Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Christmas Eve – The Gift of Love

Hello and Merry Christmas to all!

I hope everyone will take, at least, a small amount of time today and these next “12 days of Christmas” to remember all of our service people who can’t be with their own families during these holidays, as they give of themselves to protect us and heal us.

This is such a wonderful and magical time of year! While there are still those with a “Bah-humbug” attitude, I come across a lot more people, lately, who are spreading more good cheer than bad cheer. Mom used to tell me, “the most valuable gift you can give is to be a good example!” This time of year seems to bring out the best “good examples” in most of us. It’s contageous and seems to flow right into the new year. More people are volunteering their time for “good deeds” and helping out those in need by donating money, coats, toys and more. Generous “Santas” are paying off strangers’ “lay-aways” at different stores across the country. I just wish the giving of ourselves lasted all year long!

Some will blame their “Bah-humbug” attitude on the commercialism of the holiday, with marketing “experts” advising stores to start putting out their Christmas stock (right along with Halloween) in September! Then, as soon as Halloween is over, people start hearing Christmas music on the radio stations and stores’ PA Systems around the first week in November. Not to mention the seemingly month-long “Black Friday” event. By the time the actual “12 days of Christmas” start (on Christmas Day), we’re burnt-out on the “must-haves” that commercialism has pressed onto the public; while the true meaning of the season gets lost in the chaos!

This is, as Mom once wrote, “the easiest cop-out for those who put a price tag on the pleasures of the holiday & insist that the success of the celebration depends on the amount of money spent on the preparations and gifts. If I give our children only one gift, it will be that I gave some practical sense of what is truly important at this time of year – not the gift, but the gathering of family and friends… Not the food, but the feeling of just being home… Never letting what we want be more important than what we need… Not complaining about trivial [stuff]… And always appreciating what we’ve already received before we can expect to receive more.”

Mom also wrote [The Christmas Feeling] “is basically a simple hope for peace and good will, no matter what other trappings we’ve attached to the occasion through the years since that single star lit up the sky over Bethlehem. No matter what other customs and traditions mankind has attached to Christmas or the celebration of it, the humble wish for “peace on Earth, good will towards men” remains strong among those who thrive on hope and cherish what is good, refusing to be deprived of such expectations!” [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 147, Nov-Dec 1990; pages 1 & 8]

 Photo by Gloria Pitzer (me and my Xmas Candy House)

Personally, I have tried to pass on Mom’s attitude to my own children, as she did to me… the importance of the personal gatherings over the tangible gifts and, especially, the giving of the best of ourselves – without expectations of reciprocations of gratitude – because that’s what true “Santas” do. My kids never learned “there’s no such thing as Santa Claus”, because I taught them something different, from the times they were each little – similar to The New York Sun’s answer to Virginia – how the spirit of “Santa” lives on in each of us through selfless acts of giving from our hearts. It is with this kind of selflessness that we actually receive our own true gift – one that can’t be bought or even price-valued – the gift of LOVE! And, with that, there will ALWAYS be a Santa Claus!

On that note, I leave you with this image of the classic Christmas Eve poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore [first published on Dec. 23, 1823 in the Troy Sentinel newspaper in upstate New York], as seen at http://www.nightbeforechristmas.biz/poem.htm.

Also, as with my pervious blogs, I’d like to end by sharing with you one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on her “Free Recipes & Ordering Information” sheets (1993), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. This is a photo copy of Mom’s make-alike version of Kentucky-Style Coleslaw, updated from Mom’s 1988 version in her self-published book, The Copycat Cookbook:

Note: this particular slaw recipe was not included in Mom’s last cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, other wonderful slaw recipes and a special “Coleslaw Secret” can be found in this book on pages 38-39.

Merry Christmas to all and, to all, a good night!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Making Memories with a Christmas Cookie Exchange!

Once again, happy Monday to everyone!

If you’re new to this site and this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Laura (Pitzer) Emerich and I started this blog to honor my mom’s legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipes Detective – Gloria Pitzer. Since the early ‘70s, Mom was “busting” the secret recipes of the fast food industry, as well as some “fine” restaurants and grocery products too! As I mentioned in my last blog, “Imitation”, Mom never really knew their exact recipes, but she could imitate them very well!!!

I’ve been writing these weekly blogs, about the many wonderful memories I have of Mom as I was growing up, since this past September. Shortly after starting these blogs, I decided to include one of Mom’s recipes with each one. For the 35-plus years that Mom “worked her business”, she offered (in exchange for a SASE) a sheet of free recipes, along with information on how to order her currently (at that time) available self-published cookbooks, as well as how to subscribe to her newsletters; which were published monthly in the beginning, then bi-monthly and quarterly and back to monthly until she permanently retired it.

Five weeks ago, I shared another blog, “Time to Make the Cookies”, regarding cookies as they related to some of my memories of Mom, and including her make-alike version of one the Famous Amos cookies (with an alternative option.) Rather than repeating those memories, here, with these Mrs. Fields make-alike cookie recipes (below) that Mom also gave out for free (merely asking for proper credit when shared), I thought I’d write about making a new memory.

While surfing the internet around Thanksgiving time, I came across a Martha Stewart link, “8 Steps to Hosting a Cookie Swap”. I hadn’t participated in a cookie swap/exchange since my first two kids were toddlers (in the late “80s!) Anticipating the coming of “the final push” to get all my Christmas cookies made in time for holiday visitors and last minute gift-giving, I planned my first (hopefully annual) Christmas cookie exchange party with some of my girlfriends, who also hadn’t participated in any such event in a long time, if at all. While Martha’s ‘8 Steps’ was a great source of inspiration, I added some of my own ideas too!

I started (as in Martha’s ‘Step 1’) by inviting people. I created a private “event” through my personal Facebook page and invited about 18 girlfriends that were nearby and whom I knew (or thought) liked to bake and socialize (not to discriminate against my male friends who also enjoy baking, but the perk was for female bonding time.) Although, one friend’s “significant other” popped in to share some male bonding with my husband while all of us ladies “cackled” amongst ourselves; which was perfectly fine. Martha Stewart’s link suggested inviting up to 8 friends; but, having hosted other types of parties over the years, I knew that only one-third to half of invitees actually come. So, I invited 18 friends and about 8 people RSVP’d that they could come. Hindsight being foresight, next year, I will probably, also, “snail-mail” personal invitations because not everyone (in my generation) knows about Facebook created events; plus, it’s something tangible that they can hang on their refrigerator or calendar as a reminder.

Famous Nameless Chocolate Chip Cookies

On the event page, I asked everyone to post what cookies they were thinking about bringing (as in Martha’s ‘Step 2’), so we didn’t end up with 5 people bringing the same type. I suggested everyone bring 8 dozen cookies – no matter how many people actually come, I posted, if you bring 8 dozen of the same type, you’d be taking home 8 dozen of a variety. The more that come, the more of a variety there will be. I also asked that they post their recipe there, on the event page, (or email or text me a copy) so I could print out the necessary copies for everyone attending (instead of them making their own copies, not knowing how many copies to actually make.) However, only a few shared their recipes on the event page or texted me a picture of it in time for me to copy them for everyone.

Instead of making display cards or having everyone make multiple copies of their recipes on cards (as in Martha’s ‘Step 3’) for the cookie table, I bought little “brag books” from my local Dollar Tree store. I found and printed out a cute little cookie jar graphic to put in the cover’s picture window on each book. Then I printed out copies of the recipes that I had received before and at the party, inserting them into the pages of each book – for everyone to each take home from the party as a memento and, in which to continue collecting other cookie recipes.

On my party prep checklist, I forgot to list ‘creating a packaging station’ (as described in Martha’s Steps 4 through 7) for wrapping up all the dozens of cookies that everyone was going to take home. I was going to buy things at the dollar store for this; but I didn’t write it down and, then, was distracted by the crowd at the store, and just wanted to hurry and get out of there with my “brag books” and “door prize” picks. Fortunately, some of my friends must have anticipated this – one brought special Christmas trays on which everyone could to take home their cookies and some others pre-wrapped their dozens of cookies in decorative bags and tins for easy grabbing!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Not listed in Martha Stewarts ‘8 Steps’, but which occurred to me, is to serve snacks. Whenever I host anything (in-bred from my mom), I, at least, serve something to munch on – it’s always an ice-breaker! So, I decided to prepare a bunch of simple finger-food snacks for everyone to enjoy besides the cookie samples. Having hypoglycemia, myself, I knew I couldn’t snack on all that sugar and wanted to offer my friends the same option. One friend, who couldn’t make cookies in time for the party, but didn’t want to miss out on the “girl time”, brought a wonderful spinach dip and crackers for the “snack table” instead. All were welcomed, cookies in tow or not! Afterwards, I found that Martha Stewart did have a follow up to the ‘8 Steps’ regarding finger-foods to serve at your cookie swap – https://www.marthastewart.com/274426/holiday-cookie-swap-finger-foods

As everyone started showing up, I got wrapped up in setting up the snack table, making introductions between those who didn’t know each other and, of course, in the socializing. Thus, I forgot all about putting out the coffee, tea and punch that I had planned (Step 8); but I did have bottled water for everyone (thanks to my wonderful husband – who always has my back – as he brought in a cooler full of the iced-down bottles for all of us!)

Also, not listed in the “8 Steps”, I decided to offer a few “door prizes”. Martha did make mention of voting on a favorite cookie during the test-tasting, but I was debating between having a few cute, little shower-type games for us to play or just drawing a few names from a hat (or something like that.) In the end, because the socializing was going so well and I didn’t want it to stop, I just had my husband draw 3 names out of a bowl containing all the names of the ladies who showed up; and each of those 3 ladies went home with an extra little gift bag from me.

Unfortunately, it didn’t dawn on me until after my first friend left and others were getting ready to do the same that I should have been taking pictures of everyone and their wonderful baked goods! I did get my husband to take one picture of all of us before anyone else left, which I could immediately send to everyone through my Messenger App. Note-to-self: next time, delegate (in advance) someone to be “the photographer”, which wasn’t in the 8 Steps either! Anyway, I hope I created some special new memories for my friends. I know I will cherish the memories of that day, myself, flaws and all! In fact, I am really looking forward to doing it all again next year!

 Photo by Laura Emerich, Dec. 14, 2018

In the mean time, this is a picture of the cookie recipe I chose to make for my friends – my mom’s make-alike version of Mrs. Fields Soft Sugar Cookies – as printed on her later “Free Recipes/Information” sheets (2000) under the name “Mrs. Meadows”, along with her make-alike version of Mrs. F’s Crisp Buttery Cookies, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

*Special note: I used a 1/8-cup scoop to ball up my cookies and I had about 50 cookies. This recipe says it yields 2 dozen…it should be 4 dozen.

In addition, this is a picture of Mom’s 1985 version of Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies from her older “Free Recipes/Information” sheets, again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Note: Unlike the previously shared “free” recipes in my blogs, the Mrs. Fields make-alike cookies I’ve included in this blog also appeared in some of Mom’s other previously self-published cookbooks and newsletters; but, they didn’t make it into her last cookbook [“Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).]

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Imitation

Hi, Everyone! Happy Monday! I’m Laura Emerich and this is my blog about memories of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, and her legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective. She liked to refer to herself as the “Rich Little” of the Food Industry because she could imitate their famous food products, at home in her own kitchen, like Rich Little could imitate the voices of famous people.. She never knew what they actually used in their own “secret” recipes, but she knew she could come up with a make-alike version based on what she could taste, smell and see. A few times, at the request of her readers and radio listeners, without actually trying the product, itself; Mom could come up with an imitation simply based only on their descriptions.

To imitate is to clone, copy, impersonate, mimic, replicate, reproduce, counterfeit, duplicate, fake, forge, match, mock, parallel, resemble, simulate, echo, mirror, parrot, pattern or represent something or someone. Imitation – according to Merriam-Webster – is something produced as a copy; resembling something else that is usually genuine and of better quality [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imitation]. It’s quite ironic that so many others over the years, since Mom originated the Secret Recipes (T.M.) business, have imitated her, the original imitator. But not all of them have given her the appropriate credit due to her. Kudos to those who have given her the proper credit, though!

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – C. C. Colton

Most everyone has heard, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”; one of Charles Caleb Colton‘s most famous quotes. Dictionary.com says, “to imitate someone is to pay the person a genuine compliment — often an unintended compliment.” You will, likewise, find at Wikipedia.org that imitation is also a form of social learning that leads to the development of traditions.

I really liked that last reference…”that leads to the development of traditions.” Who doesn’t have some old, family tradition that they follow, just as their parents and grandparents and previous generations did? Who hasn’t made new family traditions for coming generations to copy and embrace? Just think about it, at some point, all of those old traditions were, once, new traditions that were so enjoyed they were, thus, passed on to future generations and continue to be so. Cultures are built on traditions. One of my all-time favorite musicals is “Fiddler on the Roof”, which is chucked full of traditions and the struggles of keeping them or amending them to the ever-changing times – including a song about it!

When it came to imitations, it wasn’t very often that Mom received any praise from a major company for her make-alike versions of their famous products. She was often threatened with lawsuits. But, like I said previously, she really didn’t know what they actually used in their recipes, nor did she want to. She loved the mystery and sleuthing involved in solving it, just like a good Sherlock Holmes novel. She often changed the name to a “sound-alike” title for her make-alike versions – she would always jokingly say, “to protect the innocent!”

However, she was well received, even complimented, by some companies and their owners, such as Sanders Chocolates, Wally Amos of Famous Amos Cookies, Harland Sanders (the original owner of KFC) and White Castle; just to name a few. They found her imitations of their products flattering. In fact, I recently came across an old letter among some of Mom’s things that I got after her passing. The letter was from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle (Columbus, Ohio) to Mom – and I remembered writing about it when I helped Mom with the rewriting of her favorite “Better Cookery Cookbook”. Gail Turley was very flattered with Mom’s imitation and dually impressed with Mom’s clever use of baby food to enhance the flavor of the beef. She even bought 15 copies of Mom’s cookbook (which contained the White Castle Hamburger knockoff) to share with some of her colleagues.

Mom’s make-alike version of White Castle hamburgers, also called “Sliders” because they’re so easy to eat (of which Mom called her version “White Tassel Burgers”), was one of the recipes she offered on her “free information” sheets. The White Castle picture with Mom’s original editorial on the company, along with other information and her make-alike recipe (all below), can be found on pages 12-13 of Mom’s last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

WHITE CASTLE – In 1916, Walter Anderson started his career in the restaurant field by opening a rented, re-modeled streetcar and giving the food industry its very first “fast food” place. In 1921, he ran into some difficulties when he tried to lease another place to expand his operation. So, he turned to a Realtor by the name of Billy Ingram, who secured the needed lease for Anderson, and soon became partners with him in the hamburger restaurant. Eventually, the operation became entirely Billy Ingram’s, and today White Castle is a respected name that represents “quality” in the food industry.

Originating in Wichita, Kansas during “The Depression”, Ingram so-named his operation “White Castle” because it stood for purity, cleanliness, strength and dignity. He was a business man with high ethics. He was responsible for many changes in the business that initiated health inspections, to ensure that all restaurants complied with what Ingram personally felt was a responsibility to the customer. He invented utensils never used, such as the spatula and the grills that are still considered the most practical equipment.

White Castle has no special, secret recipe – but, the technique used to prepare their small hamburger is unique and unequaled by competitors. You must like onions to appreciate White Castle patties. The quality of the beef they specifically use that we couldn’t possibly equal it with what we buy in the supermarkets; so, I set to work to try to enhance the ordinary “ground chuck” available to us with a few ingredients that create a recipe reminiscent of Ingram’s “White Castles.”

A letter of appreciation from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle Systems in their Columbus, Ohio headquarters reflected the feelings not often expressed by the major food companies, whose products I attempt to imitate with “make at home” recipes. “On behalf of White Castle System,” the letter said, “We are honored that you deemed the White Castle Hamburger worthy of an attempt at replication of the early days of White Castle and Billy Ingram…” And she enclosed a check to cover the cost of purchasing 15 copies of my first Secret Recipes Book to distribute to their Regional Managers. A far cry from the reaction I received from Orange Julius and Stouffer’s, who threatened legal action against me.

WHITE TASSLE BURGERS

Supposedly, the original beef mixture used in the famous White Castle patties during the early 30’s was of such high quality that there was no way to equal it [50 years later.] Today we send beef to the market much younger, before it has aged. Young beef has less fat, which Americans want. The marbleizing fat in older beef is what gives it flavor. To compensate for this, it seemed to me, ground beef’s flavor could be enhanced by adding another pure beef product – strained baby food. It worked!

  • 3-ounce jar baby food, strained veal
  • 1 ½ pounds ground round steak
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into 12 rectangular, thin patties. Fry briskly on a hot, lightly oiled flat grill, making 5-6 small holes in each patty with the end of a spatula handle. After turning patties once, place bottom half of bun over cooked side of patty and place the top half of the bun over the bottom half. Fry quickly to desired “done-ness” and remove. Add pickle slices and a few tablespoons of chopped, grilled onions to each serving. Makes 1 dozen burgers.

This is a picture of Mom’s updated version from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000) – again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Recording Memories

Hi, again, everyone! First of all, happy Chanukah/Hanukkah to all of those celebrating this wonderful 8-day, traditional Jewish “festival of lights”! Whether you say “Shalom” or “Noel” – both words mean “Peace”. It is the season of love, hope and understanding! We are all different, yet so alike, and that’s okay. Cheerish it! Embrace it! Own it! Celebrate it! “Let there be peace on Earth…” and let it begin with each and every one of us!

“Every year at this time, we put our very best wishes together with some warm & worthy thoughts, and send them off to you, wrapped in sincere affection and the dearest hopes that this coming year gives you all you expect and derive from it.” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes [TM] Quarterly, Winter 94/95.

As I make out this year’s Christmas cards from my husband and I to all of our friends and family, I can’t help but reminisce over the past year. Last Christmas was a rough one, as Mom’s health seemed to deteriorate in December. I didn’t do the yearly card tradition for my husband and I; as, instead, I helped Mom to write and send out her own Christmas cards – not knowing it was for the last time. It was such a rollercoaster ride that month and the next, as she seemed to get better and worse and better again (which, I understand, is usually what happens at “the end”) until she passed away peacefully on January 21st, of this year, lovingly surrounded by family and care-givers and friends.

Mom and Santa 2016

One “hidden blessing” in Dementia is the ability to recall old memories with clarity, like they happened recently. Mom often reminisced with me and my kids and grandson on our visits with her, about stories of some of our relatives, whom were long gone, from her chilhood memories. She couldn’t understand how she could remember such things, like they happened yesterday, but couldn’t remember who she actually saw or spoke to that previous day. It was also very hard for her to look in the mirror, as she didn’t really recognize the face staring back at her because her mind was often in the past, including how she looked then and not currently. As discussed in Scrapbook Photo Albums are Therapeutic for Alzheimer’s Patients by Mark B. Mizen, Ph.D., Director of Technology at Creative Memories; Saint Cloud, MN, photographs and scrapbooks and journals are such important “tools” for those who suffer from Dimentia and Alzheimer, as well as for their families, friends and care-takers.

If only hindsight was forsight! I wish now, that I had written more of her stories down or, better yet, recorded the conversations. We always tend to think there’s time for that later…but then, in the blink of an eye, that time is gone. Over 26 years ago, Mom wrote in one of her newsletters about her and my dad’s plans for a Christmas present to me and my siblings, of a cassette recording of the two of them talking about their life together and their most dearly remembered and cherished moments; plus, memories of their grandparents, whom we (my siblings and I) never got the chance to know; as well as other stories about the family that we could pass on to future generations. I so wish they had followed through with that gift. It would’ve been priceless to me and my own children, as well as to my grandson.

I’ve always loved Mom’s artistic way with words. Her love for writing and journaling helped her, somewhat, to deal with the Dimentia from which she suffered after a double stroke and “grand mal seizure” in 2015. The writing was as much a form of therapy for her as it was just a natural reflex. Mom penned her feelings and memories in journals for most of her life. My younger sister has all the journals that still exist. Some were lost or destroyed over the years. But, Mom also recorded some of her feelings and memories in every one of her publications too. I really do enjoy re-reading all of her “Food for Thought” memories that are in her old books and newsletters of which I still have copies. A lot of what she wrote about was regarding finding the blessings in any given moment – good and bad, alike – for that was how she was raised. Being grateful everyday for what she confronted and overcame was a big part of Mom’s journaling.

In later years, Mom was largely influenced in this effect by Maya Angelou, who told of her experience with “the yellow pad” in an interview with David Holstrom of “The Christian Science Monitor” (1993) – Maya said she went to her voice teacher in mental turmoil over having to leave her child in Europe when she returned to the States. Frightened for her sanity, she told her teacher that she thought she was going mad. He gave her a yellow pad and told her to write down her blessings. She said she didn’t even want to hear that, but he insisted that she start with the fact that she could hear him, that she could see the page, that she could hold the pen. “Before I reached the end of the page,” she [Maya] said, “I was transformed. So, everything I have written, every book, every stage play, every screenplay, was written on a yellow pad. As soon as I pick it up, I am reminded of my blessings.”

“The celebration of the moments worth remembering continues to have its place. ” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes [TM] Quarterly, Wnter 94/95.

As with my prervious blogs, I’d like to end by sharing one of Mom’s recipes with you that appeared on her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. This picture contains a copy of Mom’s 1985 make-alike version of California’s famous See’s Candy fudge (an easy, favorite treat she liked to make at Christmas time):

This recipe, unlike most of the others I’ve shared here, does not appear in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], an 8.25×11-inch, “Perfect Bound Softcover”, 322-page cookbook (also available as an eBook) published in January 2018 and available for purchase (ISBN: 9781504391214.) However, you will find, in this book, Mom’s make-alike recipes for Niagara Falls Fudge as offered at the Maple Leaf Village in Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada); as well as her “Somewhere In Time Chocolate Fudge”, like “Murdick’s Fudge”, Mackinaw Island, MI referenced in a scene in the movie, after which she named her version.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Grateful

Hello to everybody and happy Monday, again! For those whom are new to this site, let me introduce myself – I am Laura (Pitzer) Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective! I started this blog in September of this year to celebrate my mom’s legacy.

Mom’s 1983 cookbook’s back-cover, as found on page 316 of her last book – “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).]

She was such a tremendous trail-blazer! Mom was the first one, starting back in the early 70’s, to discover ways for making your favorite restaurant & fast food dishes, as well as many grocery products, right in the comfort of your own home and she also found a way to share those “secrets” about which many companies wanted to keep her hushed. But the funny thing is, if she had actually “discovered” their real “secret” recipes, then it was purely by accident because Mom didn’t really KNOW any of their actual recipes unless they happened to share them with her (and only a few did so.) However, she could figure out the basics of any dish and tweak it to the specific flavors of a specific maker’s dish or product in order to imitate it! As Mom would always say, “I do with recipes what Rich Little does with voices!” She was the original pioneer of the “make-alike”, “copycat”, “eating out at home” and “homemade groceries” movements.

Besides her writing, cooking and artistic talents, Mom was a very devout Christian. No matter what problems and struggles were thrown into her path, she never lost her faith and she always found something in it by which to learn and be grateful. She often wrote about it (faith) in her cookbooks and newsletters, to simply share with and inspire others. Mom thought good cookbooks should feed the mind and soul, as well as the body; and that’s how she always wrote her books and newsletters – with “Food for Thought” editorials and quips, as well as some product or company history, little-known-facts and tidbits of information, as they related to certain recipes.

Photo by Paul Jaekel, January 2016, at Mom’s 80th birthday party (Marysville, MI)

Last week was my first Thanksgiving without Mom here. It was a bitter-sweet experience. I miss her so much, but I’m also at peace and happy that she is with my dad now. He passed away over three years before Mom; and they were heart-wrenching days, weeks, months and years for her to be without him. They were together for 60 years – day in and day out – especially, after Mom started her “Secret Recipes” business and Dad left his employer to manage the business end of things for Mom, while she handled the creative and promotional end. Still, in those 39 months without Dad, Mom never lost faith that they’d, someday, be together again and that it was not for her to know why, how or when – only that it will be.

I am so grateful for everything Mom has given me and taught me in my life-time with her. As the last of the Thanksgiving left-overs disappear and we gear down for the final holiday shopping push – such as on this popular and ever-growing “Cyber Monday” extravaganza – I can only hope that everyone remembers those things for which they were giving thanks just a few days ago, as they gathered around the turkey laden table with family and/or friends, and that they are not letting the commercialism of the up-coming holidays interfere with those heart-felt thoughts of gratefulness. I think that gratitude is the simplest and purest gift that you can give anyone at any time – a smile and a “thank you” can go a long way – even for those whom we’ve perceived to have done us wrong in some way, we can be grateful for the learning experiences that are derived from the struggles we faced.

“Grateful for the Struggles” –

Sometimes, just for a moment – other times, for much longer. Nonetheless, we have to deal with each struggle as it arises. We don’t analyze what’s going on. We don’t blame other people for our pain. We don’t justify our fears, today, by regretting what took place in the past. We’re dealing with our attitude right now – right where we are in the present moment. We don’t worry about what will or won’t occur in the future. We are capable of making some good decisions when we are called on to make them. Whether we did or not in the past is the past. We’re not the same person, today, we were then. We’re not even the same person we were yesterday, but we are learning lessons all of the time. Melody Beattie [The Language of Letting Go] says, “Our past is a series of lessons that advance us to higher levels of living and of loving.” – Gloria Pitzer [The Recipe Detective ™ Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 218, November 2000; page 2]

Mom was always grateful for her “readers”, “listeners” and “fans” who kept her inspired with their requests to find the “secrets” to making this dish or that grocery product at home (and at less cost.) She was also very grateful to all the media sources (newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and TV talk shows) that interviewed, wrote and talked about her imprints in the food industry, especially in the “fast food” area. She was also grateful to us, her family, for supporting and helping her in so many different ways – as office, art and promotional assistants; as well as recipe and taste testers – but also including staying out of her hair when need be.

How the Trail-Blazing Began

Mom wrote the following editorial [found on page 24 of “My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989] about her humble beginnings with recipe requests and popular fast-food make-alike dishes:

It was [in the early 70’s] while I was writing for the Pt. Huron Times Herald that I was asked to do the food page column…and found myself answering a stack of readers’ mail. The first question I came to really launched what was to become “Secret Recipes”. A reader wanted to know “how to make the sauce like ‘a place’ called McDonald’s puts on their double-decker hamburgers.”

“A place called McDonald’s” meant a drive into the city, where this place, then, only had one arch. A sample of their “secret sauce” turned out to be a very good Thousand Island dressing, not unlike what Bob’s Big Boy [later known as the Elias Brothers’ Big Boy] was already using on their double-decker. After a few taste tests at home, the family agreed that we had come pretty close to their sauce, and so I included my version of their product in my food column along with a few other tidbits. The response from readers was so gratifying that the editor was only too happy to have me continue along this path for several weeks to come. Each week, I took another famous place, similar to McDonald’s, and tried to recreate a dish at home that would come close to what the restaurant called a “secret recipe”.

I was doing just fine until the week I decided to do a cheesecake recipe – the one that “nobody doesn’t like”. Well, those wonderful people had just bought a whole page of advertising in that week’s food section, and they thought it was not only ungrateful, but down-right rude of us to run a recipe for a product that was supposed to be just like theirs. I could see their point. The editor was beside himself with worry and immediately told me to drop the column!

I thought ahead to the time when we could, as Colton once said, “flatter them with the sincerity of imitation”, but they were hardly flattered. I wanted to talk with the advertisers and try to work out something that w-o-u-l-d flatter them and their product, but the editor would not hear of it. He told me to go back to the old way of doing the food column…OR…I could pick up my check. Well, I was so sure that the recipe imitation idea would work, if not with his paper, with somebody else’s that I told him to “mail it to me!” And I went home to eventually start my o-w-n paper – what is now our “Secret Recipes Newsletter”, and as the events leading up to and beyond developed, step-by-step, the learning experiences contributed beautifully to the outcome.

This is the make-alike version of McDonald’s famous Big Mac Sauce that Mom developed for making at home, which she called “The Big Match Special Sauce”, including the introductory back-story, as seen on page 11 of her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]; as well as being on Mom’s free recipes and information sheets, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. The 8.25×11-inch, “Perfect Bound Softcover”, 322-page cookbook (also available as an eBook ) was published in January 2018 and can be purchased here: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 (ISBN: 9781504391214.)

   WE CAN’T TALK ABOUT HAMBURGERS without talking about the most successful of the fast food chains – McDonald’s! It’s the only company in the fast food industry that has succeeded in cornering the market on family food and fast service restaurants – the world over! McDonald’s was the trend-setter; the hometown hospitality example in the industry. They took meat and potatoes and turned it into a billion-dollar enterprise.

   Hamburgers, French fries and milkshakes were making their menu debut at “drive-in” restaurants, where car hops took your orders and returned with trays of food that hooked on to the window of your car. Kids cruised these places in their parents’ Edsel, Hudson and Kaiser-Fraser sedans back then. Hamburger “joints” were less than desirable to most people who appreciated good food and a pleasant dining-out experience. But these drive-ins had one interesting thing in common that appealed to the public – they were AFFORDABLE!

   It was 1954 and Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, was 52 years old. Hardly the time in one’s life when they’d start to think about launching a new enterprise, but rather a time when most began to think about retiring! On one of his sales trips, Ray Kroc, a Dixie Cup salesman, met the owners of a thriving hamburger restaurant in California. Eventually, Kroc purchased the business from Maurice (Mac) McDonald and his brother, Richard. Mac & Dick had a fetish for cleanliness. Their place in San Bernardino was spotless! And much like Ray Kroc in his own experience years later, they weren’t too keen about teenagers. They avoided catering to the teenage market exclusively because kids loitered, were noisy and threw food around. The McDonald’s concept was for “the family!” McDonald’s wasn’t the first company to create a fast food concept; but, by far, it was the most recognized and the most profitable in the industry. While fast food has taken it on the chin for every conceivable infraction of culinary achievement that the critics could possibly contrive, McDonald’s still came out on top!

   THE BIG MATCH ATTACH – This is the double-decked, at-home-hamburger recipe that promises you will shock the socks off everyone who tries your improvisation of the famous “Golden Arch’s” very own “Big Mac”.

   All you need for one ‘Big Match’ is: 2 all beef patties, “Special Sauce”, lettuce, cheese, onions, pickles & 2 sesame seed buns. Sear both sides of the 2 patties in a bit of oil on a hot griddle, cooking to medium-well. Place each patty on the 2 bottom halves of the buns. To each of these, add a tablespoon of Special Sauce (see below), lettuce, cheese, onions and pickles to taste. Assemble one atop the other and add one of the bun tops to the top of that. Serve at once to anyone having a Big Match Attach!

THE BIG MATCH SPECIAL SAUCE

1 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing

1/3 cup creamy French dressing

¼ cup sweet pickle relish

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dry, minced onions

   In a small mixing bowl, stir all ingredients together with a spoon, as listed. Makes 2-cups sauce. Keeps up to a week or so if refrigerated & well-covered. Do not freeze this.

The version pictured below is from Mom’s “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Recipes and Radio

Happy Monday, Everyone! According to the Foodie Holiday Calendar at OCFoodies.com, today, which is November 19th, is “Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day”! Being a Michigander, I grew up on some wonderful, Michigan-made, carbonated beverage products like Vernors Ginger Ale and Faygo Pop. We (Michiganders) call it “pop”; while, it seems, everyone else calls it “soda”. No matter what you call it, add a few scoops of ice cream to it and you have a delicious concoction that some call a “cooler”; while, others call it a “float”.

For those who don’t know me yet, I am Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”. I remember Mom running test after test, for weeks on end, trying to develop her own homemade version of cola because of requests from her “listeners” (the radio audiences, listening to her many different radio talk-show “appearances” across the country). She was often asked by the listeners, who called into the studios of the shows on which she was interviewed, what products or dishes there were that she couldn’t replicate. She often answered, “Cool Whip and Coca-Cola”. I always thought, myself, that it was not that she couldn’t replicate them, but that she hadn’t…yet!

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

Most of the thousands of make-alike recipes that Mom developed were inspired by “listener” requests. Sometimes she could develop a close make-alike version simply by taste tests. Other times, all she had to go on was a description of the product or dish from the requester. Sometimes Mom could develop a make-alike version of some product or dish in a matter of minutes or hours; sometimes, it took a few days or weeks. Sometimes, if it was an extra-challenging recipe, she’d even “shelve” it for a little while and come back to it with a fresh, new perspective; but Mom never gave up on a challenge!

In fact, Mom decided she was going to face “the Coke challenge”, so to speak, and discover a homemade version of cola. The challenge was on and Mom loved a great challenge! She persistently tested different combinations of ingredients to develop a syrup she could add to Club Soda for homemade soda pop. Making over 100 tests in about a six-week period, Mom finally developed a syrup for a close make-alike version of Coke-a-Cola, which she called “Close-a-Cola”. She also developed a syrup for a make-alike version of Vernors Gingerale (or ginger soda), a Michigan-made product, which she called “Veneers Gingerale”. In fact, in the early 70’s, it was through radio and the “listeners” that Mom was initially called the “Recipe Detective” and she further developed that into her “Secret Recipe Detective” identity.

Mom wrote the following editorial [found on pages 54-55 of “My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989] about her relationship with radio and recipe requests:

Radio and Bob Allison’s ‘Ask Your Neighbors!’

RADIO turned out to be the most appropriate way by which we made people aware of what we were doing…my involvement with the wonderful world of radio actually came about without any specific intention of becoming a regular part of the broadcasting field… I didn’t know I had what is considered “a radio voice”. Heaven knows our five kids will, to this day, even in their adulthood, testify to the fact that, on occasion, during their up-bringing, I had been known to discover conditions that would prompt me to accelerate, vocally, in a pitch that only dogs in the next county could here!

My introduction to radio began with Bob Allison and [the] “Ask Your Neighbor” show. I was folding diapers at the kitchen table, waiting for my favorite daily segment of “My True Story” to come on the air when, instead, WWJ [a Detroit area radio station] announced that it had been replaced with a n-e-w show. This new show turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me…almost every Monday morning I [would] visit with Bob Allison and his neighbors… [NOTE: now heard Monday through Friday from 9AM to 11AM EST on WNZK 690AM, Detroit. A live stream can also be found on the show’s website at http://www.askyourneighbor.com/index.htm]

Neighbors

When “My True Story” was replaced by Bob Allison and his “Ask Your Neighbor” show was replaced by Bob Allison and his “Ask Your Neighbor” show… I was, at first, very disappointed. Household hints and problems around the house that you cannot solve yourself seemed like just too much homemaking information to please me. I soon, however, became ‘hooked’ on the show, as almost everybody does, to the point that, on Fridays, when Bob would sign off and say he would talk to us again on Monday, I was spending the weekends just looking forward to the show on Monday.

I called the show about 2 or 3 times a month for the first year or two, to ask questions of Bob’s “neighbors” that my newspaper column readers were asking me. When I couldn’t find the answer from consulting other sources, I knew I could rely on Bob Allison’s “neighbors” to come up with the right answers for me. In return, I would often…phone in an answer that I occasionally had in reply to one of their questions or recipe requests. Bob did not recognize my voice as a regular caller until I had initiated the newsletter, however. He asked me where the [hamburger sauce] recipe came from that I was giving, in reply to one of his listener’s requests, which is how his program has always worked…In mentioning that the hamburger sauce recipe would appear in the next issue of my monthly newsletter, which I had given in response to one of his listeners’ previous requests, Bob reacted with great interest and curiosity.

“You have a newsletter, do you?” He asked. “Well, tell us about it and how much it is and where our neighbors can get it.”

That was all it took to get us well-acquainted with Bob’s “neighbors” and, in no time at all, our subscription orders went from a few to many. Sight-unseen was hardly appropriate to ask people to buy a publication that they could not first examine. So, I spent all of one day and most of the next, thinking about and trying out a single page description with a few sample recipes from the publication that I could send out to interested and prospective subscribers…

Mom used the same procedure for advertising or “getting the word out” about her “secret” make-alike recipes and publications until she, finally, fully retired and it always worked very well for her business, offering 15-20 sample recipes along with information for ordering her current, self-published cookbooks and newsletter subscription in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Those are the recipes from which I’ve been choosing to work in with my “…Memories of my Mom” and to “re-share” with you.

On page 264 of Mom’s last book – “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it – is this 1983, make-alike version of Orange Julius or, as Mom comically called it, “Orange Brutus”:

Blend together until smooth, 3 c. orange juice with 1 envelope “Dream Whip” powder, ½ teaspoon vanilla and 3 small boxes (¾-ounce each) instant vanilla pudding powder. Pour into ½-gallon pitcher and stir in 3 more cups orange juice. Makes 6 lovely drinks when served over cracked ice!

The 8.25×11-inch, “Perfect Bound Softcover”, 322-page cookbook (also available as an eBook at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253) was published in January 2018 and can be purchased here: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 (ISBN: 9781504391214.)

This photo is of Mom’s updated Orange Julius make-alike version, using club soda for carbonation and with the name altered to “Orange Judas”, as seen on her “free recipes and information” sheet (2000):

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

Happy holidays everyone! They are really creeping up fast! Thanksgiving is only 10 days away!!! Before we know it, it’ll be the Advent, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve – and then a whole new year will be upon us!

This was always the time for Mom to start baking like a “mad woman”, stock-piling and freezing dozens upon dozens of cookies, fudge and candy confections for gifts and entertaining.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

There are so many different types of cookies – as they say, ‘more than Carter has pills!’ Sometimes they’re called “biscuits” or “bars” or “squares”. Some are baked in an oven – and even that fluctuates between hard, soft or chewy – while others are set in the refrigerator or freezer.

Cookies use an array of ingredients including, but not limited to: butter, eggs, oil, peanut butter; plus, various sugars, flours, oats, spices and cocoas/chocolates. Many optional additions include coconut, peanuts, various nuts, candies, baking chips, raisins and many types of dried fruits. Some cookies are frosted or coated in some type of sugar. Mom even developed a cookie recipe a long time ago (as seen at the end of this blog), mixing dry cake and pudding mixes together with mayonnaise!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

FAMOUS NAMELESS CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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

18-ounce box yellow cake mix

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

1 ¼ cups mayonnaise

12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

4-ounce package each: walnut chips and pecan halves

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

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

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

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

Dad & I relaxing in the front yard. Photographed by Gloria Pitzer, July 1970

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

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

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

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

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

Cheryl & I, fishing on the front porch (Algonac, MI) Photographed by Gloria Pitzer, September 1971

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

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

½ cup each: flour and biscuit mix

1 teaspoon season salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons corn oil

about 1 cup club soda, or Busch light beer

grated rind of half a lemon

¼ teaspoon onion salt

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

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

This updated version is from Mom’s “Free Recipes & Information” sheet (2000), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Entertaining!

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

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

1968 – Cheryl (Loli), Mom, me & Debi – Algonac, MI

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

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

A Pitzer Family Meal with the Hogancamps – St. Clair, MI

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

Lake Huron shoreline, Michigan Photo by Laura Emerich

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer for her syndicated column titled, Cookbook Corner.

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY’S CHILI

1 ½ to 2 pounds ground round

2 tablespoons corn oil

½ teaspoon seasoned salt

10-ounce can Campbell’s Onion Soup, undiluted

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin powder

½ teaspoon pepper

21-ounce can kidney beans, un-drained

6-ounce can tomato paste

8-ounce can tomato sauce

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

This is a copy of a later version from one of Mom’s “free recipes sheets” (2000), again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happiness Is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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