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« St. Helena Farmers' Market, Friday June 1st! | Main | Nancy Skall, Middleton Gardens »

01 June 2007

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» Eggbeater from Making Light
Fruit-obsessed pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon writes about food and cooking like someone who's fallen uncontrollably in love, in a... [Read More]

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Thanks for your beautiful story to brighten up my friday. I'd like to think that whoever stole your recipes just couldnt make them as good, might even make them inedible in a similar way to that cake in 'like water for chocolate' where her tears falling into the dough made everyone cry.

Love this one... very, very much.

I think this is your best post ever. Just beautiful. And interesting. And, I think, true.

(BTW, I walk by Veritas every day on the way from the office to the subway...I've never eaten there though.)

He told me I was not my recipes. That someone could steal all of my recipes and they could not go to another kitchen and recreate me. They could not steal my identity and be me. That my signature, who I was and had become as a pastry chef, came from my heart, my experience. That what I brought to the kitchens I would go on to learn and teach in, was something much bigger than my recipe book.

This is exactly right. It is also exactly why I believe in sharing recipes. We lose nothing by sharing them, because they are not our cooking. Our small touches, our lives, the way we lay on our hands.. that is what makes our food special. Not the guidelines. So I love sharing them, love playing with those others have shared, and feel that we are all enriched by the exchange.

Your choice to teach and mentor is an act of love -- love of your craft, love of your ingredients, love of future possibilities. Triggering an act of genius in another is a powerful contribution. To touch someone else's life in a way that leads them to a better place professionally or personally is always a thing of beauty. You seem to do that nearly every day.

! ! ! ! ! ! HAPPY JUNE ! ! ! ! ! !

Beautiful post, Shuna. I hope that the person who stole your recipes enjoys them as much as you enjoyed creating them. Whenever someone asks me for one of my recipes, I'm happy to give it. But I like to be asked.

What a lovely post. Freely sharing a recipe is about a generous heart. I have recipes given to me by friends who are no longer living. Each time I see that recipe card, fix that dish it brings back the memories of time spent together from someone with a generous spirit. They are still with me by what they so freely gave.

I have to agree, recipes are just roadmaps, but everyone will wind up at a different location. It's so much more dependent on technique, etc. Great story and a nice post - I remember the biscuits at the Meetinghouse!

Excellent post about a controversial subject- the recipe, who is the author, we "owns" it, who can make it, who may make it etc. . . but a real chef is one who marries techinque, ingredients and the guide- the recipe together. It takes time, talent and practice to marry all the elements or a recipe into a dessert that taste and looks good. You should see if the Chronicle or one of the food mags will accept the text of this post. This is really a good explanation of how to understand a recipe and the chef who either makes it or came up with it.

well said, as i'm still thinking of the recipe i'm trying to get right.

i have asked, and i have stolen. and i find i most often use the recipes i asked for but never in a way that would replicate the signature dish of someone so generous to share, more as a meditation in process until i can understand enough. always out of love and gratitude, which is how we should feed people.

Wow... now that is a quality piece of writing.

well said, Shuna!

I don't even have words...

i was laughing out loud while reading addie's antics. were they blanched in sugar syrup first?

the laughter was only slightly less harder than when you brought up 'pierre herme macarons'. it is next to impossible to replicate his macarons at home. his recipes are also notoriously cryptic..i always find it funny when the book buying public thinks that an acclaimed chef will freely give away his most famous recipes/techniques for what finally translates as a fistful of pennies from the book sales. now that most people actually taste the food they read about, they have realistic expectations.

personally, i dont get it when home cooks try to replicate a restaurant dish. why? it is so much better when it is served to you in a nice setting. homecooking has its place and restaurant food has it's place. i am really glad that people are cooking more at home, but i also notice that they are overextending themselves with ambitious, multi-faceted recipes and multi course menus given their limited resources, space and equipment..not to mention lack of cheap/free labour.

on another note, it's probably different with pastry, but with cuisine, its the same template. you can pretty much replicate it if you have the right instructions and reliable, high quality ingredients. on the line, no single cook is creating a dish. it is a composite of several components delivered by several commis. the instructions and implementation of said instructions have to be precise. every single time.

thanks. nicely put. i enjoyed this one...had a laugh or two.

I got lost in your words. Awesome post Shuna. I will always remember when the pastry chef leaving was giving me a crash course on the dessert menu I would have to follow (he had to leave permanently in an emergency). He wrote down some of his recipes for me and I refused to take them because they were his creations. He said "these are just recipes, not my soul or my talent. Read them, play with them, make them yours or throw them away, but if you need a hand here they are". I believe in teaching people how to put their creativity and talent forward. You do it everyday because you have that fire...the same one that makes us jump with adrenaline going into a hot and dirty kitchen everyday, wanting to learn and pass it on.
Wish I could come to Chicago and meet you in July.

lovely story.
totally agree about recipes.. no one can ever really steal one from you...it's all about what you put into it,..

Well written. This is the type of post that got me reading your blog in the first place. It's insightful, thought out, and has just the right amount of personal storytelling.

Very nice, Shuna. Thank you. :)

Too true. So long as credit goes where it's due, I say good chefs copy, great chefs steal.

What a WONDERFUL post. Truly, you are a poet. I often find that when I try to share a recipe on my blog, I'm not able to express the nuances of it. I *think* I have the recipe right here! on paper! but what I've got is a list of ingredients -- some of which I've left out, and some of which are missing from the list -- and guideline quantities, some of which I've modified. As much as I want to share an amazing creation, I almost always regret it halfway into the typing. I end up thinking, "it'll be a miracle if anyone can duplicate my experience based on this."

On a somewhat-related note, a couple years ago I started a scrapbook-style recipe book, and the best thing about it are all the notes in the margins about adding this or removing that or trying a different technique next time. I figure when I finally hand it down to my son or my niece or my nephew, it'll be cherished as much as a record of my personality and tastes as it will be for any recipe gems it contains.

"He told me I was not my recipes. That someone could steal all of my recipes and they could not go to another kitchen and recreate me. They could not steal my identity and be me. That my signature, who I was and had become as a pastry chef, came from my heart, my experience. That what I brought to the kitchens I would go on to learn and teach in, was something much bigger than my recipe book."

= inspiring, SO true, and something that every one needs to be reminded of every so often, regardless of their craft or profession. thankyou.
oh, and one more thing:

"Paris!... where the volume control on romance has been torn from its knob and thrown on the ground."

=so sexy.

x

I TRULY THINK THAT RECIPES ARE ONLY AN EXTENSION OF OUR SELF, RECIPES CAN BE CHANGE TIME AFTER TIME, BUT IT TAKE THAT TRUE FEELING OF PURE LOVE FLOWING TRUTH OUR SOULS. IT IS GOOD TO SHARE, IT IS UP TO THOSE WHO USED THOSE RECIPES, STOLEN OR NOT, ORIGINAL OR NOT, TO MAKE THE BEST THEY CAN FROM A WRITEN IDEA, WETHER PASS ON OR GIVEN TO;
IT IS LOVE THAT MAKES ANY RECIPE COME TO LIVE WITH A UNIQUE TASTE THAT MAKE THOSE WHO TASTE IT ASK FOR MORE, AND THE BEST TIME OF ALL THIS IS TO MAKE THOSE WHO LOVE WHAT YOU MAKE WAIT JUST ENOUGH TO SEE THEIR FACES TELLING YOU HOW GOOD, HOW GREAT, HOW TASTEFUL, WHY YOU MADE US WAIT SO LONG KIND OF EXPRESSION. ONE LOVE DON CHRISTIAN

Hey, Shuna--

That was a beautiful essay. You said so much, so well, I just want to thank you for putting it out there.

I, too, fall into the camp of freely sharing vs. keeping everything to myself, in large part, because I believe that recipes are like love letters to the world.

We give them away to spread the joy far beyond what we ourselves can personally give to others. It is a mitzvot to share recipes--it is a pebble drop of good karma in the well of the world.

When we freely give recipes, we give a bit of ourselves away--just a bit. But, think of it--long after we are dust, it is possible that we will live through our recipes, and our words and creations can still touch others, become part of them, and bring them joy.

I find that to be intoxicating.

Though, I also must admit that even as we give our recipes away--no one will ever cook them exactly as we do, no matter how carefully we record them. It is because cooking and baking are not just chemistry, but alchemy--we put our energy, our feelings, our souls into what we cook with our hands--and that is our signature, as unmistakable as a fingerprint.

What a lyrical post. A lovely way for me to begin a rainy gray but not unpleasant day in NYC.

I love the story.
How can one steal a recipe truly? When was the last time anyone made a dish that didn't build on the work of another.

One chef told me a while back, steal with your eye's and your ears. And the best chef story was one French Chef who said you can be 27 with 5 or 6 dishes you learned in the last place, but stay a while and learn to cook and you will have experience worth a lot more in the long run.

Thanks for the great read!

Just found your site. Love it!

Thank you for reminding me what I love about cooking. My chef makes a ricotta gnocci dough with an eye ball recipe. The first time I had it, I laughed out loud in the middle of service, and kept laughing with tickets piling up. Take away the recipe and you become very intimate with what you are making. You learn something like that, and you learn more than your chef's shopping list, you learn his touch.

Hi Shuna,
I enjoyed reading this article. I operated a bakery for some years and it brought back so many memories. I like your writing style and will be bookmarking your blog. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures.
Robertbp

When someone steals a recipe they steal your soul. It is a shanda (Yiddish word)I found a text book from French Culinary on the subway with tons of recipes inside, I looked at it and mailed it to the school. It is different when you buy a cookbook but you cannot buy the passion in a Chef's soul who developed that recipe. Again, great posts and thank you

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