The problem: I attended a summer block party last week and noticed that one of my neighbors, who has been to our house several times over the years, brought a dish that I often make. She got a lot of compliments on it, but she never mentioned that it was my family recipe. How do you handle a recipe thief? 

Low road: Oh, man! How I wish I had this problem! Let’s just say that it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever steal a recipe from me, unless they’re into undercooked meat or burned meringue. You could have piped up in front of everyone that you were so glad she made YOUR recipe so well. But, c’mon. This is a summer block party. These events were created to build goodwill and neighborly bonds. 

High road: Give her the benefit of the doubt. Unless she was presenting a freekeh and kelp noodle side dish (something I have never endeavored) or she added KFC’s secret ingredient, it’s possible that she doesn’t even remember where she got the recipe. It’s also possible that you don’t even remember where you got it. If this is the case, let it go. Do what I do — eat some chocolate. If, on the other hand, she was passing off a treasured and long-held family recipe as her own, send her a polite, and personal, e-mail. Tell her that it meant a great deal to you that she’s carrying on so well the tradition of your great-grandmother, who would have been thrilled at the popularity of her dish so many decades later. 

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