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When is a recipe "yours," as opposed to the author you got it from?

You've decided to make Ethnic Meat Stew and use a recipe from the website or cookbook of famed Ethnic chef Telly Celebrity.

When you make it, you like it as a base but start changing things each time you make it. Clearly, if you just double the black pepper to 1 tsp from 1/2 it's "Telly Celebrity's Ethnic Meat Stew with extra pepper." If you use rabbit instead of duck, I still think it's "Telly Celebrity's Ethnic Meat Stew, with rabbit substituted."

How much change do you feel you have to make to a recipe before you can start calling it "My Ethnic Meat Stew based on Telly Celebrity's recipe?" What about "inspired by?" At what point is the recipe yours alone and you feel you can ethically drop Mr. Celebrity's name entirely?

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  1. I almost never follow a recipe exactly but neither do I call it mine unless I have thought it up. Even in that case, for all I know, somebody else has had the same inspiration. So IF I title a recipe at all (I seldom do), it is not eponymous. It strikes me as evidence of egotism when people put their names in their recipes. I suspect Telly C's recipe was an adaptation taken from elsewhere, as well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      I don't think I've ever called a recipe "mine", even when I just wing it and don't base it on another. For the most part these days, you'd be hard pressed to find a recipe that has little similarity to another. Overall, I think it's like art--if the original recipe creator recognizes it as close to his/her own, you haven't changed it enough.

    2. I think all recipes should be in the public domain, with no attributions as they evolve. Ego and mercantilism should be set aside for the benefit of CH'ers and more broadly, mankind....

      3 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        There should be some recipes left to the province of an individual author and leave mankind spared of such attribution.

        Lest aliens come visit us some eons from now and think less of all of us simply because one person's culinary creations.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          LOL, let's let Sandra Lee keep the kwanzaa cake recipe under her name.

          1. re: chowser

            yea and everything else Scamdra makes that doesn't work.

      2. I too never follow a recipe verbatim. But if I post about it, I will give credit where due, but say it is "loosely based off Telly's recipe".

        1. Apropos discussion linked below from Serious Eats. There's an interesting comment that 3 is the magic number of changes used to determine the eligibility of entries in cooking contests, meaning that if they were to Google your recipe and find similar ones, the entry is only eligible if at least 3 ingredients are different in yours.


          I personally only think a recipe is "mine" if I've created it from beginning to end or made quite a few changes - let's say at least 5 - to the ingredients and/or methods in someone else's recipe. Otherwise I'll say it's "my take" on the original recipe (or something similar) and attribute proper credit. I imagine I sometimes err too far on the side of caution - I've often found myself saying that I use Author Y's recipe for Dish X, but instead of rosemary I use thyme, and I swap sherry vinegar for balsamic, and I cut the salt by half and use sea salt instead of table salt, and I use chicken thighs instead of breasts, and I add capers, and I oven-roast it in a casserole dish instead of cooking it on the stove....and obviously at that point it has become my recipe, and instead of Dish X, it's Dish Z.

          At the end of the day, I really believe it's about major alterations to the flavor and/or texture of a dish. IMHO, making the cookies square instead of round, adding an extra half-teaspoon of vanilla and dusting them with powdered sugar doesn't really make them yours.

          5 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            And, sometimes when you make enough substitutions, the original recipe creator might appreciate not having it attributed to him.her. I have passed on recipes and the person makes so many changes that I wouldn't do that I'd rather it not be associated with me ("instead of making ravioli, I used Chef Boyardee...")--you see it enough in recipe reviews.

            1. re: chowser

              Absolutely In fact, I think that's what caused the big to-do when Cook's Illustrated wanted to sue a blogger who published her "adapted" version of one of their recipes. I believe their argument was that they test their recipes exhaustively and if hers wasn't good it would reflect poorly on them to be associated with the failure.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                That was their argument, yes, but I never believed it. I think they just very tightly want to control their intellectual property. Face it, CI only has about 400 recipes that they just keep tweaking and reprinting over and over. They have much to lose by letting their recipes out into the wild, wild web.

                il divo mentioned Von's oatmeal cookies. I'd never heard of them, but found this fascinating chowhound thread... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/817542


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I was doubtful at first but then there are a lot of bloggers who have posted CI recipes with no changes and they still remain. I have been able to find every CI recipe I want, by googling.

                  1. re: chowser

                    I would like to stubbornly cling to my opinion, but I find your comment very interesting. I, too, have found several CI recipes out there by googling, but I just chalked it up to them not being able to keep up with the volume of blogging out there and choosing their battles... But you might also be right. :)


          2. Thanks for your thoughts, all. I've also been thinking that there would have to be more modifications to a highly innovative or original dish than to a more traditional one before I claimed it as my own. For example, if I took a recipe for "Roast Beef with Wild Mushroom Sauce and Caramelized-Shallot Mashed Potatoes," (which I have), I'd want to make a lot of changes before I claimed it as my own. On the other hand, for "French Onion Soup" I'd claim a recipe with only small changes, unless the base recipe I used had something with strongly distinguished it from the other billion or so French Onion Soup recipes out there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nokitchen

              I have to say, that the more common the recipe like French Onion Soup, or Tomato Sauce are far more likely to become the home-cook's "own" recipe much faster than a more specific recipe.

              I don't think I've ever used a recipe for making pesto - but the fact that I use tomato paste in order to cut down how much oil I use is something I learned from my mother who got it from an old Moosewood cookbook. So I'm happy calling it "my pesto" - but when talking about how I make it - I do refer back to the Moosewood as providing the initial guidance for using tomato paste.

              Another thing is that when I make mujadarra, I usually use a few different recipe to account for different things - plus I add extra spices to what's listed. At this point I wouldn't say it's "my" mujadarra - but it's also not really anyone else's since I reference 3 or so recipes.

            2. I think that a recipe is "yours" when you have mastered it. You know intimately how small variations to cooking method, timing, atmosphere, heat source / cookware used, humidity, etc. changes affect the taste, texture and composition. What ingredients you can add, omit or substitute to achieve the end product you desire.

              As for authorship / attribution, a lot of the celebrity chef recipes are the product of cultural appropriation (not the bad kind of cultural appropriation). Most celebrity chef's don't title their recipes "Good Celebrety Chef's Beef Wellington" or the like. Often if the have a story about the recipe, they fully acknowledge it - because if a lot of people like the story, they will like the recipe better and perhaps will believe the recipe to be more "authentic" somehow - eg. they found it in some charming little town at and spoke to the rustic cook who prepared the meal and learned it from them, they heard of some person who made a kick ass something-or-other and finally was able to convince them to share it, etc. If you do the same and include the good story about how you learned to make your dish, you can call it whatever you want, even Shirley.

              Cultural appropriation, the bad kind, is to take a recipe that is culturally endemic make a small "personalization" but not actually changing the character of the dish otherwise then claim it is all yours. Like no one in the entire history of spanish rice dishes ever used elk or other "exotic" ingredients, or that simply changing in some strange ingredient(s) that is not available to a culture makes it a "new" claimed dish, like "John Doe's Arroz con XYZ" that is simply arroz con pollo with the chicken substituted with ostrich, cloned veloca-raptor or something crazy.

              1. 20 minutes later. Seriously, does anyone remember tha brou-ha-ha about Martha Stewart 'borrowing' recipes? Andre Soltner once told me that he could not invent a new recipe until somebody invented a new animal or plant.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mwhitmore

                  There was one about "borrowing" a cookie recipe with a presidential candidate's wife. I can't remember who but she said it was passed down in her family and people found it on the web, as if that meant it couldn't have been passed down. Or, that presidential candidate's wives must be able to come up w/ her own cookie recipe.

                2. I cook competitively and enter recipe contests; the rules usually warn against entering someone else's recipe as your own (i.e. stealing and/or taking credit for someone's material) BUT after much research the consensus is if you change at least five ingredients and or recipe instructions on how to make the dish, it is no longer of the original author.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    Interesting! So, when you say "change" at least 5 ingredients, do you mean substituting one ingredient for another (e.g. changing lemon zest to orange zest) or would changing a measure also count (e.g., 1 tsp lemon zest vs. 1 tbsp lemon zest)?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Subbing or changing one ingredient for another not so much a measure...for example, in a dish that uses chicken thighs, you might use turkey thighs, pork or other meat, or another part of the chicken..other examples would be changing white rice to brown or using another variety of rice or even leaving out the rice and using another starch that would yield the recipe to similiar results...

                      Also, if a recipe, for example, using regular potatoes, you might try sweet, red, fingerling or another starchy veggie like yucca instead. Changing the way you cook the ingredients that would make it unlike the original recipe would count toward changes also such as baking, frying, broiling, etc so if a recipe that originally starts off with chicken thighs being baked are now braised, it is no longer like the original recipe. Changing 1 tsp of lemon zest vs. 1 tablespoon is not a ingredient change, just a measurement change.

                  2. A recipe is "mine" if I have a proven history of successfully making the recipe multiple times and it's appreciated by a wide audience who repeatedly request it.

                    In other words, someday my pound cake will be known as "grandmother's pound cake" just as I currently have a "grandmother's yellow cake" and "Aunt's crab pizza."

                    In none of the above cases will people assume that the dish was invented from scratch. It's "ownership" based on recognition from other people.

                    Taking a recipe, changing a few ingredients and making it only once or twice doesn't give you "ownership."

                    1. I will call a recipe mine if I've made it a lot, changed it, become known for it, but I never call it mine without noting the original source.

                      1. I think it's "mine" if I've looked it over once or twice, then gone into the kitchen and done my own thing with it. If I bring the book or a print out or whatever into the kitchen and cook from that, it's "theirs".

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: alliegator

                          That's my view too. If I need to look at the recipe while I'm preparing it, it's definitely still "their's" even if I vary the ingredients somewhat.

                          If I prepare it from memory, it's mine although I still credit the source (when there is one), if I make it pretty much along the lines of the written recipe, varying it only a bit.

                        2. When you change a few words in the directions and delete his name from the recipe. ;-)

                          1. Unless the book is open before me, they are all variations on a theme. I have had people sit in a corner and write down everything that I do so they can get the same result. I feel honored.

                            On the other side, having observed me once, a wonderful cook refused to observe the process and just wanted to enjoy the results from then on.

                            1. never drop it altogether as I think the origin (originator) is integral to the dish I'm making.
                              but I do change every single recipe I make to my own version.
                              Von's oatmeal cookies for example. I made them first time spot on as I watched the video. but making them last week, I cut the Crisco amount, cut the sugar amount added different sized egg(s) changed nuts and way lessoned the Heath chip amount, changed time& temp too. but I pass-on his google search when someone asks for the recipe because it is that good.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: iL Divo

                                And Von's oatmeal cookies are not "his" either. He uses an existing recipe and just added heath bits.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  yep he says it's the recipe off the oatmeal box.

                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                    Only it's not. When I saw him make the cookies, I had to look it up because it didn't seem like the one on the box. I'm guessing he picked it up somewhere and forgot over the years since he's memorized it. As I said in that old thread, I think one reason people can't replicate what he does is that they're using the box recipe, not the one he uses in the video. The one he uses is "out there" on the web as a recipe from the past. Nevertheless, in my mind, they'll always be Von's cookies.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      "in my mind, they'll always be Von's cookies."

                                      major ditto's!!!

                              2. When you alter it by tweaking it with one or more ingredients.

                                1. I don't own, nor have I read, every cook book in existence, or watched every cooking show in existence.

                                  If I enter a cooking contest and cook something that I came up with seven years ago, only to discover that Thomas Keller published it five years ago does that mean the recipe isn't mine? If I cook something I invented last week then find out that it was published 50 years ago in some seminal text that I've never bothered to read then is it mine or not?

                                  1. Old story/joke: A diner at Mario's Ristorante requested the recipe for Veal Mario. Chef wrote it out and gave it to her. Later he got a phone call from her. 'Would be all right if I used boneless chicken instead of veal, cheddar instead of mozzarella, skim milk instead of heavy cream...' Finally, Mario cut her off. 'Lady, you can do anything you want---just don't call it Veal Mario!'

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: mwhitmore

                                      Why did she even bother to ask for it lol?

                                      I check online recipes and will read reviews that say "5 stars! Excellent dish! I subbed chicken for the pork, m&m's for paprika, and fried instead of baked it. Will definitely make it again" and I wonder if these people really are serious...

                                      1. re: youareabunny

                                        Hmmm, m&m's! I'll need to remember that next time I'm short on paprika ;)

                                        1. re: youareabunny

                                          It's bad enough when they like it but even more abhorrent when they rate it one/no star and go on and on about how bad it is only find that they subbed chicken for the pork, m&m's for paprika, and fried instead of baked it.

                                          And why do people who "hate" onions (or whatever) insist on making onion based dishes and then wondering why the dish had no flavor and then leave a bad reviews because they left them out.

                                          1. re: youareabunny

                                            I hadn't thought of m&m's for paprika. What a great idea ;)

                                            1. re: youareabunny

                                              I love the review attached to this recipe. The poster omits 1/3 of the ingredients, and makes a couple of poor substitutions. I would say she made the recipe her own. :)


                                          2. I look at it a little differently. For me, "tweaking" a recipe is almost a given, so it's not the number of tweaks that shift it from being someone else's to being my own. Instead, I start calling it my own when I no longer need to refer to the recipe to make it. That would indicate that I've made it at least a couple of times, which means I like it, and I'm comfortable enough with the preparation to call it my own. The original source, in most cases, becomes irrelevant. The exception would be if it was a recipe given to me by someone I love. In that case, it will forever be referred to as "Aunt Mimi's Cole Slaw" or "Mom's Brisket."

                                            1. M&m's? Not sure how that equates, please explain this substitution in place of - is it paprika? Thanks.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: DeniseB61

                                                'twas an exaggeration. A joke from Family Guy, actually.

                                              2. Maybe it as soon as you use the recipe.

                                                I recall reading Wolfgang Puck's introduction to one of his recipe books that was published in the 1980s. He basically said he did not attach any proprietary aspects to his recipes because in restaurants and home kitchens a dish made from an established recipe is never made precisely the same way twice. And furthermore recipes evolve due to the introduction of new ingredients, new cooking technology and new ideas in the kitchen. So, he said, that he had no fear of his restaurant clientele drying up because the recipes for the dishes that drew them to his restaurants would now be openly available to everyone.

                                                So I suppose that once you have made any one of Puck's recipes, you can justifiably call it your own because there is likely to be at least slight, if unintentional diversions from his published recipe. He wouldn't even care.

                                                But he did say that he hoped his recipe book would be a financial success.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Sam D.

                                                  I think that is classy, pragmatic and realistic of him.

                                                2. I basically learned to cook by following recipes in cookbooks, back in the days before they were coffee table books (to give you a sense of timeframe).

                                                  It has never occurred to me to care whether someone thinks a recipe is "mine," as opposed to Marcella's or Giuliano's or Julia's or whoever's.

                                                  It will always be true that I learned to make Bolognese, to pick out something I make a lot, from Marcella's first cookbook. So I don't think it will ever be *mine*, even though I may stray when adding amounts of the various vegetables and meat(s).

                                                  But my ego isn't all hung up on whether something is "mine." It's Bolognese. I use it when I eat pasta. I make pasta on my own, also without thinking about *whose* pasta it is.

                                                  I learned it out of Giuliano's first book. I don't have to look at the book anymore, but it will always, in my mind, be something I learned how to do by reading the cookbooks of Giuliano and Marcella, and sussing out which I liked better.

                                                  One of the things I learned in cooking classes was that there is nothing new under the sun.

                                                  I don't get the topic, I guess.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                    I think the topic is relevant these days because everyone seems obsessed who celeb-chefs. Whether on TV or in books everyone seems to "know" them. Then you have the all those food blogs which I for one am guilty about touting (hello-smitten kitchen!).

                                                    My parents owned a restaurant and were trained cooks in their own right. They collected cookbooks and would often attribute different foods to different authors such a Beard on Bread or to different cooks books (Joy, the Gourmet series) but I don't think anyone ever asked them 'whose is this" like you hear today. Sure we had Grandma X's sweet bread or Mom's kale soup but that was about it.

                                                    These days one of the first questions I get asked when I make something is "Whose is this?" It is like the idea of creating a recipe on your own is impossible. Its gotten to the point where I feel guilty for not giving some kind of credit even for dishes I have been making for years and have no idea where I even got the idea.

                                                    Like you, I learned a lot about cooking from cook books as well as from just watching my parents.

                                                    Am I destined to call my meatballs "Moms" even though I am sure by this time I have made many tweaks and changes? Or do I need to call them Mario's because my recipe is eerily the same as one I saw him make on Molto years after I made my first batch?

                                                    Will my brownies and chocolate cake be forever the "JOC's" even though the recipe has changed as the books have been re-released?

                                                    A recipe is "mine" when I make it. I don't feel the need to say we are having Smitten Kitchens potato chip cookies or Ina's beef stew every time I have someone over for dinner. But I have no qualms with sending friends a link to what inspired it, to make a copy from the cookbook or to just write it down as remember it when they ask.

                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                      I guess I should feel thankful I don't have this among my list of worries.

                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                          It's not so much a worry as simple etiquette. If I've made something and my guests compliment me on it and insist that they must have the recipe, I'm just wondering when I should say, "Oh, I originally got it from Telly Celebrity (or Diana Kennedy's book, or the back of the package, or whatever). Here it is with the changes I've made," and when I should say, "This is one I put together over time. Let me print it out for you."

                                                          1. re: nokitchen

                                                            I guess my question is: Does it really matter?

                                                            I am also not sure how "etiquette" even plays into it. Do you feel your friends/guests will find you "impolite" by not stating you adapted a recipe? Is it bad manners? Do you feel these people will do an online search or come across the recipe and end up thinking less of you?

                                                            If you are that concerned about being perceived as (what? A liar? Impolite?) then just say "it's adapted it from XYZ".

                                                            Another way of looking at is if YOU still think of it as "telly celebrity's" recipe than maybe everyone else will too so give that person credit.

                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                              I think with so many things the "does it matter" really applies to the context. In a lot of different families, admitting credit or inspiration to Grandma's X or Mother-in-Law's Y, is potentially quite helpful for family relations.

                                                              There are also competitions - and it's been previously mentioned on this thread what counts as "plagiarizing" vs your own.

                                                              I'm not saying that we need to be completely beholden to giving credit for every recipe every time (tonight's dinner is brought to you by Food52, Bobby Flay, and Grandma). But I also think that at it's socially valuable in certain situations to give credit. Basically, like so many etiquette situations, it's just not a case of one size fits all.

                                                            2. re: nokitchen

                                                              That's what I do, too, no kitchen.

                                                              1. re: nokitchen

                                                                It's up to you. I'd just tell the truth, whatever it might happen to be..

                                                        2. It's mine if it meets one of two criteria:
                                                          A. the version I am making tastes different (better of course) than the original;
                                                          B. I don't have to refer to the original book/piece of paper.

                                                          1. When it originates from me, ie my bolognase.

                                                            1. Any recipe is mine when I make it, even if I follow the original author's recipe to the letter. She/he didn't cook what I'm eating, I did.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: John Francis

                                                                Yes indeed! Yes Indeed!!! Ditto all day long! That's all I'm saying.

                                                              2. I get ideas from recipes but rarely if ever actually follow a recipe from start to finish so I consider them all mine. Usually the 2nd and subsequent times that I make a dish will involve even more tinkering so then it's really "mine" :)

                                                                17 Replies
                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                  If you love to "tinker," why bother with recipes at all?

                                                                  Could you give an example of a recipe you've improved with "tinkering"?

                                                                  I really want to know. I am finding this method of cooking interesting.


                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    Well I recently made Chicken Marsala and perused a variety of recipes. In the end, I didn't have any right next to me to follow exactly. REcipe #1 included tomato paste which I thought was a good idea, recipe #2 included sage which made me think that herbs would be good and recipe #3 included prosciutto which also seemed like a good idea. In the end they all had aspects which I didn't really like in terms of the other ingredients, but my finally dish included a squirt of tomato past, fresh herbs but not sage instead I used thyme and rosemary and pancetta as opposed to prosciutto. They all recommended a different liquid mixture - some wine only, some wine and cream, some with wine, cream and stock, and number of combinations but I decided to use wine and stock in the ratio I decided. I don't think "this method of cooking" is that unusual. You bother with recipes because they stimulate ideas and then you utilize your own creativity to put them together which is I think how most arts and crafts work though apparently not. The next few times I made the dish I then incorporated other components - I substituted bacon for pancetta, no pork at all, splash of cream, different stock/wine ratios aka tinkering.

                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        If I want to make something new, unless it's a specific cake recipe (you have to be really careful messing with baked goods!) that's the way I work. I google the recipe but I don't just take ONE recipe and take it as gospel. I look at all of them that I can and try to figure out what they have in common, what seems like a sensible tweak, and what uses ingredients that I like/have on hand. For example, when I decided to make bbq sauce for the first time, I read about twenty recipes before I started, but the sauce that went into the pan was entirely my own.

                                                                      2. re: Jay F

                                                                        Haven't you ever made a recipe and decided you would like a little more this or that ? Or found the texture of one ingredient was off you decide to try another? Or my most favorite is getting home and finding out that I am out of X so replaced it with Y and then finding I like it even better.

                                                                        A friend of mine makes a stuffed pork recipe that I always enjoyed. I finally asked for her recipe but after a while decided to use goat cheese instead of mozzarella, dried cherries instead of cranberries and added spinach while she used mushrooms. I then seared it before roasting while she baked hers covered and then turn the heat way up to form a crust. I can't speak for FLDHKY but that is what I mean by tweaking. Frankly I see them as two different "recipes" even though I didn't follow one, I tweaked hers. Is mine better? Did I improve upon hers? I think so buts that just a matter of taste as I prefer stronger flavors than she does.

                                                                        Lastly, I often read recipes that just plain inspire me to get in the kitchen. The thai basil chicken on the WFD dinner thread is one of them. I read thru all the different recipes people posted as well as found more online (ground chicken or chunks? thai basil or regular? spicy ground chilies or red curry paste? limes or not?) My plan now is to go into the kitchen and wing it using a little bit of all them.

                                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                                          I guess I've just been cooking so long, I don't use recipes to make things that often. I very often "compose" with whatever's available, or what I just bought.

                                                                          I never really went through a "playing around with recipes" phase. I didn't have the exposure to all that's available today -- so many cookbooks, TV shows, everything online -- when I started cooking. It was really just me and the cookbook, so I followed the recipes (initially Julia, Marcella, and Giuliano) pretty religiously.

                                                                          In this way, I learned a lot about technique, and my greatest inspiration now for planning what I'm going to cook is to go and see what looks good at the store or, in season, the farmer's market.

                                                                          When I do use a recipe now, I still tend to follow it to the letter unless I discover something in it doesn't make sense, or which will produce something other than what the recipe writer promises (usually it's an incorrect amount of something).

                                                                          My quest was always to learn first what the cookbook writer was trying to tell me. I like knowing what the rules are before I break them.

                                                                          I think I would find it counterproductive to "play around with recipes." Recipes seem like the opposite of playing around.

                                                                          I'm not sure I even find cooking "creative." For me it's about making food that tastes good, and getting it on the table.

                                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                                            I don't think we are that different in that I learned to cook back when my TV only had two channels, bunny ears and all I had to learn from was my parents, their restaurant and cookbooks. It gave me a really strong base knowledge of many aspects of cooking.

                                                                            Like my friends recipe I made and enjoyed or the recipes I have found that were good but not great because of either texture, spice level or whatever I started with the recipe first and then let my own knowledge lead me from there.

                                                                            But it is my background that has given me the courage? confidence? to be more creative and to try new things and improvise more. Once thing I love about reading FLDHKY posts is they are so full of excitement and joy. She is so game to try anything to learn.

                                                                            There was a thread recently about how the years/maturity have changed you as a cook and one of big ones is that I am more relaxed and like to keep things simple unlike when I was first on my own and then married. Now I can do exactly what you say-get things in my CSA and build a meal around them, go to the store for chicken and come home with some amazing local bay scallops instead and put together a meal just because they looked so darn good! I never would have been able to do that 30 years ago. I would have been following recipes to the letter and been sent into a tizzy if the store was out of something, thinking I couldn't make whatever it was without it.

                                                                            1. re: Jay F

                                                                              I actually do something similar. I never actually peruse recipes until I check the store. We have fish every Friday night but I won't even ponder what to do with it until I see what is fresh and available that day and then I'll browse around to get ideas but in the end it's an off the cuff mixture of things in the kitchen which I think will pair well together or need to be used up. It's funny you mention that approach. My mother has become quite jealous at my "gourmetdom" and I try to explain to her that's it's nothing fancy. for example, last week we had some gape tomatoes which needed to be used or tossed in a few days and also a mini block of smoked mozzarella leftover so the idea of bruschetta chicken with smoked mozzarella popped into my head and so it was. I think recipe give me a jumping off point a lot of the time to get me into the kitchen to create whatever I'd like. This past Sunday I had chicken breasts and not an idea. I spotted a stuffed chicken recipe while I was reading Chow and somehow a few hours later plated up broccoli and cheese stuffed chicken breasts wrapped in bacon with a caramelized blue cheese sauce which is nothing I've ever read in a recipe but made sense and was a result of an idea for stuffed chicken, what was in the kitchen, and what I was in the mood for. I guess you're right in that if you are using a recipe you probably should follow it but then I'd have to venture to say that I'm not using them but rather being inspired by them. While you might follow a recipe to make food that tastes good, I truly believe that making food that tastes good is an exercise in knowledge, experience and creativity.

                                                                            2. re: foodieX2

                                                                              Indeed, I share your Thai Basil chicken story. I read all of those threads as well as they were I think addressing my post but I didn't follow a single one of them exactly or even closely in terms of quantities and ratios, but just did my own thing hence creating my own "recipe" which I'm sure will vary next time thus making it my own every single time.

                                                                              FoodieX2, it was delicious btw!

                                                                            3. re: Jay F

                                                                              I almost always start with a recipe. And I almost never follow it as written. I do use it as a guide (but not a rulebook) for ratios, timing, oven temperature, etc.

                                                                              That being said, I rarely make exactly the same dish twice.

                                                                              1. re: chicgail

                                                                                Thanks for explaining my point in fewer words! I think you touched on the key factor with recipes - I usually browse a lot of them primarily to gauge ratios, timing and oven temperature otherwise once you find a recipe which seems good there's no point to keep looking but I like to find a couple to see what temperature and how long and if it varies and yada yada. Also I would find following an exact recipe quite frustrating as then I need to have it next to me in the kitchen which would be frustrating as I do like to wing it and would hate to have to consult a recipe every step of the way. There are exceptions however, if I seek out a recipe particularly for the method - a prime example is the Zuni roasted chicken. There is no point to make a Zuni chicken if you aren't going to follow the recipe. If I were planning to just roast a chicken I'd probably then look around to get an idea of successful ideas.

                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                  Exactly. The other thing I often do is to gather a number of recipes and pull bits and pieces from each. I rarely make something like "a Zuni chicken" but might take something from that recipe that inspires me.

                                                                                  1. re: chicgail

                                                                                    that where i am different. When a recipe turns into some kind of a cult following (and I want to try it) I will "follow it to the letter" if only to understand what all the fuss is about. That way I can truly say "Meh-good chicken, doesn't work for me" or "OMG the best evah".

                                                                                    As I posted earlier what drives me crazy is people who give negative ratings to recipes that they never really tried.

                                                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                      Yup, this was my motivation to follow the Zuni recipe exactly...I wanted to know what all the hype was about but then I realized why I rarely if ever follow recipes - slightly annoying to have to keep looking at the instructions :) I followed it to the tee and it was great so I'd be unlikely to tinker with this one but it's really the only recipe I can say I've ever followed exactly. Oh yes that drives me bonkers as well or when they change the entire thing and then review the recipe - it's not very helpful to those who would like to know about the original.

                                                                                    2. re: chicgail

                                                                                      what Zuni recipe is anyone referring to and please forgive if it's posted here-please point me to the thread. TIA

                                                                                  2. re: chicgail

                                                                                    people have asked me for my recipe for say spaghetti. I can tell them the basics but I also tell them I've never ever made it or anything the same way twice. and it's my favorite food in the world. but follow any recipe to a tee, that's a long shot unless it can't be played with or must make it exact to get the results I'm hoping to emulate.

                                                                              2. I don't think it's a number of changes - I think it's "yours" when other people start asking for "your" dish. Like: "Be sure to bring some of your fantastic brownies!" They might have started out as a brownie recipe from someone else, but over time, they've become associated with you.