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Recipe etiquette


nessa
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So..... You go to a party/potluck/holiday gathering, and you take your prize dish. You know the one, its a crowd pleaser, and its a labor of love. Its also yours. You created it. Its intellectual property, right? How do you graciously decline giving out the recipe? I mean, I know how to phrase something politely, but is it still considered rude to bring something that you won't share the recipe of? Is it better left at home, or will the smirk and "If I told you I'd have to kill you " line work?

What do you do when faced with this moral dilema :D

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Usually I say, "I'd love to give you the recipe, but there isn't really any. I just throw a little of this and a little of that together, and I never measure. I could tell you what went into it, but I really can't tell you how much. Would you still want that?"

That tends to scare the shit out of most people, since they can't cook unless there is a precise recipe to follow. And even if YOU are following a real recipe, the part in bold makes you not a total liar :wink: -- you really CAN'T tell them. :biggrin:

Oh yes, it also has the effect of putting them even more in awe of your cooking abilities.

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I either say what Suzanne suggests, or that "it's a family secret, I'm not allowed to tell, my mother will kill me". I like Suzanne's better though. It does tend to scare people away.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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What I say in a case like this is (and for me it has the advantage of being true most of the time):

"You know, when I cook, I don't really measure, and I hardly ever make this the same way twice, so I can't give you an exact recipe. But I can tell you the ingredients, with some general instructions. Will that help?"

If they say yes, then I give them a brief outline of the recipe. Usually, though, their eyes glaze over and they say, "oh that's okay. Thanks anyway."

As I said, this response is generally truthful for me, so I don't feel bad giving it.

Edit: I swear I didn't copy Suzanne, but I guess great minds think alike.

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What Suzanne and Jaz said, EXCEPT:

When you DO give them a basic outline of the recipe, LEAVE OUT ONE IMPORTANT INGREDIENT!!!

Nasty, I know... but when they make it, you will look all that much more impressive because you've created something incredible that they couldn't recreate.

"Gosh, mine didn't taste as good as your's...."

Ain't I a stinker? :raz:

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Does anyone who uses any of the ploys described above to elude recipe-seekers really think that people do not see through the ploy? I think the reason that recipe-seekers back off is not that they believe your words. Whenever I hear those old excuses for not giving a recipe, I just know someone does not wish to share. Does it bother any one of you that you might come off seeming ungenerous, not to mention mendacious?

I think it is not rude to decline to give a recipe, merely petty. As an amateur baker, I do have a handful of recipes that I cherish because I have taken years to develop and perfect them, but I cannot see what I would gain by keeping the recipe to myself. If someone asks me for a recipe, especially if the recipe is my own, I am flattered and honored. I want to share, so that others can enjoy, too.

I've seen it all: those who leave out an ingredient; those who change the amounts of ingredients; those who pretend there is no recipe; those who claim they are sworn to secrecy; those who suddenly have misplaced the recipe; and those who say yes but never do produce the recipe. It is all very tiresome.

It seems to me that one of the saddest things is when someone takes a recipe to the grave, and the survivors have only the memory of that special dish but no way of replicating the dish they crave.

So, share before it is too late. You never know when you might expire.

Finally, on a technical note: the law is that the recipe itself, i.e. the method, is not intellectual property; only the words describing the method are intellectual property.

Edited by browniebaker (log)
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I have to admit I agree with browniebaker...

I've never felt tempted to hold back on a recipe; just flattered that they thought it was good and hope that they will make and enjoy it, change it as they like...

I can picture things like this in the old days, maybe in a small town with little entertainment, where people would become *famous* for their particular recipe, etc. that they always brought to the church function, etc.

Another funny version of this kind of thing is if you work in a research laboratory and you are trying to replicate an experiment or generate some material. In this case, I guess it is more a competition thing,,--but people will sometimes do something simllar--leave out key ingredients, 'tricks' or procedures. In this case, it's not really funny--especially if you are supposed to be collaborators or are working in the same company. It just wastes time and money.

In either situation (passing on a recipe or lab experiment) I'll find myself explaining it in extra careful detail b/c I don't want the person's 'experiment' to fail.

All that said, (in the case of cooking) while I don't mind sharing, I guess I wouldn't get bent out of shape if someone wouldn't do the same. There is a tradition in having *secret* recipes.

Not trying to be sanctimonious, just how I feel about it. :smile:

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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For me, it's no ploy: I really mean what I said. I hardly ever use a printed recipe, and even when I do, I tweak it. What would you have me say: "Well, I had this collection of livers in the freezer and figured it was time I'd better use them up, along with dribs and drabs of leftover sauces, so I looked in a dozen of my 600 cookbooks to get some ideas, and this is what I came up with, although I really wish I'd had some (fill in the blank) to add to it, but I guess it came out all right after all"??? That's the truth, but come on! :raz:

As a for-instance: people asked me to post the recipe for the Indian-style potato salad I brought to the pig-fest at Bobolink Farms in September. I don't mind doing it, except that 1) I really didn't measure anything; 2) I used the last few ounces each of 6 different chutneys and pickles; and 3) even right after I made it, I couldn't have told you all the other ingredients I threw in. And, the recipe that I was trying to approximate is one that I haven't been able to find in my files for many, many years.

I have to say that I believe intentionally leaving out an ingredient or giving incorrect measurements is inconscionable. Why force someone to screw it up? Just say no instead. Even if you gave your exact recipe, theirs wouldn't be as good, so why be so mean?

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If someone asks at a party for the recipe for something you brought, just say "yeah, sure, whatever" and then quickly change the subject. And then don't give it to them. If they bring it up (next day, or whenever you see them), you can just say you forgot all about it! By making them remind you, then you weed out those who aren't really serious. Nine times out of ten, the people who ask you won't follow up.

I get more annoyed at the work involved in copying the recipe for them than giving it to them.

I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself. - Johnny Carson
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What Suzanne said. As I mentioned, what I tell people is the truth -- I don't use recipes -- I wing it; many times I can't recreate what I've made from one time to the next. One of the hardest things for me when I started teaching was to keep track of ingredients and amounts and write them down so I could give them to my students. I'm still constantly finding myself deviating from what I've written, in front of my classes, and having to explain that a little more or less of this or that is not a big thing.

As for giving out recipes, I don't have a problem with it, if I happen to have a recipe. It's just that usually I don't.

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I guess I'm just a selfish ***** There are some recipes I *do* mind sharing. Maybe its an ego thing, and I like being the only one to make it. Some things are mine. They are intimate, propriatery. I'm possessive. And others (99%) I don't mind sharing. Especially if I did not create it.

I work in a lab, and I keep meticulous notes when I create things in the kitchen. I like to be able to either reproduce something exactly, or adlib at will. I guess I see some of my creations as being my babies and don't want someone else taking credit for my work. If I didn't create the recipe then its not mine to NOT share.

While its flattering for people to covet a recipe of mine, some arent going to be revealed. So maybe I'll just not serve the one's I'm not willing to share.

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I never mind sharing a recipe - even if it one that I have "created" I will give out the approximate instructions, with the caveat that is is approximate.

The way I see it is it is a compliment to get asked for a recipe. Yes, it is true that many times people never make the dish - so what. I do love it when people enjoy good food (especially mine :biggrin: ). I think that if I can pass on a wonderful recipe to others that will bring joy in their life at a later date when they make it for their family or friends, then that is a good thing.

To me one of the positive things about cooking and eating is sharing with others. :smile:

Life is short, eat dessert first

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For me, it's no ploy: I really mean what I said. I hardly ever use a printed recipe, and even when I do, I tweak it.

It's reallly difficult for me to get recipes from my mom and grandmother for that reason. My grandmother especially never cooks from recipes.

A funny story though--we wanted to learn how to make strudel dough from my grandmother when she was visiting. First she said, I can't, I don't measue anything. So, we said she should just do her thing and we would measure the amounts, as she went along. Well, in her sleep she can make strudel thin enough to read through--but this time it just wouidn't work! She tried again, and same result, no go. She was getting frustrated and we felt bad about suggesting the 'experiment'. Some time later, we figured out that it was the flour over here that was different from what she had in Europe! (Turns out, things worked fine if used King Arthur's unbleached flour).

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I look at it this way --

Most of the "recipes" (like most I almost never measure exactly unless I'm baking where precision does make a difference) I have I took from somewhere else or were at least inspired by someone else's. I view it as somewhat hypocritical to not pass one along.

If it is indeed something entirely your own (as much as that can exist outside of the truly top kitchens) then for the home cook getting asked for a recipe is indeed a great compliment.

Even with the exact recipe the requestor's result will be different from yours due to equipment and cooking process. I love Mario's cookbooks. Do I think anything I make in them are nearly as good as what he could do? Heck no.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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i share the recipe. :unsure:

word.

imitation is the sincerest form of flattery imo. besides, even with the exact same ingredients - people will have different nuances to the dish. i'm confident enough in my abilities that i'm not worried about someone making the same thing as me.

really half the recipes i use that are crowd-pleasers have come from the kindness of others anyway. might as well "pay it forward".

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There are, to my way of thinking, a few good reasons to share recipes.

1. For most of us, no recipe is entirely original. We borrowed from someone else.

2. The person requesting the recipe might well reciprocate.

3. The world can certainly do with more people cooking better meals.

4. At a minimum, the world can certainly do with more people cooking.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I was dating this great guy in High school, and wanted to impress him mother. So I made a Cranberry quickbread mix from the box, and passed it off as my own. She loved it, and kept asking me for the recipe. Finally, I just wrapped up a box of the mix and sheepishly handed it to her.."Here's the recipe for that Cranberry Loaf you liked!" I scored points for honesty, and I hooked up the guy with a close friend who he later married and has 7 special needs adopted kids with...I still see the family occassionally, and at his mother's wake, he was telling me that she loved telling that Cranberry loaf story! :smile: Not sure if its necessarily a relevant story, but it's a hppy one!

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I think I'm with Nessa here. As selfish as it sounds, I am deeply posessive of most recipes that I find/create. I do make exceptions, but for example, I never share my Christmas cookie recipes because I have done the Xmas baking for my family for a dog's age now, and people have come to associate a certain selection of holiday goodies with me. Knowing how I am , I rarely ask for recipes either.

I do consider the requests to be compliments, though.... :rolleyes:

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There are, to my way of thinking, a few good reasons to share recipes.

1. For most of us, no recipe is entirely original. We borrowed from someone else.

2. The person requesting the recipe might well reciprocate.

3. The world can certainly do with more people cooking better meals.

4. At a minimum, the world can certainly do with more people cooking.

those are very good reasons.

do those of you have don't want to share recipes have reasons for that? i can see if you plan on making a career based on the recipe. but if not, why such the fuss?

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If everyone had the same possesive streak with their recipies we would all be missing out on a lot of great dishes that have been passed down over the years through means ranging from mother to child to cookbooks to Food TV.

Bill Russell

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David Leite has a great article about this very thing on his website.

I am, if I may say so myself, an exemplary host. I cook for twelve when six are invited. I foist seconds on guests, regardless of who's counting Weight Watcher points. And I wrap leftovers, sometimes shaping the foil into whimsical ducks or butterflies, and hand out the bulging parcels as everyone files out the back door. But my generosity came to a lurching halt after I returned from a weeklong cooking class in France. In fact, in the last few months I have become selfish, withholding, and generally parsimonious when it comes to dinnertime.

Nice piece, and in David's very witty style.

Chad

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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We have an esteemed member here :huh: who is frequently asked for the recipes for the fabulous creations we are privileged to taste. She declines, she MUST decline, because those recipes are the basis of her business. That is fair, IMO.

Edited by Suzanne F (log)
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