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Aug 4, 2012

Recipes - To Share or Not to Share????

I just finished reading the book "Angelina's Bachelors" by Brian O'Reilly.  It was a quick read/ chick lit/ mind candy book that I didn't love, but didn't dislike. It took me all of overnight to read.. I'll review it more in depth another time though, because this post isn't really about the book. It's about the question.

Normally, I don't go to the back of a book and read the "Book Club Discussion Points" because I don't belong to a book club and if I like a book enough, I don't need the publisher telling me how to discuss it. I will already have plenty to say.

In this case, I just happened to flip to the back and one question caught my eye: "Angelina is furious when Amy passes off a store bought cake as her own. Why does this anger [Angelina] so much? How would you have reacted?"

Now, this is no spoiler, so you won't mind my posting it here.  The scene is set pretty clearly and it's a minor scene in the book.

But the question - as well as the passage in the book - reminded me of something that happened many years ago and  I wonder why I still remember it. And why it still bothers me.

When we were first married, Big Daddy and I became friendly with another couple in our neighborhood. We'll call them Martha and Jack.

Young couples just starting out were a rarity in the 'hood, so it was nice to have someone else to hang with.  Martha and I did small decorating projects together (small as in re upholstering a tag sale sofa using 1/2 price fabric, a glue gun and a staple gun), and Jack and Big Daddy would figure out how to patch our stucco houses, change exterior porch lights, caulk bath tubs, or assemble grills.

We thanked each other for the free labor and creative input by cooking for one another at the end of the project or the day.  On "Grill Assembly Day" we were promised ribs, but due to technical issues (not reading the directions) we got pizza. That's one day that I was truly disappointed.

When I have people to dinner, I frequently serve a dessert that we call "Wedding Pie" as that was the desert at Big Daddy's and my wedding.  It's tasty, easy and refreshing. I'm waffling on giving out that recipe... you'll see why....

So, I cooked for Martha and Jack a few times and they - like everyone - loved this dessert.  Martha asked me for the recipe, which I happily gave to her without a second thought. Our friendship and co-opting of talents continued, and we all made more and more friends and acquaintances around the neighborhood.

About a year or so after befriending Martha and Jack, another couple that we'd gotten to know invited us to a lovely cookout.  I offered to bring something and the hostess asked if I would bring a salad.  Sure! No problem! Happy to help!

I went to the store, bought a couple of bags of salad, some tomatoes, a can of artichokes, a can of hearts of palm, a bag of croutons and some dressing. It was unremarkable but easy and it was what the hostess had asked for. I threw it in a bowl and bopped on over to my friends' soiree.

I went to put my unremarkable salad on the buffet as directed by the hostess, and.... my oh my, encountered what looked like 3 wedding pies! huh. To be honest, I was a little stunned. I was seeing Wedding Pies but they weren't Wedding Pies because I did not make them. Who made them? Who made Wedding Pie?

Yes, you probably guessed it several paragraphs ago; Martha had gladly volunteered to make the pies.

Now, Martha wasn't bad at making those pies.  They were just as good as mine... after all, it was my recipe. The one I got from my Mother, who is the person that made all of those Wedding Pies for my Wedding Day and many other occasions.

To be honest, Wedding Pie is a fruit tart for which I'll bet the recipe was found in a magazine many many years ago. However, the fact that I had never, ever encountered anyone outside my family who actually makes that exact pie..... sniff... that couldn't mean anything, could it???

 I do feel the need to point out that Martha used a frozen topping, not the fresh whipped cream that I always make to go with Wedding Pie.

20+ years later, though,what I think about is the fact that while the pies were praised high and low and around the world by the rest of the guests, Martha never let on that it wasn't her recipe, but did admit it was the first time she'd used it.  She was very coy while accepting praise and compliments. I heard her once claim that it was "a family recipe". She just didn't say whose family.

I stood there and watched. She saw me watching. She didn't acknowledge a thing to me and I didn't say a word about it to her. I felt a wall go up between us.  I suppose that I could have "outed" her, but I chose not to. I'm not sure what that would have accomplished.

After that, I started to notice a trend of similar inconsistencies in Martha's manner. Small non disclosures, half truths, dishonestys and omissions that just hinted at a much larger hole in the moral fiber of this supposed friend, than passing off a friend's simple recipe as her own.

Several weeks after that party, I was invited to another pot luck dinner and (cross my heart) without thinking, I volunteered to bring my "Wedding Pie".  I arrived with the pie and the fresh whipped cream - none of that frozen stuff.

When the dish appeared at the end of the meal another guest exclaimed "Oh, you made Martha's Pie!".  I felt a sensation in my scalp that made me think my hair had spontaneously combusted.  I felt my face freeze, I saw an unattractive shade of crimson and my neck hurt from the way my head whipped around to address the speaker.

I responded "Oh, I hope you like it! We had it at our wedding instead of cake... I guess Martha liked it, too!".  I said nothing more about it, just hoped that the message was clear.

Time moves on and here I am, 20 years later. Though I haven't been in contact with Martha and Jack for at least 15 of those years, I still remember this incident and I have to say that, when the memory is tickled up from the back of my brain, I wonder why. Why do I remember it? Why does it still annoy me? And mostly..... what is Martha doing with my recipe????


  1. Martha should have given you credit for luscious dessert. She should have come forward with the fact that you gave her the recipe, or she could have called you and said "hey I thought I might bring those pies you gave me the recipe for is that ok? or were you going to bring them?". I think you are right this is about more than a pie, it sort of gave a hint of what your neighbors character was. Also I know from experience there are some very personal and high emotions connected with certain recipes. I about fainted dead away one day when I say a post by another blogger that was my moms "famous" strawberry cake recipe to the letter. The blogger couldn't have copied it from my blog, because she had a picture of her moms had written recipe to her. I don't know it just unnerved me...any way I get what you are saying.

  2. Thanks, Sheila, and I'm so glad that there's someone else out there who "gets it"!
    After that incident, whenever someone gives me a recipe, I promise that I'll never make it for them unless I have a "quality control" question and need their input.