Question 348 of 365: Should we keep secret recipes?

For some an inheritance of recipes is the most tangible transfer of knowledge from one generation to another. These are the recipes that are whispered in hushed tones when others are around. They are the ones that get made every year for special occasions, the signature dishes that are given as gifts or only made for a particular event. They are the ones that are written down once and used until the piece of paper with the ingredients on it disintegrates into almost nothing in the cupboard. And they are never, never told to those outside of the family. Those outsiders can taste but never know the secret. They can covet the product, but never be in on the process.

And frankly, this process is becoming more and more ludicrous. It is the last vestige of a information scarce society. With the ability to simply call up shopping lists for creating gourmet meals, the entire aspect of keeping a good recipe secret is improbable. Still, the tradition persists. Even with 14 different versions of pudding cookies at the click of a button, the one that was given to my wife is the only one we will ever use. We make it for others, but others do no make it for themselves.

It makes me think that there is something to holding on to these tiny secrets. Like we are protecting something bigger than the small lines of code deciphered by adept cooks in the family kitchen. It is as if we are working on crafting a form of commerce that is more important than the flood of information that we can get on the internet. We are holding on to secret recipes not because information is scarce anymore but because the relationship between the two transferring parties is more important than the information being shared. The value isn’t in the recipe, but in keeping a secret. This act requires two or more willing parties and if anyone breaks the silence, all of the relational data of the secret (who got it from whom) is completely lost.

The social networks that we are a part of have mostly lost this aspect of secret keeping. They have taken the relationship and made it so it is only a connection for the purpose of sharing information. There is no secret in the act of “friending” or in “following.” The best recipes are not shared on a wall post. It isn’t that it lacks exclusivity. You can always be choosier in who you follow or friend, but that doesn’t mean that it feels safe enough to transfer the kind of value that a secret recipe commands.

That is why I think we need secret spaces. We need private spots for “need to know” information, and we need to be able to create them on the fly. We need to be able to share institutional data as a part of a relationship and not as a part of a broadcast. I am not describing email here, either. Email can be forwarded and bcc’d. It is only as closed as the long tail of quoted text can be.

Here is what I want in order to keep secret recipes:

  • I want a space that lets me create messages that actually self destruct. I want the contents to be available once and then be deleted (really deleted, not archived for later use).
  • I want to be able to share a document that can only be opened by printing it (2d or 3d). I understand how counterintuitive it is (and how the environment would suffer if this happened a lot. But, I want to be able to share something virtually that is actually a physical object and it can only be accessed as such.
  • I want a space where the membership is entirely fluid. I want everyone that is invited to renew their commitment to the relationship of everyone else in the group. I want the space to ask each member to share personal reflection and stories before gaining access to the “information” of the space, much in the way that any family gathering requires sharing before receiving.

I don’t think it should be too hard to make those things happen. Sharing secret recipes is important, if only for continuing to make sure that I get pudding cookies every year.

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