Saturday, July 3, 2010

Weekend Cooking: On Secret Recipes

It's the 4th of July holiday weekend in the US and we traditionally celebrate our independence with fireworks, parades, and, of course, food. Our food is typically barbecue or picnic fare. My brother-in-law fires up his smoker for the meats, my sister makes her special pasta salad, my aunt always made sugar cookies decorated to look like watermelon slices, and now my daughter is gaining fame for her desserts. While each of us may be associated with a "specialty", we always share our recipes and love to try new ones.

There's a passage I came across this week in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg that perfectly reflects my family's recipe philosophy.
"Recipes were made to be shared. That's how they improve, how they change, how new ideas are formed and older ones made ripe. They way I see it, sharing a recipe is how you pay back fate - in the karmic sense, if you believe in such things - for bringing you something so tasty in the first place. To stop a recipe in its tracks, to label it secret just seems mean. And isn't cooking about making people, on some level or another, feel good? It seems to me, then, that it only makes sense to give people the means to continue feeling good. By which I mean the recipe." (page 177)

Not all people, however, feel this way. I was reminded of "The Secret Ingredient", an essay by M.F.K. Fisher that I posted on last winter. She wrote about Bertie Bastalizzo, who frequently prepared food for her friends and neighbors. She would include specific instruction on everything from how long to let the food "rest", suggested accompaniments, and even the type of bowl or tray to serve it on. But Bertie would not share her recipe! I'll guess we've all known someone like Bertie - for me it was my mother's friend Tina.

So here is my question of the week:  What are your thoughts on "secret recipes"? Do you always share, or is there one guarded family treasure? Are you a Molly or a Bertie?  


Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

15 comments:

  1. I suppose my attitude towards recipes is the same attitude I take in life...share everything. I have no secrets. It's not like I cook something that makes millions of dollars, so why not let others enjoy the same flavors?

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  2. I think recipes should be shared. That would be half the fun of the whole thing is to involve others in your cooking!
    Have a great Holiday weekend!

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  3. Oh I'm a Molly. I love to feed my friends and I'm happy to see a recipe of mine take off and spread on its own as it's handed from person to person. One my problems is that I often cook without recipes or I make so many substitutions I don't have a recipe to share because . . . I never write down what I'm doing. I know! Bad me.

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  4. I loved A Homemade Life and listed it as one of my top ten reads last year because it was around my house all year filled with post it notes of recipes I had to try. I did end up doing several of them and so far all have been excellent. Some of the ones I loved: the Hearts and Minds cake, the avocado and feta salad, the tomato soup.

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  5. I'm a Molly too. I love to share my recipes and receive from others. I still have recipes from friends in high school with their names on them. For instance, I have a dish known as Judy's Casserole. I haven't seen her in person in years but every time I make her dish I think of her. And when someone asks me about the dish, or wants the recipe, I tell them about Judy. For me, food is personal and meant to be that way.

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  6. I share recipes because all of my recipes come from someone else. If I had a secret recipe I would probably share it because I would be so amazed I discovered something on my own.

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  7. Oh sharing them. I love my recipe book of my put together favourite recipes from magazines and friends - seeing their hand writing makes it all the more lovely. Reminds me a friend wanted a cupcake recipe I'd used - I must go and write it out.

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  8. unless you are running a restaurant or a bakery where it is a matter of making a living...
    food is meant to be shared. you should be happy someone likes something so mus that they want to make it and share it in turn with others.

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  9. Definitely a Molly. I love the quote.

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  10. I agree with Caite. I believe unless the recipe is helping to support your family, you should share it. I love food and think everyone should be able to make amazing tasting foods for themselves and their families whenever they want.

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  11. I can't think of any secret recipes I have, so whenever someone asks for one of mine, it's shared. We have a friend, on the other hand, whose grandmother made an amazing chocolate chip cake. He will not divulge the recipe. We've begged, pleaded, tried to bribe his kids, analyzed the flavors, you name it. Nothing. So, we insist that he needs to make it and bring it to every gathering we have until he gives it up. (Which will be never.)

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  12. I share. Otherwise, what's the point? You're sharing the food, why not how it is prepared? Giving is the point, right?

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  13. I definitely share! It's nice to have someone else make a favorite dish for me once in awhile.

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  14. I believe in sharing recipes! That's how I've gotten my favorites through the years.

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  15. In our family we believe in sharing recipes. That's what the love of food is all about really - sharing the good stuff.

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