Recipe Sharing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Phew. I have just about survived the Christmas holidays.

One of the great things about holidays is the all special foods you serve – the treasured recipes you make for your family year after year. I am sure your family has their favorites from your recipe box. Val, one of my dog walking pals, actually keeps her Christmas menu year to year, written out on index cards, as a guideline and reminder for the following season. There must be a few tweaks to Val’s menu cards, and the odd addition to the recipe line up year in year out, but apparently her family looks forward to their annual Christmas food traditions. We are much the same in our family; when Christmas comes, my grown children anticipate the beloved Christmas pancakes, the standing rib roast with Yorkshire Pudding, the ‘more-ish’ Rigatoni al Forno, and the Gateau Rolla (or Meringue Layer Cake), which I have recently re-christened Chocolate Pavlova.

So recipes are very much on my mind at the moment.

In the run up to the holidays I observed several instances of Recipe misbehavior. The memories are troubling. What, you say?

You heard me. People – friends – behaving badly, extremely badly, over the subject of sharing recipes, and then giving credit, or not giving credit for those recipes. Say again?

Perhaps I should quote you a few instances.

My back door neighbor Allison’s sister-in-law, a.k.a. Aunt Susie,  makes a mean chili, or so I had always been told.  But Aunt Susie would not share her chili recipe. For years and years. Even when asked repeatedly by her own family members. Over time this made for bad feeling all around. This past fall Allison finally convinced her sister-in-law to share the secrets of her famous Taco Chili. And, given what Allison perceived as past miserly behavior on behalf of her sister-in-law, she promptly shared the recipe with all of us in the dog walking group. I share it with you. Allison did give credit where she felt credit was due, and named the recipe “Aunt Susie’s Most Awesome Taco Chili.” Good recipe behavior? Or bad recipe behavior?

Myung, a member of my Book Group, has a delicious family recipe for Korean Short Ribs. She asks her favorite butcher cut the ribs across several bones, so they look like very thin chops, and then treats them with a special herb, garlic and soy sauce marinade (actually Memmi, which she says is sweeter) before cooking. She shared her family recipe with her sister-in-law (who is not Korean). Often complimented on Myung’s short ribs marinade, her sister-in-law decided to contribute Myung’s recipe to a regional cookbook – under her own name. Good recipe behavior? Bad recipe behavior?

I attended a coffee morning pot luck, and as instructed, brought along a baked good to share. A friend, wife of My Husband’s close work colleague, was wild about the Strawberry Pizza, and asked me if she could have ‘my’ recipe. I said of course. I asked if she would swap it for the recipe to her lemon curd squares. She agreed. I sent her my Strawberry Pizza recipe. She never sent me anything.

Another friend, Kristen, who is an inventive and generous cook, posts almost everything she cooks on her blog, Kristen in London. She accompanies her recipes with mouth-watering photos of the finished product, and writes about food with enough warmth and encouragement to convince even the most timid cook to take a risk and make the effort towards a new seasonal dish. She serves up her recipes to friends and readers alike with the gracious flourish of a wonderful hostess offering a beautifully plated dinner to a welcome guest at her table.

I grew up as one of four sisters, with a Mother who loves to cook, to experiment with new recipes and to entertain around the dinner table. Food in her household is a healthful art form, and is seen as an opportunity to gather friends and family around the table for company and conversation. Her recipes are always mine for the asking. In fact, as a young professional and then as a young wife, I would frequently phone my own Dial-a-Mom for last minute recipe suggestions, advice or reassurance. Be a recipe Scrooge? Unthinkable.

What is your opinion? Do you share your recipes? Squirrel them away in secrecy? Give credit when someone gifts you with their favorite recipe?

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2 Responses to “Recipe Sharing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

  1. elizabeth says:

    Anyone is quite welcome to any of my recipes which are a bit random ie I don’t use a cook book but do measure things in a cup.
    I don’t really feel and sense of ownership of them though I would smile if someone credited me!

  2. sarah says:

    It would be quite fun to have a recipe named after one, wouldn’t it?! What is your favorite meal to make?

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