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Sharing Your Signature Recipes

v
valerie Apr 10, 2007 07:03 AM

For years, my mother has been making brisket for the Jewish holidays. Family and friends always look forward to it and love it. But a few years ago my parents moved to Florida and it has now become my "thing". (Mostly because I love to cook anything in my LeCreuset dutch ovens!)

So for about 3 years, I have been working on perfecting my own version. I've tried different recipes -- some of the sweet-ish type and some of the savory type. Every few months I try another variation. Nothing crazy, though, as I am a brisket purist.

So for Passover this year, I finally tweaked my recipe to the point where I thought it was the best one I ever made. And everyone raved. And ate and ate and ate.

Anyway, yesterday I get and email from my mother-in-law asking for my brisket recipe. She was telling her friend how delicious it was and they both want the recipe. But for some reason I don't want to give it to them (and I have no problem sharing recipes!). Quite honestly, I know that my MIL would probably never make it anyway (she rarely cooks or entertains), and she would certainly never serve it to me if she did make it. But that's not the point. In fact, I don't even know what the point is, but I just don't want to share it with them!

Have I gone off the deep end? Is it okay not to share the recipe with them? What would I say?

  1. ccbweb Apr 11, 2007 03:38 PM

    As a general response: share recipes. Share food. Tip well. It is a far far easier path. As someone noted above, its difficult for me to give a complete and accurate recipe as I alter things on the fly when I cook. But, when asked, I will give an original starting recipe if there is one and notes that approximate as closely as possible what I did. Or, I'll think through what I did and try to write down something as close as I can. Food has a lot to do with setting, atmosphere, the people eating it and (corny) the love put into it. Dishes don't come out the exact same ever, really.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb
      mollyomormon Apr 11, 2007 07:44 PM

      Thanks for a really beautiful post!

      1. re: ccbweb
        LindaWhit Apr 12, 2007 08:04 AM

        "Dishes don't come out the exact same ever, really."
        ~~~~~~~~~~~
        Unless you're eating them at Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or Applebee's. ;-)

        1. re: LindaWhit
          Axalady Apr 12, 2007 06:42 PM

          But that's just the beauty of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Applebee's or places like it - even McDonalds and Burger King! When I go to Macaroni Grill for a Penne Rustica I expect it to taste exactly like the Penne Rustica I had there last month. Same for Bertucci's, next time I go there and order Rigatoni Abruzzi I am hoping it will taste exactly the same as the last time I ate it!

          1. re: Axalady
            LindaWhit Apr 13, 2007 06:08 AM

            "...that's just the beauty of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Applebee's or places like it..."
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            The word "beauty" as it relates to food at any of those restaurants being totally subjective, as it were. :-)

          2. re: LindaWhit
            ccbweb Apr 12, 2007 07:13 PM

            See, now you're using a generous and expansive definition of "dish" ;-)

            Though you're also correct, that's certainly what chains aim for and why they're successful.

            1. re: ccbweb
              Brian S Apr 13, 2007 08:22 AM

              I think the finest restaurants aim for this too. They don't want the dish to vary from one day to the next or from one line cook to the next unless the top chef has decided to tweak the recipe.

        2. e
          emilief Apr 11, 2007 12:12 PM

          So , now that we have heard so many opinions, woud you please post the recipe!

          4 Replies
          1. re: emilief
            v
            valerie Apr 11, 2007 01:14 PM

            Somewhere upthread I posted the original recipe. It is for short ribs and that is how I made it the first time a few years ago. And then I decided that it would make a good sauce for brisket.

            But it needs to be adjusted for cooking time and temperature. I made about 7 lbs of brisket and cooked it on a lower temperature (325) for about 4 hours. One time I cooked it for some of the time uncovered, but this time I cooked it covered and it was better that way.

            I like a LOT of onions, so I added a LOT of onions (they always seem to disappear!), and after about 3 hours of cooking time I threw in a whole bunch of baby carrots since I love those too. I wasn't really sure when it was done, so I just kept checking it and cooking it until it just seemed right -- I sort of estimated 4 hours.

            The sauce is a little thin in the original recipe, so thanks to all of the advice I've gotten over the years on Chowhound, I learned how to give the sauce some heft, without adding any cornstarch (this was, after all, Passover). As it cooled off a bit, I spooned out some of the sauce with some of the onions and carrots and threw it in the food processor and blended it a bit. Then it went back into the pot.

            The whole thing went into the refrigerator for 2 days and came out to be sliced, heated and served for dinner.

            No "secret ingredient" that's not in the Epicurious recipe, although nobody would have guessed there was pineapple in there since I use crushed, rather than chunks, thanks to the Epicurious comments.

            And I would never intentionally leave out an ingredient. I'm not *that* mean or that good of a liar.

            In the end, I e-mailed my MIL back this morning and offered to give her an approximate recipe and a list of ingredients. I also offered to share any of my other brisket recipes with her and her friend. I felt like that was a good compromise.

            I haven't heard back from her yet, but I will report back with the final chapter...

            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

            1. re: valerie
              e
              emilief Apr 11, 2007 02:26 PM

              I was joking (since I thought you did not want to share) but thank you! Sounds great and will try it.

              1. re: valerie
                r
                renov8r Apr 11, 2007 02:37 PM

                Sounds like a mostly happy ending to me.

                I sort of wonder what her friends reaction will be. I know quite a few times where someone has been asked "What is the secret ingredient in this?", they then honestly answer "coconut" or whatever and the original requester replies "Yuck, I'll never make that, I don't like coconut."

                BUT YOU JUST LIKED IT AS SECRET INGREDIENT!!!

                What is up with THAT?

                1. re: valerie
                  mochi mochi Apr 11, 2007 07:25 PM

                  I think you made a wise decision. You're a good loving DIL. Nice thread. I have one particular friend that never shares her recipes and I just can't understand it. My recipe book is open to anyone who wants to see it. They just better have the same size wooden spoon I use to measure! lol

              2. l
                luniz Apr 11, 2007 11:42 AM

                I'm just curious, don't really know anything about cooking brisket anyway, but is there like some "secret" or something particularly....not obvious that you did in this version that wasn't in say the epicurious recipe? To be honest I can totally understand holding out on that, especially if it's somebody who probably wouldn't appreciate it anyway.

                1. r
                  ricepad Apr 11, 2007 09:23 AM

                  Like some others, I have never had a problem sharing recipes - although that could be because I almost never cook from a recipe faithfully...there's always a tweak here or there. And while I have never understood why other folks are reluctant to share, I'm most surprised at people who will share sabotaged recipes intentionally, so as to prevent others from replicating their results.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ricepad
                    Axalady Apr 11, 2007 09:56 AM

                    It's interesting this conversation has come up. The only recipe I've been asked never to share was one for Ammonia cookies that my step-mother gave to me. I thought it an odd request, but it seemed to go with her overall demeanor. I also have a friend who can't possibly give a compliment. I've known her for over 20 years and I guess she feels giving someone else a compliment would somehow diminish her. I think that even having to consider whether or not to share a recipe says a whole lot about a person. I would be flattered if someone thought so highly of something I cooked they wanted the recipe, especially to share with friends. It certainly doesn't diminish me in any way to share a recipe and it certainly won't affect the taste of the dish the next time I cook it. Valerie I'm glad you shared.
                    PS - Anybody want an Ammonia cookie recipe?

                    1. re: Axalady
                      LaLa Apr 11, 2007 10:59 AM

                      Ok...here is a flip side just to play the other side of the fence.
                      I have always shared my recipes and took lavish praise at gatherings.But then something strange happened ...people started to bring dishes of my recipes to the social gatherings.I had to pick other things to bring because they were making all my tried and trues! and taking credit! Case in point one of my coworkers always wants to bring one of my recipes to every office party...and it has gotten to be such a joke ...oh you are bringing LaLa's.

                      1. re: Axalady
                        mollyomormon Apr 11, 2007 11:03 AM

                        I'm with you in that I think it says a lot about a person whether he/she has to think about sharing a recipe (and I'm not talking about things that you tweaked where you are unsure of the exact amounts because I think I wouldn't technically call that a recipe...I'm talking about things where you know the exact amounts but still don't want to share). I'm still trying to figure out exactly what.

                    2. t
                      tkalex9052 Apr 11, 2007 07:09 AM

                      A good recipe does not a good cook make. So, I'd feel free to share. It's a compliment to be asked for a recipe, in my opinion.

                      1. r
                        rockycat Apr 11, 2007 06:52 AM

                        I will happily share any recipe I have except for my mother's rugelach recipe. I have very few things left of my mother's (she passed away when I was very young and I only remember her showing me how to cook a few simple things) and holding this recipe close makes me feel as if I have a small part of her that's mine alone.

                        However, how many professional chefs share all their recipes? How often are printed versions missing that one special ingredient or technique that makes that dish as outstanding as the restaurant version? This is a time-honored tradition in the cooking world. This is your recipe and your decision. You do not have to feel like an inadequate person because you do not feel like sharing all your secrets with the world.

                        1. s
                          Sherri Apr 10, 2007 07:12 PM

                          Ah, what an interesting topic ....... possibilities for myriad permutations and personalities.

                          I am certainly less generous with "recipes" for those I think will make a mess of a dish than I am with the more competent, and I must use the term "recipe" loosely since I am a confirmed what-the-hell cook not a recipe-follower. I'll use a "recipe" as suggestion rather than a formula. My "recipes" are always vague and end with "cook until done". A long skinny brisket will take less time than a short fat one so giving exact times is doomed to failure. I'll show you how to do it but please, don't make me write it down and put my name on it.

                          I will ernestly and honestly try to replay what I did but often sound like the Watergate defendants when I repeat "I don't remember" about times and exact measurements. It is no wonder that their version is not identical to mine - this ain't science. I cook with my heart and my head and it includes a lot of experience that cannot be written in stone. These recipes are vague and depend on some skill, people in the kitchen paying attention to what they're doing.

                          For Easter this year, my DIL requested the same potato salad that I made last year. I had no idea that:
                          1) I made potato salad last year
                          2) what was in the potato salad I made last year (vinaigrette a la francais, German w/ bacon, traditional mayo-based or ???????
                          She remembers that it was new potatoes-dill-creamy something that I tried to reproduce. Everything about this felt wrong and I wasn't pleased with the results but kept my mouth shut when others praised -- and asked for the recipe! "How much buttermilk did you use?" "How long did you steam the potatoes?" (impossible to answer because these tiny fingerlings were so new and fresh that they almost cooked themselves and using the same yardstick for stored potatoes would produce hard marbles for which I would be responsible .....)

                          Tough question to answer because not sharing recipes marks you as "Does not play well with others" and even slightly suspect. Those of us with willing hearts who do not measure are often doomed to the purgatory of the untrustworthy.

                          Now, a completely different question is "what if I simply do not want to share this recipe"? I would answer honestly that this is one of the very few that I don't share. Never would I stoop to giving a cookie recipe that lacks sugar or the wrong ingredients for something else. That's downright nasty.

                          1. v
                            valerie Apr 10, 2007 05:26 PM

                            Thank you to everyone for your input. I really never expected to get so many responses with people having such strong opinions on the subject.

                            Prior to posting this on Chowhound earlier today, I e-mailed my mother and asked her if she thought I was wrong for not wanting to share this recipe. The response that I got was this:

                            "I have given the party brisket (that's my mother's famous brisket) to many, many people over the years, and the funny thing is...it never comes out the same as mine does! Joan and Susan tried to make it and couldn't! I think it's a great compliment when someone asks you for a recipe, and you KNOW that H. (MIL) isn't going to make it."

                            So after that and reading the Chowhound opinions, I will give my MIL a "vague" version as MakingSense suggests. She is quite harmless, we have no "MIL/DIL" issues as some posters have assumed, and she only has good things to say about me and my cooking (and my kids -- her only grandchildren). It won't kill me to (somewhat) share the recipe.

                            1. mamaciita Apr 10, 2007 04:55 PM

                              I say share them. Even though I found the perfect holiday treat to share--toffee--and my mother stole the recipe, and she makes it now for every family gathering.

                              By and large no one makes the same recipe taste the same. I've threatened to share recipes--minus one ingredient, but I've never done it. My friends are probably still suspicious, though.

                              1. amyzan Apr 10, 2007 03:33 PM

                                Another thing occurred to me. Since she's your MIL, and so many women complain their MILs treat them abominably, could she be trying to complement/appreciate you? Since you know she's likely never to actually cook the dish, perhaps she's only trying to extend a gesture here. This whole issue seems symbolic, rather than a practical consideration. Heck, she may not even be aware of what she's doing, but clearly it's menaingful to you.

                                1. m
                                  MakingSense Apr 10, 2007 02:37 PM

                                  Valerie, we all know that not one of the people to whom you give this recipe will be able to recreate it.
                                  I always love to quote Jacque Pepin who says that you can give 10 cooks the same recipe and they will end up with 10 different dishes. Each will buy a different size and quality of brisket. They'll get impatient and brown it for more or less time, add too much or too little liquid, maybe scorch the onions, leave something out, make a substitution, crowd it into a pot that's too small or decide that a crockpot will do just as well.

                                  Make the recipe slightly vague. Say something like "use a 6 to 8 pound brisket... add water or beef stock to cover...cook for xxx hours or until tender..."
                                  Cooking is art and that brisket is your masterpiece. Not one of them will have your touch so they won't be able to top it. So smile and share with confidence.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                    Candy Apr 10, 2007 02:57 PM

                                    I totally agree. If anyone asks I am always more than willing to share. And sa MS says in quoting JP no 2 or 10 chefs are going to make it the same way. We belong to a dinging group and often for our annual cocktail parties more than one guest will be assigned the same dish and it is often amazing how differently they turn out, not just in flavor but appearance too. Also when I am asked for a recipe and It is something I have made a number of times and found quirks or oddities I always try to ppoin them out. They won't get a dish exactly like mine but I don't want people wasting money on time and failures

                                    1. re: MakingSense
                                      flourgirl Apr 10, 2007 03:09 PM

                                      Good post. Exactly what I was thinking - that no two people ever make something exactly the same even if they're using the exact same recipe.

                                      That said, I have to admit, between my mom and I, we have a few sacred family recipes that we wouldn't reveal to anyone outside the family. I can't tell you exactly why - we just wouldn't. It might even have something to do with the fact that some of these recipes were used by my grandparents to make money in the luncheonette they owned in Newark ( a long time ago.) Maybe it's psychologically something about protecting the "family assets" - who knows? (This would be akin to soupkitten's post higher up...)

                                    2. n
                                      Nyleve Apr 10, 2007 12:22 PM

                                      Wow this is really really interesting. I had always heard about people who won't share recipes but couldn't understand it at all. And to be honest, I still can't - but that's ok. The world is a big place - there's room for recipe-sharers and non-sharers.

                                      I have always wanted to share recipes - at least with people who I know will appreciate them. I like to teach people how to cook good things. Do I care that they might replicate the dish exactly and then take credit for it? Not at all. But to be honest, most of the time the recipes I've shared have been named "Nyleve's Whatever" and so I do get some credit along the way. I would find it quite hilarious if I asked for a recipe and was refused - except, of course, in a restaurant or from someone who was making $$$ from their cooking.

                                      Anyway, like I said - to each, his own. Thanks for this discussion, though. It's fascinating.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: Nyleve
                                        s
                                        soupkitten Apr 10, 2007 12:58 PM

                                        well, i do make $ from my cooking, so maybe i'm posting on the wrong thread, but be aware that a lot of my colleagues would not hesitate to yoink another family's "special secret recipe," change the name (as well as any reference to the origin), and profit off of it.

                                        that said most of the foodways that anchor us, brisket, bbq, tofu-casserole, whatever, are kind of community recipes. if you know how to cook, you know how to cook your family's, culture's, or region's dishes. you can give away recipes that will guide thru the cooking method without giving away every little thing that you worked hard on.

                                        I share food every day and i feed hundreds and hundreds of people. if i was a selfish person i sure wouldn't be in this biz.

                                        1. re: soupkitten
                                          n
                                          Nyleve Apr 10, 2007 02:50 PM

                                          And to be perfectly frank, it wouldn't bother me one single iota if someone took one of my super secret recipes and made a million dollars off it. That fact would not detract from my own personal enjoyment of it. I'm a foodwriter myself and "stealing" and adapting recipes is just the name of the game anyway. What WOULD bother me is if that same person then objected to the fact that I was cooking (or writing about) "their special dish"!

                                          In my community, there is a recipe for lemon squares that has been making the rounds for a long time. Really, it's just a standard recipe for lemon squares that you can find in any cookbook (or by Googling). This recipe has caused no end of controversy. The recipe allegedly originated with "Dina" (names have been changed to protect the guilty, the innocent and everyone in between) who inherited it from her father who ran a bakery. However, it's "Sue" who has been bringing these lemon squares to potluck dinners for years. So everyone calls them "Sue's Lemon Squares" when they're really "Dina's Father's Lemon Squares". Dina quietly and ironically fumes whenever the subject comes up.

                                          Whatever. They're delicious, wherever they came from.

                                          1. re: Nyleve
                                            s
                                            soupkitten Apr 11, 2007 01:00 PM

                                            a lot of people who develop recipes over scores of testings & many years of hard work don't feel the need to just fork over a recipe. i ate blueberry muffins (or whatever) for 3 months straight, morning noon & night, after all & so i feel like at the end, the recipe truly belongs to me! A great many of these folks go on to publish these recipes in copyrighted volumes, and the proceeds help to pay their bills and rent.

                                            people who get recipes from me include: close friends and family members, people who take cooking classes i've taught, cookbooks that benefit non-profits.

                                            good customers or people who take the time to write & ask nicely for a recipe get recipes too-- i don't send out the jar of homemade stock or preserves that is the "secret" ingredient, or give them the address of the organic produce farm, though.

                                            people who say "oh that looks wonderful, and the free sample you gave me and my 3 friends was great, but i don't want to pay for a whole meal/container--so just give me the recipe, i'll just make it with supermarket stuff for myself." guess what--they get diddly! yes i hear this all of the time! when in the right circumstances, a request for a recipe is very complimentary to a cook-- other times it is very insulting and disrespectful of all of her hard work.

                                            1. re: Nyleve
                                              flourgirl Apr 11, 2007 04:51 PM

                                              I'm "Sue" and "Dina's" father stole that recipe for lemon squares from MY father!

                                              (Just kidding - I think I'm a little punchy right now...)

                                              1. re: flourgirl
                                                n
                                                Nyleve Apr 11, 2007 06:53 PM

                                                I think we need a lawyer.

                                                1. re: Nyleve
                                                  flourgirl Apr 12, 2007 05:29 AM

                                                  Doesn't everyone?

                                        2. s
                                          soupkitten Apr 10, 2007 12:13 PM

                                          i would send her the epicurious link, and then "let her in" on a couple of things that you tweaked or added to the recipe. Your MIL will be gratified and her friend will be grateful-- but you don't need to tell her about your super-special-secret ingredient or the one thing that you do different.

                                          your recipe is yours and i agree you should be able to keep your real recipe and method. although recipe sharing is important when the recipe isn't really ours, it gets sticky when it's something you developed. someone else shouldn't be able to make a carbon copy of your cooking, hers will be good, but only "almost as good as Valerie's." and you still shared!

                                          1. s
                                            swsidejim Apr 10, 2007 11:36 AM

                                            I dont share my recipies with anyone. One reason I do not is because they are not written down, I do them from memory. A second reason is I add a pinch of this, and a splash of that during cooking, and I will undoubtably forget one of these add-ins. Lastly I have spent alot of time developing recipies I dont want to just give them away. I will give cooking technique answers,preperation ideas, and the basics of what goes into a dish, but not the whole recipie.

                                            I will always gladly make a person favorite dish for them upon request, like my mom every year asks me to make a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for her for her birthday, and I gladly do it. But the recipie for the frosting, and the cake are mine.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: swsidejim
                                              v
                                              valerie Apr 10, 2007 11:44 AM

                                              If someone asks you for a recipe and you tell them about your cooking method (pinch of this/splash of that), do they get annoyed?

                                              1. re: valerie
                                                s
                                                swsidejim Apr 10, 2007 11:48 AM

                                                I have never noticed anyone getting annoyed, I try to be as helpfull as I can without giving away the whole recipie. The info I give will allow them to make a good copy of my dish, but not an exact version.

                                                1. re: swsidejim
                                                  hotoynoodle Apr 11, 2007 04:27 AM

                                                  unless i'm baking, i don't use recipes. if somebody asks me about a dish like that, i give them the ingredients and explain the eyeball, taste it, taste it again method of cooking. nobody has ever been annoyed.

                                              2. re: swsidejim
                                                macca Apr 10, 2007 11:46 AM

                                                My grandmother did the exact same thing!! She made wonderful Irish soda bread, and the best bread pudding I've ever had! She used to serve the bread pudding with a warm lemon sauce. She lived with us, and made the pudding in a big yellow bowl ( I still have the bowl!). When my brothers and I saw the bowl on the counter in the morning, we knew we were in for a good treat after school. I have tried to replicate her pudding, but no luck. I think it is fine not to share recipes- like you, my grandmother would make her specialities for anyone, but never gave out her secrets. that created a lot of special memories for all of us.

                                                1. re: macca
                                                  j
                                                  Jeanne Apr 10, 2007 12:56 PM

                                                  And now, because she didn't share her recipes with you, you can't make them and carry on the memories!

                                                  1. re: Jeanne
                                                    macca Apr 10, 2007 01:10 PM

                                                    Well, that is half right. I have played around with recipes, and now have my own recipes to make more memories. I do not hesitate to give out recipes- except my cooking is not based on measuring. I don't think I make anything the same way twice. I am not a big baker for this reason. The bread pudding can be made without measuring, that is why I have fun with it.

                                                  2. re: macca
                                                    s
                                                    swsidejim Apr 10, 2007 01:08 PM

                                                    neat story about your grandmother,

                                                    In regards to my recipies, I will make an exception when my daughter is old enough to cook(she is only 6 months old), I will teach her every recipie, and technique in my head, if she wants to learn. I figure it will be a way for us to do something together, and for bonding.

                                                    I try to teach my wife, but she says she is only the dishwasher, and I am the cook in the house.

                                                    1. re: swsidejim
                                                      v
                                                      valerie Apr 10, 2007 01:52 PM

                                                      Just the other day, after we had the Passover seder at our place, my husband asked me if I was going to teach our daughter how to cook (she is 2 1/2). I hadn't really thought about it and he said "it would be a nice thing for you to do together with her".

                                                      And thank you (particularly Swsidejim and Macca) for making me see this clearly. I will give my MIL a version of the recipe, but I will pass my "secret recipes", of which I only have a few, to my daughter (and to my son if he wants them, but right now he's only 6 months old!).

                                                      My mother and my sister can also have the recipe, but they don't need it, since they are both very good cooks in their own right and they have their own recipes.

                                                      1. re: valerie
                                                        macca Apr 10, 2007 04:20 PM

                                                        that is why these boards are so great. it is nice to bouce things off of other people who feel as passionately about food as you do.
                                                        Ps- great idea about the recipe.

                                                2. s
                                                  Seldomsated Apr 10, 2007 10:04 AM

                                                  Please go ahead and share. You'll be the bigger person for it. There's something going on there that you want to withhold it from her - maybe there's not been an issue yet in which you had any control, and this is finally it. Let it go. It's always better to be generous and take the high road, then to withhold and potentially hurt someone.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Seldomsated
                                                    b
                                                    bigjimbray Apr 10, 2007 10:35 AM

                                                    why don`t you give her a recipe similar to yours and you both will be happy since
                                                    you say the old girl probably won`t use it anyway. and if she gives it to her friend
                                                    and her friend try`s it and it don`t come out then what the hey. iot must be something
                                                    that her friend done wrong.

                                                    1. re: Seldomsated
                                                      Brian S Apr 10, 2007 10:57 AM

                                                      As I said above, it is normal, socially acceptable practise not to share recipes. In fact I've never heard of anyone sharing them (and there are quite a few I would like to have) So why seek a psychological explanation?

                                                      1. re: Brian S
                                                        v
                                                        valerie Apr 10, 2007 11:14 AM

                                                        "So why seek a psychological explanation?" Exactly.

                                                        Truth be told, there really are no deep, dark issues between my MIL and me. We have a perfectly nice relationship. She can't help it if she can't cook!

                                                        If I had expected any scrutiny or analysis on that front, I wouldn't have even mentioned her in my post. It could have been anyone that asked.....

                                                        1. re: Brian S
                                                          amyzan Apr 10, 2007 03:27 PM

                                                          There is a feature in our paper called "Come into My Kitchen" where local cooks share signature recipes. There's a plethora of websites where recipes are shared and tweaked and written about ad nauseum. Have a look at the Home Cooking board here. None of this is mandatory, of course, but please don't say you've "never heard of anyone sharing them." Sure, it's okay to say no, but don't be surprised if some consider it notable.

                                                      2. yayadave Apr 10, 2007 09:47 AM

                                                        Paring it all away, you're being asked to give, forget "share," a recipe which you developed to a stranger. So, let's see, your MIL gets points with her friend on the strength of this recipe you worked out over a period of several years. 'Cause MIL won't be using it anyway. Maybe that's what's buggin' you, and I don't blame you. Ain't no dark side there. I think MIL should have given her friend a story and never asked. Maybe you could put her off for a while, like 8 or 12 years.

                                                        1. mrsmegawatt Apr 10, 2007 08:23 AM

                                                          Back in the early days when I was just learning to cook..my great Aunt taught me to make her famous butter cookies. I took them to a family gathering and shared them. These were with my husbands family...women who always spoke badly of my cooking, though they were not good cooks themselves. It sure was a esteem buster to have your cooking ridiculed when you're young. Anyway, they loved the cookies, asked my husband for the recipe which I declined to share. Boy did I come under fire for that! I could almost bet that they still remember that. Sometimes, it's not worth is..saving a great recipe only to endure hard feelings. It's a hard one.

                                                          17 Replies
                                                          1. re: mrsmegawatt
                                                            Brian S Apr 10, 2007 08:59 AM

                                                            Isn't it rude to ask for someone else's secret recipe? As I said above, no one would around here... or if they asked, they would respect your decision not to give it to them.

                                                            1. re: Brian S
                                                              QueenB Apr 10, 2007 09:32 AM

                                                              I guess I'd have to ask you...what's the big "secret"? If you make something wonderful, wouldn't you want to share that with people? Pass it down so it can continue to thrive? Unless you're making money off of some big family secret recipe, I just don't understand what the big deal is? Is it a sense of "self-pride", that you can make something else better than others and you don't want that to change? Or is it fear that someone will change your recipe and try to pass it off as yours?
                                                              I'm not being rude, I just would like some explanation so I can understand a little bit better.

                                                              1. re: QueenB
                                                                Brian S Apr 10, 2007 09:58 AM

                                                                In Southern communities such as Tulsa, or Southern expat communities such as the South Bronx, both of which I'm familiar with, a woman's status in society is determined by the quality of the dishes she can cook. If she gives away her recipes, other people will copy them and her status within the community will decline.

                                                                1. re: Brian S
                                                                  mollyomormon Apr 10, 2007 12:17 PM

                                                                  I guess for me, I wouldn't want to be a part of a system where a woman's status hinges on the excellence of her cooking. I'd share the recipe both so that people could enjoy it and in an attempt to subvert that system.

                                                                  1. re: Brian S
                                                                    QueenB Apr 10, 2007 12:20 PM

                                                                    I understand what you're saying, but don't really "get it" because I was never raised that way. Thank you for the explanation.
                                                                    I'm pretty glad I don't feel like I have to live up to those standards to feel I have any status in society.

                                                                    1. re: Brian S
                                                                      j
                                                                      Jeanne Apr 10, 2007 12:51 PM

                                                                      Southerna communities? I'm from North Carolina and wouldn't hesitate to share one of my recipes. To me, to be asked for a recipe is one of the highest compliments!

                                                                      1. re: Brian S
                                                                        amyzan Apr 10, 2007 03:17 PM

                                                                        Brain, I respectfully disagree. I was raised in Kentucky and my paternal grandmother lived in Arkansas, and none of these women were reluctant to share recipes. The opposite was really true, in fact. Most women I knew were very supportive of one another's efforts, and shared recipes freely.

                                                                        The only time I've encountered this phenomena is when my dad married my stepmother when I was in my late twenties. Her family, from Baltimore and originally Boston, has several members (one of them a man) who were and are reluctant to share recipes, are offended if you guess the "secret ingredient" and try to get you to hush up about it in the presence of others. I found this weird, having been raised differently. I don't think it's entirely cultural, and can't be tacked to one geographical area or another.

                                                                        Valerie, you might find your relationship different if you were willing to share with your MIL. Far be it from me to determine if this is what you'd want to do, though! Just be prepared for her to express feelings whichever decision you make, because surely your decision will alter the relationship in some way.

                                                                        1. re: Brian S
                                                                          hotoynoodle Apr 11, 2007 04:23 AM

                                                                          *a woman's status in society is determined by the quality of the dishes she can cook. If she gives away her recipes, other people will copy them and her status within the community will decline.*

                                                                          this is one of the more disheartening things i've read in a very long time. we are not living in 1900, and i should hope women have other ways of determining societal status. i know i certainly do.

                                                                          family tradition is one thing. please don't make such a broad generalization about entire regions.

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                            Brian S Apr 11, 2007 07:18 AM

                                                                            Not endorsing, just reporting. And I could be wrong, I grew up in NYC and spend half the year there. It's true of men too, by the way; good luck getting a committed BBQer to tell you what spices he puts in his secret rub. I've known people who think their status is determined by how many Blahniks and Choos they own or what car they drive, and that's worse in my opinion.

                                                                            1. re: Brian S
                                                                              flourgirl Apr 11, 2007 08:14 AM

                                                                              I definitely do not even want to know people who think their status is determined by the shoes they wear or the car they drive. (I'm not saying they're not out there, and in abundance at that - I just don't want to know them.)

                                                                              But as for a woman's "status" being determined by her cooking ability - I'm not quite as disturbed by this as so many others are. I'm a pretty decent cook, and baking is my "thing" and I think that I get a fair amount of recognition for that in my family and I'm very proud of that. It's also one of the primary ways I express my love for my family and friends.

                                                                              It's certainly, by far, not the only thing that contributes to my "worth" around here (geez, at least I hope not) but it is, at least in my case, a very important part of who I am as a person and a reflection of my values.

                                                                              1. re: flourgirl
                                                                                macca Apr 11, 2007 08:22 AM

                                                                                That was really very well put!!

                                                                                1. re: macca
                                                                                  flourgirl Apr 11, 2007 10:01 AM

                                                                                  Thank you! :-)

                                                                                2. re: flourgirl
                                                                                  QueenB Apr 11, 2007 10:29 AM

                                                                                  Do you share your recipes?

                                                                                  1. re: QueenB
                                                                                    flourgirl Apr 11, 2007 10:48 AM

                                                                                    Generally, I have no problem sharing recipes. If it's something I spent a lot of time tweaking, especially a baking recipe, then, sometimes, no.

                                                                                    I also posted about this further down. My mom and I have a collection of family recipes, many of them passed down from my grandmother that she and my grandfather used in their luncheonette in Newark many years ago. There are a few (I'd say less than ten) that we wouldn't share with anyone outside the family. Like I said in my previous post, I can't really say why, other than I think it's psychologically something about protecting family "assets" or something like that. Who knows?

                                                                                    1. re: flourgirl
                                                                                      QueenB Apr 11, 2007 01:11 PM

                                                                                      "Protecting family assets." I like that. Thanks for your honesty.

                                                                                3. re: Brian S
                                                                                  j
                                                                                  Jeanne Apr 11, 2007 11:28 AM

                                                                                  "In Southern communities such as Tulsa, or Southern expat communities such as the South Bronx, both of which I'm familiar with, a woman's status in society is determined by the quality of the dishes she can cook. If she gives away her recipes, other people will copy them and her status within the community will decline.......Not endorsing, just reporting. And I could be wrong, I grew up in NYC and spend half the year there. "

                                                                                  The more I read this - the more unbelievable it is to me that anyone would write this. Where are you getting your "information" and for whom are you reporting?

                                                                                  1. re: Jeanne
                                                                                    Brian S Apr 11, 2007 02:24 PM

                                                                                    I used to spend a lot of time in the South Bronx and I got to know some of the older women there. So often, there'd be a holiday gathering and everyone would be thrilled that so-and-so would be bringing her famous mac-and-cheese or whatever. She would strut in, trailing clouds of glory, everyone lusting for her mac-and-cheese. If that's not status, what is it?

                                                                                    A lady in Tulsa, incredible cook, won't give one of her recipes to her own sister. Why? Because her sister always copies her recipes and brings the dish to the family gathering and gets credit for it. So why shouldn't she be glad to have her sister copy the recipe, so long as everyone gets good food? If that's not status, what is it?

                                                                                    And, as an afterthought, even at the highest levels of society, one's status is in part determined by one's ability to organize dinner parties that are elegant, glamourous and fun. No, the doyenne of high society doesn't do the cooking, but she (or he) makes sure the food is excellent. In the days of Napoleon, Talleyrand was a scoundrel who would happily betray his closest friends if there was money in it. Yet people fought to be his friend, filled his house parties. Why? He hired the best chef in the world! (Marie Antoine Carême)

                                                                      2. m
                                                                        mojoeater Apr 10, 2007 08:07 AM

                                                                        You could give her the recipe and let her 'eyeball' the amounts. Lots of people cook that way, and then your exact recipe would be safe.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: mojoeater
                                                                          v
                                                                          valerie Apr 10, 2007 08:16 AM

                                                                          I was thinking that and it's not completely untrue. I started off with this recipe from Epicurious and then added a bit more of this and that to make up for the large amount of meat that I was cooking. Additionally, I don't even know how long I cooked it. After a few hours, I just kept checking on it, until I felt that it was done.

                                                                          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                                                          1. re: valerie
                                                                            m
                                                                            mojoeater Apr 10, 2007 10:20 AM

                                                                            So be honest about it and send her that link. No reason to lie or withold.

                                                                        2. v
                                                                          valerie Apr 10, 2007 08:01 AM

                                                                          Maybe I should have also said in my original post that I have given my MIL many recipes from Jewish holidays (and other meals) in the past -- macaroons, kugels, souffles, etc. In fact, 2 years ago, she asked for my potato kugelette recipe and I was sort of embarrassed to tell her that it was made from boxed potato pancake mix!

                                                                          1. Brian S Apr 10, 2007 07:34 AM

                                                                            I know several people who cook here in Tulsa. They are part of strong, loving families and if men with guns attacked a brother or sister or cousin, they would, without thinking twice, even though unarmed, rush to his defense. But if that same family member asked them to share a recipe..... I don't THINK so! No one criticizes them for that either, though I've suggested to them that they write the recipes down and put them in a bank vault so they are not lost forever.

                                                                            1. hotoynoodle Apr 10, 2007 07:29 AM

                                                                              lol, i don't have a mother-in-law, and i'm going to stay far away from your family dynamic. if anybody asks me for a recipe, i'm happy to share.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                j
                                                                                Janet from Richmond Apr 10, 2007 07:35 AM

                                                                                I am not much of a cook (especially by Chowhound standards) but have a few signature recipes I have perfected over the years and share them proudly.

                                                                              2. n
                                                                                Nyleve Apr 10, 2007 07:26 AM

                                                                                Ask yourself if it were your best friend who wanted the recipe, would you give it to her/him? Then you'll know if it's about the recipe itself or something deeper and darker.

                                                                                1. j
                                                                                  Janet from Richmond Apr 10, 2007 07:07 AM

                                                                                  I don't think you've gone of the deep end, but I also don't think the issue is the recipe.

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