I LOVE November for many reasons! First of all – just as Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season, likewise – November is the unofficial start of “the holiday season”, which is most certainly a season of entertaining! Even if we have to keep it small for the continued Covid-19 threats and restrictions.
Growing up, as one of “The Recipe Detective’s” children, I learned a lot from Mom about entertaining, for which I am eternally grateful. Most of our family’s “entertaining” occasions were during the fall and winter holiday seasons – when, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of her hat, Mom could whip up hors d’oeuvres and drinks, as if out of thin air, and on a moment’s notice for unexpected guests that popped in to say hello and visit for a bit.
Whether Mom (and Dad) were entertaining for a few unexpected friends or a scheduled, big family (and friends) event, Mom had a whole “Rolodex” of entertaining ideas in her head from which to draw. That was how Mom grew up, as her mom was the same – and that’s how I was brought up, as well. I’m so grateful for my family!
All November long, there is a national celebration of Family Stories Month! I have a sign, hanging proudly, near my dining room table that reads: “There’s a room in every home where the smallest events and biggest occasions become the stories of our lives.”
The table is the same one I grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. It always seemed to be my family’s favorite spot in which to gather and eat and talk and laugh – about all the many events of our lives; making plans for our tomorrows and creating what became, at least for me, great family stories.
In our household, every event, even the smallest, involved food! Imagine how great it was when there were planned events and parties such as for Halloween or a birthday, or even Thanksgiving dinner with a dozen relatives and guests on top of our own large brood. I loved to help Mom in the kitchen!
Lists were made and checked and revised and checked again! It was a circus of juggling time and magic acts all rolled into one! All 5 of us kids had to pitch-in and help on big events, especially us girls…sexist or not, that’s just the way it was back then.
According to NationalDayCalendar.com: ‘The goal of National Life Writing Month is to encourage people to write about themselves and their life as they have experienced it thus far (it’s sometimes known as Memoir Writing Month.) Now is the time for you to dedicate yourself to writing personal and family stories, memories, traditions, significant events, and anything else you feel is worth adding to your life story.’
That’s basically what I’ve been doing, here, EVERY MONDAY for the past couple of years! However, Mom was practically a life-long-writer-of-life, journaling on the significant events, surrounding her and her family on a DAILY basis. In fact, Mom had been journaling about her life and that of her family since she was about 10 years old until shortly before she passed away – over 70 years – greatly influenced and inspired by the Bronte sisters, whose family story she saw in the 1946 film, “Devotion”.
“Devotion” as well as many other events and people influenced Mom as a pioneer and a trailblazer in her field. Mom was a writer, satirist, cartoonist, publisher, marketer, and more – still proud to be a homemaker and yet have a “paying” career (from home) too, where she could cleverly combine the two! Regardless of the WLM (Women’s Liberation Movement), Mom set to work, focusing her topics of writing toward the fence-sitting, semi-liberated homemakers like herself.
Mom wrote, published and marketed her own newsletter (as well as her MANY dozens of cookbooks) for more than a quarter of a century – January 1974 through December 2000.
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. 23)
IN THE BEGINNING
At the time the assignment was handed to me by the newspaper editor for whom I then worked; I knew more about cooking than anyone else on the staff. I was also the only ‘married lady’ on the staff, which in those days of homemaking, housewives and the Donna Reed show, automatically qualified me to handle the food page at the newspaper (when I had been a feature writer and columnist for a long time.)
I accepted the challenge wholeheartedly because I did want to write for the paper. If they had told me to do the obituaries, I would’ve given even that assignment my best effort. The food page was a challenge for me, in view of the fact that there was no test kitchen at the newspaper. I would be testing the recipes in my own kitchen at home. There was a small compensation in my paycheck at the end of the week for the groceries I used, but not enough to fully reimburse me. I accepted what they gave me gratefully, however…
Of course, I look back now in amazement at what I was able to do for a whole week with a 3-pound package of hamburger. How it began as spaghetti sauce, then sloppy Joe mixture and, with the addition of red kidney beans and some other seasonings, chili concurrently… It was fun, too, now that I recall those early days.
MAKING TIME FOR OPPORTUNITY
But some of the thoughts of which I wished to write were never properly developed on paper and published because there just wasn’t enough time. Later, when I could have made the time, there wasn’t a market for [it]; so, here I am [Dec. 1989], 17 years after the first recipe collection [Jan. 1973] was an outstanding success, still looking for the time and opportunity to write the book I have always wanted to write.
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. 42 & 44)
THE HOMEMAKERS’ NEWSLETTER
THE NEWSLETTER BEGAN with the mimeograph in our utility room where I cut the stencils, Inc. the drum by hand, applied the stencils and ran the copies off, a few hundred at a time, allowing them to ear-dry on the dining room table in the next room.
The dining room table was a door to which Paul had affixed for table legs. It was seldom clear of our work. I never gave any thought, then either, to the number of hours that we put into producing the newsletter. We simply worked until the work was finished, or we found a good ‘breaking-off’ point. (p. 42)
BELIEVE ME, it is not easy putting out your own newsletter, and it is foolish for anyone to believe that there is a blueprint or floor plan to follow that will promise instant success… (p. 44)
Moreover, November is also celebrating National Inspirational Role Models Month! Outside of her family, Mom was greatly influenced, throughout her life, by many talented women – comedians and writers like Carol Burnette, Mary Tyler Moore, and Lucille Ball top the list. Other talented ladies to whom Mom looked up include Erma Bombeck, Carol Duvall, Betsy Masterton, Peg Bracken, and Irma Rombauer; just to name a handful.
As mentioned above, Mom had a lot of great influences among her peers, but they weren’t the only role models to whom she looked up and respected. I mention this here because a lot of people, like Mom (and myself), have role models that are from their own immediate families and ancestors too!
Mom’s first two (and biggest) influences in homemaking were, of course, her own mom; as well as my dad’s mom – since, when they were first married, Mom and Dad lived with Dad’s parents for a short while. Below is a picture of the “inspiration” story that Mom wrote many decades ago and re-printed in one of the last issues of her newsletter.
When it came to entertaining, food was usually the “guest star” in our house. Whether it was an hors d’oeuvre or a main entree, Mom never just served from the pot or “threw” it on a dish. She cared about how it was presented because she cared about everyone with whom she shared her table.
Additionally, Mom never made “just enough”, because in our household, you never knew when unexpected guests would pop in or the dish would be such a hit that we’d all want second helpings! If Mom over-planned and there were left-overs, she was also a sorceress at re-inventing left-overs into a whole new meal.
I’ve always tried to do the same as a mom & wife, myself. Like Mom, it makes me feel good to make others feel good – especially through food. It’s a universal icebreaker and relationship-builder. That’s what Mom taught me since I was young and afraid that I wouldn’t make any friends at school. She gave me extra cookies in my lunch to share with the other kids and assured me that and my smile was all I needed. It worked!
Again, that’s still not all that November is celebrating. In relation to the others I’ve mentioned so far, it is also National Gratitude Month! For me, Mom is “that source” from which I derive most of my own inspiration. And I am grateful for all that she’s given me, all that she’s taught me and all that she continues to teach me throughout her everlasting writings. They truly are “the stories of our lives”!
EVEN MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 113)
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, was always my mother’s advice to me when I would try to bend a sympathetic ear, imploring her to comfort me and keep me company in my occasional misery. And, of course, misery does love company!
But counting my blessings was the last thing in the world I felt up to doing when the world seemed to be so hopelessly bleak, and whatever problem I had at the time, seem so devastating to me. Now here I am telling my own children the same thing. Only I tell my own children to count their opportunities, for an opportunity is just a blessing in disguise!
I wish I had known this years ago. What frustrating disappointments I could have avoided, or at the upmost, handled better. I would’ve used the enthusiasm and the optimism that I acquired during the last two years or so to work off those petty resentments that separate us from folks whom we could really care about, if we only get to know them better, and perhaps understand why we’re in conflict.
Naturally, if we judge everything by what we see on television, we’d know that’s impossible – that people in conflict can’t resolve their differences, or so the reports indicate in those real-life fantasies that exaggerate greed, envy and contempt as if the motivation for these traits were purely justified. I don’t think they ever are!
Preparing your assortment of thoughts and feelings in a compatible mixture, in order to produce successful relationships, is really no different than preparing an assortment of compatible ingredients in a recipe for a dish that promises to be a stunning success on the dinner table.
Whether it’s a recipe for preparing a very good dish, or a very good relationship, the basics are still the same – compatible ingredients, attention to detail, thinking about what you are doing, and making logical adjustments as you go!
In honor of today, November 2nd, being National Deviled Egg Day and National Ohio Day, here are TWO of Mom’s “secret recipes” – one for Deviled Eggs, as seen in her self-published cookbook, Sugar Free Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1987, p. 68); and another for her version of Ohio Buckeyes, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Reprinted – June 2002, p. 72).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
…44 down, 8 to go!