Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Good Neighboring

Happy Monday and happy fall to all – #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

This past Thursday was the 2-year anniversary of my launching this blog, which I created to honor my mom’s legacy as the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM, food industry investigator of Secret RecipesTM. The title, which Mom eventually trademarked, was bestowed on her in the mid-1970s by her Detroit area radio listeners, as she was frequently on Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” show, answering recipe quandaries on how to make just about anything. Mom delighted in that honor, of being the Recipe DetectiveTM, for over 40 years, until she passed away in January 2018.

#GoodNeighborDay

Today is, among other things, National Good Neighbor Day! The celebration was created in the early 1970s by Becky Mattson (Lakeside, Montana). In 1978, Jimmy Carter, then President, issued Proclamation 4601, creating the official national celebration of Good Neighbor Day. It was annually celebrated on the 4th Sunday in September until 2003, when the annual date was changed specifically to September 28th.

There’s an art to good neighboring but, just like anything else in life, it takes time to master the ability. I wish every ones’ neighborhoods were like that of Mr. Rogers. Fantasy or not, the real-world application was always based on caring for and helping one another – plain and simple!

Good neighboring, however, has taken on a new meaning this year, especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic and temporary restraints. Thus, necessity has, once again, become the mother of invention as we find new, safe ways to interact with our neighbors and our communities – because, as human beings, we all NEED some kind of interaction with others!

Have you noticed that neighboring and neighborhoods have changed over the years? In the past, people used to bring their new neighbors casseroles or baked goods, just to introduce themselves and say: “Hi and welcome to the neighborhood!”

Sometimes they would offer to help on the “move-in” or some other project. Sometimes they would stop by for a cup of coffee and to chat about the neighborhood. Neighbors  used to borrow/share things (and not just a cup of sugar), like tools and garden equipment, so everyone didn’t have to go out and buy expensive items that they didn’t often use.

When we work at being the best neighbor we can be, then our neighbors are more likely to give back in return, as will their neighbors and their neighbors’ neighbors too. Think about it – there could be an epidemic of good neighboring! Wouldn’t that be a better pandemic to spread throughout the world?

It all begins with the golden rule: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” We’ve been learning about this since our preschool and kindergarten years. Why does it seem like a lot of us tend to forget about it once we age into the double digits?

It is one of the easiest and best characteristics in good neighboring. Thus, we should all remember it and practice it daily; treating others with respect and kindness, because the way we treat our neighbors will affect how they treat us, as well as their other neighbors (and so on).

Pitzer’s St. Clair House, 1978

I remember when my family and I first moved to St. Clair from Algonac – one of our new neighbors came over with food for our dinner that evening so Mom didn’t have to worry about doing that amidst all the unpacking. That made such a wonderful, lasting impression on us. Additionally, since I was 12 (almost 13, at the time), they also asked if I would be interested in babysitting for them once in a while. That was my first “paying” job outside of the “family business”.

One way anyone can be a good neighbor is to simply take pride in their neighborhood… Keep it clean and tidy and pleasant looking. We don’t have to become best friends with everyone in our neighborhood, however, introducing ourselves and learning our neighbors’ names is simply good neighboring and it’s not that hard to do nor does it need to take up a lot of time.

It doesn’t have to be a full-time project (unless you want it to be), but we all need to get more involved in our neighborhoods and communities. Knowing who represents us by going to and participating in our neighborhood association/city meetings once in a while is important. Even attending local events whenever we’re able, to support your community, is good neighboring traits.

Good neighboring is another one of those things that should be practiced and celebrated on a daily basis, rather than annually – and not just in one’s neighborhood but also in one’s community and beyond…

We should all say hello to the people we see, even if it is just in passing. It is so easy to do and can create a ripple effect in someone’s day. Just saying hello is also a way to connect with others without having to create a deep bond because, even if you prefer some distance from your neighbors, it doesn’t really obligate you to anybody.

There are some great benefits of good neighboring, such as in neighborhood security and the willingness of others looking out for you just because you’re a neighbor. So, when you have a big party that isn’t tied to a personal celebration (like a birthday or anniversary), put out the good neighboring welcome mat and invite your neighbors!

Hi Neighbor!” is the name of my blog post at that is a BIG “thank you” note to Mom’s radio, newspaper and TV contacts that helped her to grow her Secret RecipesTM business. I also created a “Media Friends” tab on the website, based on that blog post.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 9)

BOB ALLISON’S “ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR” SHOW

One of the nicest things about being a writer is that you can work at home. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, as soon as my kids were out the door to the school bus, I set up my $39.95 Smith Corona portable typewriter at the kitchen table, where I was one step away from the stove, refrigerator and recipes I was curious to test and write about.

The view from the kitchen table included the front yard and the North Channel of the St. Clair River (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway to everyone else) – the riverside was [called] the front yard and the roadside was the back yard. The old house had its faults, I’ll grant you, but nobody could refuse a view like we had, living on the banks of that river!

There was always something going on outside, sufficient to inspire a feeling of well-being, which every writer must have to do their job well. In keeping with “write about what you know best”, I could put every economical recipe I used to feed my family of seven to good use, sharing the Secrets with others.

One of my addictions in those days was a daily recipe radio show called Ask Your Neighbor, hosted by Bob Allison over the WWJ-Detroit radio airwaves. He always opened his two-hour show by saying, “if you have a household problem you cannot solve, then call… (and he’d give a phone number) …and ask your neighbor!” I called him frequently with answers to his other listeners’ recipe questions, until I became “a regular” on the show.

With Bob’s generous help in mentioning my monthly newsletter, my subscriptions began to climb to 300, and 400. I was finally showing a profit! That gave my husband, Paul, some relief from his skepticism that I would eventually outgrow my obsession with writing.

In one of my April blog posts, “Tell A Story Day”, I wrote about how thrilled I was 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. In fact, like Mom, I’ve been on Kathy’s “Good Neighbor” show, monthly; usually on the last Monday of each month, at about 11:08am (Central Time), since April. We’ve been sharing stories about Mom and one or two of her recipes.

Kathy can’t be on-air today, so we are going to talk about Mom this Wednesday, instead (same time). You can listen to it, live or later, from your computer or phone at: https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/. I never tire of telling Mom’s story!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Similarly to National Good Neighbor Day, Wednesday (Sept. 30th) is National Love People Day. And NationalDayCalendar.com recommends that, in honor of it, we should all make a special point to “…offer kindness and care to the people in your community.”

#NationalLovePeopleDay

While love doesn’t really make the world go around (since that is actually a gravitational thing), it does make the ride more enjoyable! According to NationalDays.com, National Love People Day was started by Life Line Church (Chicago) a few of years ago.

So, it’s a fairly new “National Day” celebration that even has its own website, promoting “loving your neighbor”! NationalDays.com says, among other things, that it is a day “to lift others up”. Of course, we should lift others up EVERYDAY – but let us all make a special point of it on Wednesday!

Mom always tried “to lift others up” in everything she wrote – starting with her multiple columns that were syndicated to multiple magazines and newspapers across the country to her hundreds of self-published newsletter issues (January 1974 through December 2000) and 40+ cookbooks (from her first one in 1973 to her last one, just before she passed away, in January 2018).

Mom loved to combine recipes (or food-for-the-table) with household hints, food-for-thought and food-for-the-soul – that’s what made her books stand out from all the rest; that and her being the first to start the copycat recipes movement in the food industry…particularly in the fast food and junk food categories, which were considered “taboo” foods by the critics.

Nonetheless, people wanted to know how to make these things at home and there were no other sources for this before Mom started her investigating, as the Recipe DetectiveTM. Given enough time, there wasn’t very many things that Mom couldn’t figure out how to imitate and she lovingly shared her secrets with her “neighbors” all around the world.

#NationalLovePeopleDay

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. 2)

WHY CAN’T WE ALL GET ALONG?

IF I COULD have my way, the whole world would be friends; but then, it is an unrealistic hope, considering the course of human events and behaviors. We can’t even find friends within the same family, most of the time!

…I have met some of the nicest people, in the world, [and] some of the most generous people who want to share their good ideas with me as much as I want to share mine with them. Of these good people, I will speak often and lovingly.

Having come from a somewhat lonely childhood and years of struggling to overcome the emptiness of indifference from relatives to whom I had spent, what seemed like an eternity, trying to reach out… I, now, continue to emphasize, in my own publications [and] throughout my books, the importance of caring – of REALLY caring about each other.

In tribute to Good Neighboring, here is one of Mom’s copycat recipes for a wonderful “comfort food” (of which I will discuss more in next week’s blog post) that you can share with your neighbors!

As seen in Mom’s self-published cookbook…

The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 58)

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

Next Monday, October 5th, is National Do Something Nice Day!

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…39 down,  13 to go!

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Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Retailers And Restaurants Unite

Happy Monday everyone and, once again, #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been identifying some of the oldest, American fast-food/restaurant-chain franchises, whose famous menu choices were among the building blocks upon which Mom created her legacy as the Recipe DetectiveTM. She investigated, tested and imitated their famous dishes at home, in her own kitchen, and shared her developments in her self-published newsletters and cookbooks – as well as through radio and TV talk-shows – for over 40 years (1974-2014).

#NationalAmericanaMonth

As I mentioned last week, September is National Americana Month! It’s a great opportunity to reminisce about the “Norman Rockwell basics” of life in America. We often idealize and idolize those simple things that have uniquely woven us together as Americans!

When I think of the nostalgic icons that represent Americana to me, in terms of food-related, I think of the famous fast-food chains across our country, as well as the traditional state fairs, carnivals, and carhop drive-ins. Even department store restaurants and dime store cafeterias make the reminiscing list for me!

1974 heading of Mom’s first newsletter.

Department store eateries are just another niche in the vast food industry from which Mom found inspiration in imitating “famous foods from famous places”. DepartmentStoreHistory.net says: “The three biggest department stores in the mid-1960s, both in sales volume and physical size, were Macy’s, Hudson’s, and Marshall Field, in that order.” Their mentioning of Hudson’s (a former Detroit area icon), really brought me a lot of pleasant childhood memories.

In fact, there was a report on the iconic J.L. Hudson’s site, in Detroit, not too long ago, in our local news; as it is being re-developed. The Detroit Hudson’s store was once the tallest department store in the world! It was such a sad day, when they closed their doors in 1983; and even sadder, when the iconic, historical building was imploded in 1998.

There is a lot of great information about the new project and the history of Hudson’s at https://www.hudsonssitedetroit.com/. Mom imitated at least 28 menu offerings from the Hudson’s dining room – as Hudson’s was one of her favorite places to shop and dine! She used to joke that she wanted her ashes spread around Hudson’s purse department, after she was gone.

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 16)

HUDSON’S OF DETROIT – THE WAY IT ONCE WAS!

During the financial panic of 1873, Joseph L. Hudson was a young man, working with his father in a men’s clothing store in Michigan. Times were hard. Customers could hardly pay their bills. After Joseph’s father died, partly from worrying, young Joseph struggled with the business for about three years and eventually went into bankruptcy, in spite of all he tried to do to bring the business up.

He paid his creditors [60 cents] on the dollar and, with great determination, began over again! Through remarkable enterprise and ingenuity, in 12 years, he owned a store in Detroit. Even more remarkable, he located all the creditors whose claims had been embraced by the bankruptcy proceedings and paid them in full – even though they did not ask it of him.

This so astounded the business world in 1888 – that Hudson’s reputation was of an honest man, caring for his customers as much is his creditors. Thus, word spread, and the store became one of Detroit’s most important, not only in the state, but eventually in the entire country.

[Hudson] established major shopping centers in Metropolitan Detroit, beginning in 1953 with the magnificent Northland Center, the first of its kind in the country. At the time of this writing [1997], Hudson’s has merged with Dayton and with Marshall Fields and no longer offers the personal hometown touch that it used to have.

Their original building on Woodward and Farmer Street, in downtown Detroit, once controlled the shopper’s mecca; with Kern’s and Crowley’s, as well, in that area. We have seen the passing of a great institution, but I am so glad I did not lose the precious recipes [for which] the Hudson’s dining room and bakery were known…

Recently, I read an article by Katherine Martinelli (July 20, 2018), at EatThis.com, about stores with amazing restaurants. I was flooded with memories of going to the malls and big department stores, like Hudson’s, as a young girl, in the 1970s.

I remember when Mom would take me and my sisters to the malls and department stores like Sears, J.C. Penny’s and J.L. Hudson’s. It was an all-day shopping event combined with Mom’s work, as each of us girls would get a handful of her business cards to stick in the pockets of various clothes and purse displays while we shopped. It was an innovative way she had developed, to advertise to her “target audience”, based on inspiration from a Detroit car salesman. It was so fun!

After a few hours of shopping and marketing, we’d all take a break to have lunch in one of the department stores’ dining rooms, where Mom found a lot of great dishes to mimic at home. My sisters and I had a 5-star rating system of our own for the restaurants we went to with Mom on any of her investigative reviews – it was, actually, largely based on how clean they were, especially in their restrooms!

Alex Witchell wrote an article Feb. 25, 2019 about the best department store restaurants, which was posted on the NYPost.com website. In it, she reminisced about those by-gone days of shopping and lunching with her own mom and sisters. I related to a lot 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. 43)

MARKETING INSPIRATION

To make the mimeograph pay for itself, I even printed up my own business cards on it, using dime-store construction paper and then cutting the cards apart with scissors until I had neat little stacks of about 50 and a total of 200 or 300 cards. These I distributed at the mall whenever and wherever we might be in one. Paul did not know I was doing this, at first, either, or he would’ve disapproved.

It was unprofessional and risky, but I thought anything was worth a try and what I could do ‘quietly’ until I could prove it was either a mistake or a benefit, would have to be my little secret. Well, actually, the kids were a part of that secret too. I had heard an interview on TV or radio with ‘the world’s most successful salesman’, who was a Chevrolet salesman in Detroit and who believed heartily in business cards, placing them everywhere and anywhere that it was allowed.

From his story, I found it was easy to drop my card into the pocket of a bathrobe in the ladies’ wear [areas] in the department stores and in the purses and tote bags, on public phone booth stands, [in] restaurant restrooms, even in cookbooks in the bookstores. From these, you’d be surprised, we DID hear from people who wanted to know about my recipes, which was the first experience I had with public response.

‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ – Seneca (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

Due to the ever changing shopping and eating habits of Americans, we’ve seen the rise and fall of many retail establishments. In this new era of Amazon and online shopping, department stores and malls are now becoming more like the relics of bygone days.

The idea of eating where you shop can be tracked back to 18th century Europe. Many argue about who started the idea of “eating where you shop” in America. Macy’s claims to have opened the first restaurant within a department store in May 1878 (originally Marshall Field’s Walnut Room).

Others say that in-store restaurants were already established (in America) earlier, in the 1870s, when Wanamaker’s, in New York and Philadelphia, were offering consumers the first in-store eateries, in which shoppers could pause in the middle of their bargain-hunting excursions to rest and have some sustenance (before continuing on).

The idea was based on the theory that the longer consumers remained in a store, the more they were likely to look at more things and, thus, buy more things. It was a groundbreaking marketing tactic to attract and keep shoppers!

‘You certainly won’t hear opportunity knocking at the front door, if you’re in the back yard looking for four-leaf clovers.’ – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 4)]

In a 2015 essay by Angela Serratore, “In Praise of the Department Store Restaurant”, at Racked.com, she wrote: “Department store restaurants allowed middle-class women in the throes of consumer ecstasy to pause and refresh themselves in a manner that was, above all, civilized… The food was fancy but not overly so – consommé, tongue sandwiches, and delicate fruit salads all appear on a 1901 Macy’s menu – and nothing served would render a woman incapable of continuing to shop after she’d finished.”

Famous department stores with restaurants, cafés and tea rooms – as they were often called – which come to mind, past and present, include Marshall Field’s, JL Hudson’s, JC Penny’s, Saks 5th Avenue, Tiffany’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Barney’s, Nordstrom’s, and Lord & Taylor’s.

Even the, later, general merchandise, “big box” stores like Walmart, Target, Kmart, Kresge’s, Sears, and Woolworth’s joined the band wagon with their own lunch counters and cafeterias – or they rented space within their stores to “established brands” like Starbuck’s and Subway. From most of these places, Mom imitated at least one of their famous dishes, but usually more.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer, as seen in her self-published cookbook… The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 2)

We’ve seen Mom-and-Pop shops struggle to compete against department and “big box” stores, which competed with the all-inclusive mall settings, which are now struggling to compete against virtual stores, online. Small and large retailers, alike, have been disappearing due to the rise in online shopping over the years, but it especially exploded this year due to the brick-and-mortar store closings for the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

Those establishments that were not already involved with the growth of the internet and hadn’t yet closed their doors, were teetering on bankruptcy due to the rise in online shopping over in-store shopping, especially among the newer generations. To make matters worse, those retailers who were hanging on by a thread, trying to come up with new marketing gimmicks to bring consumers back to their brick-and-mortar stores, were more-or-less “done-in” by the pandemic’s restrictions.

Additionally, according to a blog at Cheapism.com, about 38 companies that were already on shaky ground have filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, this year, due to the various impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic. Among those listed were iconic department stores like Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor’s, J. C. Penny’s, and Sears-Kmart.

In memory of Hudson’s iconic footprint, here is Mom’s imitation of the famous Hudson’s Maurice Salad & Dressing…

As seen in her self-published cookbook…

The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 16)

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

#GoodNeighborDay

Next Monday, September 28th, is National Good Neighbor Day!

Additionally, I will be on the Good Neighbor show, next Monday (at about 11:08am Central Time); which is hosted by Kathy Keene, on WHBY!

You can listen, live or later, through the station’s website at https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/.

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…38 down, 14 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Where Did All The Good Noshes Go? – Part III

Once again, happy Monday to all and #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

http://therecipedetective.com/category/blog/

#NationalAmericanaMonth

September is National Americana Month – a time to reflect on and reminisce about the “Norman Rockwell basics” of life in America; those simple things that have uniquely woven us together as Americans! When I think of Americana, in terms of food-related, I think of the nostalgic icons of fast-food chains, state fairs, carnivals, and drive-ins. Even department store restaurants and cafeterias make the reminiscing list for me (and I’ll be writing more about them next week)!

Fast-food is a multi-billion dollar industry. If you like hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, French fries, onion rings, tacos, burritos, pizza, fried chicken, and deep-fried fish – even breakfast foods – they are all among the most popular “fast-food” menu offerings, as well as the most popular consumer choices around America. The fast-food industry has been evolving for over 100 years – the prime of which is considered to have been during the 1960s and 1970s; as so many franchises launched across the country, it was like a “baby boom” in the food industry. Soon after, American fast-food franchising grew globally, as well.

The more critics argued about how bad fast food and junk food was for our health and well-being, the more people wanted to covet it. Mom always contended that “fast food” was food that was prepared quickly and that was done at fine restaurants such as Devon Gables’ Tea Room, as well as fast-food chains like McDonald’s. Mom would also maintain that “junk food” was merely food that was poorly prepared.

Additionally, as Mom said in her last cookbook, “…fast food has carried a reputation, by default, of containing ingredients that are harmful to us. Yet, they contain the same ingredients as those foods served in the ‘finer’ restaurants with wine stewards, linen tablecloths, candlelight, coat-check attendants, and parking valets; which separate the plastic palaces of fast food from the expensive dining establishments. One ‘eats’ at McDonald’s, but ‘dines’ at The Four Seasons. Steak and potato or hamburger and French fries – the ingredients are practically the same. How they are prepared [and presented] makes the difference!” – [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 6).]

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, pp. 70 & 71)

SMORGASBORD – FREEDOM OF CHOICE

It’s a mistake to think of the fast food industry as being confined to hamburgers and fries and buckets of chicken or fish. It is really a more versatile banquet of menu selections than the critics give us time to consider. The public is fickle and very easily swayed by the aggressive opinions of self-styled experts who preach the evils of fast food with all the charisma of a revival tent evangelism; and we, the believing public, will go in whatever direction the wind blows the strongest!

Nobody dreamed that the step-child of the food industry would ever have endured this long – for, to everybody’s surprise, fast food has, indeed, become the ‘Liza Doolittle’ of the restaurant industry. The humble streetcar diner of the 1950s and 1960s has blossomed into the Cinderella of the commercial dining division of the food industry. It has soared in sales while all other major enterprises have suffered set-backs in the shadow of the recent economic gloom! [NOTE: That was originally written in 1982, showing that history surely does repeat itself.]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

The reason the fast food industry has become a virtual smorgasbord of appealing menu selections is that it is affordable! People who work hard for their money and have little of it left after essentials have been paid for, look for leisure and escape hatches by which they can derive a little pleasure for the money they have left to spend on such luxuries.

Fast food chains cater to crowds with very little fuss, but surroundings that reflect informality. The costs of eating out, however, have increased along with everything else. Now it’s becoming less and less appealing to spend the same money on one fast food meal that would also buy a bag of groceries that could make several meals at home!

So, we can have our cake and eat it too! We can dine in as if we’re eating out – whether we choose to be catered to by wine stewards and parking valets or whether we wish to impersonate the plastic palaces of the fast food kingdom – eating out at home can be a pleasant experience.

SECOND THOUGHTS

FAST FOODS HAVE ARRIVED IN OUR CULTURE at a point in our growth as a society, when ‘time’ is of the essence… held cheaply, spent foolishly, and made to be one of the most aggressive influences in our lives.

The calendar and the clock have given a sense of order to civilization. Our lives are, both, governed by and regulated by the limitations of these two man-made inventions. In a world created and perpetuated by an infinite Spirit, man has adjusted to the divisions of time. The records of one’s birth and death are accounted for by date and moment; and all the time in between is categorized by years, months, weeks, days, hours, moments—even seconds. We are hardly conscious of the limitations to which we submit ourselves by confining our lives to the measurements of calendar and clock divisions.

Without even realizing it, we are constantly meeting deadlines in our lives. We catch a bus, a train, a plane in accordance with the hour and minute scheduled. We compete in and watch sports that honor seconds by which winning and losing, and records are determined.

It is, with some frustration, that man attempts to occasionally free himself of the obligation to live within the framework of the deadline. Our work is subject to how much we can accomplish within a repeating allotment of time. Our leisure is limited by the number of hours and minutes that remain.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Even the successful results of the foods we prepare is completely dependent on the timing we employ. From this, we have derived ‘instant coffee’, ‘the 3-minute egg’, ‘day-old bread’, ‘Minute Rice’, ‘Hour-by-Hour’ deodorant soap, ‘the 5-minute phone call’, ‘the 12 Days of Christmas’, and on and on. We can have a ‘good time’, a ‘great time’, a ‘bad time’. About the only thing not governed by, nor subject to, time is love.

So, ‘Fast Foods’ arrived when it could be most appreciated and most recognized. ‘Fast’ indicates – or, at least, implies – that there will be time left over one would not ordinarily have with food that was NOT ‘fast’. Most food preparations require a lot of time.

But ‘Fast Food’ was capitalized on by the promotional people as being something the on-the-go generation could enjoy and would buy, because they had better things to do than sit around restaurants waiting to be waited on; when, instead, they could run in and out with a meal and be on their way to the fun things in life – or on the way to the more time-consuming things in their life, such as work or business of one kind or another.

With the extensive research into the effects of stress, pressure put upon many people from having too little ‘time’ to be relaxed, to enjoy leisure, freedom from worries, there has been a turn-around in the fast food promotional field. Now they are gradually – without you hardly even being aware of it – changing to a ‘family’ restaurant theme. They want to bring back the old-fashioned, close-knit, solid family unit. Back and forth, like the pendulum of a clock, the gimmicks are given a new face and flavor. The public will eventually become conditioned to the new theme and ‘fast food’ will take on a cosmetic change that we will hardly even notice.

Continuing on with my depiction of 30 of the oldest fast food chains and restaurant franchises in America, which I started a couple of weeks ago; the following 11 chains emerged between 1953 and 1969, many from whom Mom imitated several of their popular menu offerings.

I’ve  shared some of those recipes in previous blog posts so I’m re-sharing them, here, again. A few of the other recipes pictured below came from Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, which is a rewrite I helped her do of her favorite self-published cookbook from 1982, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook. A total of 12 of Mom’s related copycat recipes are pictured below. Enjoy!

[NOTE: For a little piece of Americana, hard copies of Mom’s last cookbook are available, for sale, at $20.99 each through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.]

#BetterBreakfastMonth

#BetterBreakfastMonth

Italian-American cuisine was one of many of Mom’s favorite food areas to investigate. She “covered” many “hits” from the older, popular chains such as Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s; as well as newer chains, like Olive Garden, for an example.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 72)

PIZZA AND PASTA DISHES

ITALIAN CUISINE has been a part of our American restaurant industry since the early days of its discovery – if you recall – by an Italian, Columbus! If Christopher Columbus had never tasted pizza or spaghetti with meatballs, then he surely didn’t know what he was missing! But the influence of good Italian cooking in our American ‘Melting-Pot’ cuisine has had a long life of appealing dishes that have influenced, still, other food creations.

The pizza, as we know it in this country, was the creation of an Italian baker in New York’s East side during the late 1800’s. Dock-workers and sailors frequented the bakery for their lunch food, requesting a slice of cheese with their bread and glass of ‘Vino’. The enterprising baker dreamed up what was probably the very first delicatessen in the restaurant industry.

WHEN THE CUSTOMERS REQUESTED bread and cheese, he also added some spicy tomato sauce to it, like an open-face sandwich; and, as the popularity of the dish grew, he topped it off with sausage and other condiments until someone asked him what he called his dish. He thought a moment and replied, ‘Pizza!’

It came from the same word as the musical term, pizzicato, to pinch or pluck a stringed instrument, such as a violin or guitar. Thus, pizza may have been so-named from the fact that the dough, being rounded at first, is pinched and plucked outward until circular and flat.

For whatever reasons, the Italian baker went without recognition for his creation until we were informed by a woman, in her 80’s, that her father and his before him worked the docks in New York where the legend of the beginning of the pizza was a well-known story, handed down from generation to generation, that the dish was, indeed, created in this country and preserved with Italian traditions for all of us to enjoy.

The pasta dishes of our American restaurant cuisine have been expanded to include some very interesting creations, employing imagination when combining compatible ingredients. Although there are probably as many recipes for good sauces as there are cooks to prepare them and restaurants to serve them, I chose only a few for this book that would offer a good, basic dish.

#BiscuitAndGravyWeek

In Mom’s 1998 reprint of her self-published cookbook, Secret Fast Food Recipes (aka: “Book 6”, in a series), she published her delicious imitation of TGI Friday’s Crazy Layer Cake; which I will share with you at a later date.

When it came to deep-fried, battered fish, Arthur Treacher’s establishments did it best and they were always our family’s favorite! Mom’s version, called Archer Teacher’s Fish & Chips, was among her “Original 200” collection.

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

#GoodNeighborDay

Mark your calendar! September 28th, 2020 will be National Good Neighbor Day!

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…37 down, 15 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Where Did All The Good Noshes Go? – Part II

I hope everyone had a happy Monday, yesterday; enjoying a safe and memory-making Labor Day weekend. This is a belated #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

Over 125 years ago, Labor Day became an official, national holiday. It is celebrated yearly, on the first Monday in September. Just as Memorial Day has become the unofficial start to summer, Labor Day has, likewise, become the unofficial end to summer.

While there doesn’t seem to be many traditional customs for observing it, there are various kinds of individual community celebrations, including picnics, parades, outdoor concerts, festivals, fireworks and even shopping events; as retailers always offer huge Labor Day weekend deals and discounts to move out the rest of their summer stock. Moreover, many families like to take advantage of the extra-long weekend to go on one, last, summer vacation before the kids go back to school.

However, this is 2020 and what’s “normal” has been put on hold (temporarily – we hope)! This year, family camping has become even more popular than ever, as families can travel safely (for the most part) with their own food, shelter, and personal belongings. There’s a funny statement that I’ve seen on social media, from time-to-time, in a few different forms that basically says, “only Americans will spend thousands of dollars a year on STUFF just to live like hobos.”

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

#NationalILoveFoodDay

Coming up, on Wednesday, September 9th, is the national celebration of “I Love Food Day”. What a fabulous thing to celebrate! As I wrote about in many previous blog posts, Mom was a pioneer and trailblazer in the food industry – creating a new niche in the fast food and franchise restaurants’ field! In the early 1970s, Mom took on an “interesting challenge” to infiltrate and investigate the alleged secrets of the retail food industry.

In the mid-1970s, Mom was nicknamed the “Recipe Detective” by the radio listeners of Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” call-in program, because she could decipher what combinations of ingredients and techniques could be used at home to imitate many favorite restaurant dishes and fast food items; as well as packaged “junk foods” and other supermarket products, for which people were searching to replicate.

Mom developed hundreds (and eventually THOUSANDS) of recipes; imitating “famous foods from famous places” right at home and for less cost than going out! During the 1970s, Mom trademarked the nickname, as it became her signature format.

Fast food and junk food products were the most requested recipes for which Mom was asked to decode and devise a copycat version. Those types of recipes weren’t found in cookbooks or any other source being published at that time. People were clamoring to find out how to make their favorites at home. After all, fast foods epitomized the very restaurants where most American families, like ourselves, were apt to patron if they wanted an affordable meal!

As a wife and mother of five, herself, in a struggling economy, Mom personally saw a necessity for the family unit to be able to afford dining out. That’s how and why she came up with the concept of “eating out at home”; though, she didn’t mean “grilling in the backyard”!

Mom had always seemed to possess a special talent for determining the origins of flavors in dishes – even in many supermarket products. Some of her recipes used unlikely ingredient combinations that were unheard of at that time, to achieve a certain flavor, color and/or texture. She also had a special talent for promoting herself and her unique creations. Right from the start, “radio” and Mom formed a seemingly natural friendship/partnership. She knew who her target audience was and where to find them!

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ – Seneca (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

The public loved the “new idea” of making the taboo fast food and junk food products, which critics claimed were so bad for us, right at home, where the cook controls the ingredients that went into it – taking the junk out of junk food. Mom proved that it could be done easily at home and at less of a cost, as times were tough, and money was tight – especially for the average American family.

People know what they like, and Mom found a way to help them “have their cake and eat it too!” Mom claimed to be able to take the junk out of junk food by making it at home, where you can control the ingredients. It was a break through that had many companies up in arms – that someone could possibly duplicate their product at home and then share it with the public! However, Mom never knew what the companies’ actual “secret recipes” were for their scrumptious products, as she wrote about in the following passages.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 2-3)

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…

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 can’t 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?

STOP CHEATING YOURSELF of the pleasure of good food. Eat what you enjoy, but DON’T OVER eat…This is what really causes the problems of obesity and bad health – rather than believing the propaganda of the experts that ‘fast food’ is ‘junk food’…It is not! Poorly prepared food, whether it is from a fast-service restaurant or a [$20-plate in a] gourmet dining room, is ‘junk’, no matter how you look at it…if it is not properly prepared.

TO DEBUNK THE JUNK…don’t think of Hostess Twinkies as junk dessert but, rather, the very same cake ingredients prepared in the Waldorf Astoria kitchens as the basis for their “Flaming Cherries Supreme”. All we did [to imitate the product] was shape the cake differently, adding a little body to the filling and putting it INSIDE the cake, rather than on top as the Waldorf did!

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery.Charles Caleb Colton

Gloria Pitzer, 2013

Mom has always tried to encourage the inner cook in all of us, through her love of food. Even if you didn’t think you could cook at all, Mom could make you feel like a gourmet, making your own creations and bringing joy back into eating at home. Her recipes are always fun and easy to follow. She also made them simple to “customize”, to suit your own diet needs.

‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ ― Theodore Roosevelt

Mom’s original concepts of “eating out at home” and “taking the junk out of junk food” has brought so much joy to so many people who couldn’t afford such “luxuries” as eating out or buying certain grocery items. Mom gained a lot of followers in the copycat movement (also some plagiarists), having started this concept in the early 1970s.

Still shot from mom’s Phil Donahue appearance 4-16-93

Last week, I started a list of 30 of the oldest fast food franchises and family restaurant chains that have developed since the early 1900s. Most of those in the list are among the “famous places” where Mom investigated and imitated “famous foods”. The first one, pictured below, should have been included among last week’s list.

Continuing on, here are some more chains that developed between 1940 and 1954…

Mom imitated many different donuts from many different chains. As for Dunkin’, Mom imitated their potato doughnut, printing it in her cookbook, Eating Out At Home (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; 1978, p. 36). In the late 1930s, Vernon Rudolph started selling a potato doughnut, under the name Krispy Kreme.

That I know of… Mom made an imitation of their Ranchero Sandwich, which appeared in her cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Al A Carte, (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; 1979, p.41). She also imitated their hamburgers, which was printed in her cookbook, My Personal Favorites (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; 2000, p. 25)

Mom made dozens of imitations of the KFC menu offerings, changing the titles of her products’ recipes from “KFC” to “Big Bucket In The Sky!” Many were among her “Original 200” collection. She also wrote about the “Colonel” and his original franchise concept in most of her books.

Denny’s is another full-service, family restaurant that Mom enjoyed frequenting to taste and develop her own versions of their dishes, such as their chicken-fried steaks and English Breakfast. Mom also imitated their famous Honey-Mustard and Marinara sauces.

Burger King’s ORIGINAL, “real” onion rings are not the same as the “minced” ones they serve now. Mom imitated many other of their “original” offerings, such as their onion rings, steak sandwiches and chocolate milkshakes.

The more I looked back on the different “famous places” for noshing during my childhood, the more I found that triggered those melancholy memories. Thus, the list goes on! Therefor, next week, I’ll share some more family-friendly franchises that have launched since 1955.

In honor of Big Boy’s recent 84th birthday/anniversary, here is another one of Mom’s copycat recipe for their famous Big Boy Hamburger sauce…

As seen in Mom’s self-published cookbook…

The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 7)

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

September 28th, 2020 will be National #GoodNeighborDay

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…36 down, 16 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253