The Foodista/Moleskine Recipe Contest is through its first week! Have you submitted your recipe yet?
I really like the concept of the contest, which encourages people to share recipes that are family treasures. I do know, however, that many readers are probably a bit more averse to this theme. They might be hesitant to give up their family’s “hidden secrets.” Recipes are personal, they tell a story not only of food but of our histories. They invoke memories of watching your grandmother pound away at a pie crust, or of your father’s annual foray into cooking a perfect chicken marsala for Mothers’ Day. However, as I have said in the past, I am very much against the notion that recipes should be kept secret, or locked away. I think it’s the absolute antithesis to the nature of loving food and of cooking. And I should know, my grandfather is a baker and believe me, I’ve had qualms in the past over giving up his precious formulas. What changed me, however, was some of his incredibly sage advice. My grandfather spent his life using his baking to educate other people. After retiring as a commissary for the US Government, he and my grandmother joined IESSC, a service-organization for retired individuals who go around the world, volunteering in third-world countries. My grandfather’s job was to teach local bakers how to use the ingredients they had at their disposal to feed their community. He brought his classic formulas with him, ones he had worked on perfecting for years, and gave them to people he had just met and usually never saw again. Yet, he had no hesitation in doing so. My grandfather taught me that there’s no use in keeping your gifts to yourself, that it robs them of their magic. The true magic is in sharing.
Recipes are meant to be shared. They are narrative, they are social, and they are adaptive. Your great-grandmother’s matzo balls are not your matzo-balls, even if you use the same exact recipe. That’s the beauty of cooking. Why deny others to incorporate their own versions into the fabric of their own family histories? It doesn’t rob you of a thing. The recipe is still there, your memories are still in tact. So, why not spread the love?