Sharing Recipes: To Share or Not to Share

plated pumpkin chai panna cotta 037Of course I will share with you.

Have you ever had writer's block and you tell someone and they say "You know how to get over writer's block? <beat beat> Just write." And then you punch them in the neck, and their eyes bug out, but you feel a little better? Well, that's about where I am right now.  Someone (the Voice in my Head) has a sore neck, and I'm writing.  Not sure where this is gonna go, but join me if you will.

So, I asked a question on Ye Olde Facebooke Page the other day about sharing recipes. Do you? If not, why not? If so, how come?  Some folks share everything.  Some folks clutch dear recipes to their Bosoms and do Not share. Ever.  Some folks will take the time to find a recipe similar to their Special Recipe and share that.  Other folks share some recipes and not others.  The dividing line between Recipes Suitable for Sharing and Bosom-Clutching Recipes seems to be "family recipes," or "recipes I will use in my restaurant/bakery/catering business."

Now, for me, I share everything.  Even dear family recipes. You want to know how to make Auntie Ev's plum pudding? I will absolutely tell you how.  Interested in exactly how I make any or all versions of my Van Halen Pound Cake?  I will email you with all the Excruciating Details. If you live near me, you can even come over and I'll show you.  Heck--I'll make a video and share it with Everyone.

Do I one day want to open a restaurant or bakery. No. But I would love to write a cookbook all about pound cake and how to make them and how to vary them to your taste--how to substitute and still have it work.  Am I worried that I've Overshared my recipes? Nope.  Here's why.  After all of my sharing and teaching and helping and tutorial-ing and trying to make baking accessible to the Masses, I still have people tell me that they're intimidated to make my recipes because I'm a pastry chef.

Well, first of all, I'm no longer a working pastry chef.  I cook and bake from home, so that makes me a home cook and a home baker. We're all home cooks when we're cooking at home--even Eric Ripert.  And second of all, ask questions. I will answer (in the case of the egg foam tutorial, I might be tardy with my answer, but still).

I've written, at ridiculously great length, about what recipes are.  What a recipe boils down to is this: a list of ingredients plus a list of techniques Whereby you Manipulate those ingredients.  And when you understand the techniques and how and when to apply them, all you really need is the ingredient list.

But, back to sharing.  I share because it's what I do.  It's how I give and hopefully make people happy.  I really want people to make my recipes. But, even though every person in the world theoretically has access to my recipes and some of those people have even bookmarked them, very few folks will ever actually make them.  Why?  Well, time, for one.  And familiarity, for another.  Most people are more comfortable making a Known Quantity rather than trying something new. I am not One of them; that's why there are so many different variations of "my" pound cake.  And for Third, I will quote my friend Nadine, who every year waits to receive her four (yes, four) Viennese Rounds from my mother at Christmastime.  (But we all call them Venutians, because we can). Nadine has the recipe, but she says, "I'd rather have the ones your mom makes."

A lot goes into making a recipe. The biggest Lot is probably the ingredient list.  For almost every ingredient, there are a bunch of companies that make That Ingredient and they all vary, at least a bit.  But once you have your ingredients, there are still variables, from things you can control like oven temperature or what speed you mix on to things that you can't necessarily control like humidity and barometric pressure.  And then, there's that indescribable energy that you bring to the recipe:  your confidence, your love (of friends, of family, of cooking and baking), your mood.  If you cook with reverence and intent or you just toss things together while your mind is on other things.

This post might be starting to sound all Airy Fairy, and that's okay with me.  Because I know that our mindset (and heartset and spiritset, for that matter) has an impact on what we cook or bake.  There is even a restaurant out there--maybe more--whose chef has taken a vow of silence so he can focus on prayer and imbuing his food with intention and chi.  Out there? Well, maybe, but almost anything taken to an extreme is, well, extreme.  Me? I like to chat too much to remain silent while cooking, but I do try to cook and bake with positive intention and love, especially when cooking for others.

Maybe that's another reason that I don't have an issue with sharing recipes.  The energy I bring to the food I cook is going to be different from the energy that you bring.  And that energy has a very subtle but real effect on the end product.  And that energy can't be shared on a recipe card.  Though it is my hope that, if I can help folks learn techniques and if they practice them enough to be comfortable and at ease with them, they will then be confident and free enough to imbue their food with their own positive energy--different from mine, but no less real or sincere.

I don't know where you come down on the issue of recipe sharing, but I'd like to hear about it in the comments. And I don't know if you buy into the whole beaming energy into food thing either, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on that, too.

And that's what I have to say for now.  Have a lovely day.

PS  I think that if Thomas Keller can spend two pages in his Bouchon cookbook talking about the importance of Onion Soup and another two pages showing us in great detail how to make it, the least I can do is shoot off an email with my pound cake recipe.

PPS  Sorry about your neck, Voice in my Head. But thanks for the advice.





  1. says

    I’m with you Jenni, and have had much the same experience. I give my recipes freely for the same reasons you do. I also have friends who will ask me to make something I have given them the recipe for because they swear I make it ‘better’. Go figure!

  2. says

    Yes! Just like Nadine and the “Venutians!” I really think it’s the energy that we put into our food that makes it “better.” And most of the time, it is the energy of Confidence. 🙂

  3. Lisa says

    I Love You!!! You put the thoughts and feelings of my mind and heart into words. Clearly, concisely and straight to the point. Thank you!! I feel like I am “healing” as I type this. I know i’ve said it before, but I will say it again, you really inspire me to want to be a better cooker! I can see myself sharing a lot of recipes in the future (that is when I write them down haha!)

  4. says

    You make me giggle!!! I need to make a trip to your home and make something with you someday soon!!! I am not good on video, but will do it I guess, LOL!

    I 100% agree with you, I love love sharing my recipes! I love when some tells me they are making my recipes, warms my heart:-) Lately I have been sharing special family recipes, and I am totally okay with that too. I plan to have a recipe book someday, more of a e-book, that is the wave of the future right? So would still put them in the book too. I get the same thing, so many are freaked out when it comes to cooking/baking, so would rather we do it, share it, video it, etc…

    You are fantastic!!! Love and Hugs, Terra

    • says

      Would love to cook/bake/eat/hang out/drink coffee with you, Terra! Sharing does warm the heart–I’m not sure why some folks want to be grabby and not share. Who doesn’t want to feel all warm and fuzzy? 🙂

  5. says

    I’m with you all the way Jenni. Even when a recipe is shared, there are innumerable factors that mean your version of something is never going to be quite like my version of the same thing made using the same recipe. And yes, even down to the influence that your own brand of personal energy has on the end result. Recipes are, after all, guidelines. Something to be interpreted rather than an absolute gospel truth.

  6. says

    What a wonderful way of putting a subject that comes up all the time Jenni.

    Recipes more often than not are derivatives of previous recipes. With my extensive library of cookbooks often I feel that there isn’t anything truly unique about what people create including myself. True I often put different twists on ingredients or processes but the historical precedent of people cooking hundreds of years prior to me have made my path easier.

    I view recipes as open-source to be given and shared freely so that others may benefit from my accumulated knowledge and passion. When we share our knowledge through recipes and teaching we are raising the bar of society and paying homage to those who taught us.

    When we finally go to that great kitchen in the sky our love and legacy will continue on through little slips of paper in recipe boxes and the joy that we have passed on through our love of food and stewardship to others.

    Love and Light,
    Chef Felisha Wild

  7. says

    Dear Jenni,
    It looks like most things have been said, so I’ll just add my voice to those who praise your attitude of sharing:-) . While I may hold on to some recipes, it is usually just in order to have something “surprising” to offer the friends concerned. Once I have served it, however, I’m just very happy if the dish would spark requests for the recipe. Come to think of it, being asked for the recipe by those who just enjoyed your cooking probably counts as one of the most rewarding aspects of cooking;-)

    And after all, as so succinctly pointed out by Felisha W above, there is very rarely that one encounters something truly new and unique in the world of recipes;-)

Speak Your Mind