Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Imitation

Hi, Everyone! Happy Monday! I’m Laura Emerich and this is my blog about memories of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, and her legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective. She liked to refer to herself as the “Rich Little” of the Food Industry because she could imitate their famous food products, at home in her own kitchen, like Rich Little could imitate the voices of famous people.. She never knew what they actually used in their own “secret” recipes, but she knew she could come up with a make-alike version based on what she could taste, smell and see. A few times, at the request of her readers and radio listeners, without actually trying the product, itself; Mom could come up with an imitation simply based only on their descriptions.

To imitate is to clone, copy, impersonate, mimic, replicate, reproduce, counterfeit, duplicate, fake, forge, match, mock, parallel, resemble, simulate, echo, mirror, parrot, pattern or represent something or someone. Imitation – according to Merriam-Webster – is something produced as a copy; resembling something else that is usually genuine and of better quality [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imitation]. It’s quite ironic that so many others over the years, since Mom originated the Secret Recipes (T.M.) business, have imitated her, the original imitator. But not all of them have given her the appropriate credit due to her. Kudos to those who have given her the proper credit, though!

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – C. C. Colton

Most everyone has heard, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”; one of Charles Caleb Colton‘s most famous quotes. Dictionary.com says, “to imitate someone is to pay the person a genuine compliment — often an unintended compliment.” You will, likewise, find at Wikipedia.org that imitation is also a form of social learning that leads to the development of traditions.

I really liked that last reference…”that leads to the development of traditions.” Who doesn’t have some old, family tradition that they follow, just as their parents and grandparents and previous generations did? Who hasn’t made new family traditions for coming generations to copy and embrace? Just think about it, at some point, all of those old traditions were, once, new traditions that were so enjoyed they were, thus, passed on to future generations and continue to be so. Cultures are built on traditions. One of my all-time favorite musicals is “Fiddler on the Roof”, which is chucked full of traditions and the struggles of keeping them or amending them to the ever-changing times – including a song about it!

When it came to imitations, it wasn’t very often that Mom received any praise from a major company for her make-alike versions of their famous products. She was often threatened with lawsuits. But, like I said previously, she really didn’t know what they actually used in their recipes, nor did she want to. She loved the mystery and sleuthing involved in solving it, just like a good Sherlock Holmes novel. She often changed the name to a “sound-alike” title for her make-alike versions – she would always jokingly say, “to protect the innocent!”

However, she was well received, even complimented, by some companies and their owners, such as Sanders Chocolates, Wally Amos of Famous Amos Cookies, Harland Sanders (the original owner of KFC) and White Castle; just to name a few. They found her imitations of their products flattering. In fact, I recently came across an old letter among some of Mom’s things that I got after her passing. The letter was from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle (Columbus, Ohio) to Mom – and I remembered writing about it when I helped Mom with the rewriting of her favorite “Better Cookery Cookbook”. Gail Turley was very flattered with Mom’s imitation and dually impressed with Mom’s clever use of baby food to enhance the flavor of the beef. She even bought 15 copies of Mom’s cookbook (which contained the White Castle Hamburger knockoff) to share with some of her colleagues.

Mom’s make-alike version of White Castle hamburgers, also called “Sliders” because they’re so easy to eat (of which Mom called her version “White Tassel Burgers”), was one of the recipes she offered on her “free information” sheets. The White Castle picture with Mom’s original editorial on the company, along with other information and her make-alike recipe (all below), can be found on pages 12-13 of Mom’s 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 her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

WHITE CASTLE – In 1916, Walter Anderson started his career in the restaurant field by opening a rented, re-modeled streetcar and giving the food industry its very first “fast food” place. In 1921, he ran into some difficulties when he tried to lease another place to expand his operation. So, he turned to a Realtor by the name of Billy Ingram, who secured the needed lease for Anderson, and soon became partners with him in the hamburger restaurant. Eventually, the operation became entirely Billy Ingram’s, and today White Castle is a respected name that represents “quality” in the food industry.

Originating in Wichita, Kansas during “The Depression”, Ingram so-named his operation “White Castle” because it stood for purity, cleanliness, strength and dignity. He was a business man with high ethics. He was responsible for many changes in the business that initiated health inspections, to ensure that all restaurants complied with what Ingram personally felt was a responsibility to the customer. He invented utensils never used, such as the spatula and the grills that are still considered the most practical equipment.

White Castle has no special, secret recipe – but, the technique used to prepare their small hamburger is unique and unequaled by competitors. You must like onions to appreciate White Castle patties. The quality of the beef they specifically use that we couldn’t possibly equal it with what we buy in the supermarkets; so, I set to work to try to enhance the ordinary “ground chuck” available to us with a few ingredients that create a recipe reminiscent of Ingram’s “White Castles.”

A letter of appreciation from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle Systems in their Columbus, Ohio headquarters reflected the feelings not often expressed by the major food companies, whose products I attempt to imitate with “make at home” recipes. “On behalf of White Castle System,” the letter said, “We are honored that you deemed the White Castle Hamburger worthy of an attempt at replication of the early days of White Castle and Billy Ingram…” And she enclosed a check to cover the cost of purchasing 15 copies of my first Secret Recipes Book to distribute to their Regional Managers. A far cry from the reaction I received from Orange Julius and Stouffer’s, who threatened legal action against me.

WHITE TASSLE BURGERS

Supposedly, the original beef mixture used in the famous White Castle patties during the early 30’s was of such high quality that there was no way to equal it [50 years later.] Today we send beef to the market much younger, before it has aged. Young beef has less fat, which Americans want. The marbleizing fat in older beef is what gives it flavor. To compensate for this, it seemed to me, ground beef’s flavor could be enhanced by adding another pure beef product – strained baby food. It worked!

  • 3-ounce jar baby food, strained veal
  • 1 ½ pounds ground round steak
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into 12 rectangular, thin patties. Fry briskly on a hot, lightly oiled flat grill, making 5-6 small holes in each patty with the end of a spatula handle. After turning patties once, place bottom half of bun over cooked side of patty and place the top half of the bun over the bottom half. Fry quickly to desired “done-ness” and remove. Add pickle slices and a few tablespoons of chopped, grilled onions to each serving. Makes 1 dozen burgers.

This is a picture of Mom’s updated version from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000) – again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Recording Memories

Hi, again, everyone! First of all, happy Chanukah/Hanukkah to all of those celebrating this wonderful 8-day, traditional Jewish “festival of lights”! Whether you say “Shalom” or “Noel” – both words mean “Peace”. It is the season of love, hope and understanding! We are all different, yet so alike, and that’s okay. Cheerish it! Embrace it! Own it! Celebrate it! “Let there be peace on Earth…” and let it begin with each and every one of us!

“Every year at this time, we put our very best wishes together with some warm & worthy thoughts, and send them off to you, wrapped in sincere affection and the dearest hopes that this coming year gives you all you expect and derive from it.” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes [TM] Quarterly, Winter 94/95.

As I make out this year’s Christmas cards from my husband and I to all of our friends and family, I can’t help but reminisce over the past year. Last Christmas was a rough one, as Mom’s health seemed to deteriorate in December. I didn’t do the yearly card tradition for my husband and I; as, instead, I helped Mom to write and send out her own Christmas cards – not knowing it was for the last time. It was such a rollercoaster ride that month and the next, as she seemed to get better and worse and better again (which, I understand, is usually what happens at “the end”) until she passed away peacefully on January 21st, of this year, lovingly surrounded by family and care-givers and friends.

One “hidden blessing” in Dementia is the ability to recall old memories with clarity, like they happened recently. Mom often reminisced with me and my kids and grandson on our visits with her, about stories of some of our relatives, whom were long gone, from her chilhood memories. She couldn’t understand how she could remember such things, like they happened yesterday, but couldn’t remember who she actually saw or spoke to that previous day. It was also very hard for her to look in the mirror, as she didn’t really recognize the face staring back at her because her mind was often in the past, including how she looked then and not currently. As discussed in Scrapbook Photo Albums are Therapeutic for Alzheimer’s Patients by Mark B. Mizen, Ph.D., Director of Technology at Creative Memories; Saint Cloud, MN, photographs and scrapbooks and journals are such important “tools” for those who suffer from Dimentia and Alzheimer, as well as for their families, friends and care-takers.

If only hindsight was forsight! I wish now, that I had written more of her stories down or, better yet, recorded the conversations. We always tend to think there’s time for that later…but then, in the blink of an eye, that time is gone. Over 26 years ago, Mom wrote in one of her newsletters about her and my dad’s plans for a Christmas present to me and my siblings, of a cassette recording of the two of them talking about their life together and their most dearly remembered and cherished moments; plus, memories of their grandparents, whom we (my siblings and I) never got the chance to know; as well as other stories about the family that we could pass on to future generations. I so wish they had followed through with that gift. It would’ve been priceless to me and my own children, as well as to my grandson.

I’ve always loved Mom’s artistic way with words. Her love for writing and journaling helped her, somewhat, to deal with the Dimentia from which she suffered after a double stroke and “grand mal seizure” in 2015. The writing was as much a form of therapy for her as it was just a natural reflex. Mom penned her feelings and memories in journals for most of her life. My younger sister has all the journals that still exist. Some were lost or destroyed over the years. But, Mom also recorded some of her feelings and memories in every one of her publications too. I really do enjoy re-reading all of her “Food for Thought” memories that are in her old books and newsletters of which I still have copies. A lot of what she wrote about was regarding finding the blessings in any given moment – good and bad, alike – for that was how she was raised. Being grateful everyday for what she confronted and overcame was a big part of Mom’s journaling.

In later years, Mom was largely influenced in this effect by Maya Angelou, who told of her experience with “the yellow pad” in an interview with David Holstrom of “The Christian Science Monitor” (1993) – Maya said she went to her voice teacher in mental turmoil over having to leave her child in Europe when she returned to the States. Frightened for her sanity, she told her teacher that she thought she was going mad. He gave her a yellow pad and told her to write down her blessings. She said she didn’t even want to hear that, but he insisted that she start with the fact that she could hear him, that she could see the page, that she could hold the pen. “Before I reached the end of the page,” she [Maya] said, “I was transformed. So, everything I have written, every book, every stage play, every screenplay, was written on a yellow pad. As soon as I pick it up, I am reminded of my blessings.”

“The celebration of the moments worth remembering continues to have its place. ” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes [TM] Quarterly, Wnter 94/95.

As with my prervious blogs, I’d like to end by sharing one of Mom’s recipes with you that appeared on her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. This picture contains a copy of Mom’s 1985 make-alike version of California’s famous See’s Candy fudge (an easy, favorite treat she liked to make at Christmas time):

This recipe, unlike most of the others I’ve shared here, does not appear in 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)], an 8.25×11-inch, “Perfect Bound Softcover”, 322-page cookbook (also available as an eBook) published in January 2018 and available for purchase (ISBN: 9781504391214.) However, you will find, in this book, Mom’s make-alike recipes for Niagara Falls Fudge as offered at the Maple Leaf Village in Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada); as well as her “Somewhere In Time Chocolate Fudge”, like “Murdick’s Fudge”, Mackinaw Island, MI referenced in a scene in the movie, after which she named her version.