Hello to everybody and happy Monday, again! For those whom are new to this site, let me introduce myself – I am Laura (Pitzer) Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective! I started this blog in September of this year to celebrate my mom’s legacy.
Mom’s 1983 cookbook’s back-cover, as found on page 316 of her last book – “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).]
She was such a tremendous trail-blazer! Mom was the first one, starting back in the early 70’s, to discover ways for making your favorite restaurant & fast food dishes, as well as many grocery products, right in the comfort of your own home and she also found a way to share those “secrets” about which many companies wanted to keep her hushed. But the funny thing is, if she had actually “discovered” their real “secret” recipes, then it was purely by accident because Mom didn’t really KNOW any of their actual recipes unless they happened to share them with her (and only a few did so.) However, she could figure out the basics of any dish and tweak it to the specific flavors of a specific maker’s dish or product in order to imitate it! As Mom would always say, “I do with recipes what Rich Little does with voices!” She was the original pioneer of the “make-alike”, “copycat”, “eating out at home” and “homemade groceries” movements.
Besides her writing, cooking and artistic talents, Mom was a very devout Christian. No matter what problems and struggles were thrown into her path, she never lost her faith and she always found something in it by which to learn and be grateful. She often wrote about it (faith) in her cookbooks and newsletters, to simply share with and inspire others. Mom thought good cookbooks should feed the mind and soul, as well as the body; and that’s how she always wrote her books and newsletters – with “Food for Thought” editorials and quips, as well as some product or company history, little-known-facts and tidbits of information, as they related to certain recipes.
Last week was my first Thanksgiving without Mom here. It was a bitter-sweet experience. I miss her so much, but I’m also at peace and happy that she is with my dad now. He passed away over three years before Mom; and they were heart-wrenching days, weeks, months and years for her to be without him. They were together for 60 years – day in and day out – especially, after Mom started her “Secret Recipes” business and Dad left his employer to manage the business end of things for Mom, while she handled the creative and promotional end. Still, in those 39 months without Dad, Mom never lost faith that they’d, someday, be together again and that it was not for her to know why, how or when – only that it will be.
I am so grateful for everything Mom has given me and taught me in my life-time with her. As the last of the Thanksgiving left-overs disappear and we gear down for the final holiday shopping push – such as on this popular and ever-growing “Cyber Monday” extravaganza – I can only hope that everyone remembers those things for which they were giving thanks just a few days ago, as they gathered around the turkey laden table with family and/or friends, and that they are not letting the commercialism of the up-coming holidays interfere with those heart-felt thoughts of gratefulness. I think that gratitude is the simplest and purest gift that you can give anyone at any time – a smile and a “thank you” can go a long way – even for those whom we’ve perceived to have done us wrong in some way, we can be grateful for the learning experiences that are derived from the struggles we faced.
“Grateful for the Struggles” –
Sometimes, just for a moment – other times, for much longer. Nonetheless, we have to deal with each struggle as it arises. We don’t analyze what’s going on. We don’t blame other people for our pain. We don’t justify our fears, today, by regretting what took place in the past. We’re dealing with our attitude right now – right where we are in the present moment. We don’t worry about what will or won’t occur in the future. We are capable of making some good decisions when we are called on to make them. Whether we did or not in the past is the past. We’re not the same person, today, we were then. We’re not even the same person we were yesterday, but we are learning lessons all of the time. Melody Beattie [The Language of Letting Go] says, “Our past is a series of lessons that advance us to higher levels of living and of loving.” – Gloria Pitzer [The Recipe Detective ™ Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 218, November 2000; page 2]
Mom was always grateful for her “readers”, “listeners” and “fans” who kept her inspired with their requests to find the “secrets” to making this dish or that grocery product at home (and at less cost.) She was also very grateful to all the media sources (newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and TV talk shows) that interviewed, wrote and talked about her imprints in the food industry, especially in the “fast food” area. She was also grateful to us, her family, for supporting and helping her in so many different ways – as office, art and promotional assistants; as well as recipe and taste testers – but also including staying out of her hair when need be.
How the Trail-Blazing Began
Mom wrote the following editorial [found on page 24 of “My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989] about her humble beginnings with recipe requests and popular fast-food make-alike dishes:
It was [in the early 70’s] while I was writing for the Pt. Huron Times Herald that I was asked to do the food page column…and found myself answering a stack of readers’ mail. The first question I came to really launched what was to become “Secret Recipes”. A reader wanted to know “how to make the sauce like ‘a place’ called McDonald’s puts on their double-decker hamburgers.”
“A place called McDonald’s” meant a drive into the city, where this place, then, only had one arch. A sample of their “secret sauce” turned out to be a very good Thousand Island dressing, not unlike what Bob’s Big Boy [later known as the Elias Brothers’ Big Boy] was already using on their double-decker. After a few taste tests at home, the family agreed that we had come pretty close to their sauce, and so I included my version of their product in my food column along with a few other tidbits. The response from readers was so gratifying that the editor was only too happy to have me continue along this path for several weeks to come. Each week, I took another famous place, similar to McDonald’s, and tried to recreate a dish at home that would come close to what the restaurant called a “secret recipe”.
I was doing just fine until the week I decided to do a cheesecake recipe – the one that “nobody doesn’t like”. Well, those wonderful people had just bought a whole page of advertising in that week’s food section, and they thought it was not only ungrateful, but down-right rude of us to run a recipe for a product that was supposed to be just like theirs. I could see their point. The editor was beside himself with worry and immediately told me to drop the column!
I thought ahead to the time when we could, as Colton once said, “flatter them with the sincerity of imitation”, but they were hardly flattered. I wanted to talk with the advertisers and try to work out something that w-o-u-l-d flatter them and their product, but the editor would not hear of it. He told me to go back to the old way of doing the food column…OR…I could pick up my check. Well, I was so sure that the recipe imitation idea would work, if not with his paper, with somebody else’s that I told him to “mail it to me!” And I went home to eventually start my o-w-n paper – what is now our “Secret Recipes Newsletter”, and as the events leading up to and beyond developed, step-by-step, the learning experiences contributed beautifully to the outcome.
This is the make-alike version of McDonald’s famous Big Mac Sauce that Mom developed for making at home, which she called “The Big Match Special Sauce”, including the introductory back-story, as seen on page 11 of her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]; as well as being on Mom’s free recipes and information sheets, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. The 8.25×11-inch, “Perfect Bound Softcover”, 322-page cookbook (also available as an eBook ) was published in January 2018 and can be purchased here: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 (ISBN: 9781504391214.)
WE CAN’T TALK ABOUT HAMBURGERS without talking about the most successful of the fast food chains – McDonald’s! It’s the only company in the fast food industry that has succeeded in cornering the market on family food and fast service restaurants – the world over! McDonald’s was the trend-setter; the hometown hospitality example in the industry. They took meat and potatoes and turned it into a billion-dollar enterprise.
Hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes were making their menu debut at “drive-in” restaurants, where car hops took your orders and returned with trays of food that hooked on to the window of your car. Kids cruised these places in their parents’ Edsel, Hudson and Kaiser-Fraser sedans back then. Hamburger “joints” were less than desirable to most people who appreciated good food and a pleasant dining-out experience. But these drive-ins had one interesting thing in common that appealed to the public – they were AFFORDABLE!
It was 1954 and Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, was 52 years old. Hardly the time in one’s life when they’d start to think about launching a new enterprise, but rather a time when most began to think about retiring! On one of his sales trips, Ray Kroc, a Dixie Cup salesman, met the owners of a thriving hamburger restaurant in California. Eventually, Kroc purchased the business from Maurice (Mac) McDonald and his brother, Richard. Mac & Dick had a fetish for cleanliness. Their place in San Bernardino was spotless! And much like Ray Kroc in his own experience years later, they weren’t too keen about teenagers. They avoided catering to the teenage market exclusively because kids loitered, were noisy and threw food around. The McDonald’s concept was for “the family!” McDonald’s wasn’t the first company to create a fast food concept; but, by far, it was the most recognized and the most profitable in the industry. While fast food has taken it on the chin for every conceivable infraction of culinary achievement that the critics could possibly contrive, McDonald’s still came out on top!
THE BIG MATCH ATTACH – This is the double-decked, at-home-hamburger recipe that promises you will shock the socks off everyone who tries your improvisation of the famous “Golden Arch’s” very own “Big Mac”.
All you need for one ‘Big Match’ is: 2 all beef patties, “Special Sauce”, lettuce, cheese, onions, pickles & 2 sesame seed buns. Sear both sides of the 2 patties in a bit of oil on a hot griddle, cooking to medium-well. Place each patty on the 2 bottom halves of the buns. To each of these, add a tablespoon of Special Sauce (see below), lettuce, cheese, onions and pickles to taste. Assemble one atop the other and add one of the bun tops to the top of that. Serve at once to anyone having a Big Match Attach!
THE BIG MATCH SPECIAL SAUCE
1 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
1/3 cup creamy French dressing
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry, minced onions
In a small mixing bowl, stir all ingredients together with a spoon, as listed. Makes 2-cups sauce. Keeps up to a week or so if refrigerated & well-covered. Do not freeze this.
The version pictured below is from Mom’s “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.