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not sharing recipes: ....huh? [moved from General Chowhounding Topics]

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Every once in a while, I come across someone who refuses to share a requested recipe.

Does this ever happen to you? (ed): How do you respond to this awkward situation?

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  1. There was a discussion that veered onto this topic on the homecooking board sometime this past winter or spring. I'm sorry I couldn't locate it for you. I've encountered this only once, with my stepmother's family, and consider it odd. (I think they like to "keep recipes in the family," but have also heard them argue between themselves over recipes. Admittedly, I'm now part of the family, but not, in a way, too, or at least, that's what I took from this experience!)

    In my experience living in NC, KS, KY, and TX, (and spending many summers in AR, too) I don't recall ever encountering someone who didn't eagerly share their recipes. Maybe I've just forgotten those disapponted requests...

    4 Replies
    1. re: amyzan

      Is this the thread you referred to amyzan?

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/390156

      I don't have a problem sharing a recipe, as long as I feel it is mine to share. I have a few recipes that were passed on to me by others whom I know to be hesitant to share recipes in general, or who used the recipe in a business. In those cases, I would not feel comfortable sharing the recipe.

      1. re: debbiel

        Yep, that's it, and it was topical rather than tangential after all. Bad memory on my part.

      2. re: amyzan

        I read that discussion, and I had to respond. I am a professional pastry chef, and I have always felt that recipes are for sharing. I never, ever refused to give a customer a recipe, and was usually only too thrilled to share not only the recipe but the particulars of method, possible rookie pitfalls, tricks I had discovered and even supply sources. I once even gave a customer a vanilla bean to take home and use for herself, since the local shop that sold them was closed and she wanted one for use that night. I have always maintained that the thing that makes my pastries good is the little particulars of personal weirdness that I cast over the food--the fetishistic fervor with which I core apples, having tasted too many tartes Tatin ruined by apple core fragments, for example, or the liberal (and unmeasured) hand I use with vanilla. I have seen this in action, actually, when I train an assistant, and expect him to be able to follow a recipe without supervision, then come back and find he's made a markedly different product. And that is with a career cook, mind you, not a layman. What I did find surprising in myself was the reaction I had after being fired from a job last year under what I considered to be unfair circumstances. Initially I tried to help my former employers fill my shoes, but when they tacitly withheld my final paycheck until I gave them my recipes, I felt betrayed (they were my own recipes, developed, for the most part, long before I worked for this restaurant) and was quite tempted to alter the ingredients slightly. I must admit I did omit the vanilla from a few of them!

        Then there was another circumstance from a few years back. I had some black bananas and my employers had offered banana bread to a party of 75 red-hatted, purple-dressed ladies (you know who I mean, right?) and I had to make many loaves of it for a set brunch. I never really loved banana bread, and had never made it, so over coffee one morning I asked my oldest friend for a banana bread recipe, mostly to flatter her, since I knew she had a recipe. She gave it to me, and it didn't seem great to me. I looked in a few cookbooks and cobbled together a better recipe that ended up becoming an overnight success and we put it on the menu. My friend heard about it and kind of claimed kudos for it, so I fudged and told her I had slightly altered her recipe by replacing the oil with melted butter, tossing in some vanilla and toasted walnuts, all the time suggesting that these were natural changes that she herself would have effected had she happened to have butter on hand, etc. Actually, the recipe bore no relationship to hers whatsoever, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

        In the end, I think that the only proper thing to do is to share recipes with unstinting generosity. There is no "secret" to my desserts that would in any way diminish my work were I to disclose it. So I share recipes with the same liberal left hand I use to pour vanilla.

        1. re: mancina

          It souds like you're saying you might as well share because other people aren't going to make it as well as you anyway. I agree to an extent, but of course the downside is somebody taking your recipe, making it badly for their friends, bragging that its your recipe - I got this straight from the pastry chef at Bob's!!, then their friends think Bob's has lousy desserts.

      3. http://www.chow.com/stories/10564 There was a story on this a few weeks ago.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lulubelle

          I have a good friend who runs a bed and breakfast....she is an accomplished cook who has been asked many times for her recipes. Her take on it is to give the recipe that a guest would ask for, but only in exchange for one back from the guest. I think that is a great idea

        2. Depends on if they are bigger,and meaner than me....

          1. I am a person who does not always share recipes because I don't always follow recipes. I cook by taste feel and sight. People think I'm being secretive but I'm just not able to translate what I do into a recipe. If I have followed a specific recipe I will share that. Q

            5 Replies
            1. re: vashti

              Very true, and when I do "follow" a recipe, someone else who has a different touch and feel, will produce a different end product and wonder why

              1. re: nyfoodjoe

                but can't that argument follow for all recipes, though? cookbooks? I think anyone willing to ask for a recipe is willing to work with it till they're happy with it.

                I'd certainly understand if it was intellectual property worth defending, or "Sorry but I cook by feel, not by measurement."

                But my puzzlement is the person who shares food at a gathering, but flatly refuses to share the recipe, stating "I don't share my recipes." That's the part I don't get. I'd be happy enough for a list of ingredients to play with, or the explanation of a crucial technique. I'll take your suggestion and offer one in exchange to open negotiations!

                1. re: toodie jane

                  I wonder if this person just didn't know how to diplomatically say "no." Saying "I don't share my recipes" seems a little blunt. Or maybe that's how it was done in her family. I don't share some things because my mom told me not to share them and with good reason ... one is a camera and the other is my car. The one time I decided it wouldn't hurt to let a friend borry my camera, she broke it. It was devastating when you're 14 with no money, and no, she didn't buy me a replacement. My husband is very willing to share his cars; I wouldn't even let HIM drive it when we were dating!

              2. re: vashti

                I am 100% in agreement with this position. I also tend to cook by instinct, taste, feel, and visuals. When I am finished, I can tell you what went into it, but I can rarely give you an accurate idea of quantities. Most people are satisfied with an ingredient list and my statement that they have to "play with the finished product" in order to get a result that they like.

                1. re: vashti

                  I am more than happy to give someone a photocopy of a recipe I have used that I have written down (and have done so on so many occassions, I can usually find a copy of any recipe in my "sent" box)

                  Often though, my recipes (or at least the quantities) are stored in my head and, unless I feel like the person asking for it really wants it and will use it, I really can't be bothered working it all out and writing it down. Lazy, I know, but sometimes I feel people ask for recipes as a compliment but they don't actually intend on using them.

                  In this instance I often enthusiastically offer to tell someone the details so that they can write it down. This usually results in "oh, I will call you at some stage" which never eventuates :)

                2. The idea of not sharing a recipe with a friend or family member is very strange to me. For one thing, unless you've created a recipe yourself, how can you trace the true origin of it and therefore, how can you claim ownership over it? I'm flattered when someone enjoys something I've made enough that they'd like to recreate it and share it with their friends/family.

                  This happened to my mom once in a somewhat extreme version of how these situations can play out. Her longtime friend left teaching to open up a bakery. For her carrot cake, she used my mother's recipe. Actually, a recipe that my mother got from my grandmother who got it from her best friend. So, my mom's friend named it after my mom, and I think my mom was perfectly happy for her to use it and flattered that it was named after her. Now, one of the other cakes that this friend ended up making in her bakery was a delicious apple cake. My mom asked her for the recipe and she refused to give it to her! Given the circumstances, I thought this was completely rude and unacceptable. It's not as though my mom was going to open up a competing bakery--she just wanted it for her own personal use at home. She wouldn't have given it out to anyone else or revealed the source. And this was in the D.C. area, so it's not as though this was in some small town where my mom having the recipe would impact this woman's business. It was just pure paranoid selfishness on the part of the "friend." My mom was pretty irritated about it, on principle, but I think she just let it go. The friendship faded over time anyway and my parents now live in another state. I think my mother still talks to her from time to time. Always a sore point though.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sarahvagaca

                    No wonder this "friendship" faded -- the bakery owner was an evil piece of work! If I were your mother, I wouldn't even talk to this person. Friends share recipes, always. If you're a professional chef, there's a different set of rules, but in the situation you describe, your mother's acquaintance was way off-base. I have a friend who's a caterer, and she generously shares her recipes with me. We have an agreement, though, that I will not share them, so I don't prepare them for company.

                  2. Basically, to answer your question, you tell them "ok." and move on. I find it the height of rude to refuse to share a recipe. I, as many have mentioned, cook by feel and rarely use a recipe. But I always know what went into a dish and I can make some pretty good guesses about how much and I certainly know what I did to each ingredient and when I put it in and why. I can recreate a pretty close approximation of what I did or what I changed from a recipe if i started with one. I don't understand not sharing that information with someone who asks.

                    But if someone refuses, it doesn't seem to me to be worth the time to pursue the conversation.

                    1. My grandmotherh had a wonderful solution...all her recipes were in her head, no measurements; nothing to write down.

                      1. i think sometimes folks won't share recipes because they're a bit embarrassed about the ingredients. i once had a fabulous ham salad at a baby shower. everyone was clamoring for the recipe but the hostess said it was a family recipe and she couldn't possibly share. later i found out the main ingredient was SPAM and she didn't want people to think she was cheap. so you never know.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: boppiecat

                          This topic really bothers me. One time I asked for a pie recipe and the lady said it was a an Edwards pie. I bought that pie and there is NO way said pie was the Edwards pie. Not that the Edwards pie wasn't decent, it just wasn't homemade. This woman asked for my mom's recipe as well, she told her she'd hand it over when she gave us the real pie recipe ;). Never happened.

                          I am very flattered when someone asks for a recipe that I use. I write the origin of the recipe on the card ("grandma __'s chicken, or cookbook name) and hand it over. A great recipe should be enjoyed by many and live on, in my opinion.

                          I do understand if it's a copyright or signature business recipe.

                        2. It is their recipe to share or not. The only thing you can really say is, "Oh, I understand," even if you don't.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            I've encountered this same issue, too. But, you know, there's just some people out there who are very private, possessive, greedy, or paranoid. In the end, it's just "one of those things" in life which isn't just with recipe exchanging. Try not to let it bother yourselves, because there are millions of recipes out there to try!

                            1. re: velozo155

                              so true velozo! hard to find an "original" recipe...but I sure get a giggle out of folks who hold so tight to "their original" !

                              so many recipes, so little time

                              create your own masterpiece I say!

                          2. When I first started to develop recipes and people would ask me for them, I was quite hesitant to share. In fact, some of them I flat out refused.
                            It sure didn't stop me from asking for them though. A few times I would be turned down and would be rather irritated by it. Of course, it was roughly that time that bells and sirens started going off in my head. So I now will share everything. I guess if I had one that was entrusted to me I'd probably hold back but I don't have any. I'd most likely would end up changing it up somewhat so it wouldn't be a problem anyway.

                            I find it completely complementary. If someone thinks enough of my recipe to want it, it's theirs.

                            DT

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Davwud

                              I wonder if the age of not sharing recipes is going by the wayside, partly due to the Internet. Let's face it, there is nothing new under the sun, and there is a finite number of ways ingredients can be combined. It is easy enough to find a recipe or one that is similar just by searching these days. I also think that we don't feed other people enough now to have "hallmark" recipes, sadly. When Grandma could have the best rhubarb pie in town and everyone knew it, that was one thing. Maybe I wouldn't have given up my recipes then, either.

                            2. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that most of the people who refuse to share a recipe do so because they bought the dish, or a part of it, in a store or bakery! Or, possibly, as boppiecat said, that there are embarrassing ingredients in there like SPAM or, for snobby people, Lipton's or Cambell's soup or something.

                              I just have trouble imagining any other acceptable reason.

                              This has never happened to me, that I can remember, and I think if it did, I would just say ok and let it go, especially if in front of a group. If it was a close friend, I would push for an explanation though!

                              1. This has only happened to me once. The story was so insane I will never forget it - but it may be true for all I know. Someone brought cookies into the office around the holidays, some sort of raspberry streusel pastry, cut into little squares. They were phenomenally good, so good that I had to track down the recipe. I found out who had brought them in, and called him up.

                                He said his wife had made them, but she was not allowed to give out the recipe because it belonged to the Monagasque monarchy - kid you not. Someone in her family had once worked as a pastry chef for Princess Grace of Monaco, and the recipe had been handed down, but could not be given away because it was "proprietary." It was like "I could tell you, but I would literally have to kill you." This made no sense to me, since he didn't work there anymore, and was in all likelihood not even alive anymore, but it didn't seem to matter. What can you really say to that?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Alice Q

                                  That's a great story. Not much you can say to that, I guess.

                                  It reminds me of a woman I know who used to work as a domestic for one of Osama Bin Laden's brothers (yes, he has a lot of brothers). She cooks this fantastic lamb dish that came from this brother's house, and she did give me the recipe. We call it the Bin Laden Lamb.

                                  1. re: Kagey

                                    That one you have to share here!

                                2. I guess I should add one thing.
                                  If I used my recipe in competition, I doubt I'd give it away.

                                  DT

                                  15 Replies
                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    for the sake of argument, a blue ribbon recipe, like a local fair/festival might share the winning recipe in the newspaper following the event but a contest where money and large prizes come into play (say a national competition) is usually shared by the company running the contest and printed in a recipe book that year. In some cases, you no longer "own" your recipe once its entered.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      I do understand that but I was really more thinking along the lines of BBQ competitions.

                                      DT

                                      1. re: Davwud

                                        Davwud, a great example! Look what happened to the recipe "beer can chicken" talk about SHARED!

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          I find that is often a thing of older generations. Ladies were known for some special dish and it was their signature. And often what happened when they shared the recipe someone else would take credit. If this is your creation, your baking baby, it is annoying.

                                          My grandmother passed a recipe down for cruschiki to my mother who passed it on to me. My grandmother's sister (and her daughter) spent their entire lives trying to replicate that recipe and failed. They were both the types who would have claimed if was theirs had my grandmother shared (icky family stories to bear that out).

                                          Anyway, the recipe would have died with me, so I put it out on Chowhound with a lot of info about this Polish cookie. I thought it was better to share so hopefully other people might enjoy the cookie. There was some facts in that post that were pretty difficult to come by. They didn't appear in any of the many Polish cookbooks I had and at the time I posted, nothing came close to my mom's recipe for cruschiki on the web.

                                          I asked only one thing. If anyone used the recipe to use my mom's name ... Felecia's rose buds.

                                          I googled recently. Not only did someone copy the recipe exactly without attributing it to my mom, they used some of my personal family stories and some of those little known facts.

                                          Sure it could have been a coincidence ... if only one or even two things were similar, but all three .. it's the odds of winning the big lottery prize. Could happnen, but unlikely.

                                          Now I don't really care. The point was to share that info. As long as others enjoy those cookies for hopefully generations to come, I'm happy.

                                          However, that is why a lot of people might be reluctant to share.

                                          As someone else mentioned I just say I understand if someone won't share because I really do understand the reluctance. I never ask without making it comforatable for the person to back out ... "If this isn't a special family recipe you would rather not share, could I get the recipe" ... or something like that depending on the situation.

                                          Also, in the old days there were county fairs where ladies won blue ribbons for their baked goods. Give out the recepie and someone else might nudge you out ... haven't you wanted the Andy Taylor show when that happened to Aunt Bea?

                                          On the other hand, there is a site of recipes that someone gets from garage sales. Little discarded boxes of once-treasured (and sometimes bizarre) recipes that were abandoned. Seems sad and to me a good reason for sharing. Better than becoming landfill.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            Do you happen to know the address of that website, it sounds interesting

                                            1. re: LisaN

                                              Sorry ... not sharing :-)

                                              She's welcome to not acknowledge the source, but I'm certainly not driving traffic to that site or promoting it.

                                              HOWEVER ... here's the original info on Chowhound. Nothing on that site you won't find in this link
                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/281906

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                I found this website and don't understand how this woman cannot hang her head in shame -- what a blatant steal! I wonder how many blogs are this derivative?

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  tons pikwicca. i had an experience several years back; my original recipe was sold and became the property of the publisher but that publisher had very little control over the volume of individuals and web sites that would cut & paste the recipe into their own 'recipe collection' giving their readership the impression that it was their property. It's a full time job protecting intellectual property. Few bother.

                                                  Having said that, I still share recipes with everyone (especially if they ask)!

                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    I google a lot and this is really common. The cut and paste people who don't attribute it ... I chalk up as usually clueless. I'd guess way over half just don't know. What kills me ... is the people who cut and paste and then pass it off as theirs. I hate it when I publish a link and say something like "hey, here's a great recipe by xxx" and tnen additional goggle reveals the first person who actuallly created the recipe.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      I write a food column for our local newspaper and have a horrible time with recipe attribution. If I've just discovered a great recipe in a book, on-line, or from a friend, no problem. But what about all those wonderful recipes hand-written in my "big book of recipes" that came from "somewhere." My mom sitting under a hairdryer in the 60's and reading Family Circle is a strong possibility. The genesis of so many of my best recipes is simply lost.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        That's true. It's the oddball stuff that is hard to forgive.

                                                        There was some unusual ingrediant recently someone was asking about, so I did a google. Can't remember right now. Something Asian. There were about 17-18 hits on the entire www and one recipe ... that was copied on about 10 websites ... three of the people claimed it as their own recipe. These were character by character identical matches. I mean, copy and paste ... fine. Just leave it at that and don't claim authorship ... or at the very least ... CHANGE the wording in the instructions. What made this so special were there were a number of spelling errors ... ya know ... correct that ... how lazy can you be?

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          On the other hand, now and then I share recipes that have become common property--French sauces and techniques, many popular Asian and Mexican dishes.

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            If you're simply giving out the ingredients and basic technique for a bechamel, in your own words, that's fine. If you're publishing a verbatim recipe from Julia's MTAOFC on your blog and passing it off as your own, that's plagiarism. It doesn't matter whether the recipe is "popular" or not.

                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                    RW, would you give us the addy of the website that shares garage sale recipes? Sounds interesting! I have my grandmother's old recipe file boxes, and a few of the recipes aren't fashionable anymore, hence I wonder if they're still made.

                                                    1. re: amyzan

                                                      Here you go
                                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/391113

                                                      LInk is at the bottom of the post. Hope you find what you are looking for ... or you might want to share on that site.

                                      2. I came across people who wouldn't share recipes before I even started cooking. The time that sticks out in my memory, someone asked for the recipe for a certain kind of pie. The hostess refused politely, but explained, to general laughter (and some bemusement), just how closely guarded the recipe was: "My brother lives in Chicago, and I can guarantee you, at his house they are not having this kind of pie right now." (Yes, she gets along with her brother, AND his wife.)

                                        The same hostess has, on numerous other occasions, shown, e-mailed, photocopied, or hand-written recipes for me, however, so I think the fact that this particular recipe was *that* closely guarded, plus it was her grandmother's (although presumably this was her brother's grandma too :-\ ), mattered. A lot, apparently.

                                        So now when I want the recipe for something, I always ask if the person would mind sharing it. I can't remember if I've ever been refused, and I'm always proud to share if anyone asks. However, since I'm an eyeball cook, I don't even usually think of asking for the exact recipe -- more like "Mmmm, delicious -- what's in this? Oh OK, and is that... cardomom I'm tasting?" ...So if the person is being politely evasive with me I don't even notice, because I know I can come up with some kind of approximation, and my version is going to be different no matter what.

                                        When I write down recipes for people, I tend to ramble on and on: "1 cup sugar -- substitute part or all honey, depending on how you want it to taste," etc, because that's how I cook.

                                        When people send me actual recipes, they go in my box labeled "George's cheesecake" or "Leslie's chocolate chip cookies." George died suddenly about a year after giving me his recipe, so I shared it; now every once in awhile one of his friends will serve their own version of "George's cheesecake" for dessert and it brings back happy memories.

                                        1. It's never happened to me, but I think someone who would refuse to share if requested politely is just plain rude. If they had a specific reason - not that any come to mind! - maybe, but I have to say that I don't get it.
                                          Who wouldn't be just plain flattered to be asked?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: sophie fox

                                            I'm flattered to be asked out... but it doesn't mean I have to say yes.

                                            Some people just don't share. I have known people who would not share the information on what time a move started, or a good place to buy a certain product, or directions how to get someplace.

                                            Most people share. Some don't. I would be surprised to find that someone who regularly refused to share recipies was generous in other ways. But it hardly makes them a bad person, just someone I probably don't want to put much energy into.

                                          2. my husband's grandmother, who is retired but does some light, occasional baking for our company, is vehement about not giving out recipes. she has put in a lot of time updating her family recipes and developing new ones to use new ingredients and techniques.

                                            she did professional baking when she was younger, and she was asked by several members of her church for recipes-- although she was reluctant, they really guilted her into giving up several recipes she'd developed herself, or had gotten from family members who had passed away. because she didn't want to be perceived as selfish, she gave away recipes for cakes and cookies, even though her family's livelihood was dependent on her baking. she didn't hold back any of her family's secret ingredients or techniques, or tweak any amounts. she ruefully recounts that because she lived in a small town at the time, many of her own recipes found their way into the local papers and school and church newsletters. sometimes she was credited, often she was not. her cookie recipes were reprinted close to the holidays, and her holiday cookie orders dropped off, producing hard times for her family-- THEN, in the week before xmas, when she was at her busiest filling the orders she HAD received, her business and home phone started ringing off of the hook--"i followed your recipe in the church newsletter, but i didn't want to buy honey and used sugar instead-- it didn't turn out like yours," "i followed the recipe exactly, but i've only baked cakes from a box before, i don't know what i did wrong;" " i made 4 dozen cookies that didn't turn out-- can i get a last minute order before xmas???"

                                            apparently the poor woman, trying to save her neighbors' holiday season and company dinners, drafted her daughters to help roll out cookie dough and baked overtime--14 hour days, right up to midnight on xmas eve, using expensive grocery store supplies rather than the wholesale ingredients that it was too late to order at that point (she wound up not making a dime)-- she absolutely exhausted herself and was either absent or too tired to participate in her own family's holiday visits.

                                            then after new year's day, more small-town badmouthing began-- that she'd deliberately put out inaccurate recipes so that she could retain her baking customers, that she was selfishly hoarding the "real" recipes from her grandmother's kitchen, that she ought to have specified that baking cakes in grocery store foil pans would affect baking time, how dare she!

                                            as she says, she strained some friendships and customer relationships over giving away recipes, when she believed she was being generous! she still has hard feelings 40 years later, and it wasn't worth ruining her whole family's holiday for. she's happy to note that women cooks are beginning to be respected professionally these days, and that she can choose to share (easy, or second-hand) recipes if she chooses, while keeping her own developed recipes off-limits, as proprietary.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              Well, soupkitten, that's just terrible! I live in a small town, and I still reel in disbelief at the stories people've made up about me since I moved here six years ago. It boggles the mind, and if it weren't so darned funny, I might be angry. Your poor great grandmother in law, that her livelihood depended on these people is just indicative of what so many women have put up with for years. My paternal grandmother made hundreds of one pound cans of peanut brittle on her electric range at home to raise money for her church whenever asked. She turned out the biggest batch, 900 pounds, when she was 74 years old, I think it was. All at her expense. It still amazes me that they even asked her once she turned 70...but then I do think she enjoyed it.

                                            2. I've only once refused to share a recipe... It was for a cake recipe from close family friends who've owned a few restaurants, although I don't think they would have cared if I'd shared the recipe. But this was in high school, and the person who asked was known for picking her nose and eating it (really). I just couldn't bear the thought of my very favourite cake being made by someone who did that, so I wouldn't give it to her.

                                              1. When this happened to me once, I bugged, cajoled, and teased the woman until she relented and gave me her family's secret cheesecake recipe.

                                                I guess if people want to be stingy about it, that's their prerogative. What's worse to me, though, is when people share a recipe but leave out an ingredient or a detail so that yours won't be as good as theirs. I've never actually experienced this (to my knowledge) but I've heard people say they'd done it. How petty can you be?

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Kagey

                                                  While I'm sure a few folks might leave out a key ingredient or step, I'd bet that the much more frequent cause here is not having an exact recipe, or not having ever written down the final tinkered state of a recipe you have been making and playing with for years. Or perhaps they never had a written recipe, but did their best to write it down from memory when a friend requested it and made some mistakes while doing that favor. I think two people can follow the exact same recipe and come out with different dishes, too.

                                                  1. re: debbiel

                                                    i think that's really common-- or that you make a recipe one way if you happen to have fresh thyme in the house, and another when fresh herbs are out of season, etc. there are also recipes that don't taste the same if they are made with gold medal flour as opposed to king arthur. . . i make my own vanilla extract, and it gives baked goods a different flavor than supermarket stuff (or fake stuff), we use home-brewed ales in bbq sauce, home canned preserves in cakes, the list goes on. . .there are all sorts of variables just with ingredients, even before you get down to technique and equipment. it's easy to flake out on a step that is second nature for you-- i did this once on a pureeing step when giving out a printed soup recipe-- i didn't mean to, and only realized it when glancing at the recipe after the event was over. the thing is, of the people who picked up the recipe (assuming they try to make it), the experienced cooks will realize the step is missing, perform it, and all will be well. the people who don't cook soup might make the recipe and find the flavor the same but the texture a little chunky-- maybe they'll even like it better-- oh well.

                                                    i gave a "method," not "recipe" for simple roasted vegs to a relative who loved them at our house. she knows i cooked organic vegs from local farms for the meal but she is one of those people who say the only difference is price. . . anyway. . . her vegs didn't turn out at all-- they didn't brown due to nitrate bloat, they had little flavor, mealy potatoes, & she got mad about it & said what a waste of time it was, she's going back to frozen mixed vegs. . . aargh.

                                                2. I do have a few family receipe's that I don't want to share. I guess my feeling is that if you share them..then it isn't as special for you to bring it over to share at a gathering. I never am bothered if someone does not want to share a family receipe..but I do feel awkward if I don't. One friend, who had a 100yo carrot cake receipe told me she changes hers up just a little but not in a way that would make it not taste good.

                                                  1. Most of my recipes have a root in something I can show another person in a cookbook, then describe how mine differs, very rarely have I written down my own version. The worst part about sharing a recipe is when someone does a bizzare step, messes it up and then blames it on you. :P

                                                    1. I will admit, I am one who does not like to share recipes. I do not own a business. My recipes are not generational hand-me-downs.

                                                      The reason I don't like to share my recipes is this - tweaking recipes is my hobby, my passion. I will take a basic recipe from a cookbook or a site like allrecipes and I will take - literally - months of tweaking, tasting, and alterations before I am satisfied with it enough to serve it to guests.

                                                      Please, someone explain to me why I should freely give out these recipes that I've basically poured blood and sweat into? Why should someone else reap the benefits of my labours - for free, no less? Am I to hand over my recipes simply because these people feel entitled to them because of deliciousness? Heck no!

                                                      When I buy a cookbook, I am expected to pay for it, am I not? Truthfully, I don't feel this is any different and I am disappointed that most posters obviously feel that folks like me should willingly give up our recipes just because they "feel it's the right thing to do." Bah! You feel it's the right thing to do because it lets you get what you want in the easiest way possible.

                                                      Sorry folks, there is no law saying that anyone must share recipes, and I will happily hold mine close to me.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: Marzipan234

                                                        It's a good thing for you the people who developed the recipe in the first place don't think like you.

                                                        1. re: Marzipan234

                                                          "there is no law saying that anyone must share recipes"

                                                          AMEN....

                                                          When I was married to the first Mrs. B. we attended Thanksgiving dinner at her sister's home. I brought a very special side dish that involved many hours of labor and $50 of ingredients (n order to serve 24)(35 years ago). Many guests raved about the dish and her husband's cousin requested the recipe. I replied that I appreciate that she liked the dish, but that it was a signature item of mine, I was in the catering business at the time, and not a recipe I chose to share. I explained I did not want to see it on other caterer's menus. BIL's eldest aunt pronounced: "You have to share a recipe if someone asks!" I said "Aunt XXXX this isn't Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia, here in America I get to choose what I choose to share." BIL's assorted relatives were shocked, but his father was glad someone finally told the old lady off.

                                                          There are recipes I CHOOSE to share and those I don't. It's all about choice, not obligation.

                                                          1. re: Marzipan234

                                                            Well, you could always get cookbooks from the library like I do... Or the internet. No need to pay for a cookbook.

                                                            1. re: Marzipan234

                                                              My grandmother had this attitude. She passed away never sharing any of her recipes which represent her history of being a first generation American from a Russian/Latvian family. Her theory was that someone passing off her recipe as theirs would be an insult. She also never allowed her children/grandchildren in the kitchen with her. All of her recipes passed with her.

                                                              I understand this may be an extreme reaction, but my mother definitely has similar tendencies (my mother's an excellent cook - and I learned how to cook strictly from cookbooks/recipes), though not as tight fisted on recipes. It's just hard for me to not hear this reaction and think "that's sad".

                                                              1. re: Marzipan234

                                                                >>>Please, someone explain to me why I should freely give out these recipes that I've basically poured blood and sweat into?<<<

                                                                I really doubt I would want the recipe if it includes your blood and sweat. I really do not care for someones blood and sweat in my food.

                                                                1. re: Fowler

                                                                  I put LOVE into my cooking, which is to say, my recipes.
                                                                  If that love gets propagated far and wide, it is a wonderful legacy for me to leave one day.

                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                    You misunderstood my sarcasm, monavano.

                                                              2. Several years ago, we were invited to a b-day party and served the host's "famous coconut cake". Lo and behold, the cake was truly special - my spouse, who normally doesn't eat sweets, was smitten. When I asked for the recipe, the host said "of course, I'll send it to you by email." Some time passed and after several further requests for the recipe, and empty promises to share it, I realized that the host had no intention of ever giving me the recipe. Consequently, I began a search for a similar cake . . . and stumbled upon Ina Garten's recipe for coconut cake. We took one bite of Ina's cake and realized that this was the same cake that the host had served us. Now, I can understand (somewhat) being stingy with your own work product, but stinginess with a recipe that is already in the public domain? That really takes the cake! LOL

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                  I had a similar thing happen, a friend politely declined to share a "secret family recipe" and through the miracle of the Google I was able to find a recipe from an old cookbook that was spot on. When I later showed him the recipe it turned out to be exactly the same, he was genuinely unaware that it had originally come from a cookbook. I would guess that a lot of secret family recipes aren't so secret after all.

                                                                2. Actually, it has never happened to me. My friends are like me, not food professional in any way and likely got the recipe from the internet or from some other person. So we're fine about sharing.

                                                                  Maybe I would feel differently if I'd invested time and money in developing a recipe. OTOH, there are so many recipes out there in the world....is anything really unique and original?

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                                    "is anything really unique and original?"
                                                                    Unique/ Yes. As soon as a cook or baker deviates one iota from a recipe then the product is unique. That cake made in a gas oven is not the same as made in electric or wood fired or coal. Even the water and its mineral content vary. I for one don't care for well water and I can taste the difference in clear broths and soups made with well, spring or city water.

                                                                    Original?>>>highly unlikely, after thousands of years of cooking/baking there are really just variations on a theme.

                                                                    That said cooking/baking professionals have the right to protect their intellectual property and not have their recipes copied without permission or compensation.
                                                                    I am incensed when I see a recipe from a copyright(ed) book copied and pasted into a CH post. On has the right to take a book from the library and copy a recipe for personal use, but it is not legal to republish (and posting online is publishing) that copyright(ed) recipe without the copyright holder's express permission.

                                                                    Remembering an Intellectual Law seminar I took in continuing legal ed, the consensus is that the 'internet has become a license to steal' trademarks and copyrights are infringed with impunity.

                                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                                      I thought only the specific instructions in a recipe were copyrighted, not the list of ingredients?

                                                                      1. re: ohmyyum

                                                                        When you copyright a work, it includes every word and picture. A cookbook that is copyrighted includes the complete recipe, instructions, ingredient lists, weights, times, temperatures, etc.

                                                                        Why would you think ingredient lists would not be covered by a copyright? This is truly perplexing.

                                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                                          Correct me if I'm wrong, BM, but, isn't a copyright similar to a patent insofar as one can patent a process or procedure but not the materials used?

                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                            no, a copyright is not the same as a patent
                                                                            One copyrights the verbiage or picture as presented on the page (or screen).
                                                                            If I list:
                                                                            1T Garlic
                                                                            3 Onions
                                                                            2 Cups Water
                                                                            1T Salt
                                                                            1T Pepper
                                                                            as the ingredients in 'recipe for spice rub'
                                                                            The whole is copyrighted. That doesn't preclude you from using those words and amounts as 'ingredients in Mucho's basic seasoning.

                                                                            In 'recipe for spice rub, I might give instructions as to how these items should be mixed, stored and applied to the meat.

                                                                            What purpose would it serve to only be able to copyright the instructions without the ingredients? none

                                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                                              If you're using an ingredient that makes your concoction unique then listing it would be giving a trade secret away.

                                                                          2. re: bagelman01

                                                                            Bagelman, I didn't come up with that "rule," I believe someone said that on a blog and it stuck with me because I thought it odd.

                                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                                              "Why would you think ingredient lists would not be covered by a copyright?"

                                                                              They are not deemed to be significantly creative or original, just a list of facts. The same notion really applies to many recipes in general. See, Publications Intl. v. Meredith, 88 F.3d 473 (7th Cir. 1996) (“The identification of ingredients necessary for the preparation of each dish is a statement of facts. There is no expressive element in each listing; in other words, the author who wrote down the ingredients for 'Curried Turkey and Peanut Salad' was not giving literary expression to his individual creative labors. Instead, he was writing down an idea, namely, the ingredients necessary to the preparation of a particular dish. '[N]o author may copyright facts or ideas. The copyright is limited to those aspects of the work–termed ‘expression’–that display the stamp of the author’s originality.' Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 547, 105 S.Ct. at 2223. We do not view the functional listing of ingredients as original within the meaning of the Copyright Act."). See also, http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html and the referenced Circular 1, at 3 (link provided).

                                                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                                                That's my understanding. The specific text used in a recipe is copyrighted, so cutting and pasting verbatim would not be allowed.

                                                                                But a list of ingredients, or the set of steps to make a recipe are not particularly unique. Just because an author wrote down and published a basic recipe for, say, spaghetti sauce, does not mean that all authors forever after are barred from writing down that particular set of ingredients and cooking techniques. But they do have to use their own words when they do so.

                                                                                Same with ideas - there was a case a while back where one cookbook author accused another of stealing her idea for a cookbook about hiding vegetables in food for kids, as the two books came out quite close to each other. But you can't copyright an idea for a book, even if the second author really had heard about the other book and written their own version of the idea.

                                                                                not generally very unique, particularly when it's a common dish. Someone, somewhere, has used that part

                                                                          3. re: bagelman01

                                                                            "[C]opyrights are infringed with impunity."

                                                                            You say that like it's a bad thing. Not everyone sees it that way. Not even some of us who derive income from the production of copyrighted materials. Generally speaking, society as a whole benefits from less restrictive copyright protections and the "Mickey Mouse" Protection Act of '98 is a pretty stark example of unbridled corporate welfare (not to mention arguably unconstitutional).

                                                                            And, please, no "copyrights encourage the arts" common refrain. I'll concede that some protection is comforting, but, in the end, if someone has something they truly need to express, they will express it; whether or not there is potential for financial gain. In the end, expression is the root of art, not compensation.

                                                                        2. I have no issue "sharing" something that I made from a book or magazine. I will even try to summarize something I made w/out a recipe since that is the way most of my cooking happens.

                                                                          However, I have many of my grandmother's recipes as she patiently taught me how to cook most of the family's favorites. There is one recipe for the Christmas Candy - a toffee receipt, that I will not share with anyone because that was her request. My grandmother and great-grandmother used to make and sell the toffee once a year. Later, they just made tons of it to give away to family and friends. When I was old enough, she taught me how to make it. A cousin once requested the recipe, she said no, the recipe now belonged to me and me alone. So, every December I gather a few people and we make pounds of toffee. We all give it away and ship it to the out of state/area family members. Some traditions have to be honored.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Aussieshepsx2

                                                                            What happens when you die? Will you choose one family member to pass it on to? I hope so because that would be a sad tradition to lose!

                                                                            1. re: ohmyyum

                                                                              As I don't have kids, I think the plan will be to give it to my sister and/or her kids if they are interested. I'll start to teach them when they are old enough since the success of the recipe is as much technique as the actual written ingredient list.

                                                                              1. re: Aussieshepsx2

                                                                                You'd better put a video in your lawyers safe or whatever, just in case ;-)

                                                                                1. re: Aussieshepsx2

                                                                                  I'd start putting that stuff down now. I'd like to think that my grandmother had plans to eventually share recipes (rather than never wanting anyone in the family to ever have her recipes) - but the reality was that all of them died with her.

                                                                                  Having grown up in a family with an extreme case where mother's didn't teach their children how to cook (major kitchen control freaks), this is an attitude that I struggle to relate to.

                                                                            2. heh

                                                                              this is one of those times when I read the complaint, agreed with the complaint, but would have done the same thing

                                                                              It has happened to me so many times that I'm asked for a recipe, I hand it over, the person makes adjustments in the recipe that are significant (subbing olive oil for butter or pears for apples) and then complains to me that I must have given a different recipe

                                                                              At some point I just stopped giving them out. I will say something like- eh, I wing it, but the secret is (a specific brand) flour but I wont give the full recipe

                                                                              1. I always share every recipe. Also, other things. If you want to know how I really feel - well, you won't have to wait long. Some of my friends wish I would stop talking about recipes, pretty sure.

                                                                                1. Hell no, you're not getting my top secret hawaiian banana bread recipe!

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                    Does it involve pineapple? ;-)

                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                      poi

                                                                                      1. re: Bellachefa

                                                                                        Wow now that's different. I won't ask any more questions!

                                                                                  2. I once attended a brunch catered by a woman I know with a small catering business. She made some oven baked frittatas that were quite good. I asked my friend who was hosting the brunch, who is friends with the caterer, if she could find out what temperature the frittatas baked at and approximately how many eggs for a 13x9 pan.That's all I wanted to know. I respect someone's right to their recipes, especially when it's their business. She refused to give me that information, saying she didn't share recipes. Even after my friend explained that I didn't want the recipe, just those two bits of information, she refused. I found recipes online and tweaked them to my liking and they ended up being better than hers. I should add that she's in a city far away from where I live (I flew there) so it's not as if I was going to compete with her or share them around town.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: AmyH

                                                                                      That is a ridiculous response,

                                                                                      however, oven temp wouldn't be much help since ovens vary so greatly - convection/gas/electric - even the very same oven can have different hot spots and can be very far off on temp.
                                                                                      And unless she used the same pans and you made sure that she used large eggs (which are industry standard except for Ina Garten) it wouldn't help too much either - and also I always added a ton of half and half or heavy cream....

                                                                                      1. re: harryharry

                                                                                        She was making these in the host's house using the host's oven. She uses whatever kitchen is available, usually a synagogue kitchen since she does kosher catering. She was baking them in pyrex 13x9 baking dishes which is what I have. And I believe the host had bought the eggs, which were most likely large, which are what I use. I was just asking so I could approximate it and would still use my own cooking know-how to get it right.

                                                                                    2. This thread makes me think of the cute golden retriever on the ads for Bush's Baked Beans! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEw57a...

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                        Did the dog say "It's people!" Like Soylent Green, LOL! Hope I heard wrong.....

                                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                                          Yep, it's people! Awesome.

                                                                                        2. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                          Roll that beautiful bean footage!

                                                                                          My mother loves to say that line.

                                                                                        3. I've never had that happen to me personally, but I was present at a potluck in which one person asked another for their recipe only to be told they'd have to pay them for it, it's that valuable. The exchange was comical.

                                                                                          I think some people simply have no idea of the depth and breadth of excellent recipes there are to be had out there today, for free, categorized and searchable by ingredients, cuisines, and techniques, that make any one of our individual recipes so much less precious and unique than we'd like to believe, specially if we'd rather guard than share them.

                                                                                          1. I am hard pressed when asked for a recipe - not because I am unwilling to share but because I just don't really use them - I generally take methods from a source like a book or online and then modify to taste - generally once I have made something a few times I don't even look at the original reference so when asked for a recipe all I can really give most of the time is a method

                                                                                            perhaps some people who wont share are covering for the fact that they cant - or don't feel like producing a proper recipe for something they make off the cuff

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                              There are worse things to confess.

                                                                                            2. To me, not sharing a recipe when asked is akin to having something really funny to say and refusing to say it. What’s wrong with spreading enjoyment? Some things are just better shared than sold.

                                                                                              1. I gladly share all my recipes, but there are two I guard with my life. One is an old family recipe that NO ONE is allowed to share under penalty of death. If you want that recipe you have to marry in. Not my rule. The other I have shared with a chosen few, but prefer to keep it close to the chest. Otherwise I'm an open (cook)book.

                                                                                                1. I think it is sad, when treasured family recipes die with the old person. For heavens sakes, write them down!

                                                                                                  And, do not ask for a recipe, then change it, and submit it to a regional cookbook. I'm talking to you, Miss! And BTW, your changes totally effed up the chili.

                                                                                                  Also, try not to be like the idiot from Cook's Illustrated, who threatened to sue the blogger who put up a recipe for potato salad made of potatoes, celery, egg, mayo. etc. Damn, if CI is going to sue, nearly every American citizen can sue CI, as CI clearly stole our Grandmas' recipes.

                                                                                                  1. My best friend used to live in the house next door to me. We used to have such fun cooking together.

                                                                                                    One day she was showing me how to make her spinach and cheese mini quiches in a muffin pan and she stopped mid-stir and got very serious. She said 'I will share every recipe I have with you except for X (I can't even remember what it was!). It's an old family recipe, so don't even ask me for it!'

                                                                                                    I thought that was very strange- in all the time I've known her she had never once made it, and still hasn't to this day. Why would I ask for the recipe if I'd never tried it, or even knew it existed in the first place?

                                                                                                    It did hurt my feelings a teeny bit.

                                                                                                    I'll have to ask her what it was someday- and browbeat her into bringing it over for a party... And then hack it! ;)

                                                                                                    1. I always share my recipes, whether they are from a family recipe, a cookbook or online. No reason why others can't make good dishes for their own families and friends. Just sharing the love...

                                                                                                      Having said that, one of my friends has loved several of my family recipes, like roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head loved - but when she makes them, she adds and substitutes so many things, they sometimes taste like crap once she's done her tweaking.