Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Secret Recipes Detective

Happy Monday, everybody!

Tomorrow is the 1-year anniversary of my launching this blog, Mondays & Memories of My Mom. I started this to honor my mom’s legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret RecipesTM Detective. The title, Recipe DetectiveTM, which Mom eventually trademarked, was bestowed on her in the mid-1970s by the Detroit area radio listeners of Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” show, as she continuously called in with answers to recipe quandaries on how to make just about anything; and she, forever, savored the honor!

Early on, as a mother of five ravenous, young children on a tight household budget, Mom had a knack for discovering ways to imitate fast food and junk food, as well as famous restaurant dishes and grocery items right at home, in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand – no fancy gadgets or expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. Mom liked to claim that her gadgets were always hard to find because we kids would take them for playing with in the sand box.

But, I think Mom’s pioneer trailblazing of the copycat recipes movement for imitating fast food and junk food, in particular, was the ultimate carving out of a totally unique niche that no other person, at that time, had ever attempted. For decades, great restaurants have put out cookbooks of recipes of their famous dishes – The Blueberry Hills Cookbook by Elsie Masterton was probably Mom’s favorite – but, no one else was doing recipes to mimic the fast food and junk food markets that were considered taboo by the food critics!

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

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 a wildfire that a small town, Michigan housewife was duplicating famous foods from famous places and sharing her secrets in her self-published newsletter issues and cookbooks! Radio stations, newspapers, magazines and television – they all picked up on the story and it snowballed from there.

Sometimes, Mom received letters from her readers, people across the country and around the world, who didn’t have the same products in their area that Mom used in some of her recipes, asking what they should use in its place. That inspired her to create even more recipes for ingredients that were expensive or hard to find in certain regions. She was always focused on saving families money because that also benefitted her own family.

Secret RecipesTM was Mom’s legacy of love – even before it actually became Secret RecipesTM. It all stemmed from her passion for writing. Although, Mom’s original writing aspirations, when she was a young girl (influenced by a movie about the Bronte sisters), was to write a great American novel; she believed that Devine Intervention detoured her to write about other things, but never away from writing, itself.

Every success Mom had in writing, was usually centered around cooking and homemaking – from the many essay contests that she entered and won to her multiple careers in the newspaper field to writing her own columns and cartoon panels and, then, her own newsletter publication, along with multitudes of cookbooks (which she also published and promoted herself).

Writing was never a hobby to Mom. She used to say that being a writer isn’t what she did but, rather, who she was! In a lot of her publishings, Mom loved to say that, while she made a worthwhile living at writing, it was her writing that made living worthwhile. My mom had a special talent for combining food for thought with food for the soul, as well as food for the table – usually sprinkled with a dash of sarcastic humor – in almost all of her publishings.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 6)

IT ALL STARTED WITH THE STROKE OF A PEN

I DO, WITH RECIPES, WHAT RICH LITTLE DOES WITH VOICES! Imitating the ‘Secret Recipes’ of the food industry has been an exciting experience for me. The critics felt that “fast foods” and restaurant dishes were not worth the effort to duplicate at home, when you can just as easily buy the products already prepared!

The critics who contend that ‘fast foods’ are ‘junk foods’ and not good for us, have probably never prepared these foods themselves. Certainly, they have no access to the closely guarded recipes from the food companies that created these dishes, as there are only a few people in each operation that are permitted the privilege of such information! So, 99% of the critics’ speculations are based on their own opinions.

To know what these dishes contained, they’d have to be better chemists than I, as I have tested over 20,000 recipes with only the finished product as my guide to determine what each contained. ‘Fast foods’ are not ‘junk foods’ unless they’re not properly prepared. Any food that is poorly prepared (and just as badly presented) is junk!

Unfortunately, ‘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 makes the difference!

In the early 70s, I was trying to juggle marriage, motherhood, homemaking and a newspaper column syndicated through Columbia Features, when it seemed obvious to me that there wasn’t a single cookbook on the market that could help me take the monotony out of mealtime. There was not a single recipe in the newspaper’s food section that did not smack of down-home dullness!

‘Okay,’ they said at the newspaper I worked for, ‘YOU write the column on foods and recipes that YOU think would really excite the readers and make them happy!’ I did, but that didn’t make the Editors happy, because it made their [food industry] advertisers miserable. When I was told that I’d have to go back to monotonous meatloaf and uninteresting side-dishes that made mealtime a ritual rather than a celebration or pick up my check, I told them to ‘MAIL it to me!’ I went home to start my own paper!

It was probably a dumb thing to do, amid an economic recession with the highest rate of unemployment I had ever experienced, but it was worth the risk. I was a dedicated writer that new someone had to give homemakers something more than what they were being given in the colored glossy magazines, where a bowl of library paste could even be photographed to look appetizing!

…THEY LAUGHED! THEY DOUBTED! They even tried to take me to court when some famous food companies insisted that I stop giving away their secrets. They couldn’t believe me when I said that I did NOT know, nor did I want to know, what they put in their so-called secret recipes. I did know that there are very few recipes that can’t be duplicated or imitated at home. And we could do them for much less than purchasing the original product. I proved…it can be and should be done!

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time… There is speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy ‘eating out’, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants. To each, his own! Who would want to imitate ‘fast food’ at home?

I found that over a million people who saw me demonstrate replicating some famous fast food products [the FIRST time I was] on The Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981) DID – and their letters poured in at a rate of over 15,000 a day for months on end! And while I have investigated the recipes, dishes, and cooking techniques of ‘fine’ dining rooms around the world, I received more requests from people who wanted to know how to make things like McDonald’s Special Sauce or General Foods Shake-N-Bake coating mix or White Castle’s hamburgers than I received for those things like Club 21’s Coq Au Vin.

I inherited Mom’s love for writing (among other things) and, now, that has become my legacy of love also, as I carry on her torch, telling her story in this blog. It really became my own legacy of love in 2015, when I began helping Mom rewrite her favorite, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook. Shortly before Mom passed away in January 2018, it was published by Balboa Press, under the title Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, in hopes to inspire a new generation – especially the digital generation, as it’s now available as an eBook too!

I can only hope that I’ve made my mom proud of how I’ve been keeping her torch lit and shining bright by telling her story… her legacy of love… with regards especially to this blog series, as well as to the website and her last cookbook; developing and promoting them, in her memory and honor, with all of the love and passion that she inspires in me.

Mom was such a huge influence on who I grew to be that I feel compelled to keep her torch lit and shining bright! Her love of writing and cooking and inspiring others in the same was, to me, one of the biggest parts of her legacy. It wasn’t something she did just for our family, but for all families.

My mom continues to inspire me every time I read her works… every time I write an entry for this blog… every time I hear from a reader who remembers Mom and has a story to tell me about their memories of her. It all inspires me to take this blog and her website to new heights in her honor. It’s still a work in progress. I’ll be honest – it’ll probably always be a work in progress, as I’ll always continue to evolve as a writer/blogger.

One of my favorite and youngest memories of Mom & I is from the summer before I turned 4 and she was teaching me how to write my name and address before I went to school that September – from showing me how to hold the pencil in my little fingers to how to draw the letters and form the words by putting those wonderful letters together…I can remember it well.

Something else Mom inspired in me is my passion to continually learn new things. Besides being grateful for something every day, Mom would also promote learning something new every day. From that, I’ve determined, every day is a defining moment for each and every one of us, in which experience, faith and knowledge, all together, influence our personal evolutions. That’s why we should seize those moments and those days and do our best to make the most out of them!

IN CLOSING…

Although, Labor Day was a couple weeks ago, marking the unofficial start to the fall season; next Monday is actually the official first day of Autumn 2019! When I think of the fall season, I think of warm, slow-cooker meals, soups and chili. With that in mind, I want to share Mom’s recipe for a potato-cheese soup like Bennigan’s, which Mom called “Beginagain’s Awesome Potato Cheese Soup”.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Love at First Taste

Happy Monday and happy National “I Love Food” Day!

I haven’t found a lot of information on this national celebration of food, so I’m not sure how wide-spread it is, but it’s out there, nonetheless. And, why not celebrate food? It’s a basic necessity, as we sure wouldn’t live very long without it! However, food has evolved over the centuries from just “basic necessities” to “works of art”.

Consequently, on National “I Love Food” Day, we should all revel in having such an array and an abundance of great foods (and beverages) from which to choose. What’s your favorite food? Can you even choose just one food item or one, single, favorite dish?

‘Food is more than a physical substance. It has an intangible quality that nourishes our spirits. A good dish, lovingly prepared, at some point in the process of tasting and blending, becomes more than the sum of its ingredients.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Eating Out at Home Cookbook (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 1)

While searching for “American’s top favorite foods” on Bing, I found a rather large consensus of choices for hamburgers, fries, soda pop, cookies (particularly chocolate chip) and pizza among most of the top 10 choices. As Reference.com says, “From entrees and desserts to soft drinks, Americans have a definite love of foods heavy in fat and sugars.”

I LOVE bacon! It’s something of which I will NEVER tire, and I can enjoy a lot of it in my new low-carb lifestyle. But, I don’t know if that’s my number-one-favorite food of all. If I was to categorize my foods and choose my favorite carb-based food – even though I don’t eat them anymore – the one I miss the most is probably potatoes. But, that’s in a very close running with flour-based foods, like pasta.

To put a new twist on the old adage “we are what we eat”, I found another great, timeless article at HuffPost.com called “What Your Favorite Food Says About You” by Nile Cappello (10/31/2013). It precisely described me, given my personal, top three choices (above) for bacon, potatoes and pasta (represented by “macaroni and cheese” in the article), which were among the many other choices listed. I don’t know how accurate it is for other people, but it’s a fun read, nonetheless!

There’s always a favorite something when you start to categorize and sub-categorize food options. We’ve been learning about the five basic food groups of health and nutrition since we were toddlers, watching Sesame Street; and the various blends of them combined in dishes and meals made to please our palettes and comfort our hunger pangs. There’s a great article and slide show called “America’s Best Comfort Foods”, by Emma Sloley (Nov. 28, 2016), at TravelAndLeisure.com. But, I must warn you that it’s practically impossible to read it without getting hungry! Speaking of great articles, here are some “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” articles that Mom wrote, in some of her cookbooks, on the subject of “loving food”…

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Aug. 1980; p. 1)

Many people feel that life is up hill all the way. They fail to look at the things that are good, enjoyable and worthwhile. They are conscious, only, of the climb. No road is ever uphill forever! We should, soon, learn the importance of being able to, also, come down hill without fear AND be able to notice the scenery along the road, too.

Going through life, without noticing the scenery and trying to see some of the beauty that is there – waiting to be recognized – reminds me of running helter-skelter up and down supermarket aisles, without seeing the ABUNDANCE that is there.

Just take a moment to look at the heart-breaking plight of starving people in many parts of the world; and take a good look at the aisles and aisles of food available in this country! We have so much available to us, here…

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977, pp. 1 & 6)

COOKING IS BOTH, ART & SCIENCE

Cooking is not only an art, but also a science; and, when you’re trying to imitate the recipe secrets of famous restaurant and fast food chain dishes, you must work like a chemist – not a cook! You don’t have to have a background in food chemistry to identify various ingredients. The only thing I have in common with a chemist is curiosity…

Some of the famous dishes of the food industry, today [1976-1977], are vastly oversold to a very gullible public. We’ve become a television oriented society and, because the commercials are, sometimes, so much better than the programs they sponsor…

While the products don’t really come out of test tubes and laboratory beakers, they do come from combinations of ingredients that produce desired results. What you have to strive for, in imitating any recipe, is the right combination. Trial and error is the only way to arrive at a satisfactory result!

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

FAMOUS DISHES AREN’T REALLY ALL THAT DIFFICULT TO DUPLICATE

The first thing you have to do is stop thinking of yourself as a COOK and start thinking as a CHEMIST! You want to take a substance and try to discover its individual components – whereas, most cooks make the mistake of starting with one ingredient and building around it.

Your task is to take the final result and break it down… working backwards from the creations of the skilled cook, who usually stirs up a piece of culinary artistry with just a ‘pinch’ of this and a ‘dollop’ of that and a ‘dash’ of something else.

Start with questioning yourself about the food you wish to duplicate… What color is it? What’s the texture like? How is it flavored? And, how is it prepared? [Also,] you must have something to which you can compare it – a basic recipe from which you can draw the ingredients that lay the groundwork for a duplicated masterpiece.

[At that point,] the only way to duplicate a dish is, really, to taste and test – over and over, until you eventually achieve what you feel are satisfactory results.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES, CONTINUED…

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home Cookbook (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 1)

A PHILOSOPHY

A whole approach to life, can be expressed in a bowl of soup. For ‘cooking’, as everyone is so fond of saying, ‘is an art.’

It’s an art we all can learn. As with the other arts, practicing it competently requires care, patience and the skill that comes with experience. But, above all else, to be a good cook, you must WANT to.

At one time or another, most of us have had the experience of cooking when we really didn’t feel like doing it, Then, even our tried-and-true recipes are apt to be disappointing [and] lifeless. Something just isn’t there.

What’s missing is the spirit of the cook. For food is more than a physical substance. It has an intangible quality that nourishes our spirits. A good dish, lovingly prepared, at some point in the process of tasting and blending, becomes more than the sum of its ingredients. Its flavor [and] its uniqueness are created by the cook.

YOU WILL FIND PLEASURE AND EXCITEMENT IN COOKING, IF YOU PUT THEM INTO IT.

There’s no limit to the satisfaction you can gain. Taste as you go. Experiment with a little with seasonings. Try new foods and new combinations [of food]. The results will have ‘you’ in them. You will face the job with a feeling of freedom, with a feeling of creativeness; and, both, you and your family will be constantly increasing the enjoyment of living.

When you cook this way, with warmth and active pleasure, your meals will be more than just food. Your zest and your spirit will be in them – and some of the radiance of Life, itself.

Mom always made my experiences with food and learning to cook so exciting and self-satisfying! I rarely ever cook the same dish the same way, twice. I love to experiment with different seasoning combinations; and have yet to hear a complaint from my family that something hasn’t tasted good. I’m so proud to have learned from the best! I love you, Mom!

IN CLOSING…

#ILoveFoodDay

In honor of “top food favorites” and National “I Love Food” Day, here is a photo copy of one of Mom’s copycat recipes. This is her version of a Mrs. Field’s product, which she called “Mrs. Meadow’s Chocolate Chip Cookies”, as well as a couple of different options, and gave away for free on her product-ordering information sheets.

To order Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, it is available for $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 each at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happy Labor Day!

Happy Monday and, most especially, I hope everyone has a fantastic Labor Day today!

125 years ago, Labor Day officially became a federal holiday. It’s celebrated yearly, on the first Monday in September and, just as Memorial Day has become the unofficial start to summer, Labor Day has, likewise, become the unofficial end to summer.

Labor Day doesn’t really have any traditional customs for observing it. There are so many different kinds of celebrations, including family and community picnics, parades, outdoor concerts, festivals, fireworks and even shopping; as retailers always offer huge Labor Day weekend deals and discounts to move the rest of their summer stock. Moreover, many people also take advantage of the long weekend to go on one, last, summer vacation.

Something else that usually happens on (or by) Labor Day weekend is that all the stores clearance their remaining back-to-school stock, so they can start to fill up their seasonal sections with all things Halloween and autumn-harvest themed. Meanwhile, their stock rooms are already piling up with Christmas inventory. And, of course, apple and pumpkin spices are being added into everything now! In fact, many Michigan cider mills began opening this weekend for the holiday and the rest of Michigan’s harvesting season.

Decades ago, when my siblings and I were kids, I think that the main reason my Mom celebrated Labor Day was because it meant that we were going back to school the next day and Mom could start her vacation! The following is one of Mom’s syndicated editorial columns, written around August 1971 – she called it School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation

By Gloria Pitzer (Algonac, MI; Aug. 1971)

Never mind what the calendar says about the longest day of summer. It doesn’t really fall in June. It falls somewhere during the last week of August, as mothers everywhere breathlessly await the beginning of another school year!

When listening to a child lick a postage stamp in the next room begins to give me a headache and the cat seems to be stomping his paws and even my Mixmaster and my vacuum cleaner sound like mini bikes, I know it’s time for school to start.

This is what happens when you live with children who believe that the same door they left open all winter should be slammed all summer. And all I have to show for 10 weeks of summer, is a tape recording of 400 hours of the kids next door, gunning their motorcycles under my kitchen windows; which I felt would make a lovely remembrance for their mother who has been out, working in a pleasant air-conditioned office. Someday, she may want to know what she missed while her boys were growing up. I can tell her what she missed – migraines, excessive nervous acidity and hives, that’s what!

The Pitzer Kids – Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

The first 8 weeks of summer rushed past us so quickly – it was like catching quicksilver in greased gloves. Suddenly, there was our 15-year old [son], telling us he needed back-to-school clothes; but, he’d like some new blue jeans that didn’t look like new blue jeans.

Honestly, I don’t know where you can buy new blue jeans with broken zippers, frayed hems, worn seats and patched knees. He [also] said he had wished he had bought his school shoes last month, so he could have had plenty of time to scuff up the toes and run the heels over before school started; then, nobody would accuse him of wearing Sunday school clothes.

It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that my Avon lady sends me a CARE package and my mother apologizes for not having had the children visit her more often before they had to go back to school. I receive fliers from the drug store advertising Christmas wrappings and ribbons, and you can’t find a 99-cent Styrofoam cooler anywhere in town for the Labor Day picnic you wish you didn’t have to attend, because any picnic with 5 children is no PICNIC!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, 1964

It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that I’m ready to vote ‘yes’ in a school bond issue and school supplies that were on sale in July are being replaced on dime store counters by Halloween candy and costumes.

It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that a neighbor stops by to see if he ever returned the lawn mower he borrowed from us and is disappointed when he learns he didn’t because he wanted to borrow it again!

Actually, the longest day of summer can make one weak – especially if she’s a mother!

To hear Mom tell it, we were ravenous little Tasmanian devils that ate her out of house and home! But, that was Mom’s kind of humor… cynical, sarcastic, satirical and mocking, like most stand-up comedians. She grew up inspired by the great ones of the 1940s, like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Gracie Allen and George Burns, Sid Caesar and Mae West; then, in the 1950s, by the likes of Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason and so on.

1973 – Promotional ad Mom developed and sent to various newspapers and magazines for syndication, marketing her own talents.

Mom could see humor in almost anything. “They” say, in the comedy realm, that the best material comes from real life experiences! My mom had a way of taking our everyday life events and turning them into some great “fishing stories” – and, besides the written stories, she also illustrated humorous cartoon panels, which she called Full House, as kept by Gloria Pitzer, that depicted the essence of some of those stories as well! As the old adage goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Below is another comedic example from Mom’s No Laughing Matter editorials regarding our eating habits. Now, keep in mind, our mother was a really good cook (despite her sarcastic humor claiming otherwise) – so, of course, we were going to eat her out of house and home! There’s no date on this editorial, titled Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers! It would have been published in the mid-to-late 1970s, as it was signed as “Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective”.

As I have discussed in some of my previous blog entries, the title, “Recipe Detective”, was given to Mom in the mid-1970s by the listeners of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor radio show, of which Mom was an avid listener AND, eventually, a weekly guest with her Secret RecipesTM. But, it also could have been written, originally, in the early-to-mid 1970s; as Mom discusses her “15-year old” son in the first paragraph. My brother, Bill, was 15 in 1972; and my other brother, Mike, was 15 in 1974.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers!

By Gloria Pitzer, Recipe DetectiveTM

In order to prevent our kids from eating us right into bankruptcy, I’ve been, literally, forced to salvage food in the refrigerator by trying to camouflage it. Just last week, I made a banana look like a ballpoint pen and hid a stack of sliced cheese in an old stationary box. When our 15-year old discovered them in the refrigerator, I assured him it was for writing letters to those people who deserved a cold shoulder from me.

Several [readers] have written, asking me what I do with leftovers. I realize leftovers can be a problem but, in my case, I can hardly remember what they’re like. With five, fully-powered, automatic food disposals, walking around disguised as ‘Problem Eaters’, this house hasn’t seen a leftover in years. Leftovers is not my problem – having enough to go around the first time is!

I keep telling them, ‘Please! Eat like there IS a tomorrow!’ But, they don’t listen. There was a time when I could have equated their appetites with a compliment to my cooking, but that was before I saw them eat [Kellogg’s] Pop Tarts© without removing the wrappers… They are problem eaters, alright; but, the problem is they never stop eating!

There are some things they will avoid, like brown spots on an apple, as well as the core and the stem. Neither will they eat parsley flakes or dry minced onions. The also have an adversity for whatever might be good for them, like green vegetables; which means it’s perfectly safe for me to conceal Twinkies© in a box [for frozen] Brussel sprouts or Nabisco’s [Nilla] Wafers in a box that once contained prunes.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

I’ve even hidden Christmas cookies so well that it wasn’t until we went to a 4th of July picnic that I discovered them in the cold drink thermos. I’ve hidden Oreos© in a tall, brown jar marked ‘NOT TO BE TAKEN INTERNALLY!’ I’ve tried to salvage enough of tonight’s pot roast to make tomorrow night’s stew, by wrapping it in a damp towel and trying to pass it off, on a lower shelf of the refrigerator, as my ironing.

When I discovered the three empty quart bottles that had, only moments before, contained ginger ale; it wasn’t difficult to expose the guilty person. It was the one [from whom], when he opened his mouth, I could hear the ocean roar!

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I tried to frighten them away from what is loosely termed JUNK, like chips and doughnuts and pizza snacks; but, they refuse to listen to how their teeth will rot and acne will make them unpopular.

Already, our 15-year old is supporting a 30-cents-a-day candy habit! [Note: In the early-to-mid 1970s, that was a LOT of candy!]

Just yesterday, in fact, I found the following reminder taped to the refrigerator: ‘Mom, we’re out of Pop Tarts again.’ I was very upset. The note had been written with the very last banana on the only slice of cheese!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Mom’s and my humorous memories about our family and food! Next Monday, September 9th, is National “I Love Food” Day! So, I hope you’ll “tune in”, again, for more amusing food stories and …Memories of My Mom – plus, her famous copycat recipe for Johnnie Lega’s world-famous chili, as seen in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).

IN CLOSING…

To celebrate the beginning of football season, here are TWO recipes that Mom developed and published around 1972, in one of her Cookbook Corner syndications of editorials and recipes. I love the Pepper Casserole recipe for my low-carb lifestyle!

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is 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

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – There is a Recipe for That!

Happy Monday to everyone, as we approach the end of August and Labor Day weekend – it’s the “unofficial” end of summer! Although, technically, there are 4 more weeks until fall really begins.

Mom kept a well-rounded library of sources from which to draw upon for inspiration and information. Remember, this was decades before the World Wide Web was available to households. Her favorite “go-to” books and magazines, when she was laying the groundwork for her copycat versions of the famous dishes and products of the food industry, included: Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping and Farm Home Journal.

Mom also loved her copies of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor Recipes cookbooks, the Bentley Farm Cookbook by Virginia Williams Bentley, the Blueberry Hills Menu Cookbook by Elsie Masterton, The Complete I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken; and she considered her copy of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer to be the bible of every good cook. In fact, Mom often recommended it, even though her own cookbook, The Joy of Not Cooking – Any More Than You Have To, was a bit of a spoof on it.

However, Mom’s first two biggest influences in the kitchen were, of course, her own mom; as well as my dad’s mom, as they lived with Dad’s parents for a short while, when they were newlyweds. Below is a picture of the story, which Mom re-printed in one of her last issues of the newsletter that she wrote and published for more than a quarter of a century (Jan. 1974 through Dec. 2000.)

Likewise, my mom was my initial kitchen influence as well. Besides some of the basics, which my high school Home Ec. class didn’t teach me as a teenager; Mom taught me many things in my young adult life as a busy, working-mom with a baby and another on the way – especially about recipe ingredients and substitutions – including “short-cut-cooking”, as she termed it.

Eventually, Mom put a collection of her “short-cut-cooking” recipes together into one cookbook, which she called Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret Recipes©, St. Clair, MI; April 1986). It has always been one of my own favorite “go-to” cookbooks. But, of course, I love all of her books! I have most of them, but not all.

I also have her copy of Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book and some of her copies of Bob Allison’s cookbooks, called Ask Your Neighbor Recipes. Bob Allison and his “neighbors” were other huge influences on Mom, as that’s basically where “The Recipe Detective” was born, back in the 1970s. Below is a collection of Mom’s writings regarding “short-cut cooking” and ingredient substitutions that work and don’t work.

Radio editorial from Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI 48079; April 1986, pp. 1-2)

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes© Newsletter, 125th Issue (Secret Recipes©, St. Clair, MI; Mar-Apr 1987; p.3)

You have to learn to be versatile when it comes to ingredients. Some things can be substituted, and some cannot. In [my] 1977 issue of The Second-Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977), I wrote a little poem that pretty well says it all…

SAD RECIPE

I didn’t have potatoes,

So, I substituted rice…

I didn’t have paprika,

So, I used another spice!

I didn’t have tomato sauce –

I used tomato paste –

A whole can, not a half can…

I don’t believe in waste.

A friend gave me the recipe.

She said you ‘couldn’t beat it!’

There must be something wrong –

We couldn’t even eat it!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977, p. 4 & 6)

HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN RECIPES!

Most good cooks can whip up a culinary storm in the kitchen but, when it comes to putting a recipe on paper… they forget the basic rules of recipe writing. Remember, there’s a recipe for writing a recipe and it goes like this:

Always list the ingredients in the same order in which they will be used in the method. Some of the greatest dishes are lost in translation when the recipe is given with the ingredients out of order…

If you’re working with canned products, it’s easier to identify them as either ‘drained’ or ‘undrained’ in the list of ingredients, rather than take a complete sentence to direct the cook to do this in the method [instructions] portion of a recipe.

The method should be a double-check against the ingredients listed… It helps, too, suggesting what size utensils to use… [don’t] start to combine ingredients in a bowl that is… too small for the final result… Always give the size of the dish, pan, casserole, etc., in which the ingredients should be baked, cooked, [mixed,] etc.

Give accurate temperature and time for cooking or baking or chilling or freezing. Approximate time for cooking or baking should give the cook a five minute margin within which to work. [Using a Pyrex baking dish and not a metal baking pan requires a lower temperature for a longer period of time.] Identifying the color of a dish at various points of the cooking stages is helpful too. Beating time approximation should be given when it is essential to the success of the dish.

When you write a recipe for cookies and you are not certain how many it will make, you can approximate the yield by allowing one dozen cookies for every cup of flour used, if cookies are about 1-inch in diameter before baking.

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

Some recipes cannot succeed with substitute ingredients. Self-rising flour is one ingredient to be careful of when substituting without specifics. Butter can usually be substituted with margarine – but, in pie crust recipes, margarine makes a crust tough and heavy.

Lard may make a crust flaky, but it is difficult for many people to digest and is often greasy. Pure vegetable shortening, such as Crisco or Spry is best for pie crust shortening. ‘Shortening’ is a term used to identify fats or oils in a recipe. It can mean butter, lard, oil, margarine, etc.

If a recipe specifically calls for ‘sour cream’, don’t try to substitute homemade sour milk, as it may cause a failure. Many cheese product ingredients are interchangeable in baked side dishes and main dishes. But, substitutions can not be used in the case of pasteurized cheese spreads. Velveeta is most successful in most combinations, calling for a smooth and mild flavored dish.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Baking powder and baking soda are NOT alike and should not be substituted, one for the other, unless [very] small amounts are called for that will not possibly affect the outcome [in which case, it could possibly be skipped, altogether]. Many bread recipes do call for both, yeast and baking powder; as well as soda, even though some may be reluctant to accept the combination.

Even the size of eggs used in a recipe can determine the success of a cake or souffle or another light dish. Use large eggs, unless otherwise specified – or use 2 small eggs for every large egg called for in a recipe or use 3 medium eggs for 2 large eggs.

Do not reuse solid shortening for deep frying unless it is within 48 hours of the original use. Even though shortening is refrigerated and strained, the solid shortening has a tendency to take on the flavor of the food previously fried in it – even potatoes. However, oil may be used over, up to 10 days or 2 weeks, if it is carefully strained after using, covered and immediately refrigerated until the next use.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Do not mix food flavors with same oil – such as fish and, then, chicken or onions and, then, something else… The best suggestion for reusing oil is to reheat it no more than three times. Discard it and begin fresh the next time.

RESTAURANTS DO NOT ALWAYS COOK FROM SCRATCH

…Don’t be disappointed when you find that a duplicated recipe employs the use of prepared mixes, because that is the way today’s food service businesses do it. Most of what you eat in the corner diner – where the truck drivers stop for good, home-cooked [meals] – is the same basic food you would also be served in a fine hotel, supplied by the same food manufacturing firms that also stock our supermarkets with products for the homemakers. For instance, did you know that Ore Ida offers a large selection to restaurants of the same variety of potatoes that you probably buy from the frozen food counters of your local supermarket?

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

#NationalWomensEqualityDay

P.S. Today is also “Women’s Equality Day”!

On this day in 1920, almost 100 years ago, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women their voting rights. The Women’s Civil Rights movement had been decades in the making, before it finally came to fruition. For more information, check out these two websites: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-womens-equality-day-august-26/ & http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/August/womensequalityday.htm

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

IN CLOSING…

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES, like A&W’s

By Gloria Pitzer, The Copycat Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; April 1988, p. 10)

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded, cooked beef roast (or round steak)

1 cup Heinz Ketchup

1 cup apple butter

1 cup Catalina dressing

¼ cup Heinz 57 sauce

2 TB Worcestershire

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a 2 ½-qt baking dish.

Cover tightly and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until piping hot.

Fill 8 hamburger buns and serve at once!

Photo from Mom’s “free recipes and ordering information” offer (Nov/Dec. 1987)

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is 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

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Nostalgia

Happy Monday! According to NationalDayCalendar.com, August 19th is National Soft-Serve Ice Cream Day! To celebrate, I’ll be including Mom’s copycat recipe for homemade soft-serve ice cream, like Dairy Queen’s, at the end of today’s blog entry.

#NationalSoftIceCreamDay

Dictionary.com says that nostalgia “is a wistful desire to return in thought… to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.” Just like the memories I write about my mom every week. In fact, the 1-year anniversary of Mondays & Memories of My Mom is coming up next month! The time is flying by so fast… and, it seems, the older I get, the faster time flies!

Did you know… on this day in history, 100 years ago, William B. Ward first registered the trademark, Hostess, for the breads and cakes they made? In my April 8th blog entry, Eating out at Home, I included the following story Mom wrote about James Dewar, who invented the ‘Twinkie’, while working for the Continental Baking Company; which was, later, bought by Interstate Bakeries Corporation and renamed Hostess Brands.

Originally, when the baking company was founded in the early 1900s, it was called Ward Baking Company. For a more in depth history of the Ward family, their baking company, Twinkies® and the drama that surrounded them, check out the article about it, by Bloomberg News, on the FinancialPost.com website, at https://business.financialpost.com/news/twinkie-history-spiced-with-murder-scandal-suggests-icon-will-survive.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 204)

James Dewar, original date/source unknown

IT’S NO SECRET!

James Dewar started out driving a horse-drawn wagon in Chicago and, by 1930, was manager of the Continental Baking Company’s Chicago establishment. [That’s when] he invented the ‘Twinkie’, a sponge-type cake with a creamy vanilla-flavored filling. It has been called the ‘Grand-daddy’ of modern snack foods. Today, the finger-sized cream-filled cake is as big a confectionery sensation as it was when Dewar first introduced his creation to American cuisine. The company that put out the Twinkie was originally called [Ward Baking Company, then] the Continental Baking Company and later became the Hostess company.

At the time, he wanted to give the public something reasonably priced, for the Great Depression of the 30s brought grave times to this country. Treats like the cream-filled Twinkies, would be a luxury to people who couldn’t afford otherwise. For decades, the appealing factor about the Twinkies national popularity has been that it is affordable! Dewar put 2 cakes in each package, selling them for 5-cents a pair. For the price of a nickel, it was quite a bargain.

Dewar remembered how the Continental Baking Company was selling small finger-sized shortcakes for strawberry season in the 1930s. The pans they used to bake them in were not being used except for the spring promotion to produce the shortcakes. He, therefore, came up with the idea of preparing the same shortcake in those pans, but filling each cake with an injection of vanilla cream.

The Twinkies became an immediate success! The idea for the name, on the other hand, came while he was on a business trip to St. Louis and saw a billboard advertising ‘Twinkle Toes Shoes’, which was, then, a terrific sales pitch. The name ‘Twinkies’ was a spinoff of that shoe advertisement. From then on, the cakes took off.

When Dewar retired from Continental in 1968, he boasted often to the press that he ate scores of Twinkies® every day. That’s not a bad endorsement for the critics who claim junk food will shorten your life span.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Nostalgic!

Do you remember the run on Twinkies® in November of 2012? The Hostess Brands company had announced it was going out of business and utter chaos ensued as the masses swarmed the stores to buy all the yummy, cream-filled, sponge cakes (and other Hostess cakes & breads) that they could find! Twinkies® were actually being auctioned on eBay for THOUSANDS of dollars!

I remember Mom laughing about all of the hype on auction-bidding for Twinkies® and hearing someone say (although I don’t remember the who-when-and-where of it all) that if people had cared as much about the Hostess cakes years earlier, as they were then [in November or December of 2012], Hostess wouldn’t have had to close their doors in the first place!

There’s a great article by James R. Koren called “Beverly Hills Billionaire to take over Twinkies maker Hostess Brands” (L. A. Times; July 5, 2016) that explains how the Hostess company, under various names and ownerships, was saved from bankruptcy and closures – more than once over the past century.

When the announcement was first made, almost 7 years ago, that Hostess was closing for good, I wasn’t worried about never having Twinkies® again… of course, I couldn’t have them anyway because I’m hypoglycemic. But that’s beside the point, which is… that my mom taught me how to make my own!

In fact, Mom taught everyone how to make their own “junk food” at home through her 40-plus cookbooks, hundreds of newsletters, many TV appearances and on her thousands of radio talk-show interviews across the country and around the world! I shared the following copy of Mom’s make-alike version for Twinkies®, which she called Hopeless Twinkles©, in my blog entry, A Day in the Life of the Happy Homemaker, a couple of months ago.

‘Hopeless Twinkles’ recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer

My mom was the first to develop homemade, make-alike versions of junk food, like some of Hostess’ famous cakes – which were among her early 1970s, “original 200”, recipes collection that she printed on index cards, with a mimeograph she kept in our laundry room; and they were sold through the mail for 25-cents each. Mom also printed her junk food, make-alike recipes in her newsletters, beginning in January 1974 through December 2000.

Using the name “Hopeless” instead of “Hostess”, Mom included three Hostess Brand make-alike recipes in her first copycat-cooking book, The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977). Later that year, Mom included another five copycat recipes of Hostess products (again, using the name “Hopeless” for her versions) in her very next cookbook called The Second Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977).

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Second Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 1-2)

Jul 1977 – The 2nd Helping… (front & back covers)

DE-BUNKING THE JUNK!

What is the truth about junk food? The food experts have been referring to many snack foods and fast foods as ‘junk’ in an attempt to disqualify their value when compared to foods containing high amounts of protein and vitamins.

No one has confirmed a definition of the expression ‘junk food’, yet the public has been conditioned to accept any snack food, sweets, candies, confections, baked goods and many beverages as ‘junk food’ when, in reality, these are not without nutritional value.

All by itself, a raw carrot could hardly support the human system substantially; neither could a cup of yogurt. Yet, a candy bar or a small piece of cake or a hamburger on a bun is considered, by some of the food industry’s most prestigious experts, as having little or no food value in our daily diets.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

The junk food paradox has caused school systems and other public institutions to ban the sale of any foods we would consider snack items, making it illegal, in fact, in the state of Michigan and some others, if such items were sold to children through vending machines on the premises.

This is infuriating to the good cooks and… food chemists among us, who know that JUNK FOOD is actually any food that is poorly prepared. ALL food has nutritional value. Some just seem to have more than others. But, in the final analysis, it is purely personal taste that will determine the popularity of one food over another.

The ‘fast food’ industry has been the most successful of any phase in the business. Their success depending largely on the fact that their recipes are all closely guarded secrets! I say, ‘baloney!’

‘There really are very few recipe secrets!’ – Gloria Pitzer

As a very believing public, we have been spoon-fed a good deal of shrewd publicity by some very skilled… advertising people, who count on our susceptibility to commercial advertising campaigns to buy their products. Whether we’re buying a hamburger in one of McDonald’s restaurants… or a Twinkie off of the grocer’s shelf, we still believe that these products can’t be equaled by any other company in the industry, nor by the average cook in a standard, home kitchen… AND this is wrong!

‘You’ll be amazed at the number of recipes you can duplicate in your own kitchen – and those you can, at least, come close to imitating – with far more success than the advertising people give us credit!’ – Gloria Pitzer

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

I started a low-carb lifestyle (like the Atkins Diet) 153 days ago – no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar, most fruits – you know, all the good stuff! I admit, I am a carbohydrate addict; but, by limiting my carb-intake to 25 grams a day, I’ve lost 40 pounds so far! I’d like to lose 5-10 more pounds yet. I just keep working on it one day at a time. It takes a lot of will power, as well as a lot of “won’t power” – I WON’T give in to the urges!

I went camping with my husband and a group of our friends over a week ago – and it was tough not to roast one single marshmallow or indulge in one of my best friend’s yummy baked goods. Except for Pork Rinds, most of my snacks consist of sugar-free gelatin, extra creamy Cool Whip, meats, cheeses and veggies with ranch dip… all of which needs to be kept cold.

So, we had to take an extra cooler this summer. I miss the kind of “convenience” snacks that are easy to just “grab-n-go”. We still tent-it with a couple of others, while most of our friends have “moved up” and into campers and motor homes – with refrigerators and freezers… when you have electricity! I’d like to get a camper, someday, like my parents’…

Mom & Dad’s Camper

IN CLOSING…

#NationalSoftIceCreamDay

In honor of National Soft Ice Cream Day, I’m sharing the following recipe, which is actually from Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 257) and not one of her “free offer recipes”… but, I guess it is now; so, happy National Soft-Serve Ice Cream Day!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

DREARY QUEEN FROZEN CUSTARD

Here is an at-home imitation of the very popular soft-serve custard ice cream product that has made many restaurant names famous [since the 1950s]!

Prepare a 3 1/8-ounce package vanilla pudding (NOT instant) with only 1 2/3 cup milk and one egg yolk beaten into it. Stir mixture in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth and mixture “just” comes to a boil. Remove from heat at once and stir in 2 tablespoons butter until melted and smooth. Chill pudding in freezer for about 45 minutes. Beat together ½ pint whipping cream, a dash of salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/3 cup powdered sugar until very thick and stiff. Beat chilled pudding with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Don’t mind the darkened coating on top of the pudding – that blends right back in when you beat it well. Then, thoroughly STIR (do NOT beat) the whipped cream mix into the smooth pudding. Transfer to a 6-cup freezer container. Freeze until firm. Break it up in a chilled, stainless steel or aluminum mixing bowl, using chilled beaters on an electric mixer. Beat 2 egg whites, in a small bowl, until stiff but not dry; adding 3 tablespoons corn syrup. Set aside. Beat the whipping cream mixture until smooth and creamy. Fold egg white mixture into that, using lowest speed of mixer. Freeze until firm enough to scoop. Makes 1 ½ quarts. Freezes up to 6 months.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is 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

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – How to Have a Yard Sale in One Easy Breakdown

Hi everyone! Another fabulous Monday is upon us and, either, this week celebrates National Bargain Hunting Week, according to NationalDayCalendar.com; or it was last week, as BargainHunting.webs.com, describes that it’s celebrated from the first Monday of August through the following Sunday and has been observed, annually, since 1996.

A celebration for bargain hunting would have probably been among Mom’s top 10 favorite kinds of festivities, as she was always a pushover for a good bargain! Even in her last few months, when every little activity or bought of excitement seemed to drain her of energy, she still insisted on going to the J.C. Penny’s store in our local mall to bargain shop in their purse department! That was her second favorite thing to do – writing, of course, was always #1. Nevertheless, Mom LOVED purses – especially when they were on sale or clearance!

#BargainHuntingWeek

Like mother, like daughter – I’m a bargain shopper, too; not for purses, per say, but for my own favorite kinds of things. The big orange clearance signs just seem to beckon us, like the vibrant orange trumpet flowers that lure the hummingbirds. It’s an irresistible summon that feeds a wanting hunger. I don’t know who originated the saying, but it’s so true… “it’s more about the journey than the destination” – which is very similar to NationalDayCalendar.com’s comment: “The hunt for the bargain can be just as exciting as the item discovered.”

Quite often, on our weekend road trips around Southeastern Michigan and the “Thumb Area”, my husband and I will try to find new antique and 2nd-hand shops to investigate. We’ve discovered, on our many explorations, that, demographically, certain areas have better bargains on certain things than others.

However, that observation is based solely on the kinds of things that WE are looking to buy; for example, we often look for old farm, nautical and bar items – to name a few. We’ll find more nautical stuff near our Great Lakes and more farm stuff further inland. Bar items are everywhere – but, we find them cheaper further inland, than near the Great Lakes.

Whenever I’ve gone to garage/yard sales and antique/2nd-hand shops, I usually walk away with something that was a bargain, at least to me. I have an eclectic array of different tchotchke collections, such as Blue Mountain Pottery, Christmas village pieces and Michigan lighthouse sculptures to name a few.

If this is National Bargain Hunting Week, then I will certainly be on the lookout for a super bargain! That just gives me one more reason to check out some more yard/garage sales, as well as antique and 2nd-hand shops! This past weekend, there was an annual “Antiques & Yard Sale Trail” that ran all the way around the “Thumb Area” of Michigan, along (and near) the M-25/M-29 “Circle Tour” Highway.

I’ve shopped the “Trail” a few different years and, living near the main highway for it, I’ve also hosted a few of my own yard sales during the event. Overall, I think I prefer to shop it rather than “work it”, as I like to refer to it; because hosting a YARD sale is a LOT of work! I wish I had a garage!

A garage would be a lot easier to set up in – since, to begin with, it’s a solid, enclosed, protected area. If I had a garage, I could set up my tables earlier and put stuff out a little bit each night as I clean out different rooms of our house. I have to do it all in one day, the day before my sale starts; because it’s under a temporary structure that’s somewhat open to the elements.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I used to have yard sales every year (at least once – sometimes twice) to recycle and recirculate my bargain finds, making room for more and/or different stuff. Due to various extenuating circumstances, I haven’t been able to host a yard sale in the last 5 years, though. I don’t miss the work, as that’s getting harder on me, the older I get! But I do miss setting up my “store” and operating it.

To begin with, I don’t even plan a yard sale unless a few conditions are met, first: I need to have a Wednesday through Saturday free of time, to set it up, work it and tear it down; the weather needs to be favorable, at least for the most part because I don’t have a solid garage for protection from the elements; and I need to have enough of other-peoples’-treasures to sell, because most people don’t even stop if all you have “in your store” is a small table with a dozen things or less on it and around it.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Michigan weather changes often. Thus, since I don’t have a garage, I use two large screened tents, which set up side-by-side has 20’x22’ of covered space – close to the size of an average 2-car garage. These are important to keep my tables and displays dry or shaded, whatever the weather may bring. But, in part because I’m OCD, I need a day to set these up, along with all my tables and clothes rods. Then I can bring out all the boxes of stuff that I’ve cleaned out of closets, cupboards and the basement; and set up my “store”.

I like to make my yard sales “worth stopping and shopping”! Maybe it’s because I’m OCD (or CDO – alphabetically) or because of all my years of working in retail – but, I set my sales up by “departments”, with each table/area representing a different department. There are clothes, shoes and other such accessories that are all grouped by sizes, in one area; furniture and décor in another area; kitchen appliances and gadgets are all in another area. Other “departments” that I usually create with my tables and displays include bed and bath stuff, hardware and tools, sporting goods, yard and garden, books, electronics and so on. To save time on pricing everything individually, I use general pricing posters – for example “All Clothes $1 per Piece”.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

I get a lot of compliments on my yard sale set-ups because they’re so organized. I also sell a lot because I price my stuff to sell… I’m not putting it all out there just to haul it all back in because I wanted to squeeze out every penny I could from my “junk” that MIGHT be somebody else’s “treasure”. I look at each item as if I was going to purchase it at someone else’s sale and I ask myself, “What would I be willing to pay for that?” (Then, again, I’m kind of cheap – because, like I’ve said, I love bargains!)

Here’s another one of Mom’s No Laughing Matter stories, in which she wrote about a garage sale experience she had when we were living in Pearl Beach. I think this was from around the mid to late 1970s; maybe the summer before we moved to St. Clair. The story is titled, Have a Garage Sale in one Easy Breakdown. As I’ve mentioned in other blog entries, previously, I can’t find the exact date of when Mom wrote this story, nor in what papers it was published. Among others, sprinkled across the country, most (if not all) of Mom’s No Laughing Matter columns were published in the Port Huron (MI) area’s “Times Herald” in the 1970s.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

HAVE A GARAGE SALE IN ONE EASY BREAKDOWN!

By Gloria Pitzer – Recipe DetectiveTM

Until you’ve had a garage sale, you just don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve just had one and I know! I’m missing three garbage cans, my husband’s workbench, a swing set, four lawn chairs and our station wagon. Actually, those items weren’t for sale, but you can’t refuse a good price when it’s offered to you.

All I really wanted to sell was a few odds-and-ends like 7 dozen Ruby Bee Jelly glasses, a coke bottle mosaic of my mother-in-law, a transistor radio guaranteed to crack plaster when operated by a teenager, an illustrated guide book to Disneyland and my husband’s bowling ball.

Of course, if the truth were known, I just had to do something about the closets before we were cited for contempt by the Pollution Control Commission. The kids were cleaning out their rooms and dragging out microscopes that had only examined curdled milk. There was an electric train with which only their father had played, a guitar that never played a tune (but made a neat tennis racket), socks that scratched and even their old report cards. But, I drew the line when it came to selling their toothbrushes and underwear. I mean, a person has to be reasonable about these things!

I had heard that garage sales were successful, but I didn’t believe it until I saw 23 cars double-parked in our drainage ditch, a pick-up truck on the back porch and a dune buggy in the furnace room! It takes a garage sale to prove that a woman will buy anything, if she thinks it’s on sale.

Afterall, what can one do with a dead philodendron plant – a plastic one, yet? I also learned that there’s no exercise so efficacious for the upper arms as standing in the midst of a group of mad women and trying to keep them from taking the rafters apart while trying to get at our storm windows (which I’ll have you know were NOT for sale); but, little did they care.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

One woman offered me a dollar for the dress I was wearing, and I had to run half a block to catch up with the lady who gave my son 50 cents for the sheets on the clothes lines. Did she care it was my laundry and I had to make the beds before the day was over – and where would I be without those sheets?

I finally had to administer first aid to the two girls who fought so bitterly over which of them was going to drag off to their car a plaid CPO jacket and a pair of blue worsted men’s slacks! Mind you. I wouldn’t have cared under any other circumstances, but my husband was still in them AND he didn’t want to go with either of them. He wanted to stay home and watch the ball game on TV!

By 6pm, they had bought everything that wasn’t breathing, barking or encased in concrete. As I sat at the kitchen table, counting up the profits of the day, my husband came staggering in, bruised and breathless. ‘You know that guy with the flat-bed truck, who’s been hanging around all day?’ [He asked.] ‘Well, he just gave me $50 and drove off with our garage!’

It all goes to prove, if I had put a price on those kids of ours, I might have sold them – but, who could afford to feed them once they got them home?

The Pitzer Kids – Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Enjoy your week – go on a journey – find a bargain – AND post it on Social media with:

#BargainHuntingWeek

IN CLOSING…

#NationalJulienneFriesDay

Today is, also, according to the foodie calendar at OCFoodies.com, National Julienne Fries Day. Julienning is a specific style of cutting, as explained really well on Wikipedia; and using this style of cut on potatoes creates long, thin fries that are similar to what McDonalds serves. Many different root vegetables can be julienned. Since I can’t have potatoes in my low-carb lifestyle, I plan to julienne some carrots to fry for myself, using the same process as Mom directs in the following recipe.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Family Fun

Happy Monday, again! August has arrived and, among other things, it’s Family Fun Month!

In my last couple of blog entries, I have been reminiscing about some of my childhood memories of our family vacations; brought to mind, while reading through my copies of Mom’s old, 1970s articles from her No Laughing Matter syndicated columns. I’ve come across some more of Mom’s memories related to those which I recently shared. So, since this is Family Fun Month, I want to share more of those “family fun” times with you today.

Below is a couple of summertime stories that Mom wrote for her syndicated column, No Laughing Matter; they’re titled, respectively, How to Travel with Your Kids (And Live to Tell About It!) and How I Spent my Summer Vacation. As before, I can neither find the exact dates of when Mom wrote these articles, nor when/where they were published. However, again, the descriptions of us on vacation on the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes are from that long summer vacation we took in 1971, to see our relatives, in West Virginia, from Dad’s side of the family.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

HOW TO TRAVEL WITH YOUR KIDS…

(And Live to Tell About It!)

By Gloria Pitzer

I have nothing against traveling with our kids – as long as we can go in separate cars. A current poll, taken among the mothers of the Sears Sandbox symposium shows 10 to 1 in favor of going around Harsens Island on a skateboard, as opposed to traveling anywhere by car with their kids – even to the mailbox at the end of the [200-foot long] driveway.

For one thing, any trip is going to be automatically rated ‘X’ when, before you can get out of your own driveway, you must first settle which child is going to sit next to a window and which child won’t. Before the trip is scarcely underway, we can always depend upon the child who rolls the window down, because they need some air, to be sitting next to the child who wants the window up because they’re cold.

The Sunday supplement ads for vacation-minded families, who want matching luggage, are a waste of time. Who wants matching luggage, when it should, by all rights, be packed in a U-Haul truck and immediately be disorganized the minute you unlock the motel room [or cabin] door… because this is usually the exact moment I have to find a clean shirt and slacks for the one who spilled their Dairy Queen [treat] all over themselves. If I told him once, I told him a hundred times: ‘let me hold the shake for you while you drive, Honey!’

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

The real trouble with packing, I feel, is that you usually end up taking all the wrong kind of clothes. When you leave home in the middle of a driving snow and the skies are icy grey and bleak, it doesn’t occur to you that 450 miles south you’ll be shedding the snow jackets and galoshes; wishing you had brought those shorts and tennis shoes, after all.

It is completely ridiculous to allow any child to pack their own suitcase. Chances are, they will try to convince you that one change of underwear is going to be adequate for a 10-day vacation – and that’s when I visualize myself spending all of my time sitting out the duration of our trip, watching my enzymes and bleach race their way to the dirt and grime in some out-of-the-way, ‘coin-op’ laundry [facility].

Some of the motel rooms we’ve stayed in, have been pretty nice; but, then, there are some others that left us feeling we could have had the same conveniences, for which we were paying $50 per day, for free had we stayed at home. If [I] can’t wash 6 days [worth of] dirty underwear in the wash basin, [we] can’t stay there!

The Pitzer Kids – Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Not one of the lovely travel brochures I read showed ‘the happy family’, as they pull up to the Pennsylvania turnpike gate without realizing that the baby ate the toll card along the way. I can say, with all honesty, that we intimately know every public restroom on the Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes… not to mention, 3 plazas in West Virginia and several in Niagara Falls. Another thing about traveling with the kids is that, invariably, the best restaurant is always just around the bend, after you’ve [already] stopped at the worst [one].

We are further engaged in the constant inquiries of the children who will, at annoying intervals, in the perfect unison of an acapella choir ask: ‘When are we going to get there?’ The remainder of the trip is spent… painfully telling them that I never wanted to read the roadmap for [Daddy] in the first place; and how was I to know that he wanted Exit 7, not 11! And how do you explain to the service station attendant that you were foolish enough to let your wife read the map and now you’re lost? I’ll be darned if I know – but, before we take another trip with the kids, we’ll have a bumper sticker on our car that reads: ‘Approach with caution – driver under the influence of children!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer (1970-ish)

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

(And Other Fond Memories of Days Gone By)

By Gloria Pitzer

I see the neighborhood kids are in the spirit of summer… and it makes me remember, quite fondly, those days during which our own five youngsters were home and very much underfoot. Although, some of the memories are pleasantly enjoyed today, in the absence of our offspring, some of those by-gone days were not all pretzels and beer!

I recall really trying to enjoy summer vacation, even though I had the feeling I was just a first grade version of ‘See Mother Run’. Most of the vacation weeks (and I use the reference loosely), were spent wandering through aspirin lectures, asking perfect strangers: ‘How many more days until school opens?’

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

As I [remember], we stopped spending vacations with the children; considering how, one summer, we spent 2 weeks on the turnpike… and lived to tell about it… there honestly were positive virtues to the 9am to 3pm [school] schedules, which left us mothers 5 days a week, from September through June, during which we were not answering dumb questions.

For one thing, it was none of the kids’ business why I looked pale and plump in a bathing suit. I knew, the minute I walked into Chubby Chicks’ Swimwear Boutique, summer (for me) would mean running under the lawn sprinkler in very dark glasses and a body shirt, cleverly created out of a porch awning by some shut-in from General Hospital!

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Actually, it was my husband’s idea, out of consideration for the neighbors, that he only let me sit on the patio in my bathing suit after dark. He also claimed that I discouraged mosquitos. This is the same man who would stand on the porch, whenever I sang in the shower, so the neighbors could see that he was not beating me!

The same man, mind you, who would come home from (and I quote him exactly) ‘an exhausting day of fishing’ and ask, seriously – when was I planning to clean off the top of the refrigerator, did I write to his mother, did I have fun at the Book Mobile with 5 kids and would it be alright if we ‘ate out’ that, by his definition, was hot dogs in the backyard over a fire in the grill that I would have to make.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

He just didn’t understand why I spent my summer vacation counting the days ‘til school opened again! But, then, he never had to find band aids for braless Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe [‘action figures’], who got sucked into the vacuum cleaner hose periodically.

My lovable, better half never had to wander through a vast wasteland of Pop Tart wrappers and Mr. Misty cups; while 7 neighborhood kids motorbiked their way through the yard, the flower beds and into the center of a National Noise Abatement Program, sympathetically excused by 3 probation officers who did not have to live next door to them!

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Summer vacation, as some laughingly refer to those 10 weeks [mid-June to September], is NOT a vacation; but, more like an endurance test – during which, those families who stayed together, got on each other’s nerves! It was enough to leave a mother looking like a wire service photo that, by all rights, should have been printed under the caption: ‘NEVER MIND SENDING HER KIDS TO CAMP – HELP SEND THIS MOTHER AWAY!’

It’s mothers that need the vacation – not the kids! Ten weeks of kids at home and Mother could develop a personality of a dental drill with a voice to match! But, as I recall, telling the 5 kids one day, everything would be alright as soon as Daddy got home.

And the questions I had to answer all by myself – questions like: ‘How many more days until school starts?’, ‘Can I have a popsicle?’, ‘Can I have my allowance?’, ‘How come you’re always yelling at me?’, ‘Have you seen my tennis shoes?’, ‘Why doesn’t anybody like me?’… and those were just the questions my HUSBAND asked! Compared to all those [questions] that the kids would ask me during the day, I could [better] take those which my husband posed to me. He meant well. But, he never did understand that a mother’s vacation doesn’t start until school does!

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Mom always had a very satirical sense of humor – not just in her writings and in her drawings, but in life in general. I always admired how much Mom took on, all by herself. She almost always worked from home, doing jobs for which she was paid money; and then the other, harder work at home for which she only got perks – like hugs and kisses and love. Mom wore many hats while simultaneously raising a husband and five kids, as well as an array of pets! I struggled to do the same with having only three kids, instead of five! If you consider the whole birthing process, to begin with, mothers know better than anyone – like the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, said – “that which does not kill you, makes you stronger.”

IN CLOSING…

#NationalWaffleDay

In honor of today, also, being National Waffle Day; I want to give you a copy of one of Mom’s “free offer” recipes for pancakes, as I couldn’t find a waffle one among them.

In order to be made properly, waffles require a waffle iron that creates a distinct pattern and crispy exterior. Waffles contain more fat than pancakes; because of the greater amount of oil used in making them, the raw batter is thinner when making waffles than when making pancakes. Thus, to create waffles from the following recipe, increase the amount of oil and post your creations on social media with #NationalWaffleDay!

Recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer

PANCAKES, LIKE PERKINS’ by Gloria Pitzer

Ingredients:

12-oz can of 7-Up (or Sprite – diet or regular)

2 eggs

2 TB sugar (or an equal sugar substitute)

2 TB oil

3 C Bisquick

Instructions:

Put it all into a blender on high speed, using an on-off pulse to agitate for 2 minutes or until smooth. Let batter stand for 10 minutes before using it. Allow ¼ cup of batter for a 6-inch round pancake prepared on a hot, lightly greased griddle. Makes 16 pancakes. The batter freezes well, to use within 3 months.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Vacation Returns

Happy Monday! Today is National Lasagna Day & National Chicken Wing Day! I hope you get a chance to enjoy it, whether you’re making it or eating it – or both!

Summer is almost half-way through already! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! My husband and I just celebrated our 15-year wedding anniversary last week. I remember our youngest child asking us, a few days before the wedding, how long we were going to be on our honeymoon and, without missing a beat, my, then-husband-to-be said with a big grin, “for the rest of our lives!” Rather than going on vacation to celebrate, as we usually do, we had a big, backyard pig roast to celebrate with our family and friends. Memories were made!

In last week’s blog entry, Make the most of Summer, I mentioned some of my childhood memories of our family vacations; and, this past week, while reading through some of Mom’s old articles from her No Laughing Matter syndicated columns, I came across some related memories to share with you today.

Below is a copy of an article Mom wrote, called Vacation Returns (OR The Last Resort). However, I can’t find an exact date of when Mom wrote it or when it was published. But, Mom’s memories, describing all 7 of us ‘Pitzer Pack Rats‘ on vacation together for three weeks, cross country and back, in the station wagon – I remembered that vacation! It was 1971 and we all went to see our relatives, from Dad’s side of the family, in West Virginia.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

Vacation Returns (OR The Last Resort)

By Gloria Pitzer

It is only upon returning from a vacation that we realized just how much we could use one! Ours was nothing to write home about, so all of you out there, who were looking for a postcard from us, now know why you didn’t get one. If – [even] when I [was] at home, among conveniences, and circumstances used to force me to once write those ‘please-excuse-my-child’ notes in lipstick on the back of a Citizen’s Federal Savings [bank] slip, and take telephone messages down in the dust on the end tables – you just know that any postcard I’d be apt to send from our vacation would probably be written in campfire charcoal on the back of a Handi-Wipe!

I still hate to refer to it in the strictest sense as a ‘vacation’. I mean, a cross country trip by station wagon with our five kids would be anything BUT a vacation! And somehow, I recall that the cross country trip got even more cross as we crossed the country, when we were traveling with the kids – especially on the way back [home].

We spent more time deciding which child got to sit next to the window than we ever did reading the road maps – and that was just in the driveway, before we even left home! Upon reading those maps, however, we would be forced to make the crucial decision – deciding which fork in the road to take. Usually, [we chose] the wrong fork in the road – but, then, we had never been lost that way before.

Photo by Cheryl Pitzer; Ohio, 2012

Once in a while, and even to this day, when Paul and I travel alone, without the children to distract us, we’ll find we’re lost on some turnpike off ramp and, when out of state we’ll hope to see another vehicle with a Michigan license plate and start to follow them because we’re convinced that they know where they’re going and will probably, at least, get us back to the state line. But, in our case, [we] could use a bumper sticker for the car that reads: ‘Don’t follow me. I’m lost too!’

When the children were vacationing with us, in the old days, it seemed that ‘who-sits-next-to-the-windows’ is an on-going debate. The argument got so sticky at one point that I simply buried my face in a AAA tour book and pretended not to hear them until, from the midst of the back seat crowd, came a tortured voice, which pleaded in anguish, ‘But I HAVE to sit by the window!’

‘Nonsense!’ I said, without looking up. ‘Give me one good reason WHY you HAVE to sit by the window!’

‘Because,’ said the voice with some agitation, ‘I’m driving! I’m Daddy!’

Even the cost of a simple vacation has been affected by the national inflation, I see today. You might say the cost of getting away, has gotten away; because, if you really wish to relive your vacation, the only way you can do it these days is to show your friends colored slides of all of your traveler’s checks!

We did learn a few things, though, about our trips [that] I’m perfectly willing to share with you. We now realize that the same vacation conveniences that would cost us $90 a day, while traveling, we could have had for free if we had stayed home. Besides, nothing can deflate your ego, or undermine your significance as a person, like returning from a 3-week vacation; and, as you begin to carry the suitcases from the car into the house, have your neighbor greet you with: ‘Hi there! Going someplace?’

All we have to recall of our last vacation is the vivid memory of how the best restaurant to eat in was always just a block down the road from the one we stopped at and thought it would be the last one we’d come to before dark.

But, I will always remember how Daddy would lie on the beach about how he was missed at the office! And…that hitchhiker we picked up, who, within 5 minutes, begged us to let him out of the car because he had been suddenly drenched with a Dairy Queen milkshake and 6 popsicle sticks were poked into his fringe-sleeved, suede jacket.

As I said, if you’re traveling with children, and you think you need the vacation you’re about to take, it’s nothing compared to the one you’ll be ready for when you get back!

I had almost forgotten about how we (my siblings and I) used to fight over who got to sit next to the windows… because it wasn’t fair that the boys were older – they were always older! As the two youngest and smallest of the bunch, Cheryl and I often got put in the “way-in-the-back-seat” of the station wagon. Nowadays, that’s called “third row seating”; but, Cheryl and I called it the “way-in-the-back-seat”.

Sure, we each got a window seat by being “way-in-the-back”, but we were also facing the BACK; so, all we got to see was what we already passed – plus, facing backwards often gave me motion sickness. But, what Mom said about getting lost a different way – I remember that too! Instead of asking, “are we there yet”; we used to ask Dad, “are we lost yet” or “is this a new scenic route?”

After my parents were empty-nesters and needed a break from their long work week, they often chose to go on a road trip somewhere. It didn’t matter if it was a planned route or the “other scenic route”, because they were together and away from it all, just enjoying each other and the beautiful scenery passing by… without ever having to hear, again, “he’s teasing me” from one of us girls in the “way-in-the-back” seat about one of our brothers!

My husband and I can relate to that, as we’ve gone through it too. We love taking road trips like my parents did. Michigan, and the whole Great Lakes area, is a wonderful area to explore and unwind from a hectic work week. I hope you enjoy your work week – but, if not, hit the road!

IN CLOSING…

#NationalChickenWingDay

In honor of National Chicken Wing Day, I wanted to give you a summer rerun recipe of Mom’s “Chooser’s Wings” (pictured above), inspired by Hooters’ chicken wings AND her Barbequed Baby Chicken Legs recipe (one of my personal favorites), as seen in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 91), which was not among any of her “free recipe” offers:

BARBECUED BABY CHICKEN LEGS

By Gloria Pitzer

These are chicken wings, split at the joints, with the boney wing-tips discarded. Arrange them side-by-side in a single layer in a greased, shallow baking pan. Coat liberally in any barbecue sauce. Bake at 375°F, uncovered, for 20 minutes per pound of chicken (3 pounds will serve 6 to 8.) About every 10 minutes or so, apply additional barbecue sauce to the pieces as they’re baking, without turning them.

P.S. There are only a few days left of July. Other national food (or foodie-related) celebrations that have been going on for the whole MONTH and still are, according to NationalDayCalendar.com, include:

National Baked Bean Month

National Culinary Arts Month

National Grilling Month

National Hot Dog MONTH – however, National Hot Dog DAY, 2019, was July 17th (changes annually)

National Ice Cream Month – however, National Ice Cream DAY, 2019, was July 21st (changes annually – always the third Sunday in July)

National July-Belongs-to-Blueberries Month

National Picnic Month

Independent Retailer Month – however, Get to Know Your Customers DAY, 2019, was July 18th (changes quarterly – always the third Thursday of each quarter: January, April, July, October.)

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Make the most of Summer

As always, happy Monday to everybody! Today is also National Penuche Fudge Day – so, happy Penuche Fudge Day and, if you can, enjoy a luscious piece somewhere; then, hashtag it on social media!

#NationalPenucheFudgeDay

According to Merriam-Webster.com, penuche is a fudge usually made of brown sugar, butter, cream or milk, and nuts. There’s also a great sounding recipe for a traditional penuche on a 2014 blog entry from Jennifer Buggica, “The Foodie Patootie”, at https://thefoodiepatootie.com/national-penuche-fudge-day/. I wish I could eat it – but, unfortunately it’s too sweet for my hypoglycemic system. I’ll have to work on a sugar-free, low-carb version, even if it won’t be a traditional penuche.

In the summer of 1976, Mom self-published a little cookbook, called The American Cookery Cookbook, of which the Henry Ford Museum bought some copies to put in its bi-centennial collection. That was the only cookbook, of Mom’s, in which I could find a copy of a traditional-style penuche recipe. Mom called her recipe ‘San Diego Penuche’.

However, Mom’s 1997 recipe for fudge like Disney World’s (see that recipe near the end of this blog) is very similar to a traditional penuche. About a month ago, I had shared with you a different recipe version, from Mom, for fudge like Disney World’s.

No matter where you go across North America – from a little German town in Michigan, called Frankenmuth, to See’s Candy shops in California to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL to the Maple Leaf Village in Niagara Falls, Ontario – fudge is a tourism staple and the making of fudge, before our very eyes, has become an art form, as well as a form of entertainment for millions of North American tourists every year.

I can’t have fudge anymore because of my low-carb lifestyle AND hypoglycemia. I miss my carbs so much! Some sugar-free and low-carb versions of anything may still taste okay, but they’re just not the same, nor really as good! However, I can still reminisce about the real tastes as I watch the fudge-makers perform their magic shows through the big picture windows of all the little fudge shops in all the tourist areas I visit!

It’s still fun to watch them, live, transforming their thick, molten liquid creations – like the river flowing through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – by pouring the confections out of big vats and onto large, cold, marble slabs. Then, the fudge-makers fold the gooey mixture over and over again, cooling it and thickening it through the process, until they’ve formed long loaves of thick, sweet goodness to be sliced like bread. It doesn’t cost me any carbs to stand there and smell the sweet, sugary aromas – and reminisce about the flavors I remember from my childhood!

1970, Pitzer Vacation at Mackinac Island, MI

I have so many wonderful, childhood memories of family, summertime trips to popular tourist spots like Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH), Disneyland (Los Angeles, CA), Toronto and Niagara Falls (both, in Ontario, Canada). In addition, are our own beautiful “up north” Michigan destinations like Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island and Tahquamenon Falls. Everywhere we visited, there was usually a fudge shop at which to stop and see a fudge-making performance, as well as to buy some of their tasty treats.

An interesting story on the history of fudge and how it came to be a tourism staple, in the first place, can be found at https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/205844/how-did-fudge-become-a-staple-of-tourist-towns/. Another great article to check out, on the subjects of fudge and tourism, is called “Why does every Tourist Attraction sell Fudge?”, by Kat Eschner (Smithsonian.com; May 12, 2017), at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-does-every-tourist-attraction-sell-fudge-180963152/.

1979, Pitzer Vacation at Niagara Falls, Ontario

Going through Mom’s old photo albums brings up so many more memories of our family, summertime vacations. Mom, almost always, was the one to photograph all those special moments; although, Dad would take a picture every now and then, so Mom could be in some shots as well. Back then, there weren’t “selfies” or digital cameras with the capabilities of capturing thousands of pictures!

Years ago, every shot needed to count because your roll of film was limited to a certain number of photos, and you didn’t know if any of them would come out right until you had the film printed – there was no instant viewing and deleting, like we can do now. Photo technology has come such a long, long way over the last 50 years.

I remember when Polaroid cameras and disposable cameras were the new, cutting-edge technology! Now your cell phone is an all-in-one-personal-assistant with a built-in camera to capture every “Kodak moment” as it happens! AND, not only that, but, now, you can also skip the whole printing process and still share your photos through the internet via emails and social media sites or, more privately, through text messages!

Mackinac Island Memories – Somewhere In Time

I would have to say, the Mackinac Island fudge shops are probably my favorite ones of all! And the summer vacations we spent on Mackinac Island were always the most memorable! Except for the smell of horse dung, baking in the summer heat, the island is actually full of many heavenly scents from the sugary confections being made in the fudge and candy shops to the wonderful aromas seeping from the island’s restaurants and bakeries to the heavenly scents surrounding all the beautiful gardens that are everywhere. Mackinac is a very nostalgic place – no cars are allowed on the island, so getting around it is usually done by foot, bicycle or horse in some manner.

Whether we stayed in Mackinaw City and visited the island all day or we stayed at the Grand Hotel, right on the island; it was always a magical trip back in time… especially the summer when the movie, Somewhere in Time, was being filmed there! What a special treat for all of us to experience! [NOTE: long before that, another movie was also filmed at the Grand Hotel. In 1947, Ethel Merman swam in the kidney-shaped pool of the Grand Hotel during the filming of This Time for Keeps. Thus, the pool was named after her.]

Photo of Gloria Pitzer, on the porch of The Grand Hotel, taken by Laura Pitzer, 1979

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

SOMEWHERE IN TIME – MACKINAC ISLAND [MI]

Our reservations were made in February, that year, to spend the Fourth of July week at The Grand Hotel on historic Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. We had heard, when we arrived, that Universal Pictures was filming a movie with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and that our 2-day stay at the hotel might be disrupted from the usual routine we were used to when we stayed there. The place was booked, and we were lucky to have those 2 days because other customers had canceled. The scene when we arrived was one of spectators and glamorous Hollywood activity in the lobby and on the grounds.

Paul was just teeing off at the green next to the golf pro shop, the next morning, when we heard a sympathetic moan from the beautiful leading man, himself, as he locked up his bike and headed across the street to the filming activity. I know I should have run after Christopher Reeve for his autograph, but I was in shock!

Later, in the hotel lobby, we watched the scene when Christopher Reeve checks into The Grand and, later, when he and Jane Seymour take a buggy ride away from the entrance of the hotel with Christopher Plummer looking on. Take the time to enjoy seeing the movie they were filming – we’ve seen it 4 times and can’t wait to see it again! It’s for everyone who has ever been in love – or who has ever visited lovely Mackinac Island, as we do every summer.

In one scene of the movie you’ll notice, on the main street of the village, a sign over a shop that reads ‘Murdick’s Fudge’, a recipe which I have coveted for years. Finally, after dozens of tests, I came up with the secret for purporting this product at home… It whips up in 5 minutes and, a week later, it’s still smooth and creamy. – Gloria Pitzer [from Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 235)]

After Mom and Dad became empty-nesters, they bought a camper and traveled even more – being that it was much more affordable with only the two of them! Joining the Good Sam club was always one of their most favorite experiences. Mom had many scrap books full of photos and special keepsakes from all of their trips with the Michigan and Ohio chapters. Mom also wrote about her and Dad’s trips in most of her summer newsletter issues, especially about all the great new friendships they made everywhere they went. They always looked forward to the Good Sam “Jamborees”!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

GOOD SAM – CARING AND CAMPING

Needless to say, I can’t wait until we can begin our ‘motor-home camping’ again with our Good Sam friends. It’s our weekend vacation pleasure, May through October. Becoming part of the Good Sam organization is the best thing that has ever happened to us, where we could both enjoy mutual friendships and activities. Wonderful, caring people, who constantly remind us that ‘there are no strangers in Good Sam – only friends we haven’t met, yet!’ – Gloria Pitzer [from Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-June 1987, 126th issue, p. 3)]

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

On the first day of spring, I started a low-carb lifestyle (like the Atkins Diet). Thus far, it has been 124 days of no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar, most fruits – you know, all the good stuff… and, boy, do I ever miss the good stuff! It feels just like when I quit smoking cigarettes over 13 years ago. Absence does make the heart grow fonder – at least for a while! I must admit, I’m a carbohydrate addict!

In fact, I never realized how much I ate (and how little my husband ate) until I started this low-carb lifestyle/diet. I HATE waste and throwing out food! But, after I started my new lifestyle, I realized that I was the only one who had been eating up the left-overs, so food wouldn’t go to waste. It’s been difficult, learning to cook two, small, single meals at a time. I’ve been so used to cooking large portions for so long.

After starting this new lifestyle out at a daily carbohydrate limit of 20 grams, for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit up to 25 grams a day and have kept it there so far. It seems to work for me. But, whenever I don’t keep track of my carb-intake, I go over my limit. I can feel its effects the next day, and it doesn’t feel good (such as an upset stomach and the shakes from a drop in my blood sugar level); plus, I re-gain a pound or two.

I mentioned in my last “Diet Update” that I had recently started using almond flour to make some Keto recipes. I still LOVE the 90-Second Microwave English Muffin! I like to turn my “slices” into a Monte Cristo sandwich for breakfast. It’s a little piece of heaven for about 9-grams of carbs!

I’ve also been experimenting with some of my favorite cookies and dessert recipes, using sugar-free and low-carb ingredient substitutions. I have developed a no-bake cookie concoction that can be panned up and cubed like fudge. I also like to use a no-flour, 3-ingredient, peanut butter cookie recipe that’s been around for years, substituting my own low-carb ingredients!

As of today, I’ve lost about 37 pounds! However, my “exercise regimen” is STILL not steady, to say the least! Nevertheless, I need to change that because I continue to not spend near enough time weeding my gardens or going for brisk walks. Thus, I won’t stop trying to make those things part of my already irregular, daily routine. My goal is to lose another 8-13 pounds, but I don’t have a deadline set. I’ll get there when I get there, but I WILL get there!

IN CLOSING…

Last month, I shared a version of Mom’s Disney World-Style Fudge from one of her free recipe and information sheets… Below is a different version of that recipe, as seen in Mom’s cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 9) – and its ingredients are more similar to those of a traditional penuche. Again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Copycat!

Happy Monday! I hope everybody is having an awe-inspiring, magnificently marvelous Monday!

As defined by Wikipedia, copycat refers to someone “who adopts, copies, imitates, mimics, or follows the same thing as someone” else. In fact, one of the lines of Wikipedia’s various examples of copycat says, “…reference to a recipe that tastes like a restaurant recipe or famous product purchased in a store”, just as Mom had started developing in the early 1970s. If anyone knows of another copycat, who started imitating famous restaurant and grocery products before my mom, please contact me! [https://www.facebook.com/TheRecipeDetective/ OR therecipedetective@outlook.com]

In one of my earlier blogs, Imitation, I reminisced about how Mom had always referred to herself as “the Rich Little of the food industry”, because she could imitate their famous dishes and products like Rich Little could imitate famous voices.

Additionally, according to Wiktionary, to imitate is to follow a model or pattern; or to make a copy, counterpart or semblance of something… OR, as it also mentions… to plagiarize, which is, basically, stealing someone else’s work and passing it off as one’s own.

I’ve previously discussed this subject in a couple of my other blog entries as well. Mom never knew what the companies actually used in their recipes, but she could create her own semblance of their products – that’s not plagiarism! However, there have been instances, over the years, of others blatantly stealing Mom’s work (sometimes word-for-word and sometimes changing a few words or exchanging ingredients, like flour, salt and baking powder instead of self-rising flour) and, then, passing it off as their own work!

I find it astounding, the number of “foodie” copycats who (since Mom introduced her first “copycat” cookbook, called Secret Restaurant Recipes, in 1976) have copied the ORIGINAL COPYCAT and all the subsequent copycats that have followed henceforth. Yet, I can’t find any type of written history on the subject of the “copycat recipes movement” – nor, in any other similar terms – yet, there’s no denying that the movement exists and, I think, it’s becoming a billion dollar industry!

I’m feeling inspired and frightened, all at the same time, to take up that challenge, myself – to write the history of copycat cooking – it’s like my mom is on my shoulder telling me, optimistically, to “go for it – it’s a ‘meant-to-be’!” Simply because, a couple of weeks ago, a friend randomly showed me a book, while we were sitting together at a backyard barbeque.

The book is called Ottissippi and it’s written by a local woman, Cheryl Morgan; who discovered there was an untold story of the history of the Anishinabe people in our Southeastern Michigan area. Thus, she decided to be the one to pull together all the bits and pieces of factual information she could find throughout our Great Lakes region and turn it into a beautifully told history. I was very impressed by her story.

But, that’s the kind of thing Mom would’ve called a “meant-to-be” event… it seems random at the time, but soon after you see the reasoning behind why that happened… as everything happens for a reason! I’ve been searching for a history on the “copycat recipes movement”, using various different terms and search engines; but, I have yet to find anything! Shouldn’t there be a written history on that subject – or is it just me, who feels that way?

 

Paul & Gloria Pitzer, Algonac, MI

When I was doing a search on the term “copycat recipes movement”, both, Bing and Google brought me SO MANY results on copycat recipes! Nevertheless, there were no articles or books on the subject of the “movement”. I am amazed that Mom’s name didn’t even come up on any of the first pages of results!

One of the rabbit holes I followed on Bing’s search results, led me to a “copycat recipes” term-search on Amazon.com. Out of 116 results (sorted by “Featured”), not one of Mom’s cookbooks came up until #46; which was her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018). Mom wrote and self-published a cookbook called, The Copycat Cookbook, in April 1988, which didn’t even come up in any of the first few pages of results! Likewise, when I changed the searched term to “secret recipes”, Mom’s last cookbook didn’t come up until #58 of more than 7,000 results (again, sorted by “Featured”).

Additionally, when I searched a similar term like “secret restaurant recipes” – which is the title of Mom’s self-published cookbook from 1976 (first edition, also known as “Book 1” in a series of 6) that I believe really kick-started the “movement”, in the first place; following Mom’s initial publishings of copycat recipes from famous restaurant dishes to fast food, junk food and grocery products – Mom’s cookbook didn’t come up until #183 of more than 1,000 results (once again, sorted by “Featured”).

The recipes in Mom’s “Book 1” had originated from her self-published newsletter, the National Homemakers Newsletter; which began in January of 1974, AFTER Mom had started developing a following of readers, in the early 1970s, from her syndicated newspaper columns, in which she first developed and printed some of her ORIGINAL copycat, make-at-home recipes for things like McDonald’s “Special Sauce” and Sara Lee’s Cheesecake.

Long story, short… newspaper advertisers kicked up a fuss… editor “strongly suggested” Mom go back to hum-drum brownie recipes… Mom quit and started her own publication, giving the public what they wanted; as she discovered from their requests, because there wasn’t any other source (at that time) from which to feed the ever-growing hunger for recipe secrets to imitate famous restaurant dishes, fast food, junk food and grocery products at home.

Mom has written her story, about being the Recipe DetectiveTM and how it all began, in many of her self-published books. It has also been told repeatedly by many reporters and talk show hosts over the decades, after she first fired up a lot of national attention, in the mid-1970s. It all began from requests by her readers, in the early 1970s; people who wanted to know how to IMITATE famous food products at home! However, following Mom’s first appearance on The Phil Donahue Show in July of 1981, the nation was more than just fired up – it exploded with the copycat recipes phenomenon!

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

Copycat recipe authors, whose names popped up on Amazon.com when I searched for the term “copycat recipes” (again, sorted by “Featured”), before my mom’s name ever appeared, included Lina Chang, JR Stevens, Todd Wilbur, Becky Bopp, Olivia Howard, John Andrews, Alexander Moretti, Bonnie Akins, Ron Douglas, Stephanie Manley, JP Brown, Samantha Schwartz, Nathan Isaac and David Pietras; plus, company names such as Six Sisters’ Stuff, Taste of Home, Prime Publishing and Publications International Ltd.

However, I have yet to find any “copycat foodie” who was published before my mom; nor any, since, who’ve given any kind of inspirational reference to her for having carved out this particular niche in the realm of recipes and copycat cookery. Mom was the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM, the trailblazing pioneer who began the “copycat recipes movement” in the first place. I may be biased, but I feel like, since it has become more than a movement (it’s a huge “industry”, now), some kind of recognition is due Mom for having carved out this niche in the first place – and it makes me, all the more, want to shout Mom’s story from the roof tops!

1985 Gloria Pitzer

Thus, I’m still feeling inspired to take up the challenge to write Mom’s biography, including a history of the “copycat recipes movement”. That’s kind of why I started this blog series, Mondays & Memories of My Mom, in the first place; to carry the torch for Mom’s legacy and to keep telling her story – to those who remember Mom as the Recipe DetectiveTM, to those who won’t admit to it because they’ve copied (sometimes plagiarized) the ORIGINAL copycat and to the newer, digital generation who probably doesn’t even know that there is a history behind the “copycat recipes movement” and it began with Gloria Pitzer!

Not too long ago, I was asked, by one of the talk show hosts Mom used to work with, why people like Todd Wilbur and Ron Douglas can get away with blatantly copying Mom’s work. The only answer I could find to that a few years ago, when Mom wanted to re-pursue Wilbur for plagiarism, was an online article called, “Recipes, Copyright and Plagiarism” by Jonathan Bailey (published March 24, 2015).

I thought the author gave a wonderful, easy-to-understand explanation of plagiarism – specifically among recipe writers – and how difficult it is to prove, let alone prosecute, the theft of someone else’s original work, especially in recipes, that’s being passed off as one’s own work. Such as Todd Wilbur did to Mom in the late 1980s; and which I discussed in an earlier blog, Mother, May I?

It’s not fair that people like that can get away with what I (and many others) would consider plagiarism, even if it is just borderline, by simply changing a few words or ingredients or measurements (like 2 TB, instead of 1/8 cup)… and seeking their own fame and fortune from it as well! Even Mom often stated, in her own cookbooks, that she could frequently come up with the same result by using different ingredients; as she often revamped her make-alike recipes to compensate for such things as ingredients that were no longer available, which prompted Mom’s homemade grocery recipes and subsequent cookbook.

Mom wrote in her book, My Cup Runneth Over and I can’t Find My Mop, about how her mom taught her certain cooking techniques; but, it was my Grandma Pitzer who, first, taught Mom how to make certain grocery products at home to save money (after she had married my dad and they were living with Dad’s parents for a short time).

Additionally, Mom, who was always a big fan of saving time and exertion, would often “revamp” her recipes to include “ingredient short cuts” (like using Mayonnaise in place of oil and egg or boxed cake mix in place of some flour and sugar ingredients). That’s how Mom came to develop her cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986), which she reprinted in June 2002 because of the popularity that shortcut cooking had gained. That cookbook was my latest source for many of the newest “thank you” notes I added to the “Media” tab, yesterday, on this website.

#MediaFriends

1986 Apr – Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

“COPYCAT COOKERY doesn’t limit you to traditional ingredients or old fashioned methods for recreating your favorite dishes at home and you’ll find, in my recipes, that I often use pantry-shelf products to replace several other ingredients… SIMPLE INGREDIENTS, but marvelous results, with a smidgeon of the effort that more complicated from-scratch recipes offer!” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986, pp. 41 & 65)

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer, 1986

Today, July 15th, is National Give Something Away Day!

SO, IN CLOSING…

This easy pizza crust recipe is from one of Mom’s “free recipes and ordering information” sheets, given out in the late 1980s, and has only 3 ingredients – just stir & spread! A similar version to it can be found on page 54 of Mom’s self-published cookbook, The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Feb. 1990)… again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. Thanks!

PAN PIZZA CRUST

By Gloria Pitzer

Ingredients:

12-oz beer (or Club Soda)

2 TB oil

2 ½ cups self-rising flour

Instructions:

Stir beer (or Club Soda) and oil together with a sturdy mixing spoon in a large bowl. Add flour and beat vigorously until smooth and moist. Dump dough into middle of Pam-sprayed, 12- or 13-inch, round pizza pan. Spread dough evenly with back of a large, wet spoon. (Note: Dipping spoon into cold water keeps the dough from sticking.) Use the spoon to patch any holes in the dough.

Bake the crust, empty, for 10 minutes at 400°-F; then, remove and, immediately, add your favorite sauce while it’s warm. Top with cheese and other favorite garnishments. Return to oven to bake for another 20-30 minutes or until toppings are bubbly, the cheese is melted, and the crust appears golden brown around its rim.

Cut to serve 4 – or one teenager!