Mondays & Memories of My Mom – In the Beginning…

Happy Monday everyone! Thank you for stopping in…

Since I started this blog series over a year ago, I have found so much joy in re-reading all of my copies of Mom’s old “No Laughing Matter” columns, books and newsletter issues. As I mentioned last week, they are my go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my writing of these blog entries. Technically, even before that – I was re-inspired by Mom’s writing when I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing). We were hoping it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age” – and it has!

Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, she was so pleased to hear that her “new” book went to print; being published by Balboa Press. The title had to be adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, but most of the rest, inside the book, remained close to the same as the original 1983 edition. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the first printed copy… Then again, she probably saw it, “hot-off-the-press”, before anyone else, from her new vantage point.

[Note: To get your own hard copy and/or eBook editions of Mom’s last book, here are the links at Balboa Press. By the way, they’ll make great Christmas gifts too! 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]

Mom was so creative, in so many ways, and had all sorts of talents; but, writing was probably at the top of the list. She had a way with words that made me smile and laugh, as well as make me think, “Hmmm?!” Her newsletters and cookbooks were full of food-for-thought columns, comedic quips, food-for-the-soul meditation and inspiration, historic information and so much more than just recipes.

Mom often said that her books were just as comfortable on the coffee table, for reading, as they were on the kitchen counter, for cooking. In addition, Mom wrote her recipes in an easy-to-understand manner – without any glossy, color photos – just describing it like she was right there, in the kitchen talking to you about it every step of the way. She felt that, since they were products we already know, photos weren’t really necessary; which I, now, find ironic because Mom was the “shutter-bug” in our family – always taking pictures at every gathering.

All of those extra components that Mom put into her works created such a unique combination that it set her products apart from all the rest on the market, at that time, bringing her more media attention than she ever expected. Even without the internet, in the mid-1970s era, word got around fast about the small town housewife that discovered how to make fast food and junk food imitations at home!

The crafty format for Mom’s newsletters and cookbooks was largely influenced by her favorite crafter, Carol Duvall; who, in the 1970s, had a “Craft Letter” (as she called it) and a 5 minute crafting segment on WDIV-TV (Channel 4 in Detroit), called “Here’s Carol Duvall”. Mom followed her craft show religiously and subscribed to her Craft Letter too. That was decades before Carol moved to ABC’s “Home” (1988-1994) and before she began hosting “The Carol Duvall Show” on HGTV (1994-2005), which then moved to DIY (2005-2009).

Mom and Carol became fast friends and, when Carol retired her “Craft Letter”, she offered her subscribers the option of switching to Mom’s newsletter for the same price. She was always a wonderful lady. I found a delightful video clip of Carol Duvall’s 1000th (HGTV) episode celebration on YouTube and pinned it to Mom’s Yarn & Sewing Crafts board on her Pinterest page, which you can follow at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective/.

In the beginning… Mom promoted her creations through radio programs, magazine ads and newspaper food columnists’ reviews that focused on the homemaker. Within the first year of Mom’s newsletter start-up, local television show hosts started hearing about this exceptional lady with a unique, new twist on cooking! Word spread rapidly through the newswire service and national, as well as international (Canada), television shows started requesting interviews with Mom and demonstrations of her distinct recipes.

While Mom always felt most at home on the radio shows in which she participated, there’s no denying that she probably had her greatest (or largest) “claim-to-fame” from television exposure. I’ve put together a rough timeline of Mom’s local and national television appearances over the decades, of which I can remember and find reference to in her writings.

Mom’s first on-television interview was 45 years ago, on my 10th birthday (Nov. 14, 1974). The whole family was invited to the studio, where Mom appeared on “AM Detroit” with host, Dennis Wholley. The show aired locally on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in the Detroit-Metro area. Below is a copy of Mom’s story about it.

As a result of that local exposure, Mom was invited to appear on another local, but international, television program. It was on New Year’s Day 1975, across the river from Detroit, in Canada, with host, Bob Hines. The show he hosted aired movies with Bob doing commentary and “intermission interviews”. The show aired locally on CKLW-TV, Channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario­. That was when Mom met Lynn Redgrave, whom Bob was interviewing about her role as the “Happy Hooker”. Mom introduced herself to the actress as the “Happy Cooker”.

That’s about when Mom’s collection of “Secret Recipes” had grown to more than 200 different recipes. She had been printing them all on index cards from her mimeograph machine in our laundry room and selling them for $0.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders. All of us kids and Dad helped Mom on a daily/nightly basis.

Seeing which recipe cards sold the most and getting more requests from her fans for fast food and junk food imitations than any other type of recipe, Mom decided to put all of her popular recipes like those into a cookbook. She thought it was going to be her “only” book on the subject of fast food and junk food, since even the critics thought it was a fad that wouldn’t last long – that was in August 1976 and it was called The Fast Food Cookbook; which Mom revised the following year as The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book [aka: Book 1].

As it turned out, that was only the first in a whole series of books that Mom wrote on the subject. It wasn’t long before Mom retired the recipe cards and started writing and self-publishing more cookbooks, showing people how to make their favorite foods at home. For 30 years, from the launch of her first newsletter in 1974 to her last self-published cookbook in 2004, Mom continued to write and self-publish about 40 cookbooks and 219 issues of the newsletter; covering popular restaurant dishes from across the country, homemade grocery products, fast foods and so-called “junk” foods!

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

Mom carved a new niche in the food industry that caught the media’s attention by storm. On Christmas Eve 1976, Jack McCarthy of WXYZ-TV’s “Action News” team (seen locally on Channel 7 in Detroit) came out to our house in Algonac to do an at-home-interview with Mom. Below is a copy of one of Mom’s memories about Jack, by whom she was quite impressed.

In the winter of 1980-1981 (not sure of the exact date), Mom did an at-home-interview with the Detroit TV crew of a national show called “PM Magazine”. They came out to St. Clair and filmed Mom making a few of her popular imitations in her own kitchen. That same winter, Mom also had a brief appearance on our local “Noon News” show on WDIV-TV (seen on Channel 4 in the Detroit area).

On a side note, regarding the last statement in the picture (above), Mom did eventually grant “People Magazine” an interview in 1990. However, back to Mom’s television exposure – on July 7, 1981, Mom and Dad flew to Chicago for her FIRST appearance on the “Phil Donahue Show”; demonstrating, again, some of her quick and popular fast food and junk food imitations for the entire hour. Over the following year, that episode re-ran world-wide! As I said in the beginning… Mom “probably had her greatest (or largest) ‘claim-to-fame’ from television exposure”. If you’ve ever wished to be famous – all I can say, from our experience, is “be careful about what you wish!”

Donahue 1981 promo

The fallout from that 1981 “Phil Donahue Show”, which I’ve discussed in other blog entries; left Mom (and Dad) reluctant to do any more television appearances for the next 7 years – that is, until Mom’s friend, Carol Duvall, set her up to appear on a TV show that she was, then, involved with out in California (ABC’s “Home Show”). Wish I could find copies of those episodes on which Mom appeared.

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

It was February 1988, when Mom and Dad flew out to California for Mom’s FIRST appearance on ABC’s “Home Show” with Rob Weller, then host. That was when Mom first met Wally Amos in person! It was one of Mom’s most favorite experiences and memories. Even when she got dementia after her stroke in 2015, Mom always remembered how wonderful and friendly Wally Amos was to her.

 

A couple of years later, on Memorial Day 1990, Mom did an at-home-interview with CNN Cable News. They even came back the next day to film more, while Mom was on the phone, doing a radio show. Their production consequently sparked the interest of a weekly, local paper called “The Voice” and a columnist named Pat Heck, who wrote a very complimentary article about Mom; which she mentions in the clip below!

That fall, in October of 1990, Mom made her first appearance on a local talk show, called “Kelly & Company”; which aired on WXYZ-TV (channel 7 in Detroit) with hosts, John Kelly & his wife, Marilyn Turner. Mom’s interview went so well, they invited her back the following spring. She did the show on May 8, 1991. Mom wrote all about the great experience on the front page of her July-August 1991 newsletter (Issue #151) and she also included three pages of all the recipes she demonstrated on the show. I’ll be adding those to my list of recipes that I want to share with all of you in my blog entries and in the “Recipes” tab on this website. There was also this little clip (below) on page 9 of that issue.

In between the two “Kelly & Company” appearances, on March 19, 1991, Mom had her second appearance on ABC’s “Home” show in Los Angeles. I don’t know what really happened that time around that Mom felt she was “ganged-up-on”, as she mentions in the clip pictured above; but, when Mom came home, she was feeling very disappointed by the whole experience and her own reaction to it. Again, she didn’t want to appear on television anymore.

However, a couple of years later (April 16, 1993), Mom appeared for a SECOND time on “The Phil Donahue Show”. Again, it was for the entire hour; however, this time, the show was not allowed to give out Mom’s contact information – only copies of the recipes she demonstrated on the show. As a result, requests for transcripts of that episode, shattered the show’s record and they sent Mom a letter and a special plaque to commemorate the event. That turned out to be the real FINAL time Mom appeared on TV.

I should mention, though, in the summer of 1993, Mom went back out to California to make an infomercial with the Guthy-Renker Corporation, called “Ask Mike”. It was produced & directed by Positive Response Television for a new way to promote Mom’s Recipe DetectiveTM image and her Secret RecipesTM enterprise. The infomercial was set up similar to Mom’s “Phil Donahue Show” appearance, with cooking demonstrations of some of her most famous imitations, except there were “on-the-street-interviews” of people taste-testing Mom’s imitations and giving their opinions (as Phil Donahue did with his in-studio audience). Unfortunately, the infomercial never aired on TV. But, our family received our own copies of it, at least. Mom was so thrilled that Wally Amos was also involved in the infomercial production, as he was with her first “Home Show” experience in 1988. Wally Amos was the “on-the-street-interviewer”.

IN CLOSING…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – My Favorite Things

Happy Monday to all! And to ALL members of our military, past and present, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your service, defending and protecting our country! Now…

Tell me… What are some of your favorite things? I’ve found, over the years, that most of my favorite things are those which really don’t cost any money and, yet, are considered by some people to be priceless. Like Mom, some of my favorite things include writing, reading, drawing, seeing the magnificent array of autumn colors on a backroad’s drive through Michigan and the happy-go-lucky smile of my grandson.

Equally, I love the snuggles, nuzzles and purrs of my cats (and my wonderful 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 Sunday slow-cooker meal wafting throughout the house – you know, the simple things in life!

Another of my favorite things is how much my mom has influenced and inspired me – as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, wife, mother, teacher, etc. After I had kids of my own, I asked Mom for advice even more often than when I was young, and I loved to learn from her. To me, she was special just being “Mom”; albeit, to the rest of the world, she was special by being Gloria Pitzer, aka: the Secret RecipesTM detective.

I really consider myself lucky to have her as my mom and that I (as well as everyone else) can continue to learn from her, even from beyond, through her timeless writings – her legacy of love. That’s what I enjoy most, sharing those memories, discoveries and lessons with all of you! I also love to hear others’ stories about how Mom had touched their lives, as well.

As I’ve said many times, Mom was a pioneer and trailblazer in her field, especially being a woman! But, she was never fully on board with the Woman’s Lib movement that was going on at that time. It was a time, very similar to now – with “women-empowerment” campaigns and political upheaval, unequal pay between the sexes and below-poverty-level wages that weren’t rising proportionately with the high costs of living.

That’s when Mom set to work, writing and publishing her own recipes about how to imitate the public’s favorite fast food and restaurant dishes right at home; as well as shelf-stable grocery items and so-called “junk food”. Mom took the “junk” out of “junk food” by controlling the ingredients that went into her imitations. It was like having your cake and eating it too!

Mom often found ways to duplicate our favorite foods at a lower cost, too; and, if it saved our household money, she wanted to share it with others to help them save money as well – ‘because’, as Mom would say, ‘great recipes need to be shared!’

In the early 1970s, during the beginning years of what was to become Mom’s Secret RecipesTM legacy – which she often described as a “cottage industry” and “dining room table” family-operation – she had built up an index of about 200 “copycat” recipes, mostly favorites from the requests of her readers, family and friends. Mom developed and tested all of her recipes, herself, sometimes by taste-test-comparisons to the original products and sometimes from just a description by the requester.

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

It didn’t seem to take long before Mom’s collection of recipes grew from hundreds to thousands and went from individual-index-card-sales to multiple self-published cookbooks and newsletters, for over 40 years before she “retired”. But, do writers ever really retire? Mom continued writing in her journals, just for her own joy and not for publishing.

I don’t have copies of all of Mom’s books and newsletters, but I have a lot and they are my FAVORITE go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my new blog-writing journey. Mom’s “cottage industry” creations (her self-published newsletters and books) are as unique in their style as they are in their content – including large collections of recipes sandwiched between household tips, comedic quips, “Food-for-Thought” articles and food-for-the-soul editorials. Mom often compared her handiworks to coffee-table-reading-material because they feed the mind and soul, as well as the belly.

Within the first year of her newsletter publication, Mom was getting national and international recognition for her talents and ingenuity. For the most part, Mom self-promoted her recipes through radio talk-show programs aimed at the homemaker. But, very quickly, newspapers and magazines picked up on the stories of a small town housewife who blazed a trail for recreating favorite restaurant dishes, fast food, junk food and grocery products at home. Even television news and talk shows, locally and internationally (in Canada), were contacting Mom with requests for interviews. [I’ll write more about those next week.]

None of Mom’s original, self-published books and newsletters are in print anymore. But, you can find used copies on eBay and Amazon. The only book of Mom’s, currently in print, is her last book, on which I collaborated with her, during the last few years of her life. It was Mom’s favorite, self-published cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing) and we wanted to have it re-published to inspire new generations in this “digital age”.

But, first, the new edition had to be re-written in Microsoft Word, which took me a couple of years (working “part-time”) to complete. The whole process created a new and unique bond between me and Mom. All of the highs and lows and pain and joy of re-writing the book to the new publisher’s specifications, while maintaining as much of the original content as possible – it was like giving birth all over again. Mom agreed that each of her books were like her children, to which she had “given birth”.

Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, the “new” cookbook went to print (published by Balboa Press) with the title adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the 1st printed copy, but she was so thrilled that her favorite book was being published again, even though it was by a publishing house – which she swore for decades that she’d never do. Nonetheless, time and age change a lot of things.

I have the first “author’s copy” now. It’s another of my favorite things because it represents the unique time and bond that it granted me with Mom, during the whole re-writing and re-publishing process, before she passed away.

No one else, before Mom, had ever taken on imitating the public’s favorite products and dishes from some of their favorite companies like McDonald’s, White Castle, Wendy’s, KFC, Arby’s, Applebee’s, Big Boy, Bob Evan’s, Hershey’s, Hostess, Sarah Lee, and so many more (based on the requests she received)! Mom even took on the companies and their lawyers who started demanding that she cease and desist her imitations!

Mom insisted that she didn’t know what these companies actually put in their own “secret” recipes; but she could certainly GUESS and create an imitation similar to, if not better than, the original product. The retail industry was already doing the same thing with the introduction of “generic” products in the stores. Similarly, she changed the names of her imitations to be like (but not the same as) the dish or product she was mimicking.

There were a handful of companies that saw Mom’s imitations as they were meant to be – compliments to the public’s favorite, great-tasting products. Some of Mom’s corporate “fans” included White Castle, Sanders Candy Co. and Hershey’s – to name a few.

Mom didn’t do a lot of television appearances – only a few local and a few national shows – she thought of them as more like cooking demonstrations, where she didn’t get to connect with as much of the audience as she did on the radio shows in which she took part. But television made a huge impact on Mom’s business. I’ll further discuss the TV shows mom did in next week’s blog entry. But, for now…Mom’s favorite experience in her Secret RecipesTM career…

The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing) is now in print as Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018)

It was her first appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” (July 7, 1981) that created the MOST overwhelming response to Mom’s copycat cookery – more than she (or any of our family) could have ever expected! Over a million letters came through our small town post office, just for Secret RecipesTM and the Recipe DetectiveTM. The whole family (and some of my girlfriends) were working day and night that summer to process it all. In some ways, it was a devastating mess for a “dining-room-table” family operation! But, there’s no denying, it was also a great learning experience!

Despite the fallout, the show opened many doors for Mom that she never expected; allowing her to let her light shine bright and inspire others world-wide. That is why, it always remained one of Mom’s “Top 10” favorite experiences. She even agreed to appear on the show, again, almost 12 years later, on April 16, 1993 – but, only on the condition that they not give out her contact information!

The show was only allowed to give out copies of the recipes Mom demonstrated on that episode. As a result, the public’s requests for transcripts of that episode broke the show’s record! They sent Mom a plaque to commemorate it – another of Mom’s favorite things. A rough recording of that 1993 episode can be found on YouTube, in 5 parts. Regardless, the whole experience, Mom’s inspiring light kept shining until the day she passed away. Now, I attempt to carry her torch in her honor.

Whenever my husband and I host a football party (like we did last weekend)… or any party for that matter, I love to channel my mom, whether I’m planning to serve a big meal or simple hors d’oeuvres. My mom was the hostess with the “most-ess”.

I have my own “Rolodex” of ideas, but most of them were inspired by my mom, first; then, ‘Pitzer-ised’ to fit my diet (or somebody’s diet) at the time. Much like Mom, it makes me feel good to make others feel good through food and friendship and entertaining. That is a priceless feeling and another one of both of our “Top 10” favorite things.

In fact, one of my favorite fall-football-season meals to prepare is chili. Like Mom, 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 or simply enjoy our guests’ company without distraction.

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. Even by using smaller bowls or mugs – or by adding toppings like shredded cheddar cheese or corn chips – making a small amount seem like a lot. Plus, adding a quick-to-make side of inexpensive cornbread or some hot dogs can also stretch the meal even farther!

IN CLOSING…

This week, I’d like to share one of my own recipes on which I get a lot of compliments – my favorite, football-gathering, chili creation. I’m inspired to reveal it to you…”because”, as Mom liked to say, “great recipes need to be shared!” As always, I’m just asking for proper credit if you care to share it…

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

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 – Bring on the Holidays!

Happy Monday, everyone; and happy November, too! Thank you for visiting and…

The fall/winter holidays are upon us now. For many, the countdown to “the holidays” began with the onset of the autumn solstice. Now that Halloween has passed us by, it’s only 24 more days until Thanksgiving! About four weeks after that, is the start of our winter solstice, Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah or Chanukkah), Christmas and Kwanza celebrations – all within a few days of each other.

Not only that, but in the week following those events, the 2020 new year’s festivities begin. Blink your eyes again and suddenly the Super Bowl festivities will be here, followed by Valentine’s Day a couple of weeks later and, then, St. Patrick’s Day a few more weeks after that – and all before the spring solstice arrives in March!

Nonetheless, all of those many fall/winter holidays that are still to come will, seemingly, be here and gone before you know it – so, start preparing now by making checklists and you won’t forget or miss anything. Even Santa makes lists (and checks them twice) to stay organized during the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays. In addition, you’ll also be better able to enjoy the holidays and the gatherings, yourself. After all, who wants to feel stressed out and/or left out during the holidays, while trying to “get it all done” at the last minute?

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

ADVICE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 4)

THANKSGIVING

The make-ahead dishes for the thanksgiving dinner will help to relieve the cook of those last-minute chores and this leaves more time to enjoy the company. After all, the reason we gather together on this occasion is not to make the food more important than those with whom we share the feast.

A list of what you intend to serve is the first thing to take care of. From this you make up the grocery needs and the dishes that can be prepared…in advance…and then checked off the list so [you] can see [of] what is left to take care. It sounds to some like ‘work’ but cooking for a big group is not as much WORK as it can be a LABOR of love and the efforts you put into the party will be well-appreciated when the day arrives. These occasions are what memories are made of and memories can be quite comforting!

Mom made creative cooking a new art form when she pioneered the copycat cookery movement over 45 years ago. Before Mom began writing and publishing her own newsletters and cookbooks, she wrote many satirical stories in her syndicated food columns about not being a good cook when she and Dad were first married.

I only knew Mom as a great cook, myself; so I don’t know how much was fabricated for humor’s sake and how much was based on truth. But, like any craftsman, Mom was always fine-tuning her kitchen skills with all of her experiences over the decades.

For every holiday gathering she hosted or to which she took a dish-to-pass – even with only a few ingredients on hand – Mom was a combination of Copperfield and DaVinci (creating, both, magic and art) in the kitchen! There’s a great article called “Cooking Is An Art: What Makes A Chef An Artist, Craftsman And Visionary” by Colt Taylor (Jul 3, 2014) that I enjoyed reading. Check it out at https://www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/chef-artist-craftsman-visionary/632690!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1987)

MADE WITH LOVE

When you cook with skill, you need experience and knowledge – plus, courage to risk various combinations of ingredients of what you might only suspect will be compatible enough to produce a harmonious result. 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! (p. 1)

SOMETHING MORE

No two cooks are ever going to have identical results with the same recipe. If such a promise accompanied all recipes, cooking would be an exact science – which it is not. Cooking is an art BASED on science. A recipe is a guideline, not a litigation! Just as you can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks, neither can you tell how difficult a dish is by looking at the recipe! (p. 2)

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

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. (p. 6)

Photo by Susan L. Tusa for an article about Mom in People Magazine (May 7, 1990; p. 81)

Mom inspired many reluctant cooks with her reliable recipes. Having the Secret RecipesTM detective as my mom certainly made my learning experiences in the kitchen, experimenting with food and seasonings, exciting and rewarding!

I rarely ever cook the same dish the same way, twice because I love to try out different food and seasoning combinations. Especially now, with my low-carb life-style. I’m so delighted and proud to have learned the art of cooking from one of the best – I love you, Mom!

I am often hearing wonderful memories from others who’ve shared the same fantastic learning experiences, with their own moms, through my mom’s cookbooks and newsletters. I love to hear how much Mom touched the lives of others and created special memories on which they can reminisce and recreate for future generations to experience – almost like traditions!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977)

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! (p. 1)

AN ENCOR OF PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 1)

WHOLESOME, HEALTHY, HEARTY MEALS…

[Those] pretty well describe the heart and soul of good home cooking! We’re reminded of warm, roomy kitchens full of wonderful mingling aromas – where our mothers and grandmothers made marvelous meals from scratch [and] when cooking was not as much a job as it was a joy! What we seem to have forgotten is that the art of good basic cooking practices has not been lost because we have less time.

The art has been lost because the interest in it has dwindled. We still have the same number of hours in our day that Grandma had in hers. We even have less manual labor to perform than she did in her day, but we don’t always think so. Making the time is what it really takes when reluctance sets in. However, when the chips are down, the reluctant cook wants reliable recipes to work with – not masterpieces…

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.

‘[At a potluck,] the best way to tell how successful a dish will be is to look for the first one to disappear. Find the cook & get the recipe!’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1990)

Mom would always describe her newsletter issues as being “like getting together…for coffee with friends.” Writing was Mom’s “happy place”. She often said, of her newsletters, “it’s like getting together…for coffee with friends.”

I can certainly relate to that now. I love writing these weekly blog entries about my memories of Mom and how she’s impacted my life, as well as so many others’ lives. As I said above, I love hearing from others about their memories in the kitchen with their moms, creating special dishes or treats from my mom’s recipes.

Please continue to send me your memories and stories of how Mom touched your lives at therecipedetective@outlook.com – I look forward to hearing from you!

IN CLOSING…

When I think of November, feel-good, warm-up-the-innards kind of meals, I often think of hearty soups. The following is Mom’s copycat imitation for a cheesy potato soup like the one she enjoyed at a local Bob Evans restaurant. Mom called her imitation “Bob Oven’s 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 – Great Recipes Need to be Shared!

Happy Monday and, of course, happy National Chocolate Day!

#NationalChocolateDay

According to NationalDayCalendar.com, today is National Chocolate Day and was created by the National Confectioners Association. There are other chocolate celebrations throughout the year – just five weeks ago, I discussed the celebration of National White Chocolate Day.

As I mentioned in that blog entry, “Let us Celebrate Chocolate” (Sep. 23, 2019), Mom LOVED chocolate! And who doesn’t? I love chocolate, myself; but, it doesn’t bode well with my limited, daily, carbohydrate allowance. However, like Mom, I investigated ways I could imitate one of my favorite chocolate treats, no-bake cookies, with limited amounts of carbs.

I remember when I was just a little kid, maybe 4 or 5 years old, I liked to call them “mud puddle cookies”! Now, I can enjoy these treats once again – in moderation, of course, at 3 grams of carbs per 1/8-cup-sized cookie. I call my recipe “Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes” and I’ll share it with you at the end of this blog; as this website is sub-titled and as Mom liked to say, “Because great recipes need to be shared!”

One name in chocolate that Michiganders know well is Sanders Candy. The official Sanders story can be found at https://www.sanderscandy.com/about-us. When Mom developed her copycat version of Sanders’ Hot Fudge Sauce, one of her original 200 copycat recipes (from the 1970s) that launched her career as the Recipe DetectiveTM, a secret she discovered was that Nestle brand milk chocolate was the key ingredient in replicating it’s creaminess and flavor, as no other brand brought the same flavor and texture that she was trying to achieve. I’ve shared a couple of her Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce imitations in the “Recipes” tab on this website. It was always one of our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s copycat creations!

Sanders Candy logo

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 192)

ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS BAKERIES of our time is, of course, the Fred Sanders’ Company. What they’ve created for Detroiters, in the decades of their thriving popularity, have made lasting-memories. Each time I visit with a radio station, anywhere around the country, a displaced Detroiter will certainly always request a recipe that would be for one of the Sanders’ products that they can’t find in their new area. It is, indeed, a complement to a company that they’ve remained a popular favorite over many years.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 252-254)

When memories visit you, years from now, you will probably recall among the famous ice cream places were Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins, Howard Johnson’s, Sanders and Friendly’s restaurants – as well as the famous specialties like Sander’s hot fudge topping, Eskimo pies, Spumoni (with chunks of cherries, almonds and pistachios included) – [plus], creamy, thick malts and milk shakes. These will remain favorites of an adoring public of loyal fans, despite the critics and experts who would have us replace all these with bean sprouts, alfalfa and carob products…

SANDERS’ HOT FUDGE [SAUCE] 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 [Detroit area] radio show. 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 their hot fudge [sauce] 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.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 256)

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sanders’ 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.

‘When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…’ – historical slogan for Sanders’ restaurant, bakery and candy company

Another delicious, chocolate creation from Mom’s original 200 recipes (again, from the 1970s), which started her Recipe DetectiveTM career, was that for an imitation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Mom called her copycat version “Recess Peanut Butter Cups”. As I’ve mentioned before, some food companies, like Sanders, were honored by Mom’s efforts of flattery through imitating their products; while most others threatened her with lawsuits!

The Hershey corporation happened to be a slight mixture of both, threatening and flattered. At first, Hershey’s attorneys wrote to Mom to cease and desist the use of her recipe title, “Recess Peanut Butter Cups” because it too closely resembled their trademark name, “Reese’s”, as to cause confusion between the products; inferring lawsuits would follow if she didn’t cooperate. But, instead, Mom explained to them the meaning behind her title, using the word recess (as in a retreat); she also offered to only use (and promote) Hershey’s brand chocolate in the recipe. The Hershey corporation was agreeable to, both, Mom’s explanation and her offer.

I’ve previously shared Mom’s copycat versions of these yummy chocolate delights (mentioned above) in my blogs and you can also find them in the “Recipes” tab on this website. When it comes to chocolate treats like Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce and Recess Peanut Butter Cups, both were always among our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s original copycat creations – and they were also top favorites among Mom’s many fans and followers! So, here they are for you again (see below)!

SO, IN CLOSING…

P.S. MORE ON…

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

Almost 32 weeks ago, on the first day of spring, I adopted a low-carb lifestyle based on the “Atkins Diet”. Having hypoglycemia and being at least 55 pounds overweight, I felt 20 years older than I should have felt. I had a lot of joint pain, sciatica and arthritis problems. Thus, I decided to make a life-style change, like I did when I quit smoking cigarettes over 13 years ago. I chose to commit to living without most carbs – like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and sugar – you know, all the good stuff!

I looked at the Keto diet, but it was too high in fat for me, as I don’t have a gall bladder anymore to filter such things. Those types of carbs that I mentioned above messed with my blood sugar levels, even when I switched to whole grains (though not as much then). In addition, because of my metabolism, it messed with my weight and overall health, as well! I realized that I was only cheating myself whenever I made bad choices on what I ate for meals and snacks. So, I came to terms with the release of most carbs in my life in the same way as I released tobacco from my life-style.

I had to mentally accept that this is a permanent change for me – not just until I reach my goal because, if I go back to my old life-style, then I also go back to my obese weight. I’m done with that! Now, I just continue to make wiser choices regarding what I consume; as well as how much because even if something is “carb-free”, it’s not necessarily free of calories or other content. I find that “everything in moderation” is the best rule by which to live. Below are some comparative pictures of me from last year and today.

After starting out at a 20-gram-carb-limit per day, for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit to 25 grams a day and have kept it there, for the most part, ever since. So far, for me, that seems to be the magic number at which I feel my best and not regain any of the weight that I’ve lost. However, I know, with a regular exercise routine, I would be even healthier; but, I have yet to make the mental commitment to it. I need to go through the same mental process for exercising that I did for the other healthier life-changes I’ve made – I need to mentally see it as a priority in my life. But, honestly, for now, it is just another goal for which I need to commit and set my “start date” to just do it!

I miss Sanders chocolate, on this low-carb lifestyle. By the way, sugar-free chocolate is not the same as real chocolate! Though, while I miss chocolate (and other carbs), I don’t miss the 50 pounds that I’ve lost so far! I also don’t miss the back pains and joint pains in my hips, knees and feet – all the parts that had to carry all of my extra weight.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I created a low-carb, no-bake cookie that I can enjoy as much as I did my favorite high-carb version that was, my friend, Karen’s recipe. I don’t know from where Karen originally got her recipe, but they were sinfully good! Unfortunately, my friend Karen passed away from cancer over four years ago. I miss her dearly and I cherish the wonderful, sweet recipes that she shared with me before she left this earth. But, now, I have to revise them to fit my new low-carb life-style.

Karen Leverich Ladd (1964-2015)

My next challenge is Karen’s recipe for homemade Peanut Brittle. Again, I don’t know if she developed it herself or got it from another source, but it’s another incredible recipe that I want to enjoy again, especially during the coming holidays! First, I need to come up with a low carb version of corn syrup. That’s where my mom’s talents come in handy, as she has a lot of recipes that she developed for imitating grocery products at home, including a homemade version of Karo’s light syrup product. I will have to experiment with it to create a sugar-free/low-carb version that will be able to be substituted for the real thing and still create the same or similar result in the final product.

For the time being, I was determined to make a copycat version of Karen’s no-bake cookies that was low enough in carbs for me to enjoy again – in moderation, of course. I call my version (below) “Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes”…and, as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it…

Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes by Laura (Pitzer) Emerich

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

October is still, among other things, National Book Month & National Reading Group Month & National Cookbook Month!

#NationalBookMonth #NationalReadingGroupMonth #NationalCookbookMonth

‘A cookbook should be as exciting as a good mystery!’ – Gloria Pitzer

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 – Mom’s Cup Runneth Over

Happy Monday and happy National Food Day!

#NationalFoodDay

As I said at the end of last week’s blog, today is National Food Day; plus, it’s also Pumpkin Cheesecake Day! See the end of this blog for a copy of Mom’s sugar-free recipe for the latter. Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis by making some of her own groceries, including special sweets and treats like Sarah Lee’s cheesecake, Hostess cake products and Famous Amos’ cookies to name a few.

Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom, first, developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts!

There were never any cookbooks out, prior to Mom’s first collection (in the mid-to-late 1970s), that offered copycat recipes for creating imitations of fast food and junk food favorites (without the junk in them), grocery products and famous dishes from famous restaurants.

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

At the time, in the early-1970s, Mom was writing and syndicating columns, focused on homemakers like her. They went out to multiple newspapers and magazines across the states. After a short syndication term with Columbia Features, Mom started syndicating her own columns. She often received requests from her readers whose families couldn’t afford to eat out, wanting to know how to make something at home and save on their food budget. She, too, felt a need or want for the same thing.

When Mom first began what was, later, to become her Secret RecipesTM legacy, and from which she also came to earn her title as the Recipe DetectiveTM; she had invented a copycat version of McDonald’s “Secret Sauce” and another for a cheesecake like Sarah Lee’s; requests for which she had received from her readers. Once Mom figured out one imitation and printed it, one request after another would come in for Mom to answer. I printed these recipes in two previous blog entries, but here they are again for your enjoyment…

Mom loved all the new challenges that came in for her to research and develop. At first, the publishers were all in favor of Mom writing what she thought her audience wanted in her column. However, when their advertisers put up a fuss about Mom’s imitations, the publishers told her to stop doing the copycat recipes or they’d have to let her go.

Realizing that this was an unexplored area of the food industry and that there were wants/needs, as she read in her readers’ letters, for making favorite food products at home; Mom left to start her own publication, telling the publishers to mail her last check to her. During the previous twenty years, working many different positions in the newspaper industry, Mom had picked up a lot of knowledge about how to put out a paper.

#NationalNewspaperWeek

[By the way, National Newspaper Week began on the 1st Sunday of October, thus it ran from the 6th to the 12th.]

Mom reached out to her friends, family, neighbors and newspaper contacts and, in January 1974, she put out her first newsletter issue to a couple hundred subscribers. Initially, Mom was influenced by such talented women as Carol Duvall, Erma Bombeck and Elsie Masterton; designing her own publication to be a patch-work-quilt full of humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table…the kinds of things women would likely discuss while sitting around the kitchen table, visiting and having coffee.

Mom called it a family, cottage-style operation. In order to balance all of her responsibilities, she involved all of the family…testing recipes, doing artwork, promoting and other such things. Aside from the newsletter, Mom sold her recipes, printed on index cards, for a quarter each or 5 for a dollar. When her recipe collection grew into the hundreds, Mom started developing and publishing her own cookbooks in the same manner as her newsletter issues, including all of the humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table.

Mom’s following grew quickly, once word got out across the wire service that a small-town Michigan housewife was developing make-alike recipes for recreating famous food products at home, and the response had a snowball effect. There were many interviews by radio talk show hosts, as well as newspaper and magazine columnists; plus, some television appearances (first, locally and then nationally.)

#TVTalkShowHostDay

Wednesday, the 23rd, is National TV Talk Show Host Day (and, the late, Johnny Carson’s birthday.) A couple of national TV talk shows that Mom appeared on were the Phil Donahue Show (twice – 1981 and 1993) & the Home Show (1984?), where she met Wally Amos of the Famous Amos brand sweets.

Mom was also invited to appear on the Tonight Show; but had been so over-whelmed by her other TV appearances and the audiences’ responses and orders that our family just couldn’t keep up. Not wanting to get so big that she may lose her enjoyment in what she does, Mom, regretfully, had to decline. However, she did get to know Ed McMahan and his wife, Pam, since they were originally from Michigan. Michiganders are kindred spirits!

Thanks from Ed & Pam McMahon

As I wrote about in a February blog entry, people loved Mom’s fresh, new ideas on how to make fast food, junk food, grocery products and famous restaurant dishes right at home, easily and at less cost. Times were financially tough back then – there was a recession going on, as well as a food crisis.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing – pp. 6-7)

…[it was] 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…There had to be more to mealtime… The food industry gave us more appealing products than did the cookbooks we trusted.

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 were very few recipes that couldn’t be duplicated or imitated at home… for much less than purchasing the original product…

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

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950’s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There was 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…

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 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! 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.

IN CLOSING…

Since today is, among other things, National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day

#PumpkinCheesecakeDay

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

October is also, among other things, National Book Month & National Reading Group Month & National Cookbook Month!

#NationalBookMonth #NationalReadingGroupMonth #NationalCookbookMonth

‘A cookbook should be as exciting as a good mystery!’ – Gloria Pitzer

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 – Eat Better and Together

Happy Monday! And happy Autumn too! The days are getting shorter and colder, while the leaves of the trees are getting more colorful each day! Unfortunately, the painter’s palette of nature doesn’t last for long and, soon, all the colors will be gone, blowing in the wind!

#EatBetterEatTogetherMonth

At the end of my last blog entry, I mentioned that, among NationalDayCalendar.com’s month-long celebrations listed for October, it’s “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”! A lot of people say that eating together as a family creates stronger family bonds. In his article, “The Family Meal”, Dr. Christopher Peterson brings up a good point when he says, “What I gain from my meals with others goes way beyond convenience. These meals with others are filling but moreover fulfilling. They make me feel part of a larger group.” [Posted March 20, 2012; PsychologyToday.com]

Personally, between me and my siblings, I’ve found the opposite to be true. We ate dinner together every night, while we lived with our parents. Yet, we hardly talk to each other anymore, since Mom and Dad are both gone now; and some of us don’t get along at all. On the other hand, my own children are closer than my siblings and I; but, they only had family-sit-down-together-meals for about half of their childhoods. Then we were always on the run, doing sports activities; or I was working an afternoon shift somewhere.

However, my kids and I did spend a great quantity of quality time together – just not very often around the dinner table (except for holidays and birthdays). Aside from the eating-together thing, whether you’re cooking for just yourself or for two people or for a whole brood – if you’re the one who plans the menu, then you’re the one who makes the healthy/unhealthy food choices for everyone you’re feeding. It’s a great idea to celebrate eating right and having solid, old-fashioned, close-knit, family meals. But, is there really any merit that eating together creates better eating habits and tighter family bonds?

In the back, left to right, is Cheryl, Debbie, me & our dad…In front, left to right, is Lady (under the table), Bill and Mike. Pitzer family photographed by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973

As I said, when I was growing up, Mom always prepared a sit-down, family-style dinner with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table. We all sat together, as a family (like in the picture of us, above). We talked about our days, as we each took a serving from a dish in front of us; passing that dish to the next person while grabbing another dish from the person on the other side of us. However, we would also elbow each other or kick one another under the table, as siblings would do, whenever Mom and Dad weren’t looking our way. For the most part, I think we only got along for Mom and Dad’s sake anyway.

In addition, Mom CHOSE to make well-rounded meals that covered all the food basics, including dessert! That’s what she was taught by her mom and that’s what she taught me to do as well. But, there was no Brady Bunch or Walton’s Mountain type of bonding at our table! We ate together because that’s when the meal was served. It wasn’t a restaurant that you could drop in on at any time and order whatever you like… You ate what was made and when it was served or went hungry until the next meal.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

Of course, with the Recipe DetectiveTM as our mom, we happened to taste-test a lot of fast food and junk food imitations over the years – some things may have seemed like bad/unhealthy choices in food to an outsider – such as fried chicken (like KFC’s). However, Mom’s imitation of the famous fast food dish was baked instead of deep-fried, which is healthier.

As I wrote about in a couple of my other blog entries, “Eating Out at Home” (4/8/19) and “Food for Thought” (5/20/19), Mom knew how to take the “junk out of junk food” and did so in her famous imitations. It’s very true that what you put into cooking is what you get out of it – literally and figuratively! Everything in moderation is a great rule by which to live; but, it’s sometimes easier said than done!

A city that has, for decades, been world-famous for their sit-down, family-style meals is Frankenmuth, Michigan – not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI (from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio.) Tourists flock to this little town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get the world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.

Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn operate the two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners, with all the food in serving dishes in the middle of the table, from which the family will serve themselves and which the servers will refill for you as needed. Just a hint – reservations will get you in quickly, rather than waiting in line. The town’s German heritage exudes from its restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!

Mom and Dad always loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do me and my husband. It’s a great day trip to experience all the German culture that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the years, Mom came up with many imitations of some the famous dishes from the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

The German community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, which for decades has celebrated the art of fried chicken, served family-style; has had thousands of customers lined up every weekend and holiday, waiting to be seated in one of their 2 largest restaurants [Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn]. Their fried chicken is like ‘Grandma used to make’ – richly flavored, moist inside and never greasy. The family-style dinner provides the table with large bowls of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, moist and spicy dressing (called ‘stuffing’ in other parts of the country), a fresh-from-scratch cranberry-orange relish, hot breads and beverages. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 94 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

A MEAL BY ANY OTHER NAME

FAST FOOD RECIPES were not published in the best-sellers – and these were the restaurants where families were apt to frequent if they wanted a meal that was affordable! Paul and I could take all 5 of the children to Capri’s, an Italian restaurant down the road from us in Pearl Beach, and we could feed the whole family for less than $10, providing we ordered the large pizza with only pepperoni and cheese on it and one soft drink for each of us. It was not for substance that we ate out. It was for entertainment.

We could take the kids to McDonald’s and it did the same thing for us that going to the movies did for our parents. It was an affordable pleasure. It was a diversion from meatloaf and pot roast and peas and carrots. It was a treat. We looked forward to it. We felt good about the experience and even better after it was over. It carried us through a long week of paying the utilities, insurance, house payments and car payments and grocery expenses.

When we had to have our 10-year-old station wagon repaired, we had to skip eating out that week. If one of us had to see the dentist, it might be 2 or 3 weeks before we could afford to eat out again. We made do with what we had. We could make the most of what we had. In the 50s and 60s and early 70s, this is the way parents raised their families, budgeted their earnings and allowed for their pleasures.

Things changed, as well they should. Women went out to work. If they weren’t working to supplement the family income, they went to work for their own satisfaction. Whatever the reasons, families changed. Eating at home became less and less appealing – and less and less convenient. Homes were built with smaller kitchens and bigger bathrooms. Microwave ovens were more affordable – and defrost and heat became more popular. [By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on page 295 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

#TacklingHungerMonth

Along with October being national “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”, it’s also “Tackling Hunger Month”. In connection with those two month-long celebrations, the 2nd week of October is observed as “National Food Bank Week”. Thus, I want to make a local shout out, here, to one of the Detroit area’s food banks, Gleaners!

#NationalFoodBankWeek

I hear about this group all the time on our local news. They do such great things in so many communities! The other day, I heard about their wonderful program, “Cooking Matters”; which is “a groundbreaking nutrition-education program that connects low-income individuals and families with food by teaching them how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget.” By the way, “National Food Day” is coming up next week, on the 24th!

#NationalFoodDay

Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis. Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts! More on those next week…

IN CLOSING…

#NationalDessertDay #NationalDessertMonth #BakeAndDecorateMonth #ChocolateCupcakeDay #NationalSweetestDay

After writing about eating better, I’m compelled to mention that today happens to be National Dessert Day, which “includes candies, pies, ice cream, fruits, cookies, pastries, cobblers, and donuts…” according to NationalDayCalendar.com. That celebration coincides with two other October national celebrations – National Dessert Month & National Bake and Decorate Month – just in time for National Chocolate Cupcake Day, which is coming up on Friday, the 18th; and National Sweetest Day, which is coming up on Saturday, the 19th.

In honor of all that sweetness, here are a couple of Mom’s free dessert recipes that I’ve posted before AND a new one for her sugar-free pumpkin pie recipe, which she gave away in her Jan.-Feb. 1988 promotions!

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

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 – Fall into Cleaning

Happy Monday to everyone! It’s October and the final quarter of 2019 has begun its countdown.

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog entry called “Spring into Cleaning” [March 25, 2019]. Well, now, it’s time to discuss the seasonal cleaning events that a lot of us face in the fall… at least, in Michigan and the rest of the northeast region. Before all the autumn leaves’ colors peak and disappear with the summer’s warm temperatures and the windows get closed up for the coming winter months, which seem to last almost half the year, around here; it’s time to start attacking that fall cleaning list, assuming you have one! If not, to inspire you, HouseholdManagement101.com has a great, printable “Fall Cleaning List” that covers all the basics – you can find it at https://www.household-management-101.com/fall-cleaning.html!

In “Spring into Cleaning”, I mentioned that cleaning was not Mom’s forte – even though she called herself the “Happy Homemaker” – Mom hated cleaning! Well, let’s say she “clearly disliked” it. I’m not saying she didn’t clean; but, that never meant she had to like it! Not everyone gets a joy out of cleaning any more than they have to – that doesn’t mean they don’t do it, but they probably tend to procrastinate doing it, giving it a lower priority than most other things.

Mom used to keep a sign on her desk for many, many years that said: “Please don’t straighten the mess on my desk! You’ll goof up my system.” She often joked that it was her birth sign! Dad was the organizer between the two of them. I probably inherited my organizing gene (if there is such a thing) from my Dad.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (by Gloria Pitzer; Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 119)

In my kitchen, where all of these famous recipes are developed and tested and prepared for publishing, I have one insignificant problem. The Good Hands People are about to declare my kitchen an accident going someplace to happen. My sense of organization is not what Helouise would enthusiastically endorse. So, even when my cup runneth over and over and over, I can’t always find my mop!

It is with appreciation, in spite of my lack of organization, that Mary Ellen Pinkham, the famous household hints author, took an interest in our recipes just recently. I really should get together with Mary Ellen and learn exactly how to become better organized; but, somehow, time keeps getting away from me.

No offense to Mary Ellen, may she rest in peace; but, I don’t think she could’ve taught Mom how to be organized any more than Dad, whenever he tried to do so. Mom had her own organization system that only she understood, and it worked for her. She used to tell me, “it’s MY pile, and I know where everything is in MY pile – so, don’t touch it!”

Another great article I found about fall cleaning and de-cluttering is by Dr. Sally Augustin, Ph.D.; titled, “Fall Cleaning As Important As Spring Cleaning” and subtitled, “De-clutter your home before your winter hibernation.” [Posted Oct 09, 2013 at PsychologyToday.com], I like the way the doctor says that… “We continually accumulate stuff and dealing with it is part of Fall cleaning.” I excitedly told my husband, “See – I’m not the only one who accumulates stuff!”

Every year, around this time, I play the TetrisTM shuffle game in my basement. It’s a game to unbury my fall and Halloween décor that got buried behind my Christmas décor, which got buried behind some summer camping gear and all of the garage sale stuff I picked up for a bargain over the summer – thinking I might use it someday!

My OCD personality is yelling at me to “GET ORGANIZED!” I really need to make the time in my busy schedule to get my basement cleaned out and organized – I don’t think I can afford to pay someone else to come in and do it for me, as HouseholdManagement101.com suggested in their article (mentioned above). Besides which, organizing is actually one of my favorite “hobbies” – I just need more time in my days or weeks to do it.

Years ago, I was inspired by a cable show I used to watch that dealt with purging peoples’ accumulated stuff and dividing it into categories of “keep, donate, sell and throw away” and dealing with the psychology behind our attachments to stuff and why we hold on to and accumulate more stuff. Unfortunately, my “sometimers” is preventing me from remembering the name of the show, let alone the show’s hosts, whom I can picture in my mind – but, that doesn’t help me do a Bing or Google search for them. I tried different search terms, because I know I’d recognize the name of the show if I saw it; but, I wasn’t successful.

My accumulation of stuff in the basement sometimes tends to get out of hand because it’s a catch-all space that, generally, I only see about once a week, as I pass through to do the laundry. I usually spend a little time organizing while the washer slowly fills up with water; but, then, I go back upstairs to do the other things I was doing before I went into the basement in the first place. It’s like the old adage: “out of sight, out of mind”. I’ve also found, through experience, that there is some merit to the old wives’ tale about walking through a doorway and forgetting things.

Now that it’s fall cleaning season, and after reading Dr. Sally’s article, I’ve decided that I really need to purge my basement even more, as it is becoming an accumulation of stress on my OCD personality. The sooner I get to it, the better; so, I can have a yard sale before the days get too cold to do so. I posted another blog entry on August 12th, “How to Have a Yard Sale in One Easy Breakdown”, about having one; but, then, my “paying job” increased its hours – so that plan was put on a back burner for the time being. See below for one of Mom’s stories from that blog entry.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

HAVE A GARAGE SALE IN ONE EASY BREAKDOWN!

By Gloria Pitzer – Recipe DetectiveTM

As seen in…

No Laughing Matter, syndicated columns by Gloria Pitzer, published in the 1970s and 1980s; in the Port Huron, MI “Times Herald”

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!

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

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.

After all, 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.

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?

The Pitzer Kids – Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

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?

Okay – time to put that simmering pot of organizing the basement back on a front burner and take care of it. I really need to purge and de-clutter my basement. I collect a lot of things for my many hobbies that I never have time to do…glass etching/engraving, wood burning, repurposing old lamps and glassware into garden art, making vine and pine cone wreaths, etc..

I like to repurpose, reuse and recycle things as much as possible. In doing so, I find it hard to get rid of anything broken, because I can usually “see” an artful use for its parts. Besides which, I also hate to contribute to our ever growing waste problems. However, I will work on my recycle or re-sell plans and get it done!

IN CLOSING…

#EatBetterEatTogether

October is also, among other things, “Eat Better, Eat Together Month”; which, as NationalDayCalendar.com’s website describes, “…encourages families to gather for mealtimes. When families enjoy their main meals together they tend to be more balanced food choices. Also, what better way to spend time together and share each other’s daily adventures?”

#NationalChiliWeek & #NationalChiliMonth

In addition, the 1st week of October honors National Chili Week – which coincides with another month-long October celebration for National Chili Month – here is Mom’s imitation of the “world famous”, Johnnie Lega’s Chili – not one of her free recipes, but can be found in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 56) along with Julia Lega’s authentic recipe for “The Reuben” (on page 187)!

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 – Happy Love People Day

As always, happy Monday! According to NationalDays.com, today is National Love People Day and recommends us to, “…offer kindness and care to the people in your community.”

#NationalLovePeopleDay

While love doesn’t really make the world go ‘round (that’s a gravitational thing), it does make the ride more enjoyable! National Love People Day, according to NationalDays.com, was started by Life Line Church (Chicago) a couple of years ago. So, it’s a fairly new “National Day” promotion of celebration; yet “loving your neighbor” has always been around! NationalDays.com says, among other things, that today is a day “to lift others up”. I think we should lift others up EVERYDAY!

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

Mom loved to combine recipes (or food-for-the-table) with household hints, food-for-thought and food-for-the-soul – that’s what made her books stand out from all the rest; that and her being the first to start the copycat recipes movement in the food industry…particularly in the fast food and junk food categories, considered “taboo” foods by the critics. Nonetheless, people wanted to know how to make these things at home and, as the Recipe DetectiveTM, Mom figured it out and lovingly shared her secrets with the world.

‘Friends are a treasure and when we count our blessings we count our friends twice! It’s not possible to have a full and happy life without others to share with, to help when help is needed, to be helped when help is offered.’ – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 100)

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 43)

YOU’VE MADE A FRIEND

A SMILE IS the universal, unspoken language between us. Some people smile more easily than others, but a smile is as good as a hug. I just LOVE people who smile a lot! Even when I’m shopping or [when Paul and I are] walking around the campgrounds on one of our abbreviated ‘get-aways’ with our motorhome, I find myself smiling at people I have never seen before, and they smile back. It’s contagious!

Mom & Dad’s first camper

People don’t smile as much as they should! I’ve noticed lately how seldom strangers smile at each other in shopping centers and restaurants and other places where average folks mingle or pass. It occurred to me that there was nothing to lose by smiling and nodding at people as I shopped or glanced across a restaurant to other tables.

A surprising thing happened! Grim looking faces spontaneously responded with smiles and nods, as if they were trying to place me or recall where we might have met before. It was just wonderful!

I remember Mom telling me stories about how, when I was just a couple of years old, no matter where she took me – on a ride in the car or shopping in a store, to name a couple – I always waved and smiled and said “hi” to everyone!

I once thought it was just natural for all people to do that but, in my younger adult years, I found that to be a false belief; as I couldn’t (not wouldn’t) smile when I was going through severe depression. As well, my youngest child has Asperger and it was always very difficult for her to smile, let alone look at people. She consciously works to try to overcome that in herself. Mom used to bribe her for smiles and kisses by bringing her cookies! (See Mom’s recipe for “Mrs. Meadow’s Crisp Buttery Cookies” at the end of this blog entry.)

LOVE ENTERTAINING GUESTS

With October knocking at our doors, are you ready for the coming fall holidays, football parties and general entertaining on the spot? There’s a lot to be said about entertaining company, planned or not. My mom influenced me greatly when it comes to this subject, as her mom did for her.

However, I usually tend to go overboard when I’m making appetizers (or meals) for guests. I don’t want anyone to walk away hungry so I, habitually, offer too many choices; always trying to please all and clean out my pantry at the same time! Thereby, I tend to seclude myself in the kitchen, away from the guests that my husband is left to amuse, himself (at which, by the way, he is very good), in another room, as our kitchen is too small for entertaining.

However, whenever someone comes into the kitchen, offering me their help, I usually decline; as I’m always in my own OCD “timing-mode”, with three different timers set to three or more different dishes that I’m shuffling in pans on the stovetop burners and in-and-out of the oven and onto trivets around the countertops. I like to have everything intermingling and coming together like the interwoven fingers of hands folded in prayer.

Besides which, I have a kind of small kitchen area in which to preform my shuffling “magic”. Speaking of which, National Magic Day is coming up on October 31st and did you know that October, itself, is also National Kitchen & Bath Month? I just thought I would throw that out there – a little food-for-thought to entertain your imagination! In fact, check out this link at Furniture.com about how to decorate a kitchen: https://www.furniture.com/tips-and-trends/how-to-decorate-a-kitchen.

#HowToDecorateAKitchen

There’s a lot of great, timeless, “how to” advice on entertaining in 9 Holiday Hosting Mistakes You Might Not Even Know You’re Making by Nancy Mitchell at https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/8-party-hosting-mistakes-you-might-not-even-know-youre-making-213600 [Published: Dec. 2, 2014] – and it doesn’t have to be for just the holidays.

I discovered that I make a lot of the mistakes that Nancy mentions in her article, and I love her solutions for them! Now, to consciously put them into practice – as old habits die hard! We’ll see how it goes at the next football party that my husband and I host for our friends.

I also learned from Nancy’s article that you don’t really need a lot of elaborate food when you’re entertaining on the spot – save that for a fancy, planned, dinner party. Most of the time, simple works best – like serving easy, throw-together, finger snacks such as little pizzas or some small, slider-style hamburgers (like Mom’s recipes – pictured below and further down).

In addition, having only a few simple foods to choose from is also much less stressful and disrupting from the event. Similar to my mom, I love to cook, and I tend to over-do it because I don’t like anyone to go away hungry (especially when they are here for a while and alcohol is usually consumed.)

Making enjoyable food for people is very rewarding to me. Both of my parents were quite the tag team when it came to entertaining company – whether it was a planned, holiday event for family or an impromptu gathering of friends…

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 277)

ENTERTAINING…

FOODS PREPARED for entertaining have always put me in a positive mood… Positive that, if the food is too good, everybody will keep wanting to come to our house and I’ll never be asked to theirs! On the other hand, if the food is not as good as it should be and I fall short of the best cook in our bunch, somebody will be in my kitchen; checking my stove for the training wheels they think it should have, considering the results of my cooking skills. So, food for entertaining must be fast, festive and flavorful…

When folks drop in… sometimes without notice… I like to be prepared. While there is absolutely nothing I can do to rid the lamp shades of the cobwebs that suddenly show up in the light, I can at least be glad something in the living room matches. With any luck if it is mentioned, I’ll exclaim promptly: ‘Oh, don’t touch that! That’s our daughter’s science project. We’re observing the mating habits of the harmless house spider!’

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

At this point, I can whisk everyone into the kitchen where, somehow, Coke splatters on the ceiling seem to go undetected if we turn [down] the overhead lights and put out some pretty candles. In 2 or 3 minutes, I can be spooning shredded cheddar cheese onto Triscuits, adding a slice of pepperoni and having it all under the broiler while Paul (on cue) delights them with another of his golfing jokes.

His old stand-by is the story of his 2 friends on the golf course, noting 2 women on the green ahead of them, playing very slowly. One of the men asked the other if they shouldn’t go up to the gals and ask if they minded if the men played through… Or chances were they’d never get off the course. So, one of the men went running up to the ladies and got almost to the green when he darted quickly back. His friend asked what happened and why he hadn’t asked about playing through. ‘I can’t do that,’ the man said. ‘One is my wife and the other is my girlfriend!’ So, the other man offered to go up and ask. He got within a few yards of the ladies and he, also, darted back breathlessly, confessing to his friend… ‘Small world, isn’t it?’

By the time they stopped chuckling, the cheese snacks were ready, and the eggnog was out of the ‘icebox’ and into the punch cups, diluted with [Vernor’s] Ginger-Ale (soda) and, depending upon the folks we were entertaining, perhaps a shot of Grandpa’s favorite rum in each cupful! Two or three of these drinks and either Paul’s jokes got funnier – or we forgot how many times he told them…

The following is a picture of a “quickie”, pizza appetizer (from Mom’s free recipe offerings) – great for entertaining on the spot! Since you can substitute just about any ingredient, from the bread to the toppings, it’s almost impossible not to please everyone with this great snack idea! By the way, do you see the similarities between the “Broiler Pizzas” in the picture, below, and the little rye pizza snacks that Mom describes herself preparing in the story, above? That’s just how easy it is to modify the idea of mini “finger-pizzas” to what you have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator.

#NationalPizzaMonth

Because of my low-carb lifestyle, to make my own little pizza, I would have to use one of the 90-second microwave Keto bread/English muffin recipes that I have pinned to my Pinterest board, “Low Carb Diet Plans, Recipes & Exercises”.

I like the English muffin that’s made with almond flour the best – simply because there are less carbs in the almond flour recipe than in the coconut flour option. The bread/muffins can be made ahead of time and frozen in individual packages for easy thawing and toasting when needed. However, 90 seconds – even 2 minutes if you add in the mixing of the few ingredients involved – isn’t a long time, to begin with, if you prefer fresh-made bread. By the way, according to NationalDayCalendar.com, October happens to be, among many other things, National Pizza Month!

IN CLOSING…

#NationalCookieMonth & #HomemadeCookiesDay

In honor of tomorrow being the beginning of October and its celebration of National Cookie MONTH (plus, National Homemade Cookies DAY is also tomorrow), here is another one of Mom’s copycat recipes (from one of her “free recipes” offerings) for crisp, buttery cookies inspired by the Mrs. Field’s product found in most grocery stores; but, Mom named her imitation “Mrs. Meadow’s”.

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 – 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.