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May 16, 2014 08:27 PM

The Downside of Sharing Recipes...

I'm always happy to share a recipe. I explain any changes/substitutions I've made. If it is a dish that I wing I give the ingredients by proportion along with pertinent instructions.

The thread about folks not sharing recipes got me thinking...

There have been a handful of times I've regretted sharing a recipe. Not because they now have my "secret" but because the individuals held me responsible for their failure to get the same results!

Most recently I shared an on-line link for the chicken with fennel and clementine recipe from Jerusalem. I noted the changes made (used thighs, ouzo, added enough water to the sauce to to cover the chicken once I transferred it to a crockpot for travel).

One acquaintance repeatedly wants to discuss why her rendition wasn't as good. The first conversation I asked a few questions and nothing really jumped out as an issue. Short of watching her make it I can't give her the answer she is seeking. Could be anything from a difference in quality of ingredients to how we interpret instructions.

I do think some people simply have a better "touch" and experience goes a long way too. I can tell she thinks I'm withholding my trick. At this point the only thing being held in is my increasing exasperation with the topic!

Anyone else have a shared recipe become a regret?

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  1. I don't regret sharing recipes. My response to complaints (or accusations) when the results aren't the same is simple: "A poor carpenter blames the tools."

    1. For me, the downside to sharing a recipe means I'm actually using a recipe.

      1. I gave an Australian friend my recipe for American pumpkin pie.

        She posted on a message board to which we both belonged at the time that she'd cut the sugar by half, substituted skim milk for evaporated, and left out the cinnamon.

        She just didn't understand why people love pumpkin pie.

        I pretty much just facepalmed and never replied to her post.

        1. Cooks Illustrated was slammed when a blogger used their recipe and posted about it, with changes. While most people came down on them, I understand their view. They test and test their recipes. If someone changes it, it's no longer their recipe (just don't call it that, blogger!) and they can't control the repercussions. "Well, I tried one of their recipes that a blogger posted and it was terrible! I'll never buy CI material."

          I don't mind sharing recipes, or if someone butchers it but please don't share that you got it from me in that case! I have had someone tell me she used my recipe, only used a box cake and canned frosting instead. Okay, why even ask for a recipe in that case?

          24 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            That kind of review/comment probably constitutes about 75%-85% of those posted on Food Network and, to a lesser degree, well-known food magazine sites.

            Invariably they've substituted 4 out of 8 ingredients, used margarine or oil instead of butter, changed the flavorings or spices, perhaps even changed (or omitted) steps in the process or the way it's cooked/ baked, and then either praise the site's recipe, or take them to task because their family hated it.

            I have never seen either a positive or negative review say: "Well, with all the changes I made, I guess this is really my recipe, and the praise or blame is mine to own."

            1. re: mcsheridan

              I just saw a classic one yesterday while browsing Bundt cake recipes. The reviewer gave it 5 stars "with the following changes." She added another stick of butter (?), omitted the flavoring extracts (??), and added a BOX of pudding mix (???). With canned frosting beaten with 2 boxes of cream cheese. FIVE STARS ALL THE WAY, I LOVE THIS RECIPE!


              1. re: nothingswrong

                an extra stic of butter, a box of pudding mix and two boxes of cream cheese?

                Yike -- not only is that stomach-churning to even think of eating -- blergh.

                WTF indeed!

                1. re: sunshine842

                  I know. I am constantly amazed by the capacity of (some) Americans to bastardize recipes with copious amounts of fat. I like butter as much as the next guy, but that all just sounds disgusting.

                  1. re: nothingswrong

                    It seems like more often, the commenter subs OUT all the good stuff (cream, fat, sugar, salt, spices) and then complains of lack of taste (like the Aussie making pumpkin pie).

                    1. re: DebinIndiana

                      Yeah I do see that. But then I see a lot of recipes where they sub out all the good stuff (cream, butter, sugar) for applesauce, flax, bran, etc., and say it's "soooo good!"

                      I can't help but think "this poor lady probably hasn't had a REAL cookie in years so of course it tastes good to her."

                      1. re: nothingswrong

                        Worst one I saw was just yesterday, and it combined the topic under discussion here with a huge dose of yucking someone else's yum.

                        Over on The Splendid Table, there's a recipe for "Supernatural Brownies". Now the commenter didn't even bother about the recipe; but jumped in to make the point that he/she didn't have time to bake. The solution to this? Take a box of dry cake mix, add some whirred-up, drained black beans & water instead of what the mix called for, and bake. When challenged, the poster got defensive and huffy about it.

                        1. re: mcsheridan

                          I love those reviews where people don't even bother making it. There was an epicurious cheesecake that people raved about and one person said the ratio was all off, she knew as an expert cheesecake baker, and it wouldn't turn out. When people called her on it, she also got huffy about it because she is an expert, in her mind.

                          1. re: chowser

                            Nothing screams "vanity blogger" more to me than when the people who leave comments on a recipe post clearly have not tried making it. It's just comments like, "Sarah, your brownies always look amazing!"

                            Not that there is anything wrong with blogging just to blog--I'm all for it. It's the number of useless comments blowing smoke up their blogger friend/relative's bum that amuses/annoys me. It's not really feedback or questions about the food or recipe, but all about complimenting the blogger/blog author/amateur food photographer's ego.

                            1. re: team_cake

                              I especially like that when there's 105 comments saying "All your recipes look soooooooo good girl!" and then one comment at the end that says: "I made these the other day. They were terrible."

                              1. re: team_cake

                                Totally agree. The blog An Edible Mosaic has numerous comments like this. And it's usually the same people. The seem to be in a race to respond, and they are usually all bloggers themselves, no doubt hoping you will go over to their blog.

                              2. re: chowser

                                Or the ones where they give it 5 stars because they are "definitely going to make this someday!!!" Seems the concept of rating to help others is a concept lost on them.

                              3. re: mcsheridan

                                oh, Christ.

                                That would be Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownie recipe, I'm guessing -- if I'm right, it *is* a stellar brownie recipe.

                                (seriously -- WTF -- black beans and cake mix? Are you sure this wasn't a troll?)

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Seriously. This is an old vegan recipe hack. I recall hearing about it back in the early 70s. I am *never* eating anything like this. Never.

                                  And yes, you have the recipe source nailed. It's shown up on a lot of blogs/sites, from what I can tell.

                                  I plan to make these...following the recipe right on down the line.

                                  1. re: mcsheridan

                                    you'll love that recipe -- it's really very, very easy, and the brownies are really, really, good. You might also look at the Green & Black's Organic Chocolate-Cherry brownies -- similar recipe, and similarly easy nd delicious. (I just leave the cherries out)

                                    (I'm pretty open-minded, foodwise, but there just ain't no way I'm going to sub out black beans for brownies. And I *like* black beans)

                                    1. re: mcsheridan

                                      I was at a family bbq last year. Me, to cousin's wife, "Oh, you made chocolate chip cookies!" Cousin's wife, "Yes, and you'll never guess what the secret ingredient is!" Me: "Chickpeas, right?"

                                      Harumph, I had to eat one of the chickpea cookies to be polite. Really, moms of young children everywhere - we can taste the chickpeas! If I wanted chickpeas, I'd eat hummus!

                                      1. re: 16crab

                                        And here I thought the black bean brownies were a bridge too far. Chickpeas in the near-hallowed Chocolate Chip Cookie? There's a giant leap off the same bridge - which frankly should have happened *before* the oven got turned on.

                                2. re: nothingswrong

                                  That's my feeling, too. All those Hungry Girl type followers who rave about fat free, sugar free pudding w/ fat free, sugar free Cool Whip just don't know what real food tastes like

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I couldn't agree more.
                                    HG's food paradigm is based on very outdated information.
                                    Fat, in moderation and the good kinds, are good.

                                    HG eschews everything fat.



                                    1. re: monavano

                                      I said in a discussion years ago that Hungry Girl probably wouldn't be hungry if she would just eat real food.

                                    2. re: chowser

                                      I guess it goes to both extremes. I started out saying how gross it was that I saw a recipe where a reviewer added an extra stick of butter, box of pudding mix, etc.

                                      Although in your standard 9" cake recipe, adding a WHOLE extra stick of butter is really excessive--typically doubling it. Unnecessary.

                                      I have a distant family member who is extremely obese, bordering on 550 lbs. God bless her; I'm not trying to hate, but that is how she cooks. A full extra stick of butter is stirred into every dish, even after butter has been used to cook it. Spinach, corn, potatoes, sauces, etc. To her, it's a "garnish" that makes food edible.

                                      I'm glad my mother raised me with primarily EVOO being used for cooking, and we used butter in moderation (mostly in baked goods) like any cook should. That was my grandfather's motto, and he said it all the time: "EVERYTHING IN MODERATION." It's a Greek thing.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        And truly? It takes a bite of real food to make you happy. Ten bites of the "better" food to maybe get by.

                                        No. Just. No.

                          2. re: chowser

                            But that blogger said she "modified it from a CI recipe", NEVER said it was a bad recipe, but CI wrote her and claimed they "don't allow" printed modifications to their recipes. And the person who wrote her ended up getting pretty rude about it.

                            And as Aloisha wrote back to their PR person "However, I was just informed by a wonderful cook friend that lists of ingredients are not copyrighted, only method."

                            In this situation, I still side the blogger, and think that ATK/CI was being ridiculous. But the simple thing to do is NEVER say you're getting a recipe from CI - even if you're modifying it.

                            Here's the Wayback Machine's cache of that blog post:


                          3. I've had this happen, usually with friends who want to recreate a baking recipe. I always gladly share it, making sure to add any details/instructions that might benefit those who don't bake a lot. Things like yeast or pastry dough can be confusing or easily botched. Aside from my mother, my friends inevitably will come back saying "Wow, I didn't realize it was so much work to make that. I gave up halfway through." Or I had one friend make my cinnamon rolls and then complain about how dense and dry hers were. She said she'd added 3 extra cups of flour (!!!) and let the dough rise uncovered and un-oiled on the windowsill... I can't even... I just said "It happens to all of us on occasion."

                            On the flip side of your complaint, there are a handful of recipes I've gotten out of my mother over the years and the results are almost unanimously not even close to what she makes... My aunt and I do think she always leaves something out. Of course mom never ever uses recipes, so any instructions are estimates, but it will still seem like something's missing that you can't quite put your finger on. Very frustrating!

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: nothingswrong

                              and then you have those hand-me-down recipes that seem to just deny logic.

                              I have recipes from both of my grandmothers, and my family asks me to make the angel-food cake and the stewed green beans. We all have copies of the exact same recipe, but for whatever unknown reason, mine come out better than anyone else's every time.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Yes, I wonder sometimes if some recipes just suit some cooks better than others. I've seen my mother make her sautéed green beans a hundred times. I know she's not leaving out ingredients. But mine just are nowhere near as good. Similarly, I've given her my very carefully measured recipes for yeast breads and pastries and hers are always kind of flavorless, dense, or dry.

                                It's like how perfume can smell amazing on one person and awful on the next.

                                1. re: nothingswrong

                                  My ex-MIL always complained that her braised cabbage never came out as good as her MIL's, even though she used the exact same recipe and was taught to make it by her MIL (who lived with my ex-MIL the final 10 years of grandma's life).

                                  I was at dinner one night when ex-MIL made the dish and was complaining about the results. I went downstairs to the in-law apartment where grandma had lived and opened the kitchen cabinets. My ex-wife was with me and I asked her to point out the pot her late grandmother used to braise the cabbage. I took the pot and went upstairs to my MIL.
                                  I explained that I had figured out the reason the cabbage wasn't the same.
                                  Late grandmother had always braised her cabbage in a 'club aluminum' pot. MIL was using a Farberware stainless steel pot. The cabbage never browned in the stainless pot, it just wilted and got glassy, no carmelization occurred. The next time my ex-MIL made the dish she used the aluminum pot and achieved perfect results. Its now 30 years later and she still makes it in the old pot with consistently good results. (I'm on good terms with my exes, so I have eaten there recently).

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    that could be part of it -- I have the cast-aluminum pot with the Bakelite knob on top that my great-grandmother and my grandmother made green beans in for decades.

                                    I was handed the mantle of "green-bean maker", though, long before I ever came into possession of "the green bean pot" (that's actually what we call it) while I love using it, it's not the whole story.

                                    It is also the pot of choice for chicken and noodles -- another specialty from both sides of the family. (I'm the only one who has the patience to roll the noodles I get elected to that job, too)

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      The irony of this is not lost on me, but I would love the recipe for the green beans if you don't mind sharing. My grandmother was the supreme stewed green bean maker in my family, and I wish I'd asked her what her method was when I had the chance. Perhaps yours are similar :)

                                      1. re: 16crab

                                        it's so easy -- proportions vary by taste...but I end up with about 1/3 pound of bacon and a big yellow onion to about 2 pounds of beans.

                                        I cut thick-cut smoked bacon into lardons and put them in the bottom of the big pot you'll cook the beans in. Once they begin to render, toss in a diced onion and saute until the fat is rendered and the onion has gone translucent and started to brown.

                                        Tail and trim the beans, and chop into manageable lengths. Rinse them well, then add them to the pot with the bacon and onions. Add fresh-ground black pepper.

                                        Add cold water til you can just see the water approaching the top of the beans.

                                        Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for several hours, stirring whenever it comes to mind. They'll be dark green and very fragrant. Salt to taste (it'll take quite a bit)

                                        If you have the time, make them the day before and refrigerate overnight. The flavors will marry, and they'll be even better when reheated the next day.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          I think there is also the "love" factor.
                                          As an example, my mother wasn't the greatest cook, but she knew her strengths.
                                          She used to make "roasted potatoes" that always went with our Sunday roast. They were sublime.
                                          Long after she passed away, and I had grown up and become a competent cook, I asked my father what her method was for those damned taters, cos I couldn't get them right.
                                          So he told me that she deep fried them after roasting. Not an unusual technique, but different to the way I was making them.
                                          To this day, even with that knowledge, I can't replicate my mumma's glorious spuds.

                                          It led me to think that perhaps it's a love memory more than the failure of my cooking. Even my dad and my Aunty have said the same - in their opinion, mine taste just like mums, but I don't see it.

                              2. re: nothingswrong

                                I am really really REALLY specific in my recipes if I am giving them out. To the point that yes, some folks get the recipe and go "um, no. Too hard."

                                But mostly, they are thrilled and it works out, that they can really do it! To their joy and surprise.

                                I also had a grandmother who routinely left out ingredients when she gave you a recipe. She didn't want to say no for folks who asked but…

                                I get both sides.