Tuesday, December 15, 2009

behind lock and key

Did you know that recipe exchanging can get touchy sometimes?

I found this out a few years ago when I called up an acquaintance from church to ask her for her delicious caramel syrup recipe that pairs perfectly with German pancakes.  She stammered around for a couple seconds finally saying that NO, she could not give out that recipe as it was a "prized" family recipe only to be kept within the confines of their blood lineage.  

I paused for a moment, a little bit embarrassed for asking and a little bit dumbfounded for not receiving.  I decided to press the issue a little further.  Starting with some seriously sappy compliments about how it was literally THE BEST syrup I had ever tasted and I didn't know how my tastebuds would survive without that recipe at my own disposal.  

Then I asked, "Did someone in your family INVENT the recipe?"  

It was a risky move to make.  Perhaps she could sense my underlying tones of sassiness.  But I really wanted to know.  I mean, to me, the ONLY reason you would not give out a recipe is if YOU were the INVENTOR  and were hoping to make money in some shape or form from your medley of perfectly combined ingredients.

Sheepishly she said, "Well, no, but we are famous for this syrup and have never given out the recipe to another living soul."

I knew there was only one thing for me to do.  I had to create a binding contract between her and me promising that I would NEVER, EVER give the recipe to any other living person.  

So she conceded.  Under pressure she decided to surrender the precious recipe into my trusting care under the strict agreement that I would never tell another living soul.

Well, I tell ya folks.  The internet is a great resource.  I typed in caramel syrup and about 25 recipes came up with the EXACT ingredients and EXACT measurements as this sacred recipe.  Which leads me to justify that it is perfectly alright for me to share this not-so-original recipe with the masses.

But I still have questions for all you non-recipe sharers.  
What is your fear/reasoning behind hoarding your recipes?  

Is your recipe a hit at parties?
Is it something you've gently fine-tuned to perfection?
Is it a family heirloom?
Do you want all the glory for your famed chocolate coconut crunch cookies?

I really won't judge.
This can be a friendly forum.  

Two of my greatest friends have openly confessed to me that they do not like sharing recipes. One friend (you know who you are) has since shared a few of her top recipes now that I live seven stakes (Mormon lingo) away and there is absolutely no chance of me showing up at a Relief Society (more Mormon lingo) dinner with HER recipe.

So come out of the closet, whomever you are, and tell us why we can't be part of your amazing skills in the kitchen.  And if you aren't a hoarder, then share your thoughts too.  

We need to get to the bottom of this!

* postscript *
 I am always willing to share any of my gourmet recipes with you.  I have a great one for tatertot casserole or our family favorite...corn crud.


merideth said...

i love german pancakes. in our family we call them miracle pancakes... and i have been making them a lot lately on saturday mornings for my kids. yum.

i am so excited about this caramel syrup for on top. thanks for the secret!
and as for sharing recipes. i am all for it... it is funny how this can be such a touchy subject.

shawna said...

i like TO SHARE recipes...Until my whole family started bringing the exact same thing to family gatherings! Oh and my sister shared a family favorite recipe with me ...but gave it to me just a LITTLE bit WRONG!!!! my sister...my older better cook sister...aw come on... Hey mom ...I'm telling

HeatherM said...

I clearly don't cook enough this craziness is ALL new to me. If I find something good I'll share. My new fav is pumkin coconut curry! It's no secret just goole!

ashleyboice said...

I have this exact conversation with my sister all the time. I hate when people don't want to share recipes...family secret, give me a break. I just don't get it. Funny because I have that exact syrup recipe too...

ali said...

mere - I am so happy you share because my life has gotten 10 times better since your peanut butter cookies became a part of it!

shawna - that dirty sister of yours...sneaky. a common tactic amongst our hoarder friends.

Heather - pumpkin curry! sounds delicious!

Ashley - looks like you and I need to have a little talk with Berta about those secret cookies!

Cindy said...

Yes, and I'll join you on the 'secret' cookies from Berta! (I'm her cuz on her dad's side...) Haha. My mom is not a recipe sharer yet she expects everyone to share with her and then she tells others they are all her recipes! It baffles me. Because of this, I AM a recipe sharer. I usually got it from somebody, so I'm happy to share so others can enjoy and build their own memories. Besides, no two people make a recipe the same anyway.

I say: SHARE AWAY!!!

amanda jane said...

I had an aunt who mand the most amazing buckeye cookies. and she wouldn't share the recipe. until one day when another aunt's mother in law decided to publish a cook book and she shared with her. that mother in law then gifted every family member that cookbook. so now we can all make the famed cookies when ever we want to. (big raspberry here.)
my families only "secret" recipes are actually because we have to special order certain ingredients to make them. yeah, we'll give you the recipe but good luck finding the right parts! ;) totally kidding. we are so open to sharing. like someone shared, why not spread the goodness?

Monica Mary said...

You are hilarious and your Christmas card is DARLING! Now, why don't we want as many people as possible to enjoy things that are so yummy???

The DeGraff 7 said...

I really don't know what to say? Recipe hoarding?! I thought that was only in movies or on T.V. when they were trying to create the essence of the town "crazy lady"-LOL People are really THAT stingy? Sorry to offend...wait, no I'm NOT. Quit being so dang stingy already!

ashlin said...

i can't wait to taste this delicious recipe at Christmas, thanks for sharing I'm printing it out now and putting it in my super secret book of non original favorite recipes

ali said...

i think we are scaring off all of the hoarders. Really, I do think your reasons can be justified. please share.

Maureen said...

Okay normally Im a stalker but this always gets my cander up (is cander a word because spell check won't work..) anyway it makes me crazy when people wont share..you said it perfect so i had to agree with all you said..oh and thank you for sharing, can't wait to try it..I think my niece Lindsey Pope Parry posted this recipe last Christmas too..(just in case you don't know who I am..Good old Loomis ward..) P.S. you have the most darling family ever..

Lori said...

Ali, thank you for this! I wish I could send your post out to everyone in my inbox. I was complaining to my hubbie about this last month at Thanksgiving. There is a woman in my circle of friends who refuses to give out her recipes. At first I wasn't sure if it was intentional because she would always nod and say "thank you! I will." when I would ask for them, but I noticed a little reluctance in her voice. After making countless phone calls and e-mail attempts that were ignored, I found out from others that her prized dishes are her claim to fame and she isn't going to share them. Like you said, unless she invented the recipe, she doesn't even have the right to take all the accolades for herself.

I LOVE sharing recipes. It's a compliment when people ask me for them. And I love sharing even the ones I made my own or had to tweak to make improvements on.

And then there are the people who give out a prized recipe and it mysteriously comes out horrible. One lady gave out a recipe she makes almost everyday to 3 of us and each of them were totally different. Their excuse is "oh, I'm one of those cooks who does a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I never have to measure." paalease! As if that makes them some superior chef. I also do "a little of this and that" in my dishes, but not enough to radically change the dish, and I typically have an idea of how much I sprinkled in.

"Everybody Loves Raymond" did a great episode on this with the Mother in Law Marie intentionally giving out a bad recipe to Debra.

Adrienne said...

Yikes!!! Thanks Ali for raking me over the coals, even if it was done discreetly. But I'm not scared....I'm ali's friend who gave up a recipe once she moved 7 stakes away.
Here's the deal....if you try something I made and say to me in passing, "yum can I have the recipe?" I will say sure! But I'm not going to rush home and email it to you. But if you email me, or call me, I have NEVER said no to anyone! With that being said, I guess I like the fact that I make something that people really love. And if everyone could make the same thing, ALL the time, then everyone would think something that was great would then just be ordinary. What's wrong with that?
And for what its worth, it actually is an ambition of mine to one day sell said baked goods, either in a full blown shop or as gift baskets or something.
So judge me all you want, I guess. But I have never sabotaged a recipe either!

Jen Giorgis said...

okay so I am taking deep breaths and counting to ten...I don't like to share recipes!!! There I said it! 1.)This all started when my family did a lot of catering as a business. No, we don't do it anymore, maybe an occasional chocolate cake or carrot cake for special people.
2.) give 20 people the same recipe and it turns out 20 different ways. I don't want someone who has no idea what they are doing or even worse decide to grossly tweak my recipe and then say that it was mine and it is awful. Yes it is ridiculous and definately a pride issue.
3.)I agree with Adrienne, I want my recipes to be special and not the same old thing that everyone else makes. What is so wrong with that?
4.) I am happy to read them off over the phone, but usually not so eager to go through the work of tying them up to send to someone so they aren't going to get to you that way unless I happen to have them already in my computer or I really really like you. Yes I know this sounds snotty but I am being honest.
5.) I'd really like to publish a cookbook someday!

Seriously...cooking is an artform for me. I take serious pride in it and in doing an exceptional job of it. Both in presentation and taste. Why should I have to just give that away to anyone and everyone?

I do share most recipe's just not ALL of them!

Jay and Gwen Sessions said...

We are counting on YOUR german pancakes during your Christmas visit. They are always better than my awful waffles with anything under the sun (or in the kitchen) thrown in. I will confine my cooking activites to stuffing Tom the turkey with "anything under the sun" thrown in. Besides guessing what countries are on the Thanksgiving table....we play "What's in the stuffing?"

Adrienne said...

Ali, why won't you teach/share all your photography skills with everyone? Or let them use your camera whenever someone wants to? Shouldn't we all have gorgeous pictures all the time?
I'm not trying to be a brat....I'm just trying to liken this issue to a subject you will relate to.

ali said...

First of all, thank you to my TWO anonymous friends who have come out of the closet on this blog. I gotta hand it to ya....that took real courage!

I will tell you that both of these ladies ARE phenomenal cooks and they do deserve all the praise in the world for their signature dishes (which they get from my husband all the time, thus my NEED for the recipes).

And Adrienne...touche! touche! I would be happy to invite you over for a photo jam session in return for the "REAL" peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe complete with demonstration.

Bring it on!

madsen said...

I think this was the best blog of comments I have ever read!!! There was craziness, there was tension but most of all...there was love!!! You have great friends Ali!!!!

Chelsy said...

haha...this post and all its comments are hilarious. I've thought about this because I've had people ask me to join group card exchanges, share how to make cakes, lasagna recipes, etc. I initially felt protective of such things...but I decided I had to let it go.

I have a friend who is an amazing photographer. She started it as a hobby and just built up her business, her equipment, etc. Like a lot of women have done. She held a few 'photography' nights were she invited anyone who wanted to attend (through her blog, facebook and ward.) She had people sign up (only so many seats) and she brought all her equipment. She covered as much as she could from what equipment is good, how to get different effects, lenses, angles, etc. I thought it was so cool of her, so selfless. She genuinely wanted to help other people get better pictures. (and teaching people is very different from actually lending out equipment worth thousands of dollars! I don't think that is the same as sharing a recipe.)

I've seen similar stuff in other areas too. Helps me to realize what is really important in the long run.

The only thing that bugs me is when someone compliments someone on something and they don't give credit where credit is due. I see it so often when I know that the idea or work came from elsewhere.

And I will give it to those who own businesses or hope to soon; that is a different situation. You need to protect recipes in that situation.

K, way too much said on that! :o)

Marie said...

It's my husband's fault. He tweaked and added and changed and perfected his whole wheat pancake recipe and has dreams of starting a business selling Wild Bill's Flapjacks. They truly are delicious and we've even tested them out by giving dry mixes as gifts as Christmas. Everyone loves them....and he only shares his recipe with...you guessed it, his family. :)

Will we ever make hoards of money off the prized recipe? Probably not, but here's to dreaming!

P.S. I've asked for a recipe before and was told NO too! I felt so awkward and couldn't understand why they wouldn't share a simple recipe with me. It felt like I wasn't good enough. Oh well, everyone has their quirks.

ali said...


Let me be the judge of the deliciousness of Wild Bill's Flapjacks. I'll be expecting a package in the mail!

Jen Giorgis said...

Oh Ali, I have a fabulous recipe that I have no problem sharing for Peanut Butter Choc. Chip cookies. The key is 'MILK' chocolate chips. I'll send it to you, and you can pass it along!

James said...

I think I had this recipe with french toast at the Cannon's. It has been burned into my tastebud memory ever since. I don't understand not sharing recipes either, unless you have invented and profit from said recipe.

You have a great blog. Thanks for the recipe.

Ben and Shara said...

I've had a similar experience with the family cook in Ben's family. I had to swear up and down that I would never share it, then later I found the same thing in a ward cookbook. annoying.

So I'm very excited about this recipe. We LOVE german pancakes around here and make them just about every saturday. Only we make them with Orange syrup. I'm going to try out the caramel recipe and then have both on hand.
Thanks for being so daring.

Anonymous said...


Lil miss selfish said...

If I started sharing my family recipes, I would become obsolete. I have made quite a rep for myself w/ a couple of recipes and if I shared, I wouldn't have that specialness anymore. Call is narcissistic, selfish I don't care, we all like to feel special about something. I love getting compliments about my cooking. There is something very intimate about cooking for other people. Food brings joy, I like to be the bringer of good things. Enough said, just don't be offended when people don't share.

Anonymous said...

tatertot casserole is NOT gourmet

Sara Jane said...

i totally love you! how could we not have been friends all this time... you are too funny!

Celia and Scott said...

I'm glad Adrienne came clean as I was prepared to out her as that unnamed friend of yours. She and I have talked about this and I totally get wanting to be THE ONE who makes the PB Choc. Chip Cookie that everyone drools over and yes it does feel good for people to rave about your cooking but unless you MADE UP THE RECIPE it's not even yours to keep secret! It's not even so much narcissism as it is plagiarism!

I think the big thing is being considerate of other peoples' "special" recipes. My sister gave out one of our "family recipes" for a Christmas treat (all of us give out EVERY year to our friends and neighbors) to one of her friend's/neighbor. The very next year, this woman gave out the exact same thing as her Christmas gift to all their same friends and neighbors!

My friend has a great policy: when asked for one of her "famous" recipes, she politely asks people to not bring the dish to get-togethers as that's what she always brings.

I think the key is to be considerate. Give credit where it's due and don't step on other peoples' toes.

Lori said...

I have this EXACT recipe...except it's named Buttermilk Syrup! It IS yummy. I pair it with a buttermilk pancake recipe I have and toasted pecans. Sinful.

Marie said...

Ali, I tried the caramel syrup recipe this morning and either I screwed it up, or you tricked us! It did not turn that delicious dark brown color until I added molasses....what did I do wrong?

Were you playing a joke on us recipe hoarders?