusiastic chefs step up into the breach.
Inversely, I've found the most talented chefs--of any age--to be quite giving and willing to share. I have to admit something, too--that very rarely do I adhere to even my own published recipes, which I've put alot of thought into and tested in a "home" kitchen when necessary for that audience. I'm often tweaking, adjusting, playing around--it's a creative spirit thing. But I'd give anyone anything out of my PDA. Now, what that person can do with it is another thing.
All day today Colleen and I have been making and deep frying different croquettes for the Windows of Hope dinner we're doing on Tuesday in NYC. Now, I had to submit a recipe in advance, a rather perfunctory easily-doable one along with an espresso foam, milk gelee and creme brulee. Anyway, what we do on Tuesday will be very different from the recipe that will be published in the souvenir booklet--it will still have the liquid chocolate center oozing out--but because we started playing around with the batter, now we're rolling it in crumbs of caramelized hazelnuts and dacquoise--and then deep frying it. But that spirit is what is important--and can easily be duplicated by others.
Another corollary to this is crediting sources of inspiration, giving credit and acknowledgement to the recipes of other chefs--and perhaps even more importantly--food writers realizing when they are being snowed or conned based on a depth of knowledge and experience with food, rather than just their experience writing pithy phrases churning the culinary media machine. I find this to be abused much more frequently than a chef NOT giving a full recipe, intentionally holding back. Plus, let's not forget that there is alot of sloppy cooking going on out there--alot of corners being cut. Isn't it a bit unrealistic to expect such "reliability" out of recipe collections?
That's why I've written eslewhere on eGullet about the relative lack of importance of recipes--they are not rigid but instead snapshots in time--and secondary to principles of technique, respect for ingredients and one's spirit and palate. I'd suggest it is these factors that fail someone much more frequently than an incomplete recipe. And the sources and books that I value most have less to do with specific recipes and "key" ingredients and more to do with philosophy and spirit and technique.
Posted 27 January 2002 - 03:35 PM
I heard a beauty about a baker who wouldn't come through with a recipe for a book that would offer him some positive publicity of the kind you can't buy. When he finally produced a recipe, some investigation revealed it wasn't the recipe he used. Coincidently, I was practically thrown out of his shop when I innocently tried to take a photograph just a few days before I heard the story.
Robert, I have to ask if there's some jealousy in the family. Would there be a purpose to having your wife not bake as good a cake and making her feel she was an inferior cook, at least in this instance. (Okay, I'm a cynic and not such a sweet naive guy after all.)
The point about not stressing the obvious is interesting. My wife gave someone her recipe for coconut bread pudding. Shortly thereafter we got a long distance call from the friend who was visiting relatives out of town and trying to make the dish. She wondered if we had left out covering the bread pudding as it cooks in the oven. She went on to express concern that the bread floating in the mild and egg mixture was burning on top. It seems she didn't think "soak" required more than putting the bread into the liquid and she had all this dry bread floating on the suface of the custard.
Posted 27 January 2002 - 04:25 PM
One time I told someone that a pumpkin roll recipe they asked for was a family secret and I couldn't give it out. Reason? It was a guy I was interested in and wanted to make sure he couldn't make it himself therefore requiring him to need me for something at least. Perfectly reasonable, I'd say. If you're mentally impaired. ;)
Another time I made a sun dried tomato dip which I took to a Thanksgiving dinner. When the hostess asked me for the recipe I gave it to her, leaving out the one ingredient that made it superior. It was very good without it, mind you, but not superior. Why'd I do it? Well, I had spent a whole day experimenting with the recipe till I got it just right. I don't want my recipe showing up all over the place unless I'm with it.
Actually, I think the second example is more likely in general. Middle class people in certain parts of America go to alot of pot lucks, etc. We want to bring something special, and something that everyone raves about. If we give the recipe, the next pot luck we show up to will have 6 dishes exactly like it. Then we have to come up with a new raveable dish.
Well, I had lots more to say but I'm late for my therapy appointment.
p.s. I'm still single. Any of you nice middle aged men out there like pumpkin roll?
(Edited by Lily at 4:43 pm on Jan. 27, 2002)
Posted 27 January 2002 - 04:36 PM
Steve K., your post just above reminds me of the time I asked Pierre Gagnaire if he had a collection of recipes. He answered by giving me an incredulous look and said that he never writes down what he does. However, most people I know seem to cook one-handed, with the other hand holding open a cookbook or a recipe from the New York Times. I have heard so many times from family and friends that the Times receipes are faulty, ambiguous, seemingly incomplete,etc. It is this situation that I have in mind in my second post above. My dinner party invitations would be better if the host or hostess were closer to you in culinary skills and could take your approach.
Posted 28 January 2002 - 07:14 AM
Quote: from Lily on 6:25 pm on Jan. 27, 2002
Middle class people in certain parts of America go to alot of pot lucks, etc. We want to bring something special, and something that everyone raves about. If we give the recipe, the next pot luck we show up to will have 6 dishes exactly like it. Then we have to come up with a new raveable dish.
Wow, you know, in a way I'm really pleased to hear that there's that much competition to create wonderful food. I live in New York City, and my forays on road trips have been sustained by mostly dismal road food, and not much home cooking. This is a really encouraging peak into home culture...
Posted 28 January 2002 - 08:04 AM
I think what's happening here is that someone requests a recipe, the person who has the recipe isn't willing to give it out (or at least, not to the requester) and rather than refusing, alters the recipe so it won't work. She knows that the requester will have no way of knowing for certain whether the recipe was defective, or it was her technique. If asked, the writer of the recipe can say that the recipe is ok, making the requester look like an idiot. Also, the requester will have no way of politely inquiring why they were given a defective recipe. Finally, the requester will stop asking to be given those precious recipes.
I think the dynamic of faulty chef recipes is different, as discussed above.
Posted 28 January 2002 - 01:57 PM
Posted 28 January 2002 - 08:22 PM
I have to agree with Steve Klc's take on this, and I'll add that if you're competent in the basic cooking techniques and you have a good palate you don't have to ask people for their recipes because whatever you taste will immediately be processed by your brain and translated into a recipe of sorts. And you'll likely be able to improve upon it with a few minutes thought. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've asked for a recipe, and they've always been dessert recipes. I think that's primarily because I don't do a lot of baking. But I'm sure that if Steve Klc tastes any dessert other than a really esoteric one prepared by one of the world's great masters, he can decipher the procedures and ingredients in two bites.
Posted 29 January 2002 - 07:44 AM
I just watched an old episode of King of the Hill last night. Peggy wouldn't give out her prized recipe for Apple Brown Betty (I do remember from another episode that it contains margarine, not butter). The neighbor was able to duplicate it perfectly, and improve on it, much to Peggy's chagrin. Her addition? Nutmeg. The closer of the show had Ming sampling others dishes Peggy made for her to taste. Her solution for improving each of these dishes? Nutmeg!