Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Time to Make the Cookies

Happy holidays everyone! They are really creeping up fast! Thanksgiving is only 10 days away!!! Before we know it, it’ll be the Advent, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve – and then a whole new year will be upon us! This was always the time for Mom to start baking like a “mad woman”, stock-piling and freezing dozens upon dozens of cookies, fudge and candy confections for gifts and entertaining.

There are so many different types of cookies – “more than Carter has…pills!” Sometimes they’re called “biscuits” or “bars” or “squares”. Some are “baked” in an oven – and even that fluctuates between hard, soft or chewy – while others are “set” in the refrigerator or freezer. Cookies use an array of ingredients including, but not limited to: butter, eggs, oil, peanut butter; plus, various sugars, flours, oats, spices and cocoas/chocolates. Many optional additions include coconut, peanuts, various nuts, candies, baking chips, raisins and many types of dried fruits. Some cookies are frosted or coated in some type of sugar. Mom even developed a cookie recipe a long time ago (as seen at the end of this blog), mixing dry cake and pudding mixes together with mayonnaise!!!

One of my earliest memories, from when I first started going to school, was of being afraid that no one would like me and that I wouldn’t have any friends. Mom gave me a lunch sack full of cookies and told me “the quickest way to their hearts is through their stomachs” and, if I shared the cookies with the other kids, I would surely make friends. It worked! In later years, it worked just as well to help my own kids “break the ice” and make new friends!

There’s no doubt that cookies make people feel good. They are often used as a reward for children, as well as adults, doing good deeds and using good manners, among many other things. Cookies can put a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy day like nothing else can. There was a time, when my youngest child was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. She was withdrawn and anti-social, rarely smiled or showed any kind of emotion – but, mom could always pull her out of her shell, somewhat, with cookies! They were one of the few things that made her genuinely smile.

The following is Mom’s 1983 composition on the subject of “Cookies and Candies”, written for that particular chapter in her book, “The Better Cookery Cookbook”, plus her 1983 make-alike version of the Famous Amos cookies, which appear on pages 214-215 in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

   COOKIES AND CANDIES really bring out the little child within us all. There is something almost rewarding about simple confections that the food industry has also been able to capitalize on the products of this division with great marketing success. The 1st bakery marketing efforts in the American frontier days included delicacies of French origin, Danish breads and cakes, Austrian strudel and pies of truly colonial persuasion. The candies, which were originally for special religious observances, have been taken into the fold of a prospering industry and have continued, despite repercussions of the critics, skepticism of sugar and artificial sweeteners, to please the public… 

…When I compiled my favorite cookie and candy recipes for this section, I was really torn between what to keep and what to leave out. I wanted to share with you every single wonderful memory of a pleasing product, you could hopefully imitate in your own kitchen, as a compliment to the original… 

…In cookie-baking, the spirit of “reward” is still there, as it was when we were youngsters, and remains a tradition – we will always find a place and a reason for having a cookie jar in the kitchen… 

…Years ago, when our 5 children were still in the sandbox set, holding tricycle symposiums in my flowerbeds and declaring our yard a national park for every child in the township, I had this ridiculous maternal notion that a cookie could cure countless conditions. So, I was wrong! Cookies did not remedy a Barbie doll with a missing string in her back or a G.I. Joe without a backpack in the “complete accessory kit”, as promised in the catalog. But, special cookies from a warm and sunny, semi-cluttered kitchen, did take the “bite” out of a scraped knee and the “owie” out of a bump on the head – and even though it wouldn’t bring the pet turtle back to life, a cookie and a kiss from Mom made the world seem a little bit brighter. I doubt that things have changed very much with mothers and their children since my own grew up… Even now…they all check the cookie jar with the same delight as they expressed when they were youngsters.

FAMOUS NAMELESS CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

   My original version had a dozen ingredients. Look at how I shortened it! Still, the results are identical! An interesting note on the popularity of these cookies… A few years ago, [around 1980], I received a letter from Dr. Joyce Brothers, in which this was the only recipe she requested. I sent her the longer, from-scratch version. I hope she has a chance to try this version. One thing I noted about the original cookie is that it has a “sugary” consistency to it. It’s almost like a confection. When Amos, himself, was interviewed in Family Circle magazine a few years ago, he offered them the recipe for making his kind of cookie at home. I tried that recipe 3 times and it was NOT one bit like his famous cookies. To be like his product, the cookie must be firm, a little crisp, but not dry, and have a definite brown-sugar-flavor and crunchy-texture to it. You can add chopped raisins to the finished batter and you can double the chocolate chips – but do be sure, if you are imitating the original product, that you include some pecan halves, as well as chopped pecans, for these really “make” the cookie!

18-ounce box yellow cake mix

2 boxes (3 ¾ ounces each) butterscotch pudding powder (NOT instant)

1 ¼ cups mayonnaise

12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

4-ounce package each: walnut chips and pecan halves

   Mix the dry pudding powder with the dry cake mix in a roomy bowl. Combine thoroughly, using a slotted spoon or large meat fork. Then, mix in the mayonnaise; but, don’t use an electric mixer! When well-blended, add the chips and nuts. Drop by rounded spoonful, 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 14 minutes at 350°F. It’s important to permit the cookies to cool at least 2 minutes on the baking sheet before moving them, carefully, to paper towels to continue cooling. These are very fragile while warm but tend to firm-up while cooling. Makes 4 ½ dozen. Keep at room temperature in a tightly covered container for up to a month! They freeze poorly. Note: If weather is very humid, you’ll note that these become quite limp if they stand out, uncovered, for any length of time. If you store the cooled, firm cookies in an airtight container they should remain crisp despite humid weather.

In February 1988, Mom appeared on The Home Show and they surprised her with an in-person visit from Wally Amos (Famous Amos Cookies), himself. I really wish I could find an actual recording of that show! Mom said he was such a nice man and really loved her version of his product – but made her promise to never go into the cookie business! The following is Mom’s updated make-alike version of the Famous Amos Cookies, from her time on The Home Show, as it appeared on her “Free Recipes & Information” sheet (2000) with an additional “Turtle Sundae Cookies” variation:

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Teach a Child to Fish

This memory is not exactly of my mom…not directly anyway. Some of my favorite early childhood memories are of fishing with my dad and two brothers. My brothers didn’t very much care for me tagging along, but Dad was happy with my enthusiastic interest in fishing… especially, I think, because I liked to find the worms with which for him to bait our hooks. I was pretty good at it too!

We were living in the Algonac-Pearl Beach area (of Michigan), on the beautiful St. Clair River (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway), across from the North Channel (west of Harsens Island) that flows into Lake St. Clair. We fished off the end of our dock often, Spring through Fall; for bass, perch, walleye, whitefish, trout, salmon, etc. – whatever was in season at the time.

One day, when I was about 7 or 8 years old, fishing with my dad and brother, Mike; my line caught something that I just couldn’t pull in by myself. Dad came over to help me. I was very excited that I had caught something, and it was apparently BIG because I couldn’t reel it in by myself! After a couple minutes of struggling, even with Dad’s help, we finally got it pulled up to the surface of the water, only to find it was an old shoe filled with mud! Dad helped me to cast my line out again and I patiently waited for a real bite. Then, I got a rather strong pull on my line and Dad had to help me reel it in again – this time it was an old coffee can filled with mud! My brother, Mike, got the biggest kick out of that and roared with laughter!!!

Dad set me back up with a new worm on my hook, to try again on the other side of the dock, hoping I wouldn’t catch another shoe or can of mud. Within MINUTES I had hooked something big and heavy again! Mike teased me that it was another can of mud. But, as Dad helped me, again, to get the object to the surface, we saw it was a HUGE catfish, which broke my line as soon as we got it up on the edge of the dock. It flopped back into the water and swam away quickly. So, I do have a story about “the one that got away” – and it was real!

Mom drew this cartoon in 1971, for her syndicated column, Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer, based on my love to fish, and my brothers’ irritation of it:

When it was raining outside, and I couldn’t go out on the dock to fish, Mom would set me up on our screened-in porch with a large tub of water, a lawn chair and a “pretend” pole she made from a stick, with a piece of rope tied to it and a rock tied to the other end of the rope (as seen in the photo below, with my little sister.) This reminds me of a “meme” (a humorous image, video, or piece of text) that I like, being shared on Facebook in many forms that, basically, says something along the lines of: “When I was a kid… I didn’t have cable, a computer, internet, Nintendo, X-Box, or Wii. My toys were a bike, fishing pole, bat, ball, mitt, sand box, swing set, trees and so much more. My playroom was the outside world and I had a curfew and drank water out of a hose. If I didn’t eat what my mom made me, I didn’t eat. I didn’t dare tell my parents ‘no’, nor did I dare talk back to them disrespectfully. Life wasn’t hard, it was just life… And I survived.”

 Photo taken by Gloria Pitzer (1971)

I love the aroma of a good fish fry!!! Mom had a few good recipes for coating and frying the fish we caught. Below is Mom’s 1983 make-alike version of Long John Silver’s fish batter, as seen on page 111 in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

LONE JOHN SLIVER FISH BATTER – Similar in texture and flavoring to my “Archer Teacher Batter” but made a bit differently. You can pirate your way through a seaworthy voyage of vittles with this crispy fish coating!

½ cup each: flour and biscuit mix

1 teaspoon season salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons corn oil

about 1 cup club soda, or Busch light beer

grated rind of half a lemon

¼ teaspoon onion salt

   Combine flour, biscuit mix, season salt and sugar. Set aside. Beat egg and oil, adding to half of the club soda or beer. Stir in flour mixture, plus enough more club soda or beer to make it the consistency of buttermilk (as in my “Archer Teacher Batter” recipe.) Stir in lemon rind and onion salt. Tenderize fish fillets in buttermilk as directed in my Treacher recipe (see Index.) Drain fillets and dredge in plain flour. Allow them to dry a few minutes. Dip to coat in prepared batter and fry, a few pieces at a time, in 425°F oil/Crisco mix as directed in my Treacher recipe. When golden brown, remove and keep warm on a paper-lined cookie sheet in a 300°F oven until all pieces have been fried. Serve with my Tartar Sauce (see Index.) Serves 4 to 6 sensibly!

This updated version is from Mom’s “Free Recipes & Information” sheet (2000):

Note: Mom found in later years that the fish coating fried best in 385°F oil.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Entertaining!

“Entertainment,” according to YouTube, “is a form of activity that holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight.” – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi-g4cjqGV7jvU8aeSuj0jQ/about?disable_polymer=1

Hello to all! I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective. I started this blog in September (2018) to honor her legacy and to channel my cherished memories of her, and how she’s influenced my life; as well as, to hear of others’ memories of her, and how she may have influenced them and their lives. My subject this week is “entertaining”, which can have so many derivatives from which to choose.

Growing up, as one of “The Recipe Detective’s” children, I learned a lot from my mom about entertaining, especially during the Fall and Winter holiday seasons – when, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of her hat, Mom could whip up hors d’oeuvres, practically out of thin air, on a moment’s notice for unexpected guests that popped in to say hello and visit a bit. She had a whole “Rolodex” of entertaining ideas in her head from which to draw.

Imagine how great it was when there was a planned, entertainment event such as a Halloween or birthday party or a Thanksgiving dinner with a dozen relatives and guests… Lists were made and checked and revised and checked again! It was a circus of juggling and magic acts all rolled into one! All 5 of us kids had to pitch-in and help on big events, especially us girls…sexist or not, that’s just the way it was back then. We three girls helped Mom inside the house, while the 2 boys helped Dad outside the house.

When it came to food, whether it was an hors d’oeuvre or a main dish, Mom never made “just enough”; because she never knew when, either, unexpected guests were joining us, or the dish was such a hit that we’d all want second and third helpings. If she over-planned and there were left-overs, she was the sorceress of re-inventing left-overs into a whole new meal. At least, that’s how I remember it! I tried to do the same as a mom & wife, myself, because it made me feel good to make others feel good… through food and friendship and entertaining.

Fall is probably my favorite time of year. The beautiful color-change of the pure Michigan landscape is unbeaten in my book! The crisp cool nights and slightly-warm, sunny days are another reason, along with the entertaining celebrations of the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays (and my birthday, too); not to mention – it’s football season, which I happen to enjoy now! As a kid, I was with my mom, I did not like football at all – I didn’t understand it and didn’t care to learn about it. I was not a very competitive person – I wanted everyone to be winners! I more enjoyed being in the kitchen with my mom or playing outside with my friends, while Dad yelled intensively at the referees and players and coaches on the TV.

Hence, football was hardly one of my mom’s joys in the Fall season. Here’s a sample of a story regarding football season that she told in one of her old “Minding the Hearth” editorials, which was re-printed on page 301, in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write, by Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

   I am resigned to my life with an armchair quarterback, for I know that the garlic in our matrimonial gladiola patch is PRO FOOTBALL! From September to March, every year, there is always going to be a gigantic communication gap in our house. The art of conversation isn’t really lost. It’s merely hidden behind the pre-game warm-up, installing a power offense which will take advantage of decent, but not blinding, speed in the backfield in a right-handed attack with a lot of blocking in a size-out pass pattern. I guess the reason I’ll never win an argument with my husband in the fall is that I can’t understand one single word he says. I even tried to leave him once during an NFL game, but it wasn’t until the Super Bowl was over (5 months later) that he even noticed I was gone.

   I admit, I don’t know much about football, but I still insist it isn’t quite fair that the fellow who worked so hard last season, doing a terrific job as quarterback, wasn’t promoted to HALF-back this season! Anyway, the last time I tried to cultivate an interest in the game was the time my husband called me in to watch the last 2 minutes of an exciting game. (Mind you, I use the term “exciting” very loosely!) I guess it was exciting. Paul kept jumping up and down, hollering, “Look at them go!” All I learned from that experience, was that 2 minutes of football is equal to 20 minutes of Daylight Savings Time. An ordinary Sunday afternoon at our house would begin as he slipped into his George Blanda sweatshirt and punted his bottle of Ironized Yeast Tablets across the room, then he would step up to the TV set and announce, “Gloria, is there anything you’d like to say to me before football season begins?”

    Perhaps you understand why every fall I join Parents Without Partners. Because my husband would only notice me if I were to run through the living room with… a number on my back. I can forgive him a lot of faults, especially during football season, but… When he asked if I had anything to say to him before he turned on the set, it was no wonder I replied, “Do I have to say it all now?”

Mom never “learned to like it”, herself; but, she learned to put up with my Dad’s love of it. Eventually, as an adult, I learned about the game of football through one of my girlfriends, who enjoyed it immensely. The enjoyment she derived from it was entertaining and contagious in itself. I found myself wanting to learn more about it. Now, I look forward to the football season every year. My husband and I get together with friends, meeting at a different house each week to cheer on our team and yell at the Refs and just enjoy, together, our friendships along with some food and drinks – and other forms of entertainment when our team isn’t doing well. I’ve learned a little about competition over the years, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it – winners and losers – I’d still rather have everyone win! But, I get the most enjoyment out of the entertainment of us all just getting together over a common interest.

Whenever it’s my husband’s and my turn to host a football party, or any party for that matter, I usually channel my mom to plan the meal and hors d’oeuvres – I have my own “Rolodex” of ideas inspired by her and her love to entertain. I, also like Mom, make more than enough…just in case. But, some of our friends look at the weekly hosting in terms of a competition (like the games we get together to watch), asking, “how can I compete with this when it’s my turn to host a football party?” I always respond that “it’s not a competition!” But, for them, it is – rather than just enjoying the pure entertainment of the unpretentious activity of getting together simply “for pleasure and delight.” We each have our own ways and it’s all good entertainment. I love what everybody else does! We all have good times at each other’s homes – whether it’s just friendly entertainment or a competition. It’s like original art – no two are alike and, thus, none are enjoyed more than any another.

One of my favorite meals to prepare when entertaining in the Fall season is chili. I can make it from scratch and let it simmer all day in a slow cooker or I can whip it up from the left-overs of “taco night” or “spaghetti night” or “sloppy joe night” – you get the gist. I can also prepare it the day before an event, to re-heat the day of while I focus on other details. Chili is one of those few dishes that tastes even better the second day. I can “stretch it out” to feed more than expected by adding more meat or diced tomatoes or beans or sauce…also, by adding toppings like shredded cheddar or corn chips. Even by using smaller bowls or mugs and adding a side of inexpensive hot dogs, I can stretch it far!

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, before Mom hung up her hat and magnifying glass and fully retired, (in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope) she was graciously giving away “free sheets” of 12-20 of her most popularly requested, recipes and information on what publications she had in print and how to get them. All her recipes are copyrighted; and one thing she always asked for, when she gave permission to copy, was to give her the proper credit for it. I’ve been sharing one of those recipes with you each week, here in my blog – some of these they also appear (sometimes in alternate versions of the same dish) in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. The following is an alternate, 1983 version, as found on page 50 of her last book.

   CHILI IS JUST A KISSING COUSIN OF THE GREEK CONEY SAUCE and a second cousin, twice removed of the Italian pasta sauce. It’s probably related, as well, to the Hungarian goulash sauce. With or without beans, chili has become very Americanized! Chili is more popular in Cincinnati than it is in San Diego. In fact, chili is to Cinci what beans are to Boston! It is served in many ways in the various “chili parlors” and is regarded as the only place in the United States where it is “properly” prepared and served. The fast food industry launched a new frontier devoted to expanding on the idea of Mexican cuisine with American-touches that makes it appeal to those who want a change from hamburgers.

  WHEN A VERY SUCCESSFUL HAMBURGER FRANCHISE decided to give the “Golden Arches” a little nudge in the marketplace, it won the public’s approval by adding a velvety-textured, mildly-seasoned chili to its menu, which has not been duplicated by any other food chain. Today, it’s the leading lady of Wendy’s fast food menu. Here’s my version.

WEDNESDAY’S CHILI

1 ½ to 2 pounds ground round

2 tablespoons corn oil

½ teaspoon seasoned salt

10-ounce can Campbell’s Onion Soup, undiluted

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin powder

½ teaspoon pepper

21-ounce can kidney beans, un-drained

6-ounce can tomato paste

8-ounce can tomato sauce

   Brown the beef in the oil and crumble it with the back of a fork until it resembles rice; then, sprinkle on the seasoned salt and turn the heat to low, covering the pan to let it simmer gently in its own juices. Put the onion soup through a blender on high-speed until it’s smooth; then, add it to the beef mixture and mash it thoroughly again with the fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the flavors are well-blended and the chili is piping hot! Makes about 6 servings. Left-overs keep well in a covered container in refrigerator for a week, or freeze up to 6 months, but it should be thawed/re-heated in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water.

This is a copy of a later version from one of Mom’s “free recipes sheets”:

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happiness Is…

Hello, Everyone! If you haven’t been here before, my name is Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. I started this weekly blog series last month to carry on her legacy through my memories of her; as well as, through the memories others have of her. This week’s subject is “happiness”! As Elbert Hubbard said, “Happiness is a habit cultivate it.” 

If true happiness is acquired through persistence and patience, it would be like the fable of the elderly Chinese profit who asked for a needle when none could be found. However, somebody offered him a crowbar and a file. He was pleased and assured his friends that it was only a matter of time before he could produce the needle he wanted. [a Food-for-Thought entry on page 304 of “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”; published by Balboa Press (January 2018) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

When I was feeling depressed and frustrated, miserable about life in general, Mom told me that happiness is not in what you want or what you get, but in who you are! True happiness comes from within us. It’s not about what you have in life, but what you get out of life, that counts. After all, it’s the journey, not the arrival, that matters the most.

Yet, there are those who truly believe, in their heart-of-hearts, that their level of happiness is in direct proportion to their level of success, which is in direct proportion to how much money they earn or have. However, success “levels” (if there really are such things) have nothing to do with how much money one has acquired; and, thus, has no correlation with a “level” of happiness. Mom believed that real success was found in how well we lived our lives – for the good of ourselves, as well as for the good of others. Thus, we should always do something that will make a difference for the good of others.

We all expect life to be good to us – at least, some of the time. But, when things don’t work out the way we plan, or hope, there’s an overwhelming tendency to feel that all life gives us is lemons. Everyone knows the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” (Also, a quote from Elbert Hubbard.) However, you need a lot of sugar to make a good lemonade. Whether the sweetener comes from self-love or from inner-happiness, we need to pour that sugar all over it!

One of Mom’s favorite “happy” and “feel good” movies was always The Sound of Music, in which Julia Andrews’ character was constantly bombarded with life’s “lemons”; but, like mom, she never lost her faith. She always found a way to turn it into lemonade. One of mom’s favorite references in the movie was from a scene in the Abby when Julia’s character was told, “When the Lord closes a doorhe opens a window.” Similar to Mom’s favorite Norman Vincent Peale quote: “God never closes a door that He doesn’t open a window.”

Photo of Gloria Pitzer, taken by Laura Emerich, March 2013

Mom believed that life’s best experiences often came out life’s biggest disappointments by, simply, turning “a let-down into a set-up” for something else – something better – something out there, through the opened window. She also believed that every new day was a turning point and that each experience (good and bad) eventually contributed in some way to our growth and happiness. For that she was always grateful. Since these life-lessons continue on a daily basis, we should be learning something new every day. After all, we are always growing and evolving – mind, body and soul. Mom once wrote, “…the opportunities that are available to us aren’t always the most obvious when we’re in the throes of self-pity [or rejection], or weary from over-work… You certainly won’t hear opportunity knocking at the front door if you’re in the back yard, looking for four-leaf clovers.” [“My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989; page 4].

Photo taken by Laura Emerich at a Michigan State Scenic Turnout along M-25, Oct. 2017.

Because of the happiness Mom taught me to find within myself first, I can also enjoy the happiness I find in the colors of a Michigan fall, the happy-go-lucky smile of my grandchild, the nuzzles and purrs of my cats (and husband), the sparkling sun reflected on the magnificent blue waters of The Great Lakes, the cheerful sounds of the birds and other wildlife in my backyard, the aroma of a slow-cooker Sunday meal – and in so much more! Where do you find your happiness?

Some people find happiness in chocolate. So, with that and the up-coming Halloween celebrations, I’d like to share with you Mom’s make-a-like version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which she called Recess Peanut Butter Cups; asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

An alternate,1983 version, can be found on page 234 of her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Made With Love

My mom, Gloria Pitzer, loved many things and many people and many animals; but, Mom’s greatest love (next to my dad, of course) was her writing. She put so much love and passion into the recipes she developed and wrote, testing them over and over again (which was a labor of love all its own) until she felt they were good enough to share. Her Food-for-Thought editorials were written with a great love and passion for helping and informing her readers – whether it was requested by them or something she came upon and thought it might be interesting to them. Her cartoons were drawn with loving satirical humor, meant to entertain her readers and bring a little smile to their day. Mom combined them all, for decades, into monthly/bi-monthly newsletters, as well as the many dozens of books that she wrote and self-published.

Mom once wrote: “The divine principle of good cooking is not a secret! It is taking pleasure in the activity; in the information previously retained and called upon through the facilities of memory. The spirit of good cooking is individualistic. It is not shrouded in mystery – but in love, for what you are doing and for whom you are doing it!” [as it appeared on the front page of her 128th issue of Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Sep-Oct 1987].

Everything Mom made was done so out of love and with love. Since I was very small, I remember Mom hand-making my sisters and I beautiful rag dolls with an array of fashion to go with each. To this day, that’s still my favorite Christmas present from her. She also created a lot of our Barbies’ furniture, clothes and linens. She often made our own clothes, as well as blankets/afghans for us. Her attention to details showed all the thought and love that she put into making everything.

Family meal-time was even an event! Not like when my brother, Mike, was caught hiding his peas in a napkin under the edge of his plate, because he couldn’t leave the table until his plate was cleared – after all, there were children in Ethiopia starving – and, no, Mike couldn’t send them his peas! But, meal-time was always a family-together-time event, where we all sat at the table, sharing feelings & stories of our day (while the siblings might elbow or kick each other under the table, if those stories turned into tattles.) But, family meal-time was especially fun if we were testing some of Mom’s famous make-alike dishes – like the KFC-style chicken I shared with you a couple of weeks ago in my blog, “More than 15 Minutes of Fame!”. Even the “duds”, as we lovingly referred to those samplings that weren’t quite right enough to make it into her newsletter, were still made with just as much love as the final products that did…and they all tasted wonderfully delicious!

Just a few weeks ago, our local historical museum did a tribute to 10 residents; people (no longer with us) who contributed greatly to our community of St. Clair, Michigan. It’s a yearly tribute called “The Next 10”. This year’s presentation included my mom as one of the 10 special people. I was so honored when a few different people, working on this project, contacted me for any information, stories, photos and other materials that I could contribute.

The St. Clair Historical Museum put on a beautiful picture slideshow-like presentation for each honoree; and each had a different speaker, presenting the family’s and community’s memories of them. Family members and friends of some of those honored were present. To feel the love in the room, coming from all those other loved ones, was tremendous. I was very honored to be among them. I was especially honored that during the social, following the presentation, they served ice cream with a batch of Mom’s Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce that someone had lovingly made for the event! This week, I will share that recipe with you, as it was on her “free sheet” of recipes and ordering information and, also, on page 255 of her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.  You can also find it on this website under the ‘Recipes’ tab.

Michiganders (especially southeastern ones) know all about the mouth-watering, luscious, milk chocolate delights put out by Sanders’ Chocolatiers ! As their company slogan once said, “When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat.” I have a lot of great family-time memories of when Mom made this special treat for all of us – and it was especially fun to help her make it too! I mean, who wouldn’t LOVE to lick that spoon when done? I remember, as well, when I made it for my own kids while they were little – and it was a big treat for all of us! Here is what Mom had to say in her original book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (self-published by Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, May 1983, 3rd Printing) about the Sanders Company; plus, her favorite make-alike version of their hot fudge sauce:

   SANDERS’ HOT FUDGE was one of the nicest experiences I had in working with imitations of the famous recipes, for John (Jack) Sanders, the grandson and president of the company founded by his grandfather, Fred, was one of the sponsors of Warren Pierce’s radio show [found on WJR – Detroit]. Imagine my reluctance to share with his listeners my version of Sander’s hot fudge. I had previously had so many threatening letters from food company lawyers that I didn’t know what to expect if I heard from the Sanders people! To my amazement, the letter we anticipated did arrive only 2 days after I gave my version of the hot fudge recipe to Warren’s listeners. The letter, however, said – if it wouldn’t ruin my fun in trying to duplicate these famous dishes, would Paul and I and all the kids kindly accept an invitation from Jack Sanders to tour their Oakman Boulevard Bakery and Confection plant and meet their Head Chef, Edy Mader. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sander’s products and, I learned, encouraged many out-of-state orders for their products whenever I talked about them during my frequent radio visits around the country. As the slogan for Sanders’ Restaurants, Bakery and Candy company said, “When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…”

HOT FUDGE SAUCELike Sanders

14-ounce can Eagle Brand milk

14 ounces light corn syrup (use EB milk can to measure)

¼ pound butter* (*per the “free sheet” directions; the book – as written in 1983 – calls for ½ pound)

12 ounces Nestlé’s milk chocolate candy bars – Do not substitute on brand of candy!

a few drops vanilla extract

In top of double boiler, over simmering water, combine all ingredients as listed, stirring about 15 minutes until smooth and melted. Cover and continue cooking for at least 30 more minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes. Cool and put through your blender in small portions, using on/off agitation on high speed until mixture is satiny-smooth. Makes 1 quart. Keeps refrigerated up to a month – reheat in top of double boiler over simmering water. Freezes well up to 6 months.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Best Things in Life

What’s “best” to me may not be the same as what’s “best” to you or to anyone else. But, from all the comments I’ve read on the subject, a LOT of people seem to feel that the best things in life really are the “free stuff”. As far back as I can remember, my mom taught me that the best things in life aren’t necessarily tangible things! Mom – as do I – always treasured things like feelings, thoughts and expressions of caring. A smile or a hug or a strong, loving, family bond (be it by blood or by choice) have always been very important “best things” too. All of these kind of things are given and received freely…at no monetary costs. I’ve tried to teach these “values” to my kids also – as my mom taught me and her mom taught her – now my daughter teaches these values to her son. Chivalry, courtesy and civility are not dead – nor can it hibernate, as long as we continue to teach it to each new generation!

Mom once wrote: “We must…remove price tags from people. Everyone has worth; the excitement lies in the discovery of their value!…Wealth does not equal worth and so the amount of money we could have earned, but turned down instead, as a result of keeping our publications at home, is not as important as the work itself.” – as found in her self-published book, “My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop”, 1st Edition, December 1989; p. 106

In the Fall season of 1981, after the over-whelming response to her 1st appearance on the Phil Donahue Show – Mom was repeatedly laying her head on her desk, “in tears of anguish and fatigue”, as the family-operated, dining-room-table business went from “rags-to-riches”, in terms of public response to her creations. But, fame was not all it was jacked-up to be; and, it was taking its toll on everyone! The cookbooks couldn’t be printed fast enough, to fill all the orders that were continually coming in; some customers were upset that they hadn’t received their orders, due to all sorts of confusing reasons; and the family was stressed-out and crumbling apart from all the related fall-out of “fame”. Hence, I left home early (just before my 17th birthday), running away with a boy of whom my parents disapproved.

Mom and Dad thought that, by moving to the Los Angeles area with my younger sister (near one of my older brothers, Mike, and Mom’s oldest sister, Hazel, and her family), they could all have a new beginning and leave all their problems behind, in St. Clair. As I did, in moving to the Houston area with my boyfriend. All of us soon realized we were mistaken – about what we thought we wanted/needed and how to go about getting it.

“Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.” – Dick Syatt

 

In California, it wasn’t long before Mom and Dad started missing the things about St. Clair that originally attracted them to move there from Algonac, in the first place…the friendliness of the town, the security of walking the streets without fearing harm, the simplicity of her small-town life. As much as they loved being near their family members, out there, that they rarely got to see, Mom couldn’t work or create in California! The peace and contentment she sought, but couldn’t find there, made her suddenly re-appreciate the freedom she had of living in a small, mid-west town, and she was eager to go “home”. She went back to what she loved best – writing and radio “visits” that kept her connected with her “readers” and “listeners”.

Remembering – Recollections of how we developed our Secret Recipes and the unique circumstances under which this dining room table operation has endured… will surely never make the best sellers list, and perhaps not even interest most critics, let alone the skeptics. They predicted that the public’s interest in my kind of cookery would not last long. It continues because it has merit! – (by Gloria Pitzer; from “The Original 200 Plus – Secret Recipes Book”, 1st Printing, June 1997; p. 2)

During that same time period, while I was on my own journey in the Houston area with my boyfriend, I also found that to be so true. It wasn’t long before I realized that being in a new place with my boyfriend was not making either of us happy. After 5 months in the Houston area, my boyfriend and I, along with another couple, moved back to our hometown area in Michigan. But, things still weren’t good/better for either of us. I was looking through rose-colored glasses at something that was just not meant to be. Mom found out, through friends of mine, where I was living and how I was struggling. She started sending me little, anonymous, “angel” cards with a $20 bill – no return address or any writing other than my name and address on the envelope. I knew it was from her, even though the writing was “disguised”. Angels were our “connection”. While the money did help – that I cannot deny – it was the “anonymous” angel cards, themselves, that meant the most to me. She was reaching out, without any pressure or judgement. After my boyfriend and I split up, circumstances led me back to a loving and forgiving relationship with my parents.

Mom said, of that whole experience, “Sometimes we need to have something, lose it and get it back again, before we can really appreciate what we have.”

Back to the best things in life – as I said in the beginning – things like feelings, thoughts and expressions of caring. A smile or a hug or a strong, loving, family bond (be it by blood or by choice) have always been very important “best things”! They are the things that truly make me happy…given and received freely…at no monetary costs.

Before Mom hung up her hat and magnifying glass and fully retired, (in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope) she was graciously giving away “free” sheets of 12-20 of her “best”, most popularly requested, recipes and information on what publications she had in print and how to get them. All her recipes are copyrighted; and one thing she always asked for, when she gave permission to copy, was to give her the proper credit for it. I am going to share one of those recipes with you each week, here in my blog, as they also appear in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

In last week’s blog, “More than 15 Minutes of Fame”, I shared her “Big Bucket In the Sky Chicken” recipe, which was also on the “free sheet”. This week, as “Pumpkin Season” begins, I’d like to share Mom’s favorite butter pie crust recipe from that “free sheet”, which is also found in her last book (cited above) on page 243.

BUTTER CRUST (My Most Dependable & Very Favorite Recipe!)

Melt ¼ pound butter – NOT margarine – in a small sauce pan on medium heat until it’s frothy, but don’t let it change color or become the least-bit brown. (I like to put the stick of butter into my heat-proof, 1 ½-quart, glass mixing bowl, placing it in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on “Defrost”.)

As soon as the butter is melted, and while it’s still hot, dump in the remaining ingredients:  1 tablespoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup all-purpose flour.

Turn your electric mixer on high and beat mixture in a bowl for about 30 seconds or until it comes away from the center and hits the sides of the bowl. Quickly gather it into a ball and pat it out to cover the bottom and sides of a Pam-sprayed, 10-inch, Pyrex pie plate. (Pyrex plates work best with this very rich recipe.) If you don’t have Pam, grease the pan in Crisco only! It might stick otherwise!

Bake crust at 375°F for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Fill as desired. Makes one 10-inch pie crust. Note: Do not double this recipe. The dough becomes difficult to work with as it cools and, then, it crumbles and breaks apart. Make one single recipe at a time.

   To make top crust: Pat out a single recipe, as given above, on a Pam-sprayed and waxed-paper-lined dinner plate. Invert crust over filling spread in crust-lined pan, per recipe of your choice. Lift off plate and peel back waxed paper. Make slits for steam to escape. Gently press crust to rim of pie pan with a floured fork (or a fork dipped in ice water.) Use an egg-wash if you wish (one egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water and brushed lightly – lapping it, rather than pressing it, over top of crust), but the butter in this crust should allow it to brown beautifully without the wash. Bake per filling recipe directions. Generally, the best temperature is at 375°F for 25 to 28 minutes or until filling begins to bubble up through the slits in the top crust in the crust is golden brown.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – More than 15 Minutes of Fame!

Hi, again, to everyone! If you’re new to here – I am Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. I started this blog series to carry on her legacy, which is why I titled my first blog in this series “A Legacy of Love” (9/17/2018), as that is what “Secret Recipes” always was to her and what it became to me over the last few years of her life while I re-wrote her favorite cookbook for her; to be published, again, for a new generation! I ended that 1st blog with a promised continuation of the story of her experience with being on The Phil Donahue Show, and here it is!

“…it was her first appearance on ‘The Phil Donahue Show’ that created the most overwhelming response to her talents than she could have ever expected” – from Mondays & Memories of My Mom Blog Post, 9/17/2018 (http://therecipedetective.com/category/blog/)

It was July 7, 1981 when Mom FIRST appeared on The Phil Donahue Show. She appeared, again, almost 12 years later, on April 16, 1993. The response to her 1st appearance was over-whelming, to say the least – not only to her, but to our whole family; and even to our local Post Office and the community! During her 2nd appearance, The Phil Donahue Show was not allowed to give out her contact information. The request for transcripts for that episode broke the show’s record! A rough recording of that episode can be found on YouTube, in 5 parts.

Here is Mom’s own account of her 1st experience, as it appears in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing, p. 298-299) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]:

   It was 1977, and we were considering a move from Pearl Beach to St. Clair, since our 80-year old house was already packed, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, with recipe books and newsletter inventory. Just about the time we planned our move, the Phil Donahue show called and invited us to Dayton, Ohio to appear on their program there. I had to decline. We already had more work than we could handle, and I had found that television appearances were merely food demonstrations that I did not enjoy experiencing. I enjoyed my radio work more, and the number of stations on which I had become a regular participant had grown to include over 100 across the country and in Canada.

    We were settling down in our new house in St. Clair, with our office in the basement. We outgrew that arrangement in a short time and rented a larger office uptown. But the books became more successful than we anticipated, and the newsletter circulation was growing to over 10,000. Soon, I found that we had to put the business back into our home. I couldn’t depend on being in a writing mood between our regular “office” business hours of 8 AM to 5 PM. Some of the radio shows that I took part in were on-the-air at midnight, especially my favorite visits with KMOX in St. Louis and WGY in Schenectady. With my files and reference materials at the office and me, at home on the telephone with the radio shows, the arrangement was not satisfactory. So, Paul and our 2 sons remodeled our two-car garage, attached to the kitchen, and we moved the operation back there; where, for the next 4 years, the business ran quite smoothly.

   We were receiving about 1,000 letters a day from the radio shows that I took part in and the newspaper stories that I was more-or-less an acting consultant on subjects related to “fast food”. In the spring of 1981, our old friend, Carol Haddix, ran a story about our new book of “Homemade Groceries” in the Chicago Tribune, where she had just been assigned the food department. The Donahue Show people called once more and requested our appearance. We had just done a PM Magazine show with Detroit and had declined an invitation to appear in New York on Good Morning America, as well as declining an opportunity to have People Magazine interview us – and I still wonder why in the world I said I would do the Donahue show! I think it was because I had just tangled with Grit, the weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania, over giving credit to the Food editor’s teenage daughter for having developed a fish batter like Arthur Treacher’s, using club soda and pancake mix – and received an apology on the back page of one of their issues, placing the item between an ad for corn and callous remover and waste cinchers. I was also tangling with Jove Publications, who were pressing hard to sell their “Junk Food Cookbook”, using my recipes, word-for-word, with credit going to somebody else. I wanted to establish the fact that I was very much in business and willing to protect my copyrighted property with the same enthusiasm and sincerity as the major food companies had exhibited in protecting theirs from my imitations. (And believe me, we’ve heard from all the big ones!)

    So, on July 6, Paul and I flew to Chicago, staying at the Hyatt O’Hare, and did the Donahue show live – for an entire hour – on July 7, flying back that same afternoon. The next day, 15,000 letters waited for us at the St. Clair post office. And every day for 4 months, we picked up thousands of letters – having received by Christmas, well over 1 million letters, requesting information on how to acquire our books, which were still available only by mail from our address. We were bogged down with an unexpected response. It was an experience of mixed blessings!

    If you’ve ever seen 1 million letters, you know how we felt when we tried to handle the overwhelming response! It was exhausting! Our home, which was both our office and our sanctuary, became like a factory, with people helping us to process the mail, eventually having to return thousands of the orders to the customers with our deepest regrets that we could not, in all fairness to them, delay their order. The onslaught of mail had forced us to do this. We were all working from 7 AM until 1 or 2 AM the next morning just to open and read the mail. Our phone bill had been buried in some of that mail and in a month’s time, being something like 23 to 24 days behind in opening the mail, our phone was shut off for non-payment of our bill. As soon as we realized what the mail was doing to us, we tried to get Donahue’s people to stop the continued scheduled showings of our appearance. But that show remained on their repeat schedule for almost a year, playing in the Panama Canal zone, Greenland, Iceland, Australia and on hundreds of small town stations. Most of the letters requested a sheet of “free” recipes that were included with the order blank for a self-addressed stamped envelope to us. The offer would have been good for us, if it had only been shown that one time – the day on which we appeared on the show – but for nearly a year afterward, the requests still came, as did the complaints and the threats to report us to postal authorities for not having sent those “free” recipes, tore us apart emotionally and physically! Some people did not include their self-addressed-stamped envelope. Some envelopes were addressed to themselves, such as Joe Smith, but in care of OUR address instead of THEIR address. It was a confusing mess! Some people wrote threatening letters that they hadn’t received their orders and were turning us over to the postmaster general as frauds! I laid my head on my desk many a time, in tears of anguish and fatigue. The family was falling apart. We couldn’t print our books fast enough, to fill all the orders! Then the post office, in delivering the thousands of books that we DID mail out, lost some, destroyed some, and delayed and even miss-directed other orders…

    I remembered what Dick Syatt, one of our radio friends, had told me about finally getting everything you ever wanted, when he said, “Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.” Sometimes we need to have something, lose it and get it back again, before we can really appreciate what we have. I had that chance and I am so glad for it. It was a time to learn and to grow.

To Mom, the ‘Donahue Show’ appearance always remained the single, most important part of her “Secret Recipes” growing experience. It opened many doors that would have otherwise been closed in her field, allowing her to let her light shine; and inspiring her light to keep shining. Here is Mom’s favorite recipe experience from that show, as it appears in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing, p. 89) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]:

   THIS RECIPE was created on-the-spot when I discovered that my usual ingredients and…most familiar utensils were not ready…to use on The Donahue Show (… July 7, 1981) …I had to adlib the experience, calling upon every possible thing I could remember about good cooking. It was luck! And luck – of course – is when preparation and experience meet opportunity!

    There was a toaster oven on the table the staff had set up for me to use during the live–telecast of the show. At 8 o’clock in the morning, the producer of the show was driving around Chicago, trying to find a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that was open, so that the audience could later compare what I had prepared to what the restaurant prepared. So, I looked at the ingredients I had on hand and tried to improvise with what was there. The on-the-spot recipe was every bit as good as what Paul & I had been publishing and was so much easier, that again we could prove that there will always be more than one way to arrive at a given result!

OVEN-FRIED KENTUCKY-STYLE CHICKEN

In doubled plastic food bags, combine well: 3 cups self-rising flour, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 envelopes Lipton Tomato Cup-a-Soup powder (see Index for my “Cup-of-Thoup” recipe), 2 packages Good Seasons’ Italian dressing mix powder and 1 teaspoon season salt. Twist the end of the bags tightly, creating an inflated balloon affect. Then shake the mixture well to combine.

   Spray a jellyroll pan (10 x 15 x 3/4-inch) with Pam or wipe it well with oil. Run a cut-up chicken fryer under cold water and let excess water drip off, putting all the pieces into a colander to drain a few minutes. Dredge pieces one at a time in the flour mixture, by placing each piece in the bag of seasoned flour and shaking to coat. Arrange the coated pieces, skin-side up on prepared pan. Melt ¼ pound margarine or butter and, using a 1-inch-wide, soft-bristled, pastry brush (or one from a paint store with soft hair bristles – NOT plastic bristles,) dab the melted butter or margarine over the floured surface (skin-side only) of each chicken piece. When all the melted butter or margarine has been divided between the pieces, bake it in a 350°F oven, uncovered, for 1 hour or until golden brown and tender.

   FOR CRISPY COATING: After applying melted butter or margarine, dust pieces with a few additional tablespoons of seasoned flour and drizzle with more melted butter or margarine before baking. Serves 4 to 6.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Labor of Love

I was going to continue from the end of last week’s blog, regarding Mom’s experiences from being on the Phil Donahue Show. Then, I decided I needed to write more about Mom’s back story first – who she was before becoming that “Secret Recipes” “trail blazer in the 70’s.”

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…” [from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/the-best-laid-plans-of-mice-and-men-often-go-awry]

Mom used to tell me, “life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.” In other words, while we’re busy making plans for how we’d like our lives to be, life changes and all we can do is hop on the wave and go with the flow…”re-calculating” as we go.

Mom’s first love was writing. As a girl, she dreamed of writing a great American novel one day. She loved to write short stories and poetry. In high school, she pestered her school’s newspaper “sponsor”, Mr. Rosen, to let her be on the staff. She told me that he had no hope for her as a reporter, but she set out to prove him wrong anyway. From her love for writing, she also became Secretary of her January 1954 Senior class at Royal Oak High School in Michigan. Sharing that love of writing with Mom was Judy Guest (who became the author of “Ordinary People” about 20 years later.) Mom said Judy had also worked on the Royal Oak High School paper and everyone knew that she was destined to be a great author – it was in her genes. Judy, like Mom, was also Secretary of her Senior class (June 1954 – 6 months after Mom’s class.)

However, Mom’s own dream of writing “a great American novel” never came to fruition, as “life” took her in a slightly different direction. Every successful accomplishment that Mom had with her writing efforts in and after high school and college involved cooking and recipes in some manner. In the 50’s and 60’s, she won multiple contests on radio shows and in magazines for recipes; as well as for food-related stories, articles and essays that she wrote and entered. With the prize money from one contest in 1963, she bought her first typewriter, as she had always borrowed one before then.

As a wife and mother, Mom found her ‘family life’ to be the best subject about which to write. She was very creative and funny. She designed a few columns for weekly papers on that new typewriter, mailing out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, she was writing two different columns (“No Laughing Matter” and “Minding the Hearth”) for 60 regular papers. She even created her own cartoons (similar to “Family Circle”), which she called “Full House – as Kept by Gloria Pitzer”. They depicted her life as a wife and mother of 5 in the mid-60’s to mid-70’s. Yet, Mom still did not see recipes as a “calling” – to her, it was merely an interest that kept her writing and making a living from it.

Then, when she was writing a regular food column, syndicated through Columbia Features, she realized there was a niche – no cookbooks on the market took the monotony out of meal time for her. There wasn’t even a single recipe in the newspaper’s food section that didn’t come off, to her, as “down-home dullness.” She approached the editors with an idea to change things up from the usual meatloaf and chocolate brownies recipes. They told her to write the recipes that she thought would excite the readers, and so she did! The readers loved it! However, the food industry advertisers of the paper were not so happy with her inventive ways to make family-favorite, “fast-food” meals like you were “eating out at home.”

So, the editors asked her to go back to the monotonous meatloaf and chocolate brownies recipes or “pick up her check.” But, it was too late…the bug had bitten her, and she realized this was her calling. She told them to mail her the check, and she went home to start her own paper! She knew someone needed to give homemakers, like herself, something more. The food industry was so much bigger than what was being offered in the colored, glossy magazines and the cookbooks of those days. Fast food recipes weren’t found in any cookbooks back then – and these were the types of restaurants that struggling, middle class families would frequent when they wanted an affordable meal out. What were they to do when they couldn’t afford to take their family out for such a treat? Mom knew! Make it at home! And she couldn’t wait to investigate all the possibilities there were to offer from this new platform!

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Legacy of Love

To blog or not to blog? That is the question…and I’ve been asking myself that for a while now… as well as, about what should I blog?

Hi! I’m Laura Emerich, and Gloria Pitzer is my mom!

I’ve always loved to write, draw and craft things since I was very young. The arts (on so many different levels) seemed to run in my blood. If there’s an artistic gene, our family seemed to be blessed with it… and it was something my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles would always encourage and nurture further in us whenever we created something.

Over the years, my mom has personally inspired me in so many ways…as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, mother, teacher, aide, etc. How she managed to juggle all of these same hats with a husband and 5 kids for which to take care always amazed me (except for a few of my teen years, when I thought I knew better than she.) When I became a mother, myself, (and got a little older and wiser) it all made so much more sense – about why she did things the way she did. However, I had only 3 kids and a husband to contend with while doing that hat juggling act; so, I was still amazed at all of her accomplishments. I was always asking her for advice and I loved to learn from her. To me, she was just Mom; but, to the world, she was Gloria Pitzer, “The Secret Recipe Detective”.

She was very gifted in her own right as a writer, publisher, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook and so on. Her taste buds and culinary skills, combined with her creative writing skills and sarcastic sense of humor, developed into their own super power. In a time, not unlike what we are in now – with political upheaval, low wages and high costs of living – she found a niche that people wanted – “eating out at home”, she called it – and she set to work, discovering how to mimic fast food & restaurant dishes at home; as well as, shelf-stable grocery items. If it saved her household money, she wanted to share it with others to help them save money too.

She was a trail-blazer in the 70’s – writing her own recipes and marketing her talents through newspapers, magazines, local television talk shows…but, especially through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years she was a regular on a few local radio talk shows such as “Ask Your Neighbor”, hosted by Bob Allison on WWJ-Radio, which still airs out of the Detroit area today and “Listen to the Mrs.”, which is still hosted by Art Lewis on WSGW-Radio in Saginaw, MI. Mom said Warren Pierce of “The Warren Pierce Show” put her “in touch with some of the most responsive and enthusiastic listening audiences.” That show also still airs out of the Detroit area on WJR-Radio. Mom did radio shows all over the country – mostly by phone, from the comfort of home.

In the early years of her “Secret Recipes” business, Mom sold recipes for a quarter each, printed on 3”x5” index cards from a mimeograph she had in the laundry room. She started with an index of about 200 recipes. She promoted these mostly through radio programs. But, newspapers and magazines also picked up on it quickly, as she blazed that trail of uniqueness among all the ‘Betty Crockers’ and ‘Julia Childs’ of that time, and they wrote articles about her, as well. It didn’t seem to take long before her recipe library grew through requests from fans of her writing. She went from index cards to newsletters and multiple cookbooks in the blink of an eye. Soon, she was getting national, as well as international, recognition. Mom only did a few TV appearances – the first was on “Kelly & Company” in the mid-70’s – a local talk show on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. Later, in the early 80’s, “PM Magazine” created new interests in Mom’s recipes, sending their Detroit television crew to our house (then, in St. Clair, MI) to film Mom doing what she does best…creating “art” in the kitchen! However, it was her first appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” that created the most overwhelming response to her talents than she could have ever expected… More to come on that next week!