Happy Monday to one and all and happy National Michigan Day to all of my fellow Michiganders! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!
As a proud, born-and-bred Michigander, having been raised by two other born-and-bred Michiganders, I think I should talk about today being, among other things, National Michigan Day! In my Michigander-biased opinion, it is one of the most beautiful states in our country!
Bordered by four of the five Great Lakes (and as a major part of the St. Lawrence Seaway), Michigan is home to an abundance of historic places, beautiful sights, famous people, iconic foods, renowned restaurants, and so much more.
Whenever possible, my husband and I LOVE to go on one-day jaunts or weekend road trips to different areas in our scenic state of Michigan, like my parents used to do. We really enjoy exploring the sparkling, blue water shorelines of the Great Lakes, surrounding most of our state; as much as the in-land lakes, rivers, parks, forests and farmlands throughout the state.
A friend of mine and I recently had a debate about the scenic virtues of our fine state. She’s a travel agent and has traveled all over the world, herself. She expressed concern about my Michigan-dominated, sight-seeing, bucket list, as being too narrow or “close to home”. She just felt that my husband and I should get out of the state and see more of our country.
While there are other states we want to see (if we won the lottery), I contended that Michigan is a big state and there are a lot of places within it, which neither of us have seen, yet, and would like to do so first. Mostly because we don’t get “vacation time” (or any kind of paid time-off) from our employers, so we kind of need to stay within our state, at least, for the sakes of loss-of-work-time and other related financial costs.
We really consider ourselves lucky to live in such a beautiful state! Given enough time and money, we’d love to travel to and explore all of the lighthouses that inhabit Michigan’s shorelines, as well as the old, historic windmill in Holland, Michigan. Personally, after we’re more safe from the Covid-19 pandemic, I’d love to experience Holland’s famous Tulip Festival, which is usually held annually in May.
And just as I wrote that last sentence, my husband walked in with our mail and the first thing he handed me was a gorgeously colorful post card from Holland! Pictured on the front is a beautiful painting of Downtown Holland by Lenore De Pree. I love it! That’s what Mom would call a “meant-to-be moment”.
‘Apparently, it’s true, that LIFE is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.’ – Gloria Pitzer [As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 292).]
My husband and I, both, wish we could afford the time to explore more of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula too. We explored a little of the east side of the U.P., during our honeymoon – such as Paradise, White Fish Point, Tahquamenon Falls, Newberry, St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie.
However, we’d really LOVE to afford the time to go back and see more of its beautiful sights – like Brimley, Escanaba, Grand Marais, Ontonagon, Marquette, Manistique, Munising, the Keweenaw Peninsula of Calumet, Canyon Falls, Ironwood and Copper Harbor – as depicted at TripAdvisor.com.
There are some places (within a couple of hours’ drive) that my husband and I enjoy so much we love to visit them frequently. One such place, which was also a favorite destination of Mom and Dad’s, is Frankenmuth, Michigan! This little town, just southeast of the Saginaw-Bay City area, has been world-famous throughout generations, for their German-heritage and family-style, fried chicken dinners (among other things).
Saginaw is from where one of Mom’s favorite radio talk shows used to air on WSGW. “Listen to the Mrs.” was hosted by Art Lewis (and Sue Smith, when Mom was a regular guest years ago), who became great friends with, both, Mom and Dad over the years.
Normally, thousands of tourists flock to Frankenmuth from all over the world, all year long, and many will wait in line for hours to get their taste of the town’s world-famous chicken dinners at one of its two largest establishments – the Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s. However, not right now because of Covid-19 restrictions. But those days of indoor dining WILL be back!
The town’s German heritage exudes from its many restaurants, bakeries, cheese houses, fudge shops, hotels, breweries and other quaint little stores that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland at the south end of town (which is all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery near the north end of town!
Over the 40 years that Mom investigated different restaurant dishes as “The Recipe DetectiveTM”, she came up with about a dozen great imitations from the Frankenmuth establishments; including some of the famous restaurant dishes available at the two major restaurants mentioned above, as well as some baked goods and sugary confections from the local bakeries and fudge shops.
Mackinac Island, Michigan is a very nostalgic place – the summer vacations that I spent there with my family, as I was growing up, are among my most memorable ones. Especially when we just happened to be staying at the Grand Hotel when the filming of “Somewhere In Time” was going on. We seen Christopher Reeves from a distance a couple of times, but we actually got to meet and talk to Christopher Plummer and Jane Seymour between scenes!
The island is actually full of many DIVINE scents! From the variety of flowers in the beautifully kept gardens everywhere you look to the yummy fudge and other sugary confections being made in the little candy shops to the mouth-watering aromas wafting from the open windows and vents of the island’s restaurants and bakeries that line the downtown streets where the mainland ferries bring millions of tourists every spring through fall (as the island is closed to tourism during the winter months).
The following recipe is Mom’s imitation of dark fudge like Mackinac Island serves – as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 31).
Probably one of the most notable Michiganders in our state’s history is Henry Ford, who has contributed enormously to the evolution and growth of our state, as well as to that of our country. He was the founder of the Ford Motor Company and invented the first automobile that middle-class Americans could afford.
Among other great feats, Ford also designed the mass production, assembly line; which led to the industrial revolution. Additionally, in the late 1800’s, Ford worked with another notable Michigander, Thomas Edison, who was born in Ohio but grew up in Port Huron, MI. The contributions to our society from both of these Michigan men are unbeatable.
Relative to Henry Ford, in a roundabout way, in the summer of 1976, Mom had self-published a little cookbook she wrote, called The American Cookery Cookbook, of which the Henry Ford Museum (Dearborn, MI) bought copies to put in its bi-centennial collection. Mom felt very honored!
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 296)
My list of ‘Secret Recipes’ had grown to 200 and we offered them, on 4×6-inch cards [that I printed on my mimeograph], at $.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders, so I put all those recipes into a book.
It was going to be our only book on the subject, since most of the recipes were fast foods – but, as it turned out, it was only the first in a series of five books. After ‘Book One’ took off and became a very good seller, I did a Bicentennial American Cookery book as a limited edition and was pleased when the Henry Ford Library at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan ordered copies for their Bicentennial collection. That was July 1976…
Another famous Ford from Michigan was Gerald R. Ford, former (38th) President of the United States, and his wife, Betty Ford – First Lady (1974-1977). Betty was a big advocate for early detection of breast cancer and chemical dependency treatment (both were raised in Grand Rapids, MI). Mom had another roundabout happenstance with each of them also, as she wrote about in the passages pictured below.
Pictured below is Mom’s revision of the recipe she received from Betty Ford, as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Joy Of NOT Cooking Any More Than You Have To.
Yet another famous Michigander that Mom came to know, through her own growing fame (especially after being on the Phil Donahue Show) as the Secret Recipes DetectiveTM, is Ed McMahon and his wife, Pam (also a Michigander), which I also wrote about in another blog post a while back…
Mom’s copycat recipes revolution took the nation by storm and washed over the world – thanks to the Phil Donahue Show – like a tidal wave! Ever since her early cookbooks on the subject were first released in the mid-1970s, Mom referred to her copycat imitations as her solutions to “eating out – at home”, and that, she’d add, no longer meant hot dogs on the grill, outside, in the yard!
Word spread like wildfire that a small-town, Michigan housewife was duplicating famous foods from famous places and sharing her secrets in her self-published newsletter and cookbooks! Radio stations, newspapers, magazines and television – they all picked up on the story and it snowballed from there.
Mom was also invited to appear on the Tonight Show; but had been so over-whelmed by her other TV appearances and the audiences’ responses and orders with which our family just couldn’t keep up. Not wanting to get so big that she may lose her enjoyment in what she does, Mom, regretfully, had to decline… [But] Michiganders are kindred spirits!
One name in chocolate that Michiganders know well is Sanders Candy. The official Sanders story can be found at https://www.sanderscandy.com/about-us. In the early 1970s, when Mom developed her first imitation of their scrumptious Hot Fudge Sauce, it was among her first 200 “copycat” recipes that launched Secret RecipesTM.
Michiganders (especially southeastern ones) know all about Sanders’ satiny-smooth, luscious, milk chocolate delights! As their company slogan once said, ‘When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat.’ I have a lot of great family-time memories of when Mom made their special treats for us – and it was especially fun to help her make them too!
A secret that Mom discovered, in developing her homemade version, was that Nestle brand milk chocolate was the key ingredient in replicating the creaminess and flavor, as no other brand she had tried brought about the same taste and texture that she was trying to achieve. I’ve shared a couple different versions of Mom’s homemade Sanders’ Hot Fudge Sauce imitations in the “Recipes” tab on this website. It was always one of our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s copycat creations!
Many decades ago, during the countless radio show interviews that Mom did, around the country and internationally, as the Secret Recipes DetectiveTM, she often received requests for Michigan-based recipes. Usually the appeals were from listeners who were re-located Michiganders that couldn’t find or enjoy their favorite, Michigan-made, iconic foods!
Michigan restaurants that Mom would frequent to taste-test their dishes and try to develop imitations of them at home included the Cheesecake Factory, Olga’s Kitchen, Bill Knapp’s, Win Schuler’s, Elias Brothers’ Big Boy (from whose menus she developed over 50 imitations), and J.L. Hudson’s (from whose menus she developed about three dozen imitations) – just to name a few of her favorite places.
Michigan is a treasure trove of great places, people, products, food and so much more! Happy National Michigan Day!
In honor of #NationalMichiganDay, here is Mom’s “secret recipe” for imitating Hudson’s Cheese Bread at home; as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 17)
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Some other celebrations for the week [Jan. 17th-23rd (for 2021)] include: National Handwriting Analysis Week, Hunt For Happiness Week, National Healthy Weight Week, & National Fresh Squeezed Juice Week!
Tuesday is National Popcorn Day!
…3 down and another 49 to go!