Most people don’t mind sharing recipes. In fact, if you have a good dish, why not share it so more people can enjoy it?
For the most part, recipes are clipped from magazines, printed after finding them online, or taken from a cookbook. Available to the masses, they are obviously good enough to be published in some way. These are recipes that hundreds – even thousands – of people have followed.
But what happens when you have a recipe that no one else has? Are you as willing to share it? When your specialty item gets noticed over the huge spread of food at your Christmas gathering, do you pass on your culinary prowess, or keep it a secret and brag about it?
Ever since age 14, I took an interest in my mother’s ancient Betty Crocker cookbook. I never had much luck with this cookbook, most of my cookies turning out tasteless, dry or as firm as a candy cane. Albeit the lack of baking experience was more to blame than the cookbook. But I cooked on!
Working through the cookbook and trying new recipes often, batch after batch of not-so-great cookies were produced, until I finally came across a molasses cookie recipe.
Idella, an elderly neighbor we used to visit, made molasses cookies with frosting. She’d keep them in her refrigerator for times when the neighbor kids would come over and intrude. My sister loved the cookies. I did not. Thankfully, Idella kept a special stash of peanut butter cookies just for me.
After coming across this recipe for molasses cookies, Idella came to mind, and even though my taste in cookies may not have changed since childhood, I decided to give the recipe a go. Maybe, just maybe, someone else would – for once – enjoy what I put together.
They turned out decent. At least they were edible (unlike the batch of chocolate chip cookies made with two cups of powdered sugar rather than the granulated sugar the recipe called for).
The molasses recipe instructed bakers to top each cookie with sugar – not frosting like Idella made to top her cookies. Apparently Idella had a thing or two to teach Betty Crocker.
Now, in the Stoneburner household, you can judge how good (or terrible) your cookies are by how long they last. Good cookies aren’t around for longer than 12 hours. Mine generally sat untouched in the cookie jar for a week or two – several weeks if they were especially awful.
A week or two passed after the first attempt of trying the molasses recipe. Finally, the jar was empty. I’m willing to bet good old mom discretely threw the cardboard-resembling treats to the birds to avoid hurting my feelings.
She should have known better. The empty jar needed filling, so I tried again – changing it up this time. Manipulating the recipe, I mixed and baked them a different way than the directions suggested, and a great surprise! What came out of the oven looked appetizing. This was a first!
Mom assisted with making some frosting, and before the cookies could make it into the “Baked with Love” cookie jar, they were gone – a visible testimony that the taste was on par with the looks. My first batch of cookies to pass the 12-hour test.
Now, a perfect mixture of skill and ingredients, these “famous” cookies are shared with co-workers, at family events and are always a hit at potlucks. The cookies are often baked as a gift for birthdays or to congratulate a friend on an achievement.
To bake them and share them is one thing, but I refuse to give out the recipe. Not to my mom. Not to my sister. Not to my grandma. Not to a friend. And trust me — many have tried to coax me into revealing the secret.
There are still people who, instead of savoring as many cookies as possible, try to pry out the recipe. Every time the cookies are shared, they go on about sharing my recipe for “THE” molasses cookies.
However, the recipe remains secret. Other recipes will be shared – just not my recipe. It is perfect, and the cookies always draw a crowd, so why hand out the recipe as freely as a business card?
Some recipes are meant to be saved. There is something to be said for the tradition of passing on a special and secret recipe to one’s children or grandchildren later in life.
And if those little rascals find the recipe in my secret hiding spot…
Shootin’ the Wit is a weekly column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.