Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, July 20, 2006

on keeping recipes secret

The other day, I got two requests for recipes and both of the requesters asked if I kept recipes secret. In one, I said, "I don't GET people who keep recipes secret" and typed out my recipe for potato salad. In the other, I wrote out instructions for my way of keeping burger patties from falling apart. Later I thought about it some more and asked Peter if he could come up with a good reason why people would keep a recipe secret. He said "if it was an old family secret and the person who gave it to YOU actually asked you to keep it secret". Then I thought about proprietary reasons - the Colonel's secret herbs and spices sort of thing.

But really, aside from that, what would be a person's motivation for keeping something like a recipe secret? I can only think that it is self-aggrandizing. I puzzled over how I would feel after I refused to give someone a recipe. I would feel churlish and selfish. People who never give others recipes must feel something positive - as Dr. Phil would say, "they are getting something out of it." They may feel a sense of superiority perhaps - they have or know something you don't. Of course, I may never know for sure. Imagine if I asked someone (especially now) for a recipe and they said they don't give recipes and then I asked them why. I once asked my ex-brother-in-law for a recipe and he refused, saying it was a secret. I never did ask him why. Given what I know about him (especially since he is an ex now), my theory holds water.


Anonymous zoom! said...

Hmmm. I never 'invented' any recipes so I don't feel any sense of ownership over them.

Nobody has ever refused to give me a recipe when I've requested one, but one co-worker did give me a recipe on the condition that I never make that dish for a work-related event. The reason was that it was her only fast and easy potluck recipe, and it was her trademark contribution to potlucks.

Beyond that...maybe if someone planned to write a book of original recipes, they wouldn't want to leak any in advance.

But mostly I think people like that are probably stingy with their recipes because they're stingy with everything.

6:12 p.m., July 23, 2006  
Blogger JuliaR said...

Stingy is a good way of putting it, Zoom. Politer than what I might want to say.

9:03 p.m., July 23, 2006  
Blogger Mindy T. said...

The worst thing about keeping recipes secret is that nobody ever tells you how much they ENJOYED them, thus giving you a sense that you are adding something good to the world! Why deprive ourselves of that positive vibe?

2:53 a.m., August 12, 2006  
Blogger JuliaR said...

Hi Mindy! I went to visit your blog(s) and I am pleased you feature vegetarian recipes. I am always looking for tasty ways to eat less meat and I like your idea of celebrating life and cooking and joy. Plus I love Peter Mayle and appreciate you quoting him!

3:29 p.m., August 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This made me LOL! My DMIL keeps her recipes secret. She claims that she wants to be able to serve her guests something special. She wouldn't even give me the recipe for her Black Bottomed Cupcakes so that I could make them for DH. So, when my in-laws went on vacation, DH and I copied the recipe. Yes, we are ashamed but my DH had a strong craving so what could we do? ;-) Last year I asked her to please give me all of her favorite recipes as I wanted to have a family cookbook printed for everyone for Christmas. As you can imagine, I have reminded her countless times and still have no recipes. I even pointed out to her that I only have one of my dear GM's recipes because she died suddenly and they were all in her head! Still, nothing. I'm still ashamed of the recipe theft so I just have to post anonymously - just in case.

1:05 p.m., October 04, 2006  
Blogger JuliaR said...

Anon, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

12:47 p.m., October 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with the comment "stingy" being the reason a person must be keeping a recipe a secret. I recently got into a huge fight with both of my older sisters over this. I have never asked to keep one of my recipes to "myself" before, until now. It's a recipe for chocolate truffles that I make for everyone during the holidays. I make pretty little boxes and wrappers etc., and give them out as little "extras". Everyone loves them. I've only done this for 2 years so far and it is probably ruined now because of the argument. It just won't feel the same. It will feel depressing instead of joyful. I know that my reason is related to issues of growing up the youngest of three girls where I had to find my own "niche" in certain areas so as not to "copy" and to give them respect for theirs, like a favorite perfume, collectibles, style of decor in the home,a few examples among many. And, after finally finding some things to call "my own" after years of letting them have theirs, I have been copied. It's been difficult because we are all so much alike, having alot of the same tastes, and thats a good thing. I just asked for this ONE thing. I don't think that was too much to ask for. As for a comment about getting something out of it...isn't that what we all look for to some degree? If we didn't get a "pat-on-the-back" from our co-workers, or a raise from our boss for a job well done what kind of work environment would that be like? Even kids like and need to hear a "great job!" or some words of encouragement from their parents. So it is for the "baker" to see the face of pure enjoyment when they bite into something delectable you've made in hopes they would look forward to your "gift" each year. I just think family should give each other that respect. Let that person have something they can give to others that noone else can.

10:48 a.m., December 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's share recipes on here. This recipe has been around for years!

Texas Baked Burger Beans

1.5 lbs Ground beef (Lean sirloin is best)

1 lb Bacon

1 large can beans(3.7 lbs) + 1additional 16 oz can

1 medium onion sliced

Brown sugar

Worchesthire sauce

Cube bacon and brown in large skillet. Drain and set aside. Brown beef in same skillet. Drain any fat. Layer all ingredients: beans, onion, brown sugar (just enough to cover the layer), ketchup, meat, bacon, Worchesthire sauce (sprinkled over to taste)then repeat. Do not stir the layers. Bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Stir before serving.

4:32 p.m., January 20, 2009  
Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks Anon, sounds tasty.

10:06 a.m., January 21, 2009  
Blogger lifesabeach11 said...

I have one recipe that I won't share. I plan on marketing this product. If i give the recipe to a friend of mine who knows restuarnt owners I am sure she will market it to them. She is continually asking for it and I have told her no. Do to her lack of respect of my wishes i am beginning to realize she may not really be a friend. I would never infringe upon her that way.

9:37 a.m., January 25, 2010  
Anonymous Nonny Maus said...

I think -sometimes- it's actually a soft "no" to a particular person--like when you don't want to loan money or a book to someone because you know or suspect them to be unreliable, but you don't want to hurt their feelings, so you make it sound like you generally prefer not to.

I've heard of refusing recipes to certain people because those people would not only make the dish badly, they would then blame the resulting failure on the recipe-holder, who then gets a bad rep for cooking. But others who are more careful cooks--or, perhaps more importantly, will not blame the recipe-holder if it turns out bad!--will get the recipes.

Otherwise, I think it's like with corporations--only where the corps are defending their financial bottom line, recipe hoarders are defending their social capital. They want to be the only one who brings -that- dish to the potluck, or the only one family and friends can go to for -that- dessert.

Personally, I don't need for people to come to me and me only for any dish, so I'm happy to share my recipes. It'd be nice if people didn't take direct credit for the dish, but even if they did, it wouldn't take the recipe itself away from me (and if anything, such an incident would tell me something important to know about that person!)

Of course, if someone asks about or compliments these dishes when I make them, I freely admit that I got the recipes from family members or an ex or whoever, so maybe I'm just projecting what I myself would do. I don't see the point in pretending to be some genius chef I'm not.

Thank you for this post, good things re etiquette to learn from here:

--when asking for a recipe, try to assure the cook that you will give them credit as they desire (and there of course may be other conditions, like to not make it at the company potluck or something).
--if you make a dish from someone's recipe that doesn't turn out well, DON'T reflexively blame the recipe-holder to others! That's just irresponsible and rude.

2:19 p.m., December 28, 2016  

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