May 1, 2007

Recipe Mania

A friend recently emailed me requesting a recipe for a spicy pork marinade. She'd been to a restaurant and enjoyed the pork chops created with this recipe and wanted to duplicate it at home. Using the handful of recipe search sites on the Internet I found one that looked like a winner and sent it off to her.

For some reason, this exercise made me wonder just how many recipes there are in the world. The Internet alone must have archives of thousands if not millions. In addition, there are millions more in cookbooks, newspaper food columns and agricultural association brochures. This in turn made me wonder just how many of these recipes are unique and that's what led me to write this article.

It's said there are no new recipes anymore. New cookbooks contain reworkings of previously published recipes from cookbooks that contain adapted recipes from previously published recipes and so on. A subtle change here or there, a pinch of this instead of a half teaspoon of that and EUREKA, you've developed a new recipe.

Recipes themselves are copyright free meaning you may copy the list of ingredients in any way you want. It's the recipe name and instructions that are subject to copyright law so be sure if you switch a recipe to use as your own, you make significant changes in these areas.

If new cookbooks contain hashed over versions of old recipes, why are they so popular?

I call this phenomenon, recipe mania. Recipe or cookbook collecting is the American homemaker's number one hobby according to Avis Hulvey, editor of Cook's Notebook. I believe it, although I’m not a homemaker I have around 300 some cookbooks that I have acquired through the years. There appears to be some weird force that compels normally sensible people to feel they "must have" every published recipe in their kitchen or they'll expose themselves to culinary illiteracy. The irony is that even if we live significantly longer than average, we’ll still never have time to make all the recipes.

So getting back to that spicy pork marinade, what would I have done? I probably have the recipe right under my nose in my own obsessive collection of cookbooks and recipe literature. Finding a basic marinade recipe and adding a couple of chopped jalapeno’s or chili powder sounds reasonable to me.

The first point to remember when altering recipes is that all changes are experiments. The results could be a masterpiece or an inedible disaster. There lies the fun in adapting or altering recipes not to mention satisfying creative impulses. You become a culinary pioneer or mock food scientist in your quest to develop something new.

Until next time…keep your hands floured and your ovens warm!

Oatmeal Pudding Cookies
from Becky Spencer of Stotts City

1 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 package of instant vanilla or butterscotch pudding (I use sugar free)
2 eggs
3 ½ cups of quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup of raisins

Mix flour with baking soda. Combine butter, both sugars, and pudding mix in a large bowl; beat until smooth and creamy. Bet in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and then stir in oats and raisins. (Batter will be stiff) Drop onto a ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

No comments: