Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Eat Better and Together

Happy Monday! And happy Autumn too! The days are getting shorter and colder, while the leaves of the trees are getting more colorful each day! Unfortunately, the painter’s palette of nature doesn’t last for long and, soon, all the colors will be gone, blowing in the wind!

#EatBetterEatTogetherMonth

At the end of my last blog entry, I mentioned that, among NationalDayCalendar.com’s month-long celebrations listed for October, it’s “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”! A lot of people say that eating together as a family creates stronger family bonds. In his article, “The Family Meal”, Dr. Christopher Peterson brings up a good point when he says, “What I gain from my meals with others goes way beyond convenience. These meals with others are filling but moreover fulfilling. They make me feel part of a larger group.” [Posted March 20, 2012; PsychologyToday.com]

Personally, between me and my siblings, I’ve found the opposite to be true. We ate dinner together every night, while we lived with our parents. Yet, we hardly talk to each other anymore, since Mom and Dad are both gone now; and some of us don’t get along at all. On the other hand, my own children are closer than my siblings and I; but, they only had family-sit-down-together-meals for about half of their childhoods. Then we were always on the run, doing sports activities; or I was working an afternoon shift somewhere.

However, my kids and I did spend a great quantity of quality time together – just not very often around the dinner table (except for holidays and birthdays). Aside from the eating-together thing, whether you’re cooking for just yourself or for two people or for a whole brood – if you’re the one who plans the menu, then you’re the one who makes the healthy/unhealthy food choices for everyone you’re feeding. It’s a great idea to celebrate eating right and having solid, old-fashioned, close-knit, family meals. But, is there really any merit that eating together creates better eating habits and tighter family bonds?

In the back, left to right, is Cheryl, Debbie, me & our dad…In front, left to right, is Lady (under the table), Bill and Mike. Pitzer family photographed by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973

As I said, when I was growing up, Mom always prepared a sit-down, family-style dinner with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table. We all sat together, as a family (like in the picture of us, above). We talked about our days, as we each took a serving from a dish in front of us; passing that dish to the next person while grabbing another dish from the person on the other side of us. However, we would also elbow each other or kick one another under the table, as siblings would do, whenever Mom and Dad weren’t looking our way. For the most part, I think we only got along for Mom and Dad’s sake anyway.

In addition, Mom CHOSE to make well-rounded meals that covered all the food basics, including dessert! That’s what she was taught by her mom and that’s what she taught me to do as well. But, there was no Brady Bunch or Walton’s Mountain type of bonding at our table! We ate together because that’s when the meal was served. It wasn’t a restaurant that you could drop in on at any time and order whatever you like… You ate what was made and when it was served or went hungry until the next meal.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Of course, with the Recipe DetectiveTM as our mom, we happened to taste-test a lot of fast food and junk food imitations over the years – some things may have seemed like bad/unhealthy choices in food to an outsider – such as fried chicken (like KFC’s). However, Mom’s imitation of the famous fast food dish was baked instead of deep-fried, which is healthier.

As I wrote about in a couple of my other blog entries, “Eating Out at Home” (4/8/19) and “Food for Thought” (5/20/19), Mom knew how to take the “junk out of junk food” and did so in her famous imitations. It’s very true that what you put into cooking is what you get out of it – literally and figuratively! Everything in moderation is a great rule by which to live; but, it’s sometimes easier said than done!

A city that has, for decades, been world-famous for their sit-down, family-style meals is Frankenmuth, Michigan – not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI (from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio.) Tourists flock to this little town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get the world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.

Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn operate the two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners, with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table, from which the family will serve themselves and which the servers will refill for you as needed. Just a hint – reservations will get you in quickly, rather than waiting in line. The town’s German heritage exudes from its restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!

Mom and Dad always loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do me and my husband. It’s a great day trip to experience all the German culture that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the years, Mom came up with many imitations of some the famous dishes from the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

The German community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, which for decades has celebrated the art of fried chicken, served family-style; has had thousands of customers lined up every weekend and holiday, waiting to be seated in one of their 2 largest restaurants [Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn]. Their fried chicken is like ‘Grandma used to make’ – richly flavored, moist inside and never greasy. The family-style dinner provides the table with large bowls of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, moist and spicy dressing (called ‘stuffing’ in other parts of the country), a fresh-from-scratch cranberry-orange relish, hot breads and beverages. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 94 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

A MEAL BY ANY OTHER NAME

FAST FOOD RECIPES were not published in the best-sellers – and these were the restaurants where families were apt to frequent if they wanted a meal that was affordable! Paul and I could take all 5 of the children to Capri’s, an Italian restaurant down the road from us in Pearl Beach, and we could feed the whole family for less than $10, providing we ordered the large pizza with only pepperoni and cheese on it and one soft drink for each of us. It was not for substance that we ate out. It was for entertainment.

We could take the kids to McDonald’s and it did the same thing for us that going to the movies did for our parents. It was an affordable pleasure. It was a diversion from meatloaf and pot roast and peas and carrots. It was a treat. We looked forward to it. We felt good about the experience and even better after it was over. It carried us through a long week of paying the utilities, insurance, house payments and car payments and grocery expenses.

When we had to have our 10-year-old station wagon repaired, we had to skip eating out that week. If one of us had to see the dentist, it might be 2 or 3 weeks before we could afford to eat out again. We made do with what we had. We could make the most of what we had. In the 50s and 60s and early 70s, this is the way parents raised their families, budgeted their earnings and allowed for their pleasures.

Things changed, as well they should. Women went out to work. If they weren’t working to supplement the family income, they went to work for their own satisfaction. Whatever the reasons, families changed. Eating at home became less and less appealing – and less and less convenient. Homes were built with smaller kitchens and bigger bathrooms. Microwave ovens were more affordable – and defrost and heat became more popular. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 295 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

#TacklingHungerMonth

Along with October being national “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”, it’s also “Tackling Hunger Month”. In connection with those two month-long celebrations, the 2nd week of October is observed as “National Food Bank Week”. Thus, I want to make a local shout out, here, to one of the Detroit area’s food banks, Gleaners!

#NationalFoodBankWeek

I hear about this group all the time on our local news. They do such great things in so many communities! The other day, I heard about their wonderful program, “Cooking Matters”; which is “a groundbreaking nutrition-education program that connects low-income individuals and families with food by teaching them how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget.” By the way, “National Food Day” is coming up next week, on the 24th!

#NationalFoodDay

Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis. Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts! More on those next week…

IN CLOSING…

#NationalDessertDay #NationalDessertMonth #BakeAndDecorateMonth #ChocolateCupcakeDay #NationalSweetestDay

After writing about eating better, I’m compelled to mention that today happens to be National Dessert Day, which “includes candies, pies, ice cream, fruits, cookies, pastries, cobblers, and donuts…” according to NationalDayCalendar.com. That celebration coincides with two other October national celebrations – National Dessert Month & National Bake and Decorate Month – just in time for National Chocolate Cupcake Day, which is coming up on Friday, the 18th; and National Sweetest Day, which is coming up on Saturday, the 19th.

In honor of all that sweetness, here are a couple of Mom’s free dessert recipes that I’ve posted before AND a new one for her sugar-free pumpkin pie recipe, which she gave away in her Jan.-Feb. 1988 promotions!

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Fall into Cleaning

Happy Monday to everyone! It’s October and the final quarter of 2019 has begun its countdown.

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog entry called “Spring into Cleaning” [March 25, 2019]. Well, now, it’s time to discuss the seasonal cleaning events that a lot of us face in the fall… at least, in Michigan and the rest of the northeast region. Before all the autumn leaves’ colors peak and disappear with the summer’s warm temperatures and the windows get closed up for the coming winter months, which seem to last almost half the year, around here; it’s time to start attacking that fall cleaning list, assuming you have one! If not, to inspire you, HouseholdManagement101.com has a great, printable “Fall Cleaning List” that covers all the basics – you can find it at https://www.household-management-101.com/fall-cleaning.html!

In “Spring into Cleaning”, I mentioned that cleaning was not Mom’s forte – even though she called herself the “Happy Homemaker” – Mom hated cleaning! Well, let’s say she “clearly disliked” it. I’m not saying she didn’t clean; but, that never meant she had to like it! Not everyone gets a joy out of cleaning any more than they have to – that doesn’t mean they don’t do it, but they probably tend to procrastinate doing it, giving it a lower priority than most other things.

Mom used to keep a sign on her desk for many, many years that said: “Please don’t straighten the mess on my desk! You’ll goof up my system.” She often joked that it was her birth sign! Dad was the organizer between the two of them. I probably inherited my organizing gene (if there is such a thing) from my Dad.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (by Gloria Pitzer; Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 119)

In my kitchen, where all of these famous recipes are developed and tested and prepared for publishing, I have one insignificant problem. The Good Hands People are about to declare my kitchen an accident going someplace to happen. My sense of organization is not what Helouise would enthusiastically endorse. So, even when my cup runneth over and over and over, I can’t always find my mop!

It is with appreciation, in spite of my lack of organization, that Mary Ellen Pinkham, the famous household hints author, took an interest in our recipes just recently. I really should get together with Mary Ellen and learn exactly how to become better organized; but, somehow, time keeps getting away from me.

No offense to Mary Ellen, may she rest in peace; but, I don’t think she could’ve taught Mom how to be organized any more than Dad, whenever he tried to do so. Mom had her own organization system that only she understood, and it worked for her. She used to tell me, “it’s MY pile, and I know where everything is in MY pile – so, don’t touch it!”

Another great article I found about fall cleaning and de-cluttering is by Dr. Sally Augustin, Ph.D.; titled, “Fall Cleaning As Important As Spring Cleaning” and subtitled, “De-clutter your home before your winter hibernation.” [Posted Oct 09, 2013 at PsychologyToday.com], I like the way the doctor says that… “We continually accumulate stuff and dealing with it is part of Fall cleaning.” I excitedly told my husband, “See – I’m not the only one who accumulates stuff!”

Every year, around this time, I play the TetrisTM shuffle game in my basement. It’s a game to unbury my fall and Halloween décor that got buried behind my Christmas décor, which got buried behind some summer camping gear and all of the garage sale stuff I picked up for a bargain over the summer – thinking I might use it someday!

My OCD personality is yelling at me to “GET ORGANIZED!” I really need to make the time in my busy schedule to get my basement cleaned out and organized – I don’t think I can afford to pay someone else to come in and do it for me, as HouseholdManagement101.com suggested in their article (mentioned above). Besides which, organizing is actually one of my favorite “hobbies” – I just need more time in my days or weeks to do it.

Years ago, I was inspired by a cable show I used to watch that dealt with purging peoples’ accumulated stuff and dividing it into categories of “keep, donate, sell and throw away” and dealing with the psychology behind our attachments to stuff and why we hold on to and accumulate more stuff. Unfortunately, my “sometimers” is preventing me from remembering the name of the show, let alone the show’s hosts, whom I can picture in my mind – but, that doesn’t help me do a Bing or Google search for them. I tried different search terms, because I know I’d recognize the name of the show if I saw it; but, I wasn’t successful.

My accumulation of stuff in the basement sometimes tends to get out of hand because it’s a catch-all space that, generally, I only see about once a week, as I pass through to do the laundry. I usually spend a little time organizing while the washer slowly fills up with water; but, then, I go back upstairs to do the other things I was doing before I went into the basement in the first place. It’s like the old adage: “out of sight, out of mind”. I’ve also found, through experience, that there is some merit to the old wives’ tale about walking through a doorway and forgetting things.

Now that it’s fall cleaning season, and after reading Dr. Sally’s article, I’ve decided that I really need to purge my basement even more, as it is becoming an accumulation of stress on my OCD personality. The sooner I get to it, the better; so, I can have a yard sale before the days get too cold to do so. I posted another blog entry on August 12th, “How to Have a Yard Sale in One Easy Breakdown”, about having one; but, then, my “paying job” increased its hours – so that plan was put on a back burner for the time being. See below for one of Mom’s stories from that blog entry.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

HAVE A GARAGE SALE IN ONE EASY BREAKDOWN!

By Gloria Pitzer – Recipe DetectiveTM

As seen in…

No Laughing Matter, syndicated columns by Gloria Pitzer, published in the 1970s and 1980s; in the Port Huron, MI “Times Herald”

Until you’ve had a garage sale, you just don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve just had one and I know! I’m missing three garbage cans, my husband’s workbench, a swing set, four lawn chairs and our station wagon. Actually, those items weren’t for sale, but you can’t refuse a good price when it’s offered to you.

All I really wanted to sell was a few odds-and-ends like 7 dozen Ruby Bee Jelly glasses, a coke bottle mosaic of my mother-in-law, a transistor radio guaranteed to crack plaster when operated by a teenager, an illustrated guide book to Disneyland and my husband’s bowling ball.

Of course, if the truth were known, I just had to do something about the closets before we were cited for contempt by the Pollution Control Commission. The kids were cleaning out their rooms and dragging out microscopes that had only examined curdled milk. There was an electric train with which only their father had played, a guitar that never played a tune (but made a neat tennis racket), socks that scratched and even their old report cards. But, I drew the line when it came to selling their toothbrushes and underwear. I mean, a person has to be reasonable about these things!

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

I had heard that garage sales were successful, but I didn’t believe it until I saw 23 cars double-parked in our drainage ditch, a pick-up truck on the back porch and a dune buggy in the furnace room! It takes a garage sale to prove that a woman will buy anything, if she thinks it’s on sale.

After all, what can one do with a dead philodendron plant – a plastic one, yet? I also learned that there’s no exercise so efficacious for the upper arms as standing in the midst of a group of mad women and trying to keep them from taking the rafters apart while trying to get at our storm windows (which I’ll have you know were NOT for sale); but, little did they care.

One woman offered me a dollar for the dress I was wearing, and I had to run half a block to catch up with the lady who gave my son 50 cents for the sheets on the clothes lines. Did she care it was my laundry and I had to make the beds before the day was over – and where would I be without those sheets?

The Pitzer Kids – Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

I finally had to administer first aid to the two girls who fought so bitterly over which of them was going to drag off to their car a plaid CPO jacket and a pair of blue worsted men’s slacks! Mind you. I wouldn’t have cared under any other circumstances, but my husband was still in them AND he didn’t want to go with either of them. He wanted to stay home and watch the ball game on TV!

By 6pm, they had bought everything that wasn’t breathing, barking or encased in concrete. As I sat at the kitchen table, counting up the profits of the day, my husband came staggering in, bruised and breathless. ‘You know that guy with the flat-bed truck, who’s been hanging around all day?’ [He asked.] ‘Well, he just gave me $50 and drove off with our garage!’

It all goes to prove, if I had put a price on those kids of ours, I might have sold them – but, who could afford to feed them once they got them home?

Okay – time to put that simmering pot of organizing the basement back on a front burner and take care of it. I really need to purge and de-clutter my basement. I collect a lot of things for my many hobbies that I never have time to do…glass etching/engraving, wood burning, repurposing old lamps and glassware into garden art, making vine and pine cone wreaths, etc..

I like to repurpose, reuse and recycle things as much as possible. In doing so, I find it hard to get rid of anything broken, because I can usually “see” an artful use for its parts. Besides which, I also hate to contribute to our ever growing waste problems. However, I will work on my recycle or re-sell plans and get it done!

IN CLOSING…

#EatBetterEatTogether

October is also, among other things, “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”; which, as NationalDayCalendar.com’s website describes, “…encourages families to gather for mealtimes. When families enjoy their main meals together they tend to be more balanced food choices. Also, what better way to spend time together and share each other’s daily adventures?”

#NationalChiliWeek & #NationalChiliMonth

In addition, the 1st week of October honors National Chili Week – which coincides with another month-long October celebration for National Chili Month – here is Mom’s imitation of the “world famous”, Johnnie Lega’s Chili – not one of her free recipes, but can be found in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 56) along with Julia Lega’s authentic recipe for “The Reuben” (on page 187)!

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253