Food & Drink

Readers cook up a debate over recipe sharing

Becky Ogburn bakes Eggnog Rum Cakes in her Raleigh home Monday morning, Nov. 30, 2015. Ogburn uses her mother’s recipe to make more than 50 cakes for the holidays.
Becky Ogburn bakes Eggnog Rum Cakes in her Raleigh home Monday morning, Nov. 30, 2015. Ogburn uses her mother’s recipe to make more than 50 cakes for the holidays. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Want to anger a bunch of home cooks? Refuse to give them a recipe.

On Sunday, we published a special holiday baking section. One of the stories was an essay by Raleigh resident Becky Ogburn about her mother’s Eggnog Rum Cake. Ogburn bakes more than 50 of these cakes to give away during the holiday season. Ogburn refuses to give out the recipe so we did not publish one.

And boy, did we hear about it from readers.

In my opinion anyone who is too much of a Grinch to share a recipe doesn’t deserve to be the subject of a long Sunday feature story.

A Raleigh reader wrote on Facebook

One person on Facebook wrote: “In my opinion anyone who is too much of a Grinch to share a recipe doesn’t deserve to be the subject of a long Sunday feature story.”

Another reader wrote in an email: “I have basically found there are two types of cooks – those who share recipes and those who do not. I’m sorry Ms. Ogburn is in the latter category. I am sorry the N&O published a 3/4 page spread about her wonderful eggnog rum cake and had it end that she does not share the recipe. Frankly, I have no interest in reading such articles.”

I understand the consternation. Most people so freely give out their recipes that it sticks in our craw when the request is declined. Our reaction: “Who do they think they are? Martha Stewart? Her cake wasn’t that good.”

I get it, but I obviously didn’t think a lack of a recipe should stop us from publishing Ogburn’s essay. I thought it was a lovely tribute to her mother, Nancy Dillner, who modified the recipe from one she found in a magazine years ago. I thought Ogburn offered a funny account of the lengths she goes to as a home baker during the holidays.

Since it is Dillner’s recipe, it is hers to give or refuse to share.

This is why Ogburn says her mother will not: Years ago, Ogburn’s mother gave the recipe to one friend who requested it. That woman began baking it as her special gift to hand out to friends during the holidays – to some of the same people that Ogburn’s mother would give the cake.

“It took away some of the fun. It was no longer special,” Ogburn recalls her mother saying.

There you have it: one party pooper ruined it for all of you.

If you are still upset, I have one word of advice: Google.

There are lots of Eggnog Rum Cake recipes out there. You can modify it and make it your own as Ogburn’s mother did. You can share the recipe or not. Even if you don’t share the recipe, I’d still be willing to run a story about you.

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