The Dirty Secret of ‘Secret Family Recipes’

If you're lucky, you have fond memories of the wonderful dishes your grandmother used to cook. If you're even luckier, she wrote out those recipes so you could make them on your own. These traditional family recipes get handed down to a generations who believe they have something special that no one else could replicate. A restaurant owner gave his grandmother's secret potato salad recipe to his chefs to recreate, and they laughed because they knew that recipe came from the label of Hellman's mayonnaise. That happens more often than you think. Atlas Obscura's food section, Gastro Obscura, asked readers to send in stories of secret family recipes.

In response to our call, 174 readers wrote in with stories of plagiarized family recipes. Hailing from New York to Nicaragua, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Baghpat, India, they prove that this is a global phenomenon. The majority of readers described devastating discoveries: They found supposedly secret recipes in the pages of famous cookbooks, and heard confessions from parents whose legendary dessert recipes came from the side of Karo Syrup bottles.

You can read some of the funnier stories at Gastro Obscura. There are some recipes you might want to try, too.

(Image credit: Paul Boston)

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I still use a Betty Crocker cookbook from the '70s, which is where a lot of our dishes originated, plus recipes given to me. But over the years, they've all been altered to accommodate my family's preferences and my laziness.
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