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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)...so 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 paper-thin...so 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.

                              3. I'm puzzled by people who "blame" you for how things turn out for them. Whenever I make something that isn't as good as someone else's I figure I messed it up somehow.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: UTgal

                                  One of my Mother's caregivers is still complaining about a recipe I "gave" her.

                                  I had brought a crock pot cookbook on my visit hoping it might provide my Father some new ideas and tools for making dinner. The caretaker asked if she could look at it and copied a few recipes. A few days later she was furious that the meat never became tender in the recipe she made. Turns out she had purchased an inappropriate cut for the recipe.

                                  She knew I'd never prepared anything from that cookbook. My Father and I tried explaining about general differences in meat cuts and how they are best prepared. She is still complaining about "my" recipe six months later.

                                  On an odd note she will not share recipes. Her reason is if someone else knows how to make it then they won't come to her home to eat it...

                                  1. re: meatn3

                                    I don't find her attitude about sharing odd at all. In fact, I think she's being consistent!

                                  2. re: UTgal

                                    Exactly. And the same thing if they try and blame me when theirs doesn't turn out as expected.

                                    1. re: UTgal

                                      Yes, or my brand of ingredients or tools or oven or something. It's virtually impossible to replicate absolutely everything.

                                    2. This is an old poem about that. I don't know who wrote it.

                                      I didn't have potatoes,
                                      so I substituted rice.
                                      Didn't have paprika,
                                      so I used another spice.

                                      I didn't have tomato sauce,
                                      so I used tomato paste.
                                      A whole can not a half can -
                                      I don't believe in waste.

                                      My friend gave me the recipe -
                                      she said you couldn't beat it.
                                      There must be something wrong with her,
                                      I couldn't even eat it.

                                      3 Replies
                                        1. re: FattyDumplin

                                          I wondered that too!

                                          Shel and food, makes me smile.....Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stout...

                                          1. re: FattyDumplin

                                            I think Melinda Mae would be more appropriate here:

                                            Melinda Mae - Shel Silverstein

                                            Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
                                            Who ate a monstrous whale?
                                            She thought she could,
                                            She said she would,
                                            So she started in right at the tail.
                                            And everyone said,”You’re much too small,”
                                            But that didn’t bother Melinda at all,
                                            She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
                                            Just like a good girl should…
                                            …and in eighty-nine years she ate that whale
                                            Because she said she would!


                                        2. I think I mentioned on the other thread but I really hate being asked for recipes - not because I don't care to share but because unless I am following another recipe verbatim I am not a rigorous cook - I make a handful of dishes quite often but I do not make them the same way each time - I am happy to give my method but it is not very helpful to people who like exaction.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: JTPhilly

                                            I'm the same way. I rarely follow a recipe to a T, and if it's savory, I usually wing it. I always sound so evasive when people ask for a recipe and I'm not trying to be. "I sort of start w/ this but then I...."

                                          2. As mentioned a few times upthread, I think that people significantly modifying your recipe and then expressing dissatisfaction at the result without any acknowledgment or apparent awareness that their choices might have contributed to the unsatisfactory result is probably the most annoying thing for me.

                                            But in the end, it's possible they could have followed my recipe to the letter and still not liked the result.

                                            In either event, unless it's a typo or error on my part, it's just not worth defense, argument, or further discussion.

                                            1. It's mainly baking recipes that become a problem, in my experience. I'll share a recipe with someone who isn't really a baker and who thinks that baking is magic, rather than chemistry. This thinking is the problem.

                                              With magic, you can throw in anything, use any technique, and have it come out well. With chemistry, you have to follow the damn recipe!

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                A lot of the time in baking it's poor measuring, otherwise it's generally poor technique.

                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                  I was just about to post on the topic of technique. Some people can read quite well but just can't cook.

                                                  No matter how detailed a recipe, some people have NO hint about nuances of technique. Products are first brought to room temperature for a reason, just as bowls and beaters are chilled. Scalding does not mean boiling. Lightly beaten doesn't mean frothed. Alternately incorporating wet and dry ingredients is also for a reason.These are issues of technique that are meaningless to some. I could go on and on.

                                                  My dad (an organic chemist and food technologist) once underscored how much chemistry is in baking (dry cooking) and that there is no such thing as a baking recipe, only baking formulas. A recipe (wet cooking) can guide the cook in a process of adding or reducing liquid, adding salt and seasonings, skimming fat, and myriad other additions and subtractions as part of an ongoing creation. A cake or tart, however, is formulaic as once the oven door is shut, that's it. You can't retrieve it ten minutes later to add the baking powder. It either works or it doesn't. And, true, it comes down to chemistry and technique that many don't regard as important.

                                                  1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                    Agreed, but there must be some caveats here.
                                                    For example, most pastry recipes warn against over-kneading, as this will turn your pastry tough.
                                                    Fair call.

                                                    However, sometimes the dough doesn't come together at all until you have kneaded quite consistently, so how does one know the limits? It's a very vague science.

                                                    1. re: cronker

                                                      Dad would have an answer, I'm sure. He always did.

                                                      For the science end of baking, check out Shirley Corriher's "Bake Wise." She is also a food technologist, I think at Vanderbilt.

                                                      1. re: cronker

                                                        that's one that comes down to experience with baking -- you come to know when it "feels right" -- and try as I might, I don't know how to sum it all up succinctly enough to get it on a single page.

                                                        I've, more than once, offered to coach someone with kneaded doughs (yeasted or not) simply because it's so much easier to show someone what "feels right" than it is to put it into words.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842


                                                          If I am teaching someone biscuits, as it's such a fast process, I do two batches. The first is to have them see the process and touch it at every stage. The second batch? They are doing it with my coaching.

                                                          Not many folks want to tackle yeast doughs, but when a friend did, I started a dough with them and, brought an already risen batch for them to then work with and shape.

                                                        2. re: cronker

                                                          This is not unlike bench science, honestly. I was a molecular biologist for 16 years, and for some protocols, I just had golden hands. No one in my lab could get as clean and consistent results as I could. I couldn't explain in words in what ways my techniques were different - we all followed the same protocols, but it probably came down to a dozen little things, like the speed with which I pipetted liquids up and down to the angle I held a needle or how evenly I spread bacteria on a plate. I usually have pretty good luck in the kitchen as well - it might be how much you observe and modify what you are doing in response to your observations.

                                                      1. If someone asks for a recipe because they loved my food, and then didn't execute correctly, it's not on me.
                                                        The worst that can happen is that they don't ask again, and that's ok too.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                          There are worse things that can happen. They can tell all your mutual friends and acquaintances that you're a bad/petty person because you didn't share the 'real' recipe.

                                                          1. This can happen I like to send links or print it out for them and add comments if necessary.

                                                            I try to make sure the recipe in mind is in line with the skill of the person I'm giving it to. If you've never baked in your life I'm probably not going to give you a recipe that takes many steps, has very many temperamental elements and the skill and experience required to make it work.

                                                            I don't know if I've ever had anyone blame me but more of a "Wow that recipe you gave me took so long for me to do and it didn't turn out as nice as yours"

                                                            I am happy to trouble shoot, if possible. but if they deviate from the recipe I give them it is near impossible to do.

                                                            1. This was barely a recipe, more a technique... a coworker and I were discussing how we loved roast chicken, and how easy it is to make.
                                                              Our supervisor stepped in to the conversation and wanted details, so I told her "breast side down, start at high heat, turn down to medium, let sit in the turned off oven an extra half hour at the end...".

                                                              She came back to work on Monday and wasn't pleased with roast chicken. Turns out, to improve on my method (which makes a delicious crackling skin), she added one step - cooked it in a 'roasting bag'. Which made it flabby and rubbery. I didn't say anything, she obviously felt that roasting bags were necessary to roast anything. (this was back in the 80s, when gadgets reigned).

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: kitchengardengal

                                                                Roasting bags remind me of my mom's cooking.
                                                                Every once in a while, I get the urge to buy some and try a roast or something in one.

                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                  the bags for a slow cooker are, however, a gift directly from the heavens.

                                                                  No mess at all, no wrestling that big crock. Yay.

                                                              2. I get the feeling that there are some people who simply cannot follow a recipe as it's written. Even if they have all the ingredients and tools on hand - they *always* have to change some things up to "tweak" it. It's actually kind of insulting to the original author of the recipe, especially if they spent a considerable amount of time perfecting the recipe to begin with.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Atomic76

                                                                  and then there are the folks who so completely lockstep a recipe that they won't even adjust cooking times to allow for things that are done a little sooner than expected, or lighten up the salt...

                                                                  1. re: Atomic76

                                                                    I don't get that it's insulting. If the recipe receiver has great cooking chops, they can substitute and tweak with excellent results.
                                                                    Maybe even make it better!

                                                                    I'd hate to think that my giving a recipe to someone came conditionally.
                                                                    I would be interested to hear the results of tinkering.
                                                                    Being insulted is sort of weak.

                                                                  2. Same issue here, I was accused of withholding ingredients, because the person didn't get the same results. Annoying and hurtful.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                      Now THAT, I get.

                                                                      Why would someone think you (or anyone) so deceitful?
                                                                      Not to mention mean and insecure!

                                                                      1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                        File this away for future use:

                                                                        "So now it's MY fault you're a shitty cook??"

                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                          I think I'd start with:
                                                                          "Are you calling me a liar?"

                                                                          See how they like them apples!

                                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                                            Fake sweetness/sympathy can sometimes be fun. "Oh, I'm SO sorry you didn't get it right!"

                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                              That would me my response!

                                                                              "Oh, I'm sorry it didn't turn out well for you!"

                                                                              If I were ever accused of omitting or altering a recipe in any way, that would be the LAST recipe the jackass would get!

                                                                      2. Recipe? What Recipe? I don' need no stinking recipe!

                                                                        I can't even begin to 'share a recipe' since I cook from instinct - I can give a list of what I used, but YOU should know about how much of what I used if you are TASTING the food.

                                                                        I once chased a recipe by making 40? 50? 60? 250 mile round trips to a place out in the Great Basins and Ranges to keep tasting the dish. The missing ingredient? Found by mistake when I asked if they made several different batch of the dish in mild, medium, hot, and very hot. The owner showed me a tube of something called 'Italian Hot Pepper Paste'. Ta-da! the missing part that I never even knew existed!

                                                                        Thank goodness the Great Basin is filled with wonder so the thousands upon thousands of miles (10K-15K miles) I drove to find that recipe was never lost.

                                                                        And only a drive in a storm that turned into a blizzard with me as the only patron allowed me to discover what I never knew existed.

                                                                        Most people refuse to even try a recipe that is a list of ingredients, with some verbal instructions. The ONLY time I EVER had to cook from a recipe is when I was part owner of a lunch-dinner restaurant - then consistency was vital, so I had a couple of workers help me with our menu items, and got to really cook on the 'specials' -

                                                                        1. RE: "A poor carpenter blames his tools."

                                                                          Once a friend offered me a banjo to buy, he couldn't play it and wanted to get some of his investment back. I tried to play the instrument - and couldn't. Less than a quarter of what I could do with my many hundred dollar banjo (1970's dollars) could I even get to sound nearly right on his banjo. I couldn't play it because it was cheap crap. In life I've found many times over that you want YOUR SELF to be the limiting factor, not the 'tool'.

                                                                          Example: would you put 4 year old bottled and dried basil sprinkled over a thick slice of vine ripened tomato slices and expect to get the same results as chopped FRESH basil? It's a WISE carpenter who chooses his tools wisely. But I can tell you from experience that blaming tools is perfectly OK in the real world. It goes beyond 'valid' to 'Truth' (with the cap).

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: pgalioni

                                                                            You're proving my point. Any carpenter who chooses to use crap tools is a poor carpenter.

                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                              any carpenter using crap tools may be talented/skilled but just poor.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Ok, let's run the analogy down into the ground then, shall we?

                                                                          2. I think a lot of people have difficult cooking circumstances or dietary biases and don't realize how much this holds them back. I have someone very dear to me who is thinks won't cook with salt - I've tried to explain that if you aren't using pre-made ingredients then the dish won't be high sodium to no avail. I also have close family with a very 'cool' but poorly functioning stove/oven so they don't get adequate heat for caramelization on anything. If people aren't confident in their cooking skills they blame the recipe and maybe themselves, when really it's tools (or biases).

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: corneygirl

                                                                              "I have someone very dear to me who won't cook with salt - I've tried to explain that if you aren't using pre-made ingredients then the dish won't be high sodium to no avail. "

                                                                              I found this to be very true. The sodium level in "prepared" foods tends to be crazy high.

                                                                              When switching to making food "from scratch" those foods will be terribly flat/flavorless without a bit of salt.

                                                                              It takes a bit of time (in the kitchen and at the table) to strike the right balance. Salt in moderation is a great thing! The nice thing about cooking at home is that YOU get to control it.

                                                                              1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                I know someone who refuses to use salt in their home cooking or at the table, but eats at chain restaurants like Olive Garden regularly.

                                                                              2. I brought home made shortbread into work a few years ago and one of my coworkers loved them. She asked for the recipe and I gave it to her (even though it's my own made up proportions).

                                                                                She came into work the follow Monday and said it was an epic fail. I didn't understand how because it's only flour butter and sugar plus a pinch of salt. I check that she's used white sugar, all purpose flour and let the butter set out on the counter for about half an hour to soften as per my recipe. Eventually it turns out she melted the butter in the microwave (not a step in my recipe). So she tries it again and again and it's always a fail. She gave up making it, on occasion I make it at home and bring her in a batch.

                                                                                Roll on 5 years till yesterday, we were discussing cooking and she says something about the 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter' that she always has in her fridge. And I said - 'is this what you used for shortbread?'. She says yes and I said aha. It didn't dawn on me that anybody would substitute that stuff for butter.

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: smartie

                                                                                  People who use margarine and its ilk almost always call it butter and treat it as such. Shameful.

                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                    I grew up on margarine, as did my boyfriend, which is interesting since he lived on a farm where they milked cows and churned butter.

                                                                                    I still keep some margarine in the fridge, as we both like it from time to time on toast. That said, I would never in a million sub it for butter in a baking recipe. And shortbread of all things!

                                                                                    As a kid though, I had zero idea that what we ate was not in fact butter. My parents called it butter, and I assumed "Country Crock" was just a brand of butter. It wasn't until I was a teenager and in boarding school when I was given actual butter with my toast and I remember leaning over to one of the other girls and saying "This stuff tastes WEIRD." I distinctly remember her blank stare. Same with when we'd go to fancy restaurants that served butter with the bread. I just thought everyone else had this weird bland tasting pale stuff unlike our name-brand yellow salty "butter" at home. SMH.

                                                                                    1. re: nothingswrong

                                                                                      Well, first of all, you know that I used the word "shameful" facetiously, right?

                                                                                      I grew up on "oleo". We called it butter. My mother carefully instructed me to always use the cheapest ingredients possible when I was "just" baking.

                                                                                      I have hopefully shaken off all of her cooking/baking instruction by now. I should have been suspicious early on; she grew up on a farm where there was lots of fresh food and scratch cooking/baking, yet she had no clue how to boil water after she left home - !?!

                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                        No, I thought you were serious sandy! I have caught flack on this board for my love of margarine on toast. I even like it on my freshly baked baguettes.

                                                                                        I still would never use margarine in baking, with two exceptions. One is vegan baking, since there really are few substitutes which perform similarly and taste remotely buttery. The other is in "killer brownies," my mother's top-secret and most-requested recipe. She finally spilled it to me earlier this year, and lo and behold, everyone's favorite gooey decadent dessert is made with a whole tub of margarine.

                                                                                        That's funny about your mother. Some people just don't take any interest in cooking, no matter what they grew up around. Like I said, my bf grew up on a farm literally in the middle of nowhere, but boiling water for pasta seems like too much work to him most nights. If I don't cook, it's all takeout all the time. The only things he'll make are scrambled eggs and sandwiches. ??

                                                                                    2. re: sandylc

                                                                                      So true! My MIL melts blue Bonnet and serves it as "drawn butter" to dip crab legs in.

                                                                                  2. This entire topic is very interesting, but I wonder how you see this?

                                                                                    A well known chef/celebrity or whatever puts out a cookbook, which you buy.
                                                                                    By the time it's printed and on the shelf, I would expect the chef has moved on to more recipes and experiments.
                                                                                    Same thing, isn't it? You couldn't sue a cookbook author because the meal didn't turn out correctly, even if you had followed every step!
                                                                                    The idea of substituting ingredients or timings etc is a good argument against any kind of complaint, as is the argument that some of us just don't have the skill or magic to make it work.
                                                                                    Many of my best recipes are just "on the fly" and I have as many hits as misses
                                                                                    As far as recipe books go, I'm sure the test kitchens give it as much of a chance as anyone could, so go figure.
                                                                                    Maybe my oven isn't as hot, maybe my altitude isn't the same, maybe my milk has less/more cream, maybe my tomatoes aren't as ripe.
                                                                                    There are too many variables to ensure that an exact replica of a recipe will guarantee an exact replica of the dish.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: cronker

                                                                                      I always love reading the reviews for recipes on the net -- "Oh, I subbed coconut oil for butter, used whole-wheat flour for cake flour, eliminated the salt, and only kneaded it for 5 minutes instead of 15. This recipe is a fail."

                                                                                      Uh...I'm sure it was -- I don't know what you made, but it wasn't that recipe.

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        I have a (bad?) habit of reading every single review for a recipe and I see these all the time.

                                                                                        Today it was subbing in all whole wheat flour despite the author saying explicitly not to. Subbing 1/2 the amount of vegan margarine for butter in a shortbread crust. Reducing sugar from 1 1/2 cups to 1/2 cup. And using cranberries in place of blueberries.

                                                                                        The review said the final product was "so incredibly tart and sour, it was inedible. The crust was flavorless and wouldn't hold together. I'm so upset I wasted all these ingredients." Big shocker that a ton of cranberries with no sugar were tart. And big shocker that that WW crust with no butter wouldn't stick together.

                                                                                        I also saw one yesterday where the reviewer started with "I followed the recipe exactly, except for: " and then listed that she'd changed 6 of the 9 ingredients entirely.

                                                                                        I want to start a blog of screenshots of these reviews with the reviewer's photo next to it. They are strangely entertaining.

                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                          Sunshine, Here's one of my favorite reviews from allrecipes.com for a grilled cheese sandwich recipe:

                                                                                          recipe reviews for:

                                                                                          Grilled Cheese Sandwich

                                                                                          “Bread, butter and Cheddar cheese - here's a way to make this classic sandwich in a nonstick pan.”

                                                                                          Sort reviews by: Date Rating Most Helpful
                                                                                          Reviewed: Dec. 11, 2007
                                                                                          Ingenious! I made some changes though. I switched out the bread for a hamburger bun. I didn't have any cheese, so used ground beef and made it into a patty, first grilling it. If you don't have butter you can just toast the bun (I used the recipe on this site called "perfect toast" but substituted buns for the bread.). This recipe would be perfect for my friend Nicole!
                                                                                          Was this review helpful? [ YES ]
                                                                                          327 users found this review helpful

                                                                                      2. Gave a family member a turkey gravy recipe involving making a roux, deglazing the roasting pan, etc. She dumped all the ingredients in a pot, subbing margarine for tuley fat, and heated it through and served it. Oh, no salt either because that's unhealthy. Was a bland lumpy mess.

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: woofermazing

                                                                                          That's so frustrating. And it was your fault, right?

                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                            It was heavily implied. After prodding her on why she did not follow the recipe, she responded with "I'll just buy a gravy packet mix next year." Which is doubly ironic given the salt content.
                                                                                            It can be too much work to be helpful. I'm also good with computers. If I fix something for family, every future problem will be blamed on whatever I did.

                                                                                            1. re: woofermazing

                                                                                              Yeah, I've backed off on trying to be helpful over the years. Most people really don't want my help!!!

                                                                                        2. A very good friend asked for my chili recipe. I told him I made it without a recipe, per se, but the next time I did a batch, I weighed, measured and took careful notes, and typed it all up.

                                                                                          He took one look at the list of ingredients, the multi-stage process, and the 8 hrs of total cooking time and said "never mind, just bring me a quart next time you make some". Sigh.

                                                                                          1. I have a recipe I got from a Brooklyn bakery for NY style crumb cake, and it calls for a half lb butter and a half lb margarine in the topping. I figured butter is always better so once time tried using a whole lb of just butter. Edible but much better with the margarine added.

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                              I have to question if that's what made it better/worse.

                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                The margarine made it better, that much I know. The only other ingredients in the topping are flour and sugar.

                                                                                                With just butter it was greasier for some reason. Since I was going for a certain texture...well I'll stick with half margarine. But if I hadn't grown up with it, I might feel differently.

                                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                                  Those nostalgic flavor memories are powerful!

                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                    You're telling me! Dad loved my copycat bakery crumbcake and that's all I need to know ;-)

                                                                                            2. Years ago I had a neighbor who had never baked with yeast and was afraid to try it so I taught her how and she baked a delicious coffee cake which she then served to other neighbors with a big lie that her father had been a baker and that's how she learned to bake. Some of them told me what a wonderful baker she was, in her family tradition.

                                                                                              Other than that, I have been pouring recipes into the pipeline for years with no displeasing results. Glad to share. I figure it's a form of immortality.

                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                I don't understand that. Why would she lie?

                                                                                                I had a "frenemy" once who called me and told me last minute to bake the cake for a mutual friend's bday party. The frenemy was supposed to do it but told me she had an emergency come up. So I scramble to get a 3 layer cake together, frosted, decorated, and chilled for that night.

                                                                                                Show up to the party, drop the cake onto the food table, and go off to mingle. I come back an hour later and the frenemy is there slicing the cake up, handing it out to people, and accepting all the compliments for her "amazing cake." She was just standing there going "Oh, thanks, thanks sooo much. I love to bake." I didn't bother saying anything, but WTF.

                                                                                                1. re: nothingswrong


                                                                                                  I had a frenemy who once planned two components of a dessert with me; we would each make one of the components and put them together at the party.

                                                                                                  She showed up with a totally different dessert that had three separate components that, put together, formed a beautifully composed dessert.

                                                                                                  My contribution was incomplete and extraneous.

                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                    Lol! That is so awful! What a beeyotch.

                                                                                                    The same frenemy mentioned above once knew I was asked to bake this very involved 4 layer cake for a party by the host. It was to be the sole dessert, and he'd been excitedly talking about it for months. The frenemy also knew I'd be showing up a little later. She called me to confirm this even.

                                                                                                    So I show up with this gorgeous cake to find the frenemy had showed up with THREE DIFFERENT DESSERTS and was forcefully handing them to people to eat. When I walked up with my cake, she goes "Oh, too bad, everyone ate my stuff already. They probably are already full of sweets."

                                                                                                    Just then, this guy walks up and goes "These cinnamon rolls are horrible. Who made these? Ooh, cake!" I sh*t you not. That alone made the whole thing better for me.

                                                                                                    1. re: nothingswrong

                                                                                                      Ha! They say that evil gets its reward - it's better when you get to actually witness it!

                                                                                                      1. re: nothingswrong

                                                                                                        Yeah, I'm thinking I'd avoid talking to this frenemy about anything you're bringing to the next party. And I hope the host gave this woman a ration of shit when she brought desserts in place of the one he'd asked be made.

                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                          Well, people ended up eating every last crumb of my large cake... the host was ecstatic and thanked me profusely. He told me he'd been saving room all night for it, including not "wasting stomach space" on the other sweets.

                                                                                                          As I was collecting my cake plate, I noticed that the garbage can was full of this woman's baked goods with only one or two bites taken out of them. I received so many compliments and "oohs and ahhs" (it was an absolutely beautiful and delicious thing), mostly in front of her. I think that was a good enough outcome... but yes, I agree, I will not be telling her of any future baking plans!

                                                                                                          1. re: nothingswrong

                                                                                                            I wish she could figure out that the energy wasted on being a bitch could be spent on learning to bake.

                                                                                                    2. re: nothingswrong

                                                                                                      sorry, I'd have called her out, right there in the middle of the party.

                                                                                                      "It's nice that you love to bake, but *I* made the cake today."

                                                                                                    3. re: Querencia

                                                                                                      Total strangers can also steal thunder on site - but can be foiled.

                                                                                                      In the late 70s, I arrived at a party with cake in the portable dome, a gift under my arm and a bag with two bottles. Struggling to ring the bell, up comes a smooth, all-to-cool creepy hipster (the type that smiles all the time but never makes eye contact) with nothing in tow and offers assistance. He rings the bell, takes my cake dome and presents it to the hostess as his offering.

                                                                                                      Later in the kitchen, he had sliced into the cake and was serving it to rave reviews. He smirks at me like "Whaddaya gonna do about it, a$$hole?"

                                                                                                      "You made this?" I queried.
                                                                                                      "Have we ever met before?"
                                                                                                      "Well, then you must be psychic as well as an exquisite baker!"
                                                                                                      (Dumbfounded look, but WITH eye contact.)

                                                                                                      Sliding the cake off the bottom tray of the dome, I said, "You MUST be psychic. You KNEW you would meet me tonight at the front door! You even wrote my name and phone number on the bottom of the tray. Tell us all about it. We are most impressed!!!"

                                                                                                      Showing my name to the guests, hipster folds under the condescending stares and somehow disappears in the next five minutes.

                                                                                                      The world is full of people with personality disorders and life is too short for frenemies. Dump 'em with no apologies. They're not worth it.

                                                                                                        1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                                                          I wish I'd learned this type of lesson much earlier in life than I did!

                                                                                                      1. Not really the same thing, but once I worked with a woman who made these great green chile enchiladas, This was about 25 years ago, and back then I didn't have the cooking experience that i do now, and had a harder time figuring out ingredients, etc., and there was no internet. We worked together for about a year and a half, and she would always bring it to work functions.
                                                                                                        I asked her for the recipe, and she said she'd get it for me. Then next time we had a pot luck, she made them again. I asked again, same reply. Then i blew it off.
                                                                                                        So, on the day she quit working there she gave me the recipe. I guess that was her special thing and she wanted to own it. It wasn't like i was going to make it better, then bring it to work.
                                                                                                        From then on, I never asked for recipes, unless it was a real good friend.
                                                                                                        So, I guess for her there was a downside, though I may never know what it was.

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                                          People can be funny, but that's the way it goes. At least you got the recipe!

                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                            You know, it was so strange. I just felt sorry for her, and never made it. Well, never made the exact recipe.

                                                                                                          2. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                                            OK, so to make your revenge complete, you should share the recipe with us!!!! :-)

                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                              Yeah, I should. I don't even remember it. Probably if you google green chile, chicken tomatillo enchilada you will be able to do just as good. or better.

                                                                                                          3. Once.

                                                                                                            I should have known better. I shared a recipe with someone who doesn't normally cook.

                                                                                                            They now make this recipe and attribute it to me. I thought that was nice.

                                                                                                            Until one day mr bc and I showed up for dinner at this friend's home. They'd prepared "bc's dish". OMG. It was so horrible. Over-cooked, dry and truly it would have been difficult for someone to even identify what the heck it was they were eating.


                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                              I've had the same thing happen with dishes I have taken to work pot lucks. Some people just can't cook.

                                                                                                            2. i was listing the ingredients for a cream cheese jello salad for a friend, who asked "is there a fat-free heavy cream?" i told her skim milk. of course, she replaced the whipped cream with some kind of fat-free cool whip, then wondered why her's didn't taste as good as mine.

                                                                                                              i told her fat was what god put in food to make it taste good.

                                                                                                              1. A good friend of mine from work was having a few people over last Friday night. She asked me if I could help her with coming up with some appetizer-type things to serve. She is neither a a great nor terrible cook I don't think...she just doesn't cook a lot plus she has celiac so she is not a good judge of many foods.

                                                                                                                She said she wanted to serve meatballs. So I suggested the old grape jelly/chili sauce meatballs because they are easy and, chowish or not, they taste pretty good and people like them. I told her that she could even buy the cocktail meatballs from Trader Joe's. She insisted that she wanted to make the meatballs herself. So I said, "ok, add in some onion, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, etc." She said "no, I'll just use the meat". I said "you should cook them in the sauce for about an hour." She says "oh no, that's too much. I don't cook meatballs for that long". OK, do what you want. I don't like to serve undercooked meatballs with no spices or seasonings.

                                                                                                                Next, I suggested that she make this Artichoke Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade from a recipe that I got from Chowhound a few years ago. I have served it no less than 20 times to guests and people RAVE about it. They lick the bowl. I just served it to my family with pita chips last week and they couldn't stop eating it. It's great.

                                                                                                                Then I suggested that while she was at Trader Joe's, she could buy the frozen Arancini and serve them with a side of marinara sauce. Not gourmet, but good.

                                                                                                                And I suggested a baked brie.

                                                                                                                Today at work, I said "how did it go?" She says "everything was awful. The meatballs were disgusting. Nobody ate the dip (tapenade). I had to throw it all in the garbage, except for the brie."

                                                                                                                I felt like punching her. And then I remembered that I had given her a tried and true brisket recipe two years ago for Passover that was a disaster and also a Martha Stewart coconut macaroon recipe that my husband (a non-cook) has been making with great success for years and that was a disaster too.

                                                                                                                I am so done giving her suggestions.

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                  Ugh. You try to be generous and helpful, and it just slaps you in the face. So sorry...

                                                                                                                  1. re: valerie

                                                                                                                    At least she didn't tell everybody that "my friend valerie helped me with the food...." At least I hope she didn't!

                                                                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                      Ha! Good thing I don't know the people!

                                                                                                                  2. well i have a confession. i make absolutely everything from scratch usually. sauce, meatballs, pasta, bread, baked sweets, ice cream.... you get the picture. On my son's last day of school, i baked brownies. and i used boxed ghiradelli. and his teachers asked if i made them, actually they just assumed, and said, these are homemade, right? and i Lied. Through. My. Teeth. and said yes. for 5 years i had been making cupcakes with frosting and cookies from scratch. the ONE time i dont......anyway. a teacher emailed me asking for the recipe because she wanted to make them for her grandmother's birthday. i wanted to die. and god strike me dead, i went on the interwebs, found a copy cat recipe for the box mix, and passed it off. there's a special place in hell for people like me.

                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: eLizard

                                                                                                                      I always use the Trader Joe truffle brownie mix, but put embellishments like Kahlua and mini choc chips. So technicially, it IS my recipe.

                                                                                                                      1. re: eLizard

                                                                                                                        I was eating a Ghiradelli brownie while I read this...

                                                                                                                        1. re: eLizard

                                                                                                                          Funny! There was a bake sale at my daughter's school and I was making brownies. I bought the Ghiradelli ones and I have to say, they were excellent! I may never go back to making them from scratch.

                                                                                                                        2. I usually warn people when sharing a recipe for a baked good that if they don't follow all the instructions, it will fail.

                                                                                                                          Of course, this sometimes intimidates people. Last year, I was in charge of the food for an event at my son's high school in which the junior class puts on an afternoon tea for the seniors. I gave the simple recipes (lemon cheesecake bars, supernatural brownies, and scones) to my baking volunteers, but one of them was so freaked out by the Supernatural Brownie recipe that she decided to use Ghirardelli mix instead. We had more than enough of the scratch brownies, so didn't need to use hers, but I did get a good laugh later on.