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Frame: “My” Recipe

October 18, 2010

AVV and her chicken cacciatore

When does a recipe become “yours?”

Do you have to cook it a certain number of times? Change a key ingredient? Buy special equipment to prepare it? When does it shift from being Ina Garten’s, Food and Wine’s, or grandma’s recipe, to being yours?

My friend Amanda decided that she owned “her” Chicken Cacciatore, a recipe she originally found on PBS, after cooking it half a dozen times. For her, mastery equals ownership. A recent dinner party confirmed that this dish is all hers- it’s one of those meals that must include crusty bread so you can sop up every last delicious bit of sauce.

For others, owning a recipe happens when they pass it down to another generation, or teach it to a friend. And there are some people that only feel comfortable owning a recipe if they create it from scratch. For me, the shift from theirs to mine occurs when I no longer need to consult the actual written instructions. By the time I can do it on my own I’ve usually changed it enough that using the original script again would result in a significantly different dish. Case in point:

my pasta

Several years ago, I found a simple recipe for pasta with mushrooms and a tomato cream sauce- I’ve probably prepared it 15 times since then. I usually have most of the ingredients in-house, I make a big batch so I can eat it for several meals, and it is one of those sauces that doesn’t have to simmer for 4 hours to taste good. Tonight, while organizing some cookbooks, I ran across the original recipe. A quick glance proved that it is but a distant cousin to the dish I now prepare, and that’s how I know that pasta is now mine.

How do you gauge ownership of your dishes?

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