Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Bring on the Holidays!

Happy Monday, everyone; and happy November, too! Thank you for visiting and…

The fall/winter holidays are upon us now. For many, the countdown to “the holidays” began with the onset of the autumn solstice. Now that Halloween has passed us by, it’s only 24 more days until Thanksgiving! About four weeks after that, is the start of our winter solstice, Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah or Chanukkah), Christmas and Kwanza celebrations – all within a few days of each other.

Not only that, but in the week following those events, the 2020 new year’s festivities begin. Blink your eyes again and suddenly the Super Bowl festivities will be here, followed by Valentine’s Day a couple of weeks later and, then, St. Patrick’s Day a few more weeks after that – and all before the spring solstice arrives in March!

Nonetheless, all of those many fall/winter holidays that are still to come will, seemingly, be here and gone before you know it – so, start preparing now by making checklists and you won’t forget or miss anything. Even Santa makes lists (and checks them twice) to stay organized during the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays. In addition, you’ll also be better able to enjoy the holidays and the gatherings, yourself. After all, who wants to feel stressed out and/or left out during the holidays, while trying to “get it all done” at the last minute?

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

ADVICE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 4)

THANKSGIVING

The make-ahead dishes for the thanksgiving dinner will help to relieve the cook of those last-minute chores and this leaves more time to enjoy the company. After all, the reason we gather together on this occasion is not to make the food more important than those with whom we share the feast.

A list of what you intend to serve is the first thing to take care of. From this you make up the grocery needs and the dishes that can be prepared…in advance…and then checked off the list so [you] can see [of] what is left to take care. It sounds to some like ‘work’ but cooking for a big group is not as much WORK as it can be a LABOR of love and the efforts you put into the party will be well-appreciated when the day arrives. These occasions are what memories are made of and memories can be quite comforting!

Mom made creative cooking a new art form when she pioneered the copycat cookery movement over 45 years ago. Before Mom began writing and publishing her own newsletters and cookbooks, she wrote many satirical stories in her syndicated food columns about not being a good cook when she and Dad were first married.

I only knew Mom as a great cook, myself; so I don’t know how much was fabricated for humor’s sake and how much was based on truth. But, like any craftsman, Mom was always fine-tuning her kitchen skills with all of her experiences over the decades.

For every holiday gathering she hosted or to which she took a dish-to-pass – even with only a few ingredients on hand – Mom was a combination of Copperfield and DaVinci (creating, both, magic and art) in the kitchen! There’s a great article called “Cooking Is An Art: What Makes A Chef An Artist, Craftsman And Visionary” by Colt Taylor (Jul 3, 2014) that I enjoyed reading. Check it out at https://www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/chef-artist-craftsman-visionary/632690!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1987)

MADE WITH LOVE

When you cook with skill, you need experience and knowledge – plus, courage to risk various combinations of ingredients of what you might only suspect will be compatible enough to produce a harmonious result. The divine principle of good cooking is not a secret! It is taking pleasure in the activity, in the information previously retained and called upon through the facilities of memory. The spirit of good cooking is individualistic. It is not shrouded in mystery – but in love, for what you are doing and for whom you are doing it! (p. 1)

SOMETHING MORE

No two cooks are ever going to have identical results with the same recipe. If such a promise accompanied all recipes, cooking would be an exact science – which it is not. Cooking is an art BASED on science. A recipe is a guideline, not a litigation! Just as you can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks, neither can you tell how difficult a dish is by looking at the recipe! (p. 2)

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

FAMOUS DISHES AREN’T REALLY ALL THAT DIFFICULT TO DUPLICATE

The first thing you have to do is stop thinking of yourself as a COOK and start thinking as a CHEMIST! You want to take a substance and try to discover its individual components – whereas, most cooks make the mistake of starting with one ingredient and building around it.

Your task is to take the final result and break it down… working backwards from the creations of the skilled cook, who usually stirs up a piece of culinary artistry with just a ‘pinch’ of this and a ‘dollop’ of that and a ‘dash’ of something else.

Start with questioning yourself about the food you wish to duplicate… What color is it? What’s the texture like? How is it flavored? And, how is it prepared? [Also,] you must have something to which you can compare it – a basic recipe from which you can draw the ingredients that lay the groundwork for a duplicated masterpiece. [At that point,] the only way to duplicate a dish is, really, to taste and test – over and over, until you eventually achieve what you feel are satisfactory results. (p. 6)

Photo by Susan L. Tusa for an article about Mom in People Magazine (May 7, 1990; p. 81)

Mom inspired many reluctant cooks with her reliable recipes. Having the Secret RecipesTM detective as my mom certainly made my learning experiences in the kitchen, experimenting with food and seasonings, exciting and rewarding!

I rarely ever cook the same dish the same way, twice because I love to try out different food and seasoning combinations. Especially now, with my low-carb life-style. I’m so delighted and proud to have learned the art of cooking from one of the best – I love you, Mom!

I am often hearing wonderful memories from others who’ve shared the same fantastic learning experiences, with their own moms, through my mom’s cookbooks and newsletters. I love to hear how much Mom touched the lives of others and created special memories on which they can reminisce and recreate for future generations to experience – almost like traditions!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977)

COOKING IS BOTH, ART & SCIENCE

Cooking is not only an art, but also a science; and, when you’re trying to imitate the recipe secrets of famous restaurant and fast food chain dishes, you must work like a chemist – not a cook! You don’t have to have a background in food chemistry to identify various ingredients. The only thing I have in common with a chemist is curiosity…

Some of the famous dishes of the food industry, today [1976-1977], are vastly oversold to a very gullible public. We’ve become a television oriented society and, because the commercials are, sometimes, so much better than the programs they sponsor…

While the products don’t really come out of test tubes and laboratory beakers, they do come from combinations of ingredients that produce desired results. What you have to strive for, in imitating any recipe, is the right combination. Trial and error is the only way to arrive at a satisfactory result! (p. 1)

AN ENCOR OF PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 1)

WHOLESOME, HEALTHY, HEARTY MEALS…

[Those] pretty well describe the heart and soul of good home cooking! We’re reminded of warm, roomy kitchens full of wonderful mingling aromas – where our mothers and grandmothers made marvelous meals from scratch [and] when cooking was not as much a job as it was a joy! What we seem to have forgotten is that the art of good basic cooking practices has not been lost because we have less time.

The art has been lost because the interest in it has dwindled. We still have the same number of hours in our day that Grandma had in hers. We even have less manual labor to perform than she did in her day, but we don’t always think so. Making the time is what it really takes when reluctance sets in. However, when the chips are down, the reluctant cook wants reliable recipes to work with – not masterpieces…

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home Cookbook (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 1)

A PHILOSOPHY

A whole approach to life, can be expressed in a bowl of soup. For ‘cooking’, as everyone is so fond of saying, ‘is an art.’ It’s an art we all can learn. As with the other arts, practicing it competently requires care, patience and the skill that comes with experience. But, above all else, to be a good cook, you must WANT to.

At one time or another, most of us have had the experience of cooking when we really didn’t feel like doing it, Then, even our tried-and-true recipes are apt to be disappointing [and] lifeless. Something just isn’t there.

What’s missing is the spirit of the cook. For food is more than a physical substance. It has an intangible quality that nourishes our spirits. A good dish, lovingly prepared, at some point in the process of tasting and blending, becomes more than the sum of its ingredients. Its flavor [and] its uniqueness are created by the cook.

YOU WILL FIND PLEASURE AND EXCITEMENT IN COOKING, IF YOU PUT THEM INTO IT…

There’s no limit to the satisfaction you can gain. Taste as you go. Experiment with a little with seasonings. Try new foods and new combinations [of food]. The results will have ‘you’ in them. You will face the job with a feeling of freedom, with a feeling of creativeness; and, both, you and your family will be constantly increasing the enjoyment of living.

When you cook this way, with warmth and active pleasure, your meals will be more than just food. Your zest and your spirit will be in them – and some of the radiance of Life, itself.

‘[At a potluck,] the best way to tell how successful a dish will be is to look for the first one to disappear. Find the cook & get the recipe!’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1990)

Mom would always describe her newsletter issues as being “like getting together…for coffee with friends.” Writing was Mom’s “happy place”. She often said, of her newsletters, “it’s like getting together…for coffee with friends.”

I can certainly relate to that now. I love writing these weekly blog entries about my memories of Mom and how she’s impacted my life, as well as so many others’ lives. As I said above, I love hearing from others about their memories in the kitchen with their moms, creating special dishes or treats from my mom’s recipes.

Please continue to send me your memories and stories of how Mom touched your lives at therecipedetective@outlook.com – I look forward to hearing from you!

IN CLOSING…

When I think of November, feel-good, warm-up-the-innards kind of meals, I often think of hearty soups. The following is Mom’s copycat imitation for a cheesy potato soup like the one she enjoyed at a local Bob Evans restaurant. Mom called her imitation “Bob Oven’s Potato & Cheese Soup”.

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

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