Thursday, December 02, 2010

Secret recipes

When I was a kid my mom made the most bestest popcorn cake. It had jujubes in it, and was simply popcorn and jujubes held together with marshmallow - like a rice crispy square only more exciting. It was her signature children's party dish. She made it for all sorts of events - bake sales, potlucks, sleepovers. She never shared the recipe. I'm pretty sure even I don't have the recipe.

Off the top of my head I can think of two secret recipes that I guard vigilantly and that I consider family secrets and potential heirloom knowledge. The truth is, they are neither.

One recipe is a slight rift on one I took from the internet a couple of years ago. It is a huge hit and a bit like crack - you think you don't want anymore but your hand keeps grabbing it and stuffing it in your mouth. The thing is, I know, KNOW, that if this recipe were to get out it would be EVERYWHERE. You'd go to parties and there it would be. It would be gifted to people at funerals and christenings. It would lose it's distinctive crack like addiction because it would
reach saturation point. And so I've only ever given the recipe to a few family members, on the express understanding that they are absolutely NOT to share it outside our blood ties.

The other recipe is taken directly from a cookbook I got out of the library years ago and that I follow meticulously every time I make it because to veer from its perfection would be a folly. It's a crowd pleaser. I make it often and every time I make it people swoon. How can something so commonplace, such a traditional dish be so delicious? So tasty and exciting?

People ask for the recipe. I have to say no. It's a secret. For two reasons. First, if I gave you the recipe, you'd make it. Then the magic of the meal that I placed before you on that magical dinner party night would be tarnished and you'd probably think less of me. It's silly. Probably a little self absorbed. But it's true. You can't tell me that by making something yourself you don't demystify it and take a bit of the magic out of it. It's not true for everything of course. But for this particular dish it is true...

The second reason is shame. If I place on the table an epic meal, of herculean proportions, taste sensations of awesomeness in something so humble, you will want to believe in it. You will want to believe in the magic of it - the alchemy of the best ingredients, lovingly prepared and carefully seasoned. There is definitely that element to it. It was made with love. It was made with the best ingredients. But it also contains a Secret Shameful Ingredient. If I told you what it was you wouldn't enjoy it as much and you'd think less of me as a cook and indeed as a person.

I can't let that happen. And so please understand why I can't share certain recipes with you. I'd be delighted to have you come over for dinner but I'll have everything in the oven before you arrive, dishes cleaned. I'll be sipping a glass of something bubbly when you walk in
the door, laughing at the delightful thing our friend just said, and you will never discover my secrets.

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