Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Any Reason to Celebrate with Food

Hi, everyone! Thank God, it’s Monday, again! It’s my chance to write about my mom and share my memories of her with you…

Today is Mardi Gras Eve, the day before Mardi Gras; which is, now, called Lundi Gras, [aka: “Fat Monday”] in New Orleans; and, like Mardi Gras, it has its own traditions and celebrations, including lots of food and drinks, as well as various forms of art and music and fireworks. It’s been a growing and evolving celebration, in New Orleans; especially since 1987. However, since its revival, Lundi Gras is not celebrated the way it was before WWI.

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”. Traditionally, on Fat Tuesday, all of the lard, butter, milk and other animal products were used up by this day, so as to reduce waste before the 40-day fasting period of Lent, which begins the next day (on Ash Wednesday). “Fat Tuesday” is also the last day of “Carnival” week – a Christian feasting celebration, leading up to Lenten season’s fasting ritual. The modern “Carnival” celebration is a festival extravaganza, including parades, street parties, music and the arts; plus, other entertaining elements similar to a circus – with elaborate costumes and masks, as well.

Nothing gathers people together more than food. These days, all of the holidays, special events and other reasons for gatherings are, in some fashion, marketed in the food industry! Any reason to celebrate, is a reason to celebrate with food! That should be somebody’s slogan – and remember, I coined it, here, first! Mom was one of the grandest celebrators of food! Every imitation Mom created of a popular dish or food item was, in itself, a celebration! The more food imitations that Mom developed, the further her fans and followers clamored for additional ones, as there was no one else doing such a thing, in those days!

Critics of the junk food and fast food industries thought that Mom’s type of copycat cookery was a fad that wouldn’t last long. But it was only the beginning of a revolutionary movement in the food industry – one that Mom called “Taking The Junk Out Of Junk Food” and “Eating Out At Home”! As a matter of fact, that was the name of an article (reprinted below) that Mom wrote in her “Secret Recipes” column that was printed in the Port Huron Times Herald in the 1970s. In honor of February being National Hot Breakfast Month, I’m including Mom’s recipe from that article for “Big Batch Scrambled Eggs”, like McDonalds once served.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

“Secret Recipes From… Gloria Pitzer” (Times Herald, Port Huron, MI; August 3, 1978) and

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press,; Jan. 2018, p. 136)

TAKE THE JUNK OUT OF JUNK FOODS – EATING OUT AT HOME

Going to a restaurant is like going to a movie, a way of escaping your day-to-day environment in the office or home or at most place you’re in that are functional. Restaurants should be places that make you feel separated from your daily environment.

Many restaurants are very successful because their design is very theatrical, suggesting another time or environmental experience that makes you feel far away from your problems. McDonald’s [restaurants] have been successfully employing the theme of total decorating concept into their units for many years, with the family as the center of attention… [such as] what appeals to family groups – children, parents, grandparents.

Their concepts are warm, functional, attractive and wholesome. They have set the trend in the fast food industry for this type of decor, always emphasizing their immaculate concept. So, how can the food purists and the experts degrade and deplore a company that has survived a competitive marketplace, where so many others have come and gone…?

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

#NationalHotBreakfastMonth

The introduction of a breakfast menu to the fast food franchise was also their idea and they probably do it better than others because of their organized food-planning concept. Try making scrambled eggs for your next big family breakfast like the ‘Golden Arches’. This recipe, from our ‘Secret Restaurant Recipes, Book #1’, has been adopted by many smaller restaurants and used quite successfully.

Big Batch Scrambled Eggs, by Gloria Pitzer

Break 8 eggs into a large bowl. Avoid using plastic (I prefer earthenware), for plastic seems to discourage fluffiness when beating eggs… Beat on low speed with electric mixer for two minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ cup milk – continue beating another minute. Melt and cool ¼ cup butter (or margarine) and beat this in. Add a little at a time until blended. Lightly butter bottom and sides of a double boiler top [piece] and place over gently simmering water in the bottom [piece]. Pour in egg mixture and cover. Allow to cook on low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. After time is up, turn congealed portion of eggs into middle of pan; cover and continue cooking another 5 to 6 minutes or until all of eggs are in large congealed pieces. Serve on heated platter. (I run mine under hot water or leave in dishwasher for one minute on dry.) Serves four.

In contrast to those critics who condemned “junk food” as being bad for us, Mom’s definition for real “junk food” was simply “poorly prepared food”. People know what they want and they like the so-called “junk” food that’s purportedly so bad for them. However, along with the “everything in moderation” theory, Mom found a way to – forgive the pun – “have her cake and eat it too”, by taking the junk out of junk food through making copycat versions at home, where she controlled the ingredients.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

In the 1970s, this was a break through that had many companies up in arms! Someone was duplicating their products at home – cheaper and healthier – and publicly sharing her secrets of how she did it through her self-published newsletters and recipe cards and cookbooks! She was also talking about it on radio and television, as well as in newspapers and magazines!

Though, Mom never really knew what any of the companies’ actual “secret recipes” were for their sumptuous products, she had a talent for figuring it out, based on basic recipes and the specific food’s flavors, smells, textures and color. In fact, Mom had enough talent that some companies sent their lawyers after her, but to no avail.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978; p. 2)

You don’t have to know exactly how the original dish was prepared by the commercial food chains. All you need is a basic recipe to which you will add that ‘special seasoning’ or that ‘secret method of preparation’ that sets one famous secret recipe apart from those similar to it…

When I work to duplicate a recipe so that the finished product is as good as (if not better than) a famous restaurant dish, I begin by asking myself a series of questions: I want to know what color the finished dish has…[and] was it achieved by baking, frying or refrigeration?…What specific flavors can I identify?… and about how much of each may have been used…

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

Similar tests are used in chemistry…[to]…break down the components of an unknown substance and try to rebuild it. So the cook must work like a chemist (and not like a gourmet, who, most of the time, never uses a recipe – but, rather, creates one.)

The most remarkable part of the duplication of famous recipes is that you can accept the challenge to ‘try’ to match their [dish or product]. Sometimes, you will be successful. Sometimes you will fail in the attempt. But, at least, it can be done [‘practice makes perfect’], and it certainly takes the monotony out of mealtime when, for reasons of financial inadequacy, we cannot always eat out…even if we could afford to eat at all or most of our meals away from home, wouldn’t that become monotonous in time?

Mom and Dad found out decades later, in their retirement years, that without us 5 kids in tow and being able to afford it from the success of their Secret RecipesTM business, eating out often really didn’t get as monotonous as she thought it might! For years, Mom and Dad enjoyed eating out for, at least, breakfast and lunch almost every day, and making new friends everywhere they went was an extra perk! They were BIG fans of McDonald’s restaurants, thus, Mom wrote and talked about them often.

Mom & Dad with family & friends, 2011, at the Big Boy Restaurant in Marysville, MI

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p.11)

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.

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!

IN CLOSING…

This year in honor of #52Chances and #MemorableBeginnings, I want to offer you a recipe each week from Mom’s “Original 200” Secret RecipesTM collection – as these are the memorable beginnings of the Recipe DetectiveTM. The following recipe is for today, as it is also #NationalTortillaChipDay

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

Not food-related but close to my heart and Mom’s, as well – it’s the last week of National Library Lovers Month! Additionally, other national, month-long (February), food-related observances that are coming to an end this week include, among others, American/National Heart Month, Canned Food Month, Great American Pies Month, Bake For Family Fun Month , Bird-Feeding MonthCherry Month, Grapefruit Month and Snack Food Month. For lots of great recipes for “Fat Tuesday” feasting, check out the ensemble at Huffpost.com

Next week rings in March! Some of the national, month-long (March), food-related observances for March include Celery Month, Caffeine Awareness Month, Flour Month (with Nat’l Flour Day on the 20th), Frozen Food Month, Noodle Month, Nutrition Month, Peanut Month and Sauce Month, among others. Again, not food-related but close to my heart and Mom’s, as well – it’s also going to be National… Craft Month, Women’s History Month and Small Press Month!

In addition, March 1st begins National eBook Week! Don’t forget to get your copy of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, available in eBook form, through the publisher, Balboa Press, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.

Also, in hard copy, through the publisher, Balboa Press, for $20.99 each, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252.

#TGIM

#ThankGodItsMondayDay

NationalDayCalendar.com suggests that we… “Stop shaming Monday and look at what Monday has to offer… 52 CHANCES to see a beautiful sunrise… share your talents with the world… teach someone a new skill that will better their lives…” For me, it’s 52 CHANCES to tell Mom’s story, again; hopefully, re-inspiring love in the kitchen, in the home and family, throughout the neighborhood and around the world. Eight down, 44 to go!

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