Recently, I was thrilled to hear from a lady who used to have my mom on her radio show once a month for almost 13 years, from June 1992 through December 2005. Her name is Kathy Keene and she hosts “The Good Neighbor Show” on WHBY, in Appleton, WI. The show still airs from 11am to 1pm Central Time, Monday through Friday.
I really love hearing from people who knew Mom. Everyone has some kind of wonderful story to tell about how Mom touched their life in some way – through her “food-for-the-table” recipes, “food-for-thought” editorials and “food-for-the-soul” commentaries. Even her cartoon panels, “Full House – as kept by Gloria Pitzer”, were witty and entertaining. Mom was a very talented storyteller, illustrator and innovative recipe developer!
Today, at 11:08am CDST/12:08pm EDST, I am going to be reminiscing about Mom, in an interview with Kathy, during the first hour of her show! You can listen to it live, from your computer or phone at: https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/. I never tire of telling Mom’s story and there is no more perfect day than today, since it’s National Tell A Story Day, to tell a story about her. Mom left such a wonderful legacy, as the “Secret Recipes Detective”, for all of us to continue enjoying for generations.
Kathy had asked me, in an email, if Mom had retired in 2005, after her last monthly visit on the “Good Neighbor” show. That’s probably what a lot of people have wondered over the years… “What ever happened to Gloria Pitzer, the Recipe DetectiveTM?”
As I wrote to Kathy, Mom never really FULLY retired in 2005. While Dad would have preferred that Mom had, she just couldn’t stop doing what she loved so much, so completely. Mom still did a couple of “special occasion” radio shows a year; until about 2014. She also did a few lectures, here and there, about her 3-to-5-ingredient, short-cut style of “copycat cookery” for some libraries and the “Good Sam” RV group, to which she and Dad belonged for many happy years.
Before Dad passed away, unexpectedly, at 84 years old, in October 2014; they were still promoting and selling 7 different recipe “bulletins” (2 pages of related recipes for popular “brands” such as Sanders, Bill Knapp, Bob Evans and others), for $1 each; a “Soup and Other Comfort Foods” folder (4 pages of related recipes), for $2 each and Mom’s “Mostly 4-Ingredients” cookbook, which was reprinted in June 2002, for $10 each – all of which included postage. In fact, I still have the bulletins, folder and a few boxes of that cookbook in my basement, which reminds me of something Mom wrote…
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 54)
HOW TO SELL IT
YOU CAN WRITE THE BOOK. Get it published. Stack the books from floor to ceiling in your garage (or wherever). What do you do with them, then, once you have sold a few copies to the neighbors, your bowling league friends and some patronizing relatives who complement you with half-hearted assurances that you shouldn’t give up no matter what…
You plug along, in spite of the lack of interest from those you care the most about, those to whom you turn for a little pat on the back and moral support but find lukewarm receptivity to your project. You have to then know how and where and to whom you will sell your cookbook or newsletter, or you must find somebody who can do it for you, better than you can do it for yourself.
So far, in these nearly 20 years [1972 through 1989] that I have been sleuthing out the secrets of the food industry, I have not been able to find such a person. I have found, however, instead, a very wonderful outlet [in radio] for acquainting the public with what we are doing and this, in itself, was never deliberately planned. It was something that just happened – and like a beautiful idea usually does, it unfolded, step-by-step into one of the most extraordinary experiences [for which] I could have wished.
In August 2008, my brother, Mike, who lives in California, had set Mom and Dad up with a website, TheRecipeDetective.com, from which to advertise their Secret RecipesTM offerings. It was a more up-to-date way for the public to be in touch with what Mom was doing. Since Mom and Dad knew nothing about technology, Mike managed and ran the website for 10 years, transferring the domain to me, the summer after our mom passed away, because I wanted to start writing this blog about her legacy as the “Recipe Detective” and I had asked Mike if I could put it on the website.
The winter after Dad had passed away, Mom wanted to revive her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (first printed in 1982), hoping to reach out to a new generation of cooks and “cook-want-to-be’s” and, also, to create a new residual income, for herself. But she couldn’t physically do the self-publishing route that she and Dad had always done, together, for the preceding 40 years.
After decades of saying she would never let anyone else publish her works, Mom finally consented to letting another publisher do it. So, my brother, Mike, and I did some research on different publishers and finally chose Balboa Press; who were more than happy to republish Mom’s cookbook.
However, the name of the book had to be changed, per the publisher, because it too closely resembled the title of Betty Crocker’s cookbook. I tried to explain to the publisher that was the whole premise of the book – to “copycat”, like a parody – but they wouldn’t print it, otherwise. Thus, the title became Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective.
They couldn’t just reprint from one of our original copies, though. Because of eBooks and new technology equipment, I had to retype the entire book into Microsoft Word for Mom, reformatting it to fit the size of the new edition and scanning all of her illustrations to be placed in it, too. We ended up, leaving out most of her diet information section and a few other things that were no longer current or applicable.
It took me a couple of years to rewrite the book for Mom, as I was juggling a “paying job” and my many “non-paying” jobs at home and as her guardian, also. It went to print shortly before she passed away, in January 2018. Mom was so happy when she heard it was in print again. She told me that one of her favorite parts of her lifetime was that she was kind of famous for a little while and she was blessed to have met some really wonderful people because of it…
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 3)
HOW IT ALL BEGAN – REMEMBERING, WITH LOVE
It is obvious…if you are familiar with [any] of my books…that traditional presentation is not important to me. It has nothing to do with concept and everything to do with the time in which I put a book together. Most of what I have written has been done like a patchwork quilt, pieced here and there; hardly in sequence and never in a thoroughly developed format that probably every writer worth their salt (or Mrs. Dash) would be apt to follow, in producing a book of their own.
Since the [very] first book, back in January 1973, I have not been able to stick to ‘the rules’ when writing, publishing or distributing a book. It was the first thing a publisher would mention to us when, a few years later, they wanted to take over our books and publish them for us. The comments would range from ‘making your books more sale-able’ to ‘changing the format somewhat’, which all meant redesigning what I had developed so that it no longer reflected ‘me’, but ‘them’.
Making our books more ‘sale-able’ was the biggest puzzle, considering that, in the beginning, these same publishers quickly rejected my work; and, after an appearance on the [Phil] Donahue Show in July 1981, over a million letters from Donahue viewers made our books probably THE MOST sale-able in the country – if not the world – in the shortest period of time.
So many things happened along the way that contributed to our success as a family enterprise; and, while [in my writings] I will touch on some of the highlights of these experiences, it won’t necessarily be in the order in which they took place. Recollections of how we developed our Secret RecipesTM and the unique circumstances under which this dining room table operation has endured, will surely never make the ‘Best Seller’ list and, perhaps, not even interest most critics, let alone the skeptics, who predicted that the public’s interest in my kind of recipes would not last long. Having been our only source of income since August 1976, I would say they made a mistake in judgement.
Early in the summer of 2015, Mom had survived a double stroke, complicated by a grand mall seizure. She had been showing signs of “sun-downers”, after her previous grand mall seizure in July 2014. As a result of the impact of the seizures and strokes, Mom developed dementia and I consequently became her legal guardian.
Mom’s love for writing and journaling became her saving grace in the rehabilitation and recovery process of her stroke and the subsequent dementia. Journaling didn’t really “improve” her memory, but it was always her outlet for peace and serenity. Thus, it helped her deal with the anxiety of not remembering recent events. She always told me that the up side was that she could remember her childhood through her early adulthood years like they had happened yesterday.
She moved into a “retirement village” that had on-sight nursing care. Although she tired easily, Mom was still fairly active until around Christmas 2017, especially if it involved going purse shopping at JC Penny’s or out to lunch at a restaurant. Mom passed away, peacefully, joining Dad, about 2 weeks after her 82nd birthday, in January 2018.
Unfortunately, I am not the sales person that Mom was. She was very creative as to how she got the word out about whatever she was doing. Mom’s favorite cookbook may have been rewritten and republished, with boxes of copies piled up in my basement, but they don’t sell themselves. I can’t afford to pay someone or some company to sell them, thus, this promoting-and-selling thing is a slow learning process for me. Like Mom, I LOVE to write! But promoting and selling is a whole other ball game!
Likewise, I don’t know how well I will do today, speaking in a radio interview, since this will be my first time. Mom was a natural conversationalist. She loved doing radio shows. While she had some really great experiences on TV, radio was always her favorite. She felt at home there. Well, in essence, she really was at home during most of her radio interviews. But, as Kathy reminded me, when I expressed my apprehension, it’s like sitting down for a cup of coffee and conversation with friends!
The following recipes were not among Mom’s “free sample” offerings, nor were they in her “Original 200” collection. But, in honor of today, also being National Prime Rib Day, I wanted to offer you a copy of Mom’s “go-to” Prime Rib recipes from her self-published cookbook, Make Alike Recipes, (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1991, p. 83) – this book is no longer in print, but you may find used copies on Amazon and eBay.
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
REMINDER: 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 and, hopefully, ignite happy memories for others; while re-inspiring love in the kitchen, in the home and family, throughout the neighborhood and around the world…
…17 down, 35 to go!