Recipes Are Meant To Be Shared

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Have you ever tasted a delicious recipe of something made by a friend, relative, or neighbor and asked for the recipe? Happens all the time, but how do you feel when the person responds, “I never give out my recipes.  It’s a secret that will go with me to the grave!” Let me first state that I despise this snotty response, but at the same time I would understand a gentle response only from a person who is entering the recipe in a contest and can’t give it out until the contest is over or they could be disqualified, or if a person is opening a restaurant and that recipe will be their signature dish.  Those are circumstances I can understand.  But for someone just to say, “I never give out my recipes,” well, you lost me.  And if the next response out of their mouth is, “I’ll take it to my grave,” then I feel sorry for the world because now the recipe is gone forever, with no one to ever enjoy it again.

I started thinking about this subject more and more this past week after I read an article in our local paper.  The author passed on the story that she and a few others were enjoying a game seated at a table.  She asked the group if anyone had a good dessert recipe, and all eyes turned to one woman.  Mrs. X has a great apple cake recipe, they all said, but she won’t give us the recipe.  She doesn’t share.  We’ve all asked.  Mrs. X stopped playing, looked up at the group and said it was her mother’s recipe and she won’t share.  Ever.  Case closed.  Okay, so here is a case where someone loves their mother’s recipes.  I love my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes too, and treasure the old recipe box with the yellowed cards.  But what if I never shared them with anyone?  No one else but our family would ever know them.  What if the box was lost or damaged and the recipes were gone forever because they were never given out to anyone else.  Now that would be a tragedy.  Thank goodness my grandmother was, and my mother is, generous with their recipes, giving them out to everyone to love and enjoy.  I love the thought of dozens and dozens of people making those recipes over decades and they became favorites in their own families, and so on and so on.  Recipes have a life of their own and need to be carried on.

My mom’s recipe box.

What would the culinary world be like if Julia Child decided not to share her knowledge of French cooking to an American audience?  There would have been no James Beard Awards this past weekend to honor chefs and cookbook authors who grace our tables with their recipes.  For me, with a basement (The Culinary Cellar) filled with cookbooks and recipes, along with my mother’s recipe box and an envelope filled with my great-aunt Margie’s recipes, the whole point of cooking is to share the love.  A good recipe brings people joy, keeps up traditions, and helps us learn about different cultures and food history.  Who wants all that to “go to the grave?” What good does a wonderful recipe do if it’s turned to dust or even worse, if it was never even written down anywhere and literally does die with the person.

My husband Bill had an older Finnish-American cousin who lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I met Esther before we were married when she invited us over for lunch on a Saturday, but with the stipulation that we had to arrive at noon sharp.  Every Saturday Esther would make her famous pasty, but not in individual pies as they are normally made, but she made hers whole in a pie plate with the same kind of filling and with a double crust and cut into wedges.  Everyone loved Esther’s pasty pie.  Of course I had to have the recipe and asked Esther if she would share it with me.  Esther had the best hearty laugh, and she let out one of those laughs as she said, “What recipe?  It’s all in my head!”  She said no one had ever asked her for it before which I found horrifying.  I asked some other family members why they never asked for the recipe, and everyone gave the same response – because they could have it every Saturday at noon at Esther’s so why would they need the recipe?  I knew what my job was going to be the next Saturday morning.   I asked Esther if I could come over as she was making the pasty for the noon meal and measure everything before she tossed it into the bowl.  There was that laugh again.  Esther found this highly amusing but said she would love to have me come and learn.  We had the best time that morning, with Esther grabbing handfuls of this and that and me running to measure every little thing and writing it down.  I am happy to say it worked and I have Esther’s precious recipe for all the family and anyone else to enjoy.  I would like to add that I will never forget that day and am so grateful I spent that lovely morning with Esther figuring out that recipe because sadly, Esther later developed Alzheimer’s and never would have remembered that treasured family recipe.  It really would have died with her.  And yes, in case you are wondering, I will make Esther’s pasty soon for a blog and all of you can have the recipe too.  Esther would have loved that.  I can hear her laughing with glee.

I love the story of Esther’s pasty recipe but I also have a new one for you, one that happened just as I was writing this blog.  As I was sitting here earlier typing away, Bill walked in with the mail.  He handed me an overstuffed letter with a return address I didn’t recognize.  When I read the contents, my heart melted a little, but first I need to back up.  One of my readers had written me recently that her mother had collected all of the Pillsbury Bake-Off books since the first contest in 1949.  She was missing contest book #46 and wondered if I knew where she could find one to complete her mother’s collection.  After the contest the books are only sold for a short period of time then go out of print.  The only hope is used book stores or finding one online.  Or ask me.  I told my reader that I had an extra and I would gladly mail one for her mother to complete her collection.  She offered to pay for it, but I explained to her that this is what I love to do –  find cookbooks and recipes for people and then give them away.  I mailed it and was glad that I could help.

This lovely woman wrote the sweetest note to thank me for sending her the Bake-Off book.  What warmed my heart was that she also had made copies of a few of her favorite recipes to share with me.  I am so honored to have those recipes.  They were obviously some she cared about and wanted to share.  This is what I am talking about.  Recipes are meant to be shared, between family, friends, and strangers.  But this wonderful woman is no longer a stranger because we share something precious between us – recipes to share and carry on and now they will never die.  I don’t mean just the recipes, but also the connection we made across the country through the love of cooking and recipes.

Think back of a favorite thing someone gave you once that meant so much to you.  My guess is that you are not thinking of a designer handbag or an expensive car, but something that was from the heart.  That’s the kind of gift everyone remembers.  Things can be replaced, but sharing a recipe or giving someone a warm meal when they are ill, something done especially for you, that’s what you will remember.

So next time you ask someone for a recipe and the response is, “I never give out my recipes,” then look them in the eye and say, “Well then, the joy of that recipe will die with you and then what good is it?”




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26 Responses to Recipes Are Meant To Be Shared

  1. May 3, 2017 at 3:24 am #

    And then there are people who share a recipe but leave out an ingredient or key step…ugh! Why?

    Sharing is always caring

    • May 3, 2017 at 9:32 am #

      I think there is ego involved in leaving out an ingredient or key step. The person may want to look as if they are being generous giving out a recipe, but leaving out something on purpose is their way of proving that theirs will always be better. Well, yeah! Because they lied about the recipe! That’s almost worse than not sharing at all. Sigh.

  2. May 3, 2017 at 5:33 am #

    I always say yes to sharing my recipes! Why not?

    • May 3, 2017 at 9:33 am #

      Yes, why not? I cringe to think how many wonderful recipes have been lost in this world because someone decided to keep it a secret and it died with them.

  3. May 3, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    I am flattered when someone asks me !! I gladly give it. As has happened to you I won a spaghetti sauce contest way back in 1987 I think and the recipe was printed in the Waukegan News Sun (the Lake County News Sun now). For around 10 years after it was published I had someone every year call me on the phone asking about the recipe. Many asked if every ingredient was listed (of course!) or they had a specific cooking question. I even had someone come up to me in public and ask me if I was the spaghetti lady as she remembered me from the picture. I still gladly give it out all these years later.

    • May 3, 2017 at 10:50 am #

      I love that story, Barb! Goes to show that people remember good recipes, and also shows your wonderful generosity.

      • May 3, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

        Thanks !

    • May 3, 2017 at 3:20 pm #

      Ha! Now I want that recipe. What a great story! 🙂

      • May 3, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

        I’ll post it tomorrow!–just landed from being out of town (San Francisco Debbie–brought my son some of the cardamom!! And just saw in Milk Street that somewhere that add cardamom to coffee as it’s brewing).

        Sorry to hyjack your thread Dana.

        • May 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

          Looking forward to your recipe, Barb! I’ll bring you more cardamom since you gave some of yours up. I’ve read that about putting it in coffee too, but have never tried it. It can’t be anything but good!

          • May 5, 2017 at 4:43 am #

            It gives the coffee a great flavor ! I have to find the magazine that said how much to add–still trying to sift through my mail and all the other jobs/tasks/unpacking after being gone 10 days.

          • May 6, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

            I can imagine it tastes wonderful. I’m trying this along with your spaghetti sauce!

      • May 3, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

        I agree, Dana! Barb, I think everyone here wants your winning spaghetti sauce recipe!

      • May 5, 2017 at 4:41 am #

        As promised–amounts are not steadfast–depends on the size of the peppers and if you like garlic–in fact I usually use more than one head ! Enjoy !

        Barb Spigner’s Spaghetti Sauce

        3 pounds hot Italian sausage (can use mild instead or a mixture of both)
        1 entire head of garlic separated into cloves and crushed through garlic press
        3-4 large onions, preferably Vidalia or Walla Walla, cut into large dice
        4-6 red, yellow or orange peppers, cut into 1-2” pieces
        1 pound mushrooms, sliced
        4 tablespoons Italian seasoning (more or less depending on your taste)
        3 bay leaves
        3-4 (6 oz.) cans of tomato paste (no-salt added if you can find it)
        1-2 (15 oz.) can of no-salt added tomato sauce
        4-5 (14 1/2 oz.) cans of no-salt added stewed or crushed tomatoes
        1 cup Chianti or Burgundy wine

        Cut Italian sausage into 1” pieces and sauté until no longer pink inside, and blot away the excess fat by grabbing a paper towel with a tong and wiping the oil away from the bottom of the pan. Then add the freshly squeezed garlic, cut up onions, peppers, mushrooms, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning. Saute until vegetables are softened–I cover the pan and let them sauté/steam stirring occasionally until they are softened but not browned. The ingredient size portions can be adjusted—adding more or less if you want.

        Add tomato paste, sauce, and stewed tomatoes to Italian sausage/vegetable mixture—start with lower amounts and add more if you feel sauce is too thick or add more tomato paste if you feel it’s too thin. Simmer until the sauce thickens ~1 hour. Add wine and simmer for an additional hour.

        This makes a lot and I separate it into family size portions, freeze it, and use as needed.

        As far as the spaghetti goes, I cook it in lightly salted water but also add a little olive oil to the water–~1 tablespoon. I don’t rinse my spaghetti after cooking because the stickiness of the unrinsed spaghetti makes the spaghetti sauce cling to it better.

        I top my spaghetti and sauce with Parmesan or Romano freshly grated at the table with a hand grater. For more spice I also grind some multi-colored peppercorns on top.

        • May 6, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

          Barb, this sounds SO good! I’m going to make it for sure. Dana, let us know if you make it too. Thank you so much for posting it!

          • May 11, 2017 at 4:26 am #

            You’re welcome! Enjoy your trip and Happy Mother’s Day !

  4. May 3, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    I love sharing recipes and receiving them from friends and family. I agree. The real point of cooking is to share love, as well as nourishment. Two of my favorite mugs for morning coffee come from Penzeys Spices. One says “Heal the World – Cook Dinner Tonight” and the other says “Love to Cook – Cook to Love.”

    • May 3, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

      I need to get those mugs!

  5. May 3, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I roll my eyes when people say they don’t share recipes and I honestly don’t trust people who won’t share them. I even share my – excuse me, “my” – recipes with people I’m not particularly friendly with in the hopes that it bridges our divide. You know? That type of selfishness is characteristic of a small mind. Anyway…… <3 Aloha from Hawaii.

  6. May 3, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    What a great blog today Debbie. Thank you!

    I can’t imagine any person that follows your blog would fall into the “I never share a recipe” category. We all are cook book and recipe collectors. If we never shared, then who would ever share with us? Thank you for reminding us that a little “caring & sharing” always goes a long way…along with “please & thank you!”

    Thank you for the gentle reminder Debbie. And thank you for all the sharing you do through your blogs. It is all greatly appreciated!

    • May 3, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

      Thanks, Scott. I can’t imagine any reader here not sharing recipes either! That article made my neck hairs stand up so I couldn’t resist writing about it.

  7. May 4, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    Well said! How thankful I am for recipes I have collected over the years from relatives, friends and even acquaintances. Pulling out their recipe with their name written across the top brings back memories of shared moments with good food and good times. And I love how those memories go on as someone asks me for their recipe when I’ve served it and I get to pass it on and retell fond stories of the person who first shared. Just like I frequently share about you since I am serving one of your recipes! Thanks for your generous, sharing heart!

    • May 4, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

      Thank you, Kim. And thank you for your recipes too, and of course for our long friendship that began with recipes in a cooking contest!

  8. June 7, 2020 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi Barb, what is a good non-alcoholic substitute for Chianti and Burgundy wine? Look forward for your reply. Thanks so much.

  9. February 12, 2021 at 4:21 am #

    I am so thankful for finding this blog.
    Last night I asked a friend to share a cake recipe. I live in Florida, she in Delaware. I was taken aback by her response which was, “Don’t put me in that position, it’s a family recipe and my sister would kill me if she found out!”
    As I’m reading the response, in disbelief, she went on to say, “she is known in her area for that particular cake”.
    I’m actually surprised and really just laughing at how ridiculous the whole thing is.
    So, I told her that my sister is a baker and that I was sure she had something up her sleeve that she would share with me. My sister always does, and Thanked her just the same.

    • February 15, 2021 at 8:40 am #

      Donna, I would have been in disbelief at your friend’s response too. I wonder what she would say if you forwarded this blog to her? If she still doesn’t understand after reading it, then sadly for her and her family, the recipe will be lost forever and enjoyed by no one. And that’s tragic.

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