Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Que Sera, Sera!

TGIM! Thank God, it’s Monday, again! Happy Monday to everyone!

I mentioned last week that I plan to make every Monday of this year a memorable beginning to my week – and, hopefully, to yours as well! This week, my focus is on my New Year’s plan, which I mentioned at the end of my blog last week, in the “P.S.” section. For 2020, I want to start a mini e-newsletter, including more of Mom’s “Food-for-Thought”, food-for-the-soul and food for the table inspirations; as well as some of my own too.

I don’t have a “launch” date set for the e-newsletter, yet; as I am still in the process of learning how to create an email list, first. The whole digital process is in no way the same as or even similar to what Mom did by hand for 27 years; the last time being more than 20 years ago. The layouts Mom created and published, herself, were all of her own design. The family helped to label all of the thousands of newsletter issues by hand, then Mom and Dad took them all to the local Post Office and mailed them out to their subscribers by what is now referred to as “snail mail”. That was January 1974 through December 2000!

If you’re not already – you can follow me on Facebook @TheRecipeDetective, on Twitter @recipedetective, on Instagram @recipedetective and on Pinterest @therecipedetective – for that’s where I will be announcing all of my future updates and posts to therecipedetective.com website, as well as when I’ll be launching my new email sign-up list and the e-newsletter!

When the time came to retire Mom’s Secret Recipes© NewsletterTM, Dad was ready to fully retire, himself, from all of his work in Secret RecipesTM; of course, he was 70 by then and beginning to struggle with his own physical limitations. Mom, being a bit younger, though, never really wanted to “fully retire” from the recipe business, herself. She was a writer – and, as she would often say, “writers never die, they just run out of words.” Well, even Dad would’ve attested that Mom NEVER ran out of words! However, after she had her stroke in 2015, which resulted in her having dementia, Mom struggled with words and writing for a while.

Nevertheless, both, writing and faith were in her blood. Mom had journaled every day, since she was about 10 years old. Her deep-seeded love for writing helped her immensely in the therapy for her dementia, following the stroke, as she couldn’t remember recent events very well. But, by re-reading her journal entries from previous days, it helped her to, somewhat, deal with the forgetfulness.

However, she could never understand why she could remember her youth like it was yesterday but couldn’t remember yesterday; and why she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror or in recent pictures.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 6 & 7)

REDISCOVERING [MEMORIES]

Writer, David Mazel, in a Boston newspaper, talked about looking at old photographs, as if gazing into a lost world, and I know exactly how he feels. I was shuffling through a shoebox full of photos from years ago, feeling it was some other world entirely than the one in which we now lived… where warm memories could stir and awaken me to consider just how well we did with so little, as Paul and I and our five (now, adult) children developed our family enterprise.

Over the years, some images, of how [our] recipe business began, have remained indelible. Others, however, have changed; like the shifting patterns in a rotating kaleidoscope… From that very first article that I wrote for the Royal Oak Tribune [in 1950], when I was 14 years old, to the [last] issue of our Secret RecipesTM Newsletter©…the work has been, truly, a labor of love…

I must have spent hours studying the pieces I wrote in my early days – remembering where I was [and in] what I believed and expected from life when I wrote them. There was always a certainty in each article [and] every book begun but not always finished, then, that life was good and surely God was a loving presence. This always carried me through. It still does.

Just as history tends to repeat itself, once again, the fates had other plans for Mom than she had for herself…as she, instead, began writing just to help herself remember things later. Unfortunately, Mom’s plan to continue writing and advising as the Recipe DetectiveTM had to come to an end…or maybe not – as I became her surrogate writer.

Mom loved Doris Day’s song from the Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956): Que sera, sera! Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera! What will be, will be!’ Mom called those certain, unexpected events in our lives “meant-to-be” moments or happenings – “what will be, will be!” She had complete faith that it was all part of the Lord’s plan (not hers, nor anyone else’s) – and, as she would quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson, ours is not to reason why…

During the last few years of Mom’s life, after her stroke, I got to know her in a whole new way – one that I missed out on during my self-centered teen years in the early-1980s. It was late-2015, when I started the 2-year long process of helping Mom to rewrite her favorite cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition). First, it all had to be edited and re-typed into Microsoft Word in order to be re-published for a whole new digital age of people.

For decades, Mom never wanted to let any of her books be published by a company that wanted to alter her creations. But times changed, as did situations and attitudes. This time, Mom was willing to let someone else do the rewrites and someone else be the publisher.

1974, Gloria Pitzer mimeographing her newsletter and recipe cards.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 16)

[A REAL PUBLISHER,] of course, one would surmise…is one who can put your book into print and get it sold for you. Having no actual count of the number of copies we’ve printed and sold, over the years, right at my fingertips; I can only say that we probably give away a good number of what we print [too].

I’ve thought all along that if I could possibly find another way by which to earn the money to pay our bills, I would gladly give my work away free, just for the joy of doing what we do! I have no intentions of ‘retiring’ from this endeavor and my husband, Paul, is slowly accepting this as something that, while it may make us a worthwhile living, also makes that living worthwhile!

WHEN THE MIMEOGRAPH was turning out the pages of my books… I did not look too far ahead to a more sophisticated technique. I took each day as it came and each idea for a cookbook as they also came (and a few of them were NOT cookbooks), trying to present the books with honesty and sincerity and a special enthusiasm that nobody else could give it for us.

My cup had been filling up and running over for a long, long time and I hadn’t even realized it. And that kind of abundance had nothing whatsoever to do with money or fame, but with a sense of direction and yielding – all the rugged way!

Mom and me at her 80th Birthday Party – Photo by Paul Jaekel, Jan. 2016

After researching quite a few publishers, we chose Balboa Press; who, actually, did not want to change much of anything except the title (because it too closely resembled the title of The Betty Crocker Cookbook – as it was intended to, in the first place) and a few illustrations (because they had the “likeness” of “The Colonel” on them.) Additionally, I had to change the layout slightly but not because of the publisher, it was simply because of the digital revolution and the printed format we chose for the final product.

Together, Mom and I chose some parts of the original book to be totally omitted from the new re-write due to their lack of current information, relatability or something else similar. Re-reading Mom’s creative “Food for Thought” articles throughout the book and discussing them with her, brought us closer in a whole new way, with our shared love for writing. Mom loved to mentor those who shared her same love for writing!

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 75)

The care and concern that an author has for their readers is part of the pleasure of presenting interesting ideas in either an entertaining way or in an informative way. I try to balance my own presentations between the two.

When I am broadcasting over the numerous radio stations around the country, sometimes around the world, I try to lift the listener to a new height of interest and enthusiasm, and I leave the serious side of nutrition to the experts, who have the medical background to support their claims.

My hope is to present my recipes in such a way that cooking is a joy and never a job! I try to present these recipes with the same concern as I do [when] giving a gift to a special friend. Each of our 5 children, who have grown up helping Paul and me with these recipes, have gone out into the world with this legacy of love and enthusiasm. We can only hope that they use what we have given them…

Of course, I can only hope that I’ve made Mom proud of what I’m doing with her legacy of love – her family treasure of Secret RecipesTM and all it entails. While Dad was happy to retire the business, Mom never did want to stop what she was doing. However, at some point in time, our bodies and brains reach a moment when they just can’t do what they used to do. Now, even after the finish of her book, I still continue to write for Mom. I am honored to carry her torch in her memory and continue to inspire people in the kitchen, in the home, in the family and throughout the world.

I want this blog, the website and Mom’s last cookbook to reach new pinnacles in the digital market – in her honor and memory, with all the love and passion that I inherited from her. I’ll be honest, though, it has been (and still is) a work in progress and, while I love to write, promoting and selling are not my forte; as, equally, are not my computer skills. I guess you could say that I am a work in progress also! Something else I inherited from Mom – I love to learn! Unfortunately, the older I get the longer it takes me to learn something new. But that doesn’t stop me! You can teach an old dog a new trick, it just takes a little longer!

Nowadays, knowledge is literally and instantaneously at our finger tips! There’s so much information out there from which to learn – it makes our old sets of encyclopedias look like microscopic drops of water in an ocean! You need to be self-motivated and self-inspired to grab the book or the computer and open the “pages”, reading and soaking it up like a sponge! Of course, you also have to be able to differentiate between what’s fact and what’s fiction because not everything on the web is factual but that’s something you learn with experience.

IN CLOSING…

This year in honor of #52Chances and #MemorableBeginnings, I want to offer you a recipe each week from Mom’s “Original 200” Secret RecipesTM collection – as these are the memorable beginnings of the Recipe DetectiveTM. The following recipe is Mom’s imitation of dark fudge like Mackinac Island serves!

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

According to NationalDayCalendar.com, today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day! To that, Mom would say, “don’t touch the mess on my desk or you’ll goof up my system!” I, on the other hand, love organization! It’s actually one of my OCD passions.

EVEN MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES
Excerpts from…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989)

WHILE SOME FOLKS claim to have been born under a sign related in some way to the stars and other heavenly bodies, I wish to establish, right here and now, the sign under which I must have been born. It reads: ‘DO NOT TOUCH THE MESS ON THIS DESK OR YOU’LL GOOF UP MY SYSTEM.’ From this, you can imagine how astonished I was when, one day, it occurred to me that Heaven had certainly poured me out a blessing and my cup was running over. But I couldn’t find my mop! That has more or less (actually MORE) been the story of my life…my cup runneth over and over and over. (pp. 14-15)

It is with appreciation that, in spite of my lack of organization, Mary Ellen Pinkham https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ellen_Pinkham, the famous household hints author, took an interest in our recipes…I really should get together with Mary Ellen and learn exactly how to become better organized but, somehow, time keeps getting away from me. (p. 119)

#TGIM
#ThankGodItsMondayDay

To repeat last week…NationalDayCalendar.com suggests that we… “Stop shaming Monday and look at what Monday has to offer… 52 CHANCES to see a beautiful sunrise… share your talents with the world… teach someone a new skill that will better their lives…” This year, for me, Mondays are 52 CHANCES to re-tell Mom’s story; hopefully, re-inspiring love in the kitchen, in the home, in the family, throughout the neighborhood and around the world. Two down, 50 to go! I hope you’ll share this with your family and friends and return next Monday for more!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – 52 Chances for Memorable Beginnings

Happy 2020 and happy Monday! In fact, happy National Thank God It’s Monday!

As NationalDayCalendar.com claims: “Mondays are often full of new beginnings.” This being the very first Monday of 2020, makes it an extra special, national day celebration all about new beginnings! Beyond today, the website suggests, “Not only does the observance focus on the first Monday in January, but on every Monday throughout the year.” I LOVE that! Especially since I write these blog posts, in memory of my mom, every Monday and they always energize and inspire me for the rest of my week’s workload (paid and unpaid.) I can only hope that they energize and inspire others as well.

Since I started these blog posts, writing has become very therapeutic for me, just as it always was for my mom. I’ve written, at least, a few blogs about Mom’s love for writing ever since she was a young girl and how it bloomed into a legacy of love, as the Recipe Detective; investigator of the secrets of the food industry. Mom loved to tell everyone that, for her, writing made a worthwhile living, but it also made living worthwhile.

#ThankGodItsMondayDay

NationalDayCalendar.com suggests that we… “Stop shaming Monday and look at what Monday has to offer… 52 CHANCES to see a beautiful sunrise… share your talents with the world… teach someone a new skill that will better their lives… of meeting new people.” This year, I will see it as 52 CHANCES to tell Mom’s story, again; hopefully, re-inspiring love in the kitchen, in the home and family, throughout the neighborhood and around the world… for, as Mom loved to recite: “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.”

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in excerpts from…

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

EXPERIENCES & MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The experiences, [which] we have encountered in building this family enterprise of ours, this cottage industry that has been our [family’s] only source of income since August 1976, have occurred while distributing recipe secrets through radio broadcasting, [TV] and newspaper exposure and our own publishing efforts. If someone can benefit from our experiences, all the better! Mostly, though, this is just a story of our family… and how we made a dent in the hard shell of the publishing industry… (p. 2)

All of this should have started somewhere, at a particular place in my life, because most important things DO have MEMORABLE BEGINNINGS. But I’m hard put to come up with that one event, that singular moment, when I knew that our Secret RecipesTM would touch other people, not just across the country but [also] across the world. And, in doing so, would make a difference. That’s what really counts – doing something that will make a difference for the good of others. (p. 7)

EXPERIENCES & PLAGIARISM

There are paperbacks that attempt to imitate what we are doing and some that down-right plagiarized our recipes; [every] period, paragraph and semi-colon. It appears that the publishers who started out to ‘borrow’ my work, and even those who deliberately swiped it from me, didn’t give me much credit for knowing how to stop them. After all, a housewife in a [small] town in Michigan…who mimeographs her [own] books in her laundry room [and sells] them at [the] dry cleaners and neighborhood butcher shop, couldn’t be a threat.

This is all perfectly true! I did, indeed, mimeograph my books in the beginning; and I did, indeed, sell them at the Algonac Meat Store and the dry cleaners, in the Quonset hut down the road from us. At least once a week, maybe more often than this, I am asked how I got into this business, how it all started and how somebody can write their own book and get it published.

If there were a formula for our kind of success… I would be most happy to share the information; but, since there is no clear-cut formula, I can only give you some of the memorable highlights of our life since our Secret RecipesTM became our only means of income and, if from these personal and special recollections, somebody can derive some good, all the more power to them! Isn’t that why we are all here anyway – to bare each other’s burdens, to help and to care? I hope so! (p. 14)

‘I felt as if the hand of Providence had poured me out a blessing and it was pressed down, shaken together and running over.’ – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 15)

EXPERIENCES & SUCCESS

The experiences that comprise the success and longevity of our Secret RecipesTM include some very wonderful people who have gone out of their way to make it easy for us to present our work to the public…[as] over the years it has been, not a job but a joy to continue investigating the secrets of the food industry, combining this information and recipes with the logic of the heart, the food for thought [and] food for the table. It continues to arouse interest and delight [among], both, our readers and radio listeners all over the country, as well as the world. (p. 15)

Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Dorothy Comstock Riley said, best, what I feel about my own past when she… described hers: ‘…by nature, I am not inclined to look back and second guess why things happened. Guessing other people’s motivations exhausts your energy but, by working hard and becoming passionately involved, you might be able to succeed at what you want.’ (p. 17)

‘While I always spiced [my] columns with humor, I tried to make a point in each that would emphasize that we [should] care about each other [and] be more forgiving too. Whether it is cooking or companionship, my newsletters… carry articles, good thoughts and even suggestions on how to best show that we care about others.’ – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 20)

EXPERIENCES & PREPARATION

The exact chronological order, in which each of my writing experiences have occurred, are not clear in my memory now. However, each step [and] each experience was, on second thought, [neither] a delay nor a setback, as I used to believe. It was, instead, only preparation and the gathering of experience…

[Other than I, myself,] there has been no ‘real’ publisher, no public relations agent or the expensive efforts of professional promoters. [Their] ideas of how to publicize what I have to offer would only conflict with what I felt should be done. My cup runneth over because I have been blessed with an enthusiasm for promoting my own work and have been twice-blessed with the support and partnership of, probably, the most honest man in the world; who knows, from his own valuable working experiences, exactly how to manage and protect this enterprise.

All of the blessings I derived from having stumbled my way through the [not so] meaningless jobs of the many newspapers for which I once worked, eventually paid tremendous dividends, as I was able to put those learned skills into practice with this family enterprise of ours. Each bit of experience contributed to what I would, later, be able to do without the help of professionals.

EXPERIENCES & RADIO

I am blessed many times over but, when I count my blessings, I count my radio friends twice. [Even] as I share our story, with you, in these pages; you will not be able to fully appreciate the generous support that we received from radio personalities and their listeners.

While the critics snickered that my fast food imitations would run its unhealthy course in a short while [and] that my ability to turn out copy would, soon, be exhausted; I continued to look to a Divine Source for [my] daily supply of, both, energy and ideas. I have never, yet, been disappointed or without something good to share with our family of readers and our radio listeners. My cup does, indeed, run over! (p. 21)

#ThankGodItsMondayDay

Making every Monday as my memorable beginning to each week is how I plan to proceed through this new year. Remember, it’s “52 CHANCES to see a beautiful sunrise… share your talents with the world… teach someone a new skill that will better their lives… of meeting new people.” This year, for me, it’ll be 52 memories of my mom and 52 CHANCES to tell her story, again. I hope you’ll be back for each one of them!

IN CLOSING…

This year in honor of “52 Chances for Memorable Beginnings”, I want to offer you a recipe each week from Mom’s “Original 200” Secret RecipesTM collection – as these are the memorable beginnings of the Recipe DetectiveTM. The following recipe, which is a copycat of the Detroit area’s famous Greenfield’s Restaurant’s pumpkin pie, also happened to be among Mom’s “Free Sheet” recipes that she gave out in 1988.

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

Among my plans for the new year, I want to start a mini email newsletter of Mom’s “Food-for-Thought”, food-for-the-soul and food for the table.  So, stay tuned, as I will be starting an email list soon!

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 – Resolutions

Happy Monday to one and all! ‘Tis the eve of New Year’s Eve – a time that most of us spend, recalling and reminiscing about the events that happened in our lives during the past year.

As 2019 comes to an end and 2020 is about to begin, I find myself, reflecting on the goals I made and accomplished this year; like living a low-carb lifestyle and losing 50 pounds – even though I didn’t start that resolution until late March. It really doesn’t matter when you start a resolution. The important thing is to see it through and commit yourself to its eventual success. Additionally, I am considering how I can more-improve them, during the coming year. No one is perfect, nor can we ever humanly be so; but we can strive in that direction, at least.

Furthermore, this time of year, I try to remember all the goals of which I’ve fallen short, such as those related to what I want to do with this blog and website but have yet to accomplish. I make a decision to reiterate them, reasoning and resolving what went wrong, previously; then, deciding how I can do it better this time! As I see it, if I don’t own my mistakes and shortcomings, as well as my achievements, how am I to learn from and improve on any of them? Even though, as I said, real perfection is not achievable, it doesn’t mean we should quit “reaching for the moon.”

‘You never realize what a good memory you have until you try to forget something.’  – Gloria Pitzer [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 146, Sep-Oct 1990; pg. 7]

Establishing New Year’s resolutions is a commonly practiced tradition, world-wide; in which people make conscious determinations to change undesired mannerisms or behaviors, to accomplish personal goals or to, otherwise, improve their lives or the lives of others. However, according to The U.S. News’ blog (from Dec. 29, 2015), around 80% of resolutions fail by mid-February. I can attest that I, myself, have had more than a few failures in that 80-percent.

So, to improve my success of achievement, as I’m making my New Year’s resolution(s) for 2020, I’m taking the extra time to plan how to stay focused on my end-goal until it’s attained! Usually, it’s easier said than done! Creating small steps to reach a goal is always a helpful method to use. Telling others about your goals or even working on common goals with a family member, friend or group of people has been known to help, as well. Additionally, a reward system for completing each step will also improve your odds of staying focused and inspired to continue to the next step, until the final goal is reached – and, of course, the big reward, which is ACCOMPLISHMENT!

‘Success is not in never failing, but in never fearing to begin again.’ – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)

In general, most people who make resolutions, do so with the best of intentions to achieve some kind of physical self-improvement goals. Eating healthier, losing weight and getting more exercise are among the most common resolutions that people make, along with quitting bad habits like smoking and drinking soda. Even if you start a resolution and fail to follow it through to the end, remember the adages, “if, at first, you don’t succeed; try and try again” and “never quit quitting!”

There are no rules to the resolutions game – nothing to prevent you from changing deadlines, making new resolutions or reiterating the resolutions you’ve already made, which have fallen short. Most New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, abandoned at the first sign of failure. It might feel comforting to know that it’s extremely rare to keep a New Year’s resolution all year, let alone all winter. But, the rewarding feeling of ACCOMPLISHMENT, when you’ve reached the goal(s) you’ve set for yourself, can’t be beat! So, take a mulligan and continue on. Believe in yourself! The important thing, for success, is to “get back on the horse.”

If someone were to copy our so-called ‘success’, I could give them no blueprint for that condition. Each one of the little steps that we had to take to develop the kitchen table activity into a professional business operation, are like the grains of sand that the oyster requires to form a pearl. – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 25)

I’ve tried the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach many times – it just doesn’t seem to work for me in the long run. I’ve discovered, within myself, that I’m not going to change anything – not for very long anyway – if I don’t truly want to change it in the first place. It needs to be wanted from within myself and for my own satisfaction – not to please anyone else. In other words, for me, the mind-over-matter approach works best; and I have to commit to it, as well! It takes the power of positive thinking, among other things, to succeed. But, in addition, according to Mom, it’s not a “will” power that leads to any resolution’s success, it’s a “won’t” power – such as, “I won’t give up or give in” and “I won’t quit!”

‘When you’re wishing for a happier, fuller life, a life with real meaning, there’s a need to remain steadfastly receptive to intuitions & inspirations that whisper to the listening thought of hope & courage.’ – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 183 (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Nov-Dec 1997, p. 10)

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 1)

Paul and I are suddenly rattling around in a house that, just a few years ago, didn’t seem big enough for us; when all five of the kids were still home. I sometimes walk from room to room, remembering the bustle of activity when they were buzzing in and out, to and from their various activities [and] helping me to assemble the mimeographed pages of the newsletters or recipe books.

Those were good times but difficult times. We were just starting out and not knowing if what we were doing would succeed. I didn’t think about failing. I did, however, consider that succeeding might take a little longer than I originally anticipated. But I never accepted the idea of failing. I am convinced that is why we did succeed…Paul could not understand how I could continue day after day, with such untarnished enthusiasm when we were putting in so many hours and deriving so little money for it.

My siblings and I in the late ‘80s (left-to-right: Bill, Michael, Debbie, me and Cheryl)

IN CLOSING…

#BaconDay

Did you know that today, December 30th, is National Bacon Day https://nationaldaycalendar.com/bacon-day-december-30/? What an awesome food! Thus, I say, “Let’s celebrate bacon!”

Just outside of Michigan’s famous German town of Frankenmuth is the village of Birch Run, which is home to a legendary restaurant, called “Tony’s”. The restaurant is quite famous among Michiganders (and passers through) for its extra-large servings, especially when it comes to bacon! Mom & Dad went there often, when visiting the area, as do my husband and I. At peak dining hours, there is usually a line out the door, waiting to be seated. It’s worth the wait! The restaurant has a sign in one of its windows that promotes “The 12 Rules of Bacon” by which to live. I love the first one, which states, “There must always be bacon in the fridge. Always.”

I remember when I was quite young and Mom and Dad were struggling to make ends meet (before Mom began her own business), we hadn’t had bacon at breakfast for quite a long time. Bacon was one of my top favorite foods. One day, when my Grandma Carter (Mom’s mom) came for a visit, I told her that and I asked her, “Grandma, do they still make bacon?” Mom overheard me and ever since, we always had bacon at breakfast. Truth be known, it was one of Mom’s top favorite foods, as well.

In honor of #BaconDay, I highly recommend sprinkling some bits of cooked and crumbled bacon into your tomato soup (as in the recipe given above!) In addition, you can serve it up with some grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches! Plus, here’s a rerun (from June) of one of my favorite bacon snacks from Mom’s sister, my Aunt Hazel. I especially love it because I can substitute the ingredients with low-carb versions and enjoy many of them for only a couple of grams of carbohydrates. This is quite simple to make and a great finger food to serve at a New Year’s Eve party, too!

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

Happy Holidays!

Happy Monday to everyone! Likewise, happy holidays to most of us and “happy Festivus for the rest of us!”

Personally, I don’t understand why some people get so upset by the greeting, “happy holidays!” – as opposed to “Merry Christmas!” Some of those people say that the greeting takes away from the “reason for the season”, which (to them) is only Christmas and the birth of Christ.

There are other holidays going on during the same week as Christmas and they all have their own “reason for the season” too. For example, the celebration of Hanukkah, which began at sundown yesterday and continues for a week; celebrating the “Festival of Lights”, which commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Additionally, the Kwanza celebration starts this coming Thursday, along with the Amish’s “2nd Christmas” celebration, both of which go on for days! Of course, there are others who don’t celebrate any holidays at all!

Obviously, we can’t please all. As I just said, there are others who don’t celebrate any holidays, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We can’t pick them out of a crowd any more than any other person of any other faith – with the exception of if they’re wearing certain clothes that are directly associated with particular religions. Recently, I’ve seen pictures of shirts and pins on Facebook that say, “You can tell me ‘Merry Christmas!’” I guess, if it upsets you that much when someone says, “happy holidays”; then, maybe, you should invest in one of those shirts or pins and wear it every day of December.

There are many Christians and non-Christians that do not celebrate Christmas. As I mentioned, some Christian groups do not celebrate any holiday at all, as they claim that “celebrations” are pagan rituals. Additionally, there are others, Christians and non-Christians alike, who do celebrate Christmas, but not as a religious holiday. I am among the latter group who takes “part in all the holiday fun without buying into the religious aspect of it”, as discussed in another informative article, “Christian Groups that don’t Celebrate Christmas”, at TheOdysseyOnline.com.

Obviously, no one can tell, just by looking at someone, which holiday they celebrate or if they celebrate any at all. Thus, saying a generic “happy holidays” greeting covers all the bases for those who do celebrate something this season. Why do people have to be so narrow-minded and upset about it?

Mom’s mom (my Grandma Carter) was raised in the Jewish faith and converted to Christian Science when she married Mom’s dad (my Grandpa Carter.) When the holidays came around and both sides of my grandparents’ families gathered together, both holidays, Hanukkah and Christmas, were observed and celebrated in unison; without any animosity towards differences in beliefs. Instead, the focus was on the commonalities. LOVE (and food) is the universal “reason for the season” for everyone – even for those who chose not to celebrate holidays at all.

Why can’t we all just get along and respect that we are all different – with different beliefs and traditions – and, yet, the same and it’s okay! Mom wrote a story about her mom’s side of the family, the Klein’s, in her self-published book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop! (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 83-84). Below is an abbreviated version of Mom’s story about her mom’s Jewish family heritage, as I posted previously, in my blog entry, “It’s all Relative!”

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop!

(Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 83-84)

…my mother’s parents were originally German, but they were also Jews, and living in Russia at the turn of the [20th] century. It was dangerous for any Jew in Russia at that time – so much like the story of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’; my grandparents, with two small children and my grandmother expecting their third child, took a crowded freighter to America [around 1906]. They couldn’t speak a word of English and had nothing with them but what they could carry by hand.

On the way over, unfortunately, they came down with what suspected to be TB [Tuberculosis]… years later [around 1915], following the birth of their 7th child [my mom was their 4th child, born in 1909], TB finally took my grandmother. Having settled in Pittsburg, my grandfather moved on to Cleveland where he hoped to find relatives who would help him with a job and a place to raise the motherless children. It didn’t work out as he expected, however. The relatives were not where he had last contacted them.

The orphanage was over-crowded that he had been directed to, in order to leave the children and seek treatment for the TB that seemed to be getting worse for him. Having been turned away by the orphanage, he was about to leave all the children on a street corner, telling them that somebody would come along to help them, but that he had to get his train to the sanitorium that the government was sending him to for help. At that point, the nuns were passing by on their usual afternoon walk…on their way back to the Catholic orphanage down the street.

They stopped long enough to ask if they could be of help and, upon hearing the story from the older children, who spoke English, and [from my] Grandpa’s broken English, they concluded that the children needed to be cared for. They took the children to the Catholic orphanage, ensuring my grandfather that they would see to it that they went to Temple every Saturday, even though they would be in the Catholic schools and living in the dormitories with the other children.

When there was room for them at the Jewish orphanage, they would then be transferred – and the promise was kept. There, they all remained until each one turned 16 years of age… The compassion of those Catholic nuns and the care they gave the children of that Jewish immigrant, when Jews were hated as much as they ever were in this country, kept me from ever harboring feelings of prejudice toward other people due to their religious or racial backgrounds…

Happiness is a state of thought. It begins with gratitude for all we’ve already received and achieved – not with what we ‘own’ or the ‘things’… – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 5)

Consequently, like Mom, I grew up without prejudices – with an open mind to all of us being different and yet the same and that it is okay, respecting our differences. As a result, I brought my children up in the same manner – to not be prejudice and respect others’ beliefs, too.

As seen in an article, titled “How to Appreciate Diversity During the Holidays”, written by Simma Lieberman at TheBalanceCareers.com (updated April 4,2019) “Celebrating diversity and inclusiveness is about using the holiday celebration time with friends and family to build understanding and awareness of the traditions and beliefs of others.”

The following is a repeat worth repeating, from Mom’s memories, as I posted a couple of weeks ago in my blog entry, “Homemade Holidays”.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, pp. 4-5)

Breaking through the barriers of tradition, we find a spirited acceptance of new family values. Occasions have replaced celebrations. Getting together has been replaced by BEING together! Good food, comfortable conversation [and] warm hospitality have become more important to the family circle than reverence without reason, tolerance without tact, relatives without relationships!

The lovely part about Christmas for us, was always being together – with our friends, our good and dear neighbors and our relatives; in a series of activities that began with Thanksgiving and tapered off around the new year. It was hectic, but it was also many happy reunions, mixed well with spontaneous visitations that, had they been a part of the ordinary activities of the rest of the year, would not mean so much now!

The food was simple, but ample. The food, I feel, should never be more important than the guests for whom it is prepared…All of these preparations are a part of Christmas – but, not the important part. The tokens only represent the real meaning – that of loving, of letting go of old grudges, of forgetting past hurts, of looking for something good (even though you don’t see it – until you do!)

Pitzer kids, group shot – Christmas Eve, 1969

LOVE, most philosophers conclude, is the highest level of thought. It is the logic of the heart. And no other season of the calendar year seems to reflect more of this feeling…

We reach out to others – and want them, in turn, to respond to us. Some of us do it with gifts that we buy or make and some of us do it with social gestures of food and hospitality. While all of these traditions are renewed at this particular time of the year, the critics complain and the cynics look for reasons to begrudge us the pleasure of LOVING the season, renewing the fellowship of it – with family, friends and neighbors.

But that’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be surprised by the criticisms that try to take some of the joy out of the holiday traditions we follow – or create for ourselves. There are always critics, unfortunately, for those occasions in our lives when we wish to be glad about something…

So, on with the celebration – whether we choose to keep it quietly in our own personal fashion of religious customs, or whether we choose to make it festive and pronounced with the traditions of gifts and food. The point is, we are celebrating the season of hope… It’s a time for LOVING – for expressing it [and] for offering it to others! How can something like that not be good!

Our own traditions have not been very elaborate in our family, during the…season; but, the things we have always done to make the holiday more enjoyable, brought us pleasure. So, we have continued with them. Whether you choose to follow traditions or to create some of your own, the underlying meaning is still there to express joy and LOVE – that incredible, curious logic of the heart!

The legend of Santa Claus has been around, in many forms, since as early as the 4th century. Every year, for centuries, American society has promoted the story of Santa Claus! I have found that many Christians who believe the “reason for the season” is to celebrate the birth of Christ also bring up their children to believe in the story of Santa Claus. Many theologists debate if December 25th is even Christ’s true birthday.

To me, the selfless “Santa-Like” giving is the “reason for the season.” As Mom often said, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” For whatever your reason to celebrate the season, if you do so, just be you and respect that we, all, are not just like you! Rejoice in your family and friends and neighbors and co-workers, as well as the strangers you have yet to meet. Peace, love and joy to you all!

IN CLOSING…

Today is the eve of Christmas Eve – for those who celebrate Christmas – time to wrap up the baking, candy-making and last minute gifts. These little treats are quick and great to have around, during the holidays, to offer guests who drop by…

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

Did you know…

…“When did Christians begin to celebrate Christmas?” – Check out the answer at http://www.hcna.us/columns/history-of-christmas.htm!

…“President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a legal holiday in 1870.” – Check out the story at https://www.americanfreedombybarbara.com/2013/12/congress-declared-christmas-to-be-legal.html!

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, instantly, in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253. Great for last minute gifts – literally!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Cover it in Chocolate!

Happy Monday! Today is December 16th and time to celebrate National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day! Although there is no history to be found about the who-when-and-why of the holiday’s origin, it’s still a wonderful concept to celebrate – especially during the coming holidays!

There are many national holidays that celebrate chocolate – and why not? It’s probably the most enjoyed flavor of all-time! You can make just about anything, food or drink, taste better by adding or covering it in chocolate (bacon, too – but, that’s another celebration.)

Stress wouldn’t be so hard to take if it were chocolate-covered. – Origin un-known

Nonetheless, it seems like it’s only during the winter holidays that you can find the really good “specialty items” that are covered in chocolate and ready for unique gift-giving (even if it’s only to yourself) – spoons covered in fancy chocolate designs (for stirring into your hot coffee or cocoa); pretzels, crackers, cookies and fruit to name a few examples that are dipped into special chocolate-coatings that harden as they cool.

However, we don’t have to wait for the holidays to enjoy anything that’s covered in chocolate. You’d be surprised at how easy and quick some of those “specialty”, chocolate-covered treats are to make – thus, maybe, add some to your homemade holidays (as I discussed in last week’s blog entry – of the same name!) They make great gifts for friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, care-givers and so on. Again, as I did in that blog entry, I highly recommend Pinterest for a wide-variety of great ideas and inspiration from which to unsheathe!

Michiganders know all about the creamy, luscious, milk chocolate covered delights that are created by Sanders’ Chocolatiers! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times – Mom was a big chocolate-lover! Especially, when it came to the confections made by Michigan’s finest chocolatiers at Sanders Candy! The official Sanders story can be found at https://www.sanderscandy.com/about-us.

Way back when… during Mom’s radio show interviews across the country, as the Recipe DetectiveTM, she often heard requests for Sanders’ treats from listeners who were re-located Michiganders that couldn’t enjoy Sanders Candy where they were now living. Of course, nowadays, we have the internet and we can order just about anything we want, from just about anywhere, and have it all delivered to our doorsteps! But, sometimes, homemade is just better.

Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. – Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump)

I’m sure everyone has some childhood memories of special chocolate delicacies, which tickle them with feelings of love, content and comfort. According to an article by Richard Davies, called 10 Amazing Facts about Chocolate, it is widely believed that chocolate consumption releases a chemical into your body, which is very similar to what is produced when you’re in love.

Other fun facts I found about chocolate, in that article, include…

Did you know that…

…chocolate is lower in caffeine than tea, coffee and Coca-Cola?

…chocolate contains antioxidants which may help prevent cancer and heart disease?

…the shelf life of a bar of chocolate is approximately one year?

For some more fun facts, I found the following information, below, in an article, called 10 Fun Facts about Chocolate, at RighteouslyRawChocolate.com. However, I didn’t see an author listed for whom to give credit.

Additionally, did you know that…

…chocolate comes from the beans of a fruit tree?

… each cacao tree produces approximately 2,500 beans?

…it takes about 400 cocoa beans to make one pound of chocolate?

[FYI – that equals 6.25 pounds of chocolate produced per tree.]

… a farmer must wait four to five years for a cacao tree to produce its first beans?

… chocolate has over 600 flavor compounds?

What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate. – Katharine Hepburn

When Mom developed her first copycat version of Sanders’ Hot Fudge Sauce, in the mid-1970’s era, it was part of her “original 200” copycat recipes that launched her career as the Recipe DetectiveTM. Sanders was one of a handful of companies that were flattered (rather than infuriated) by Mom’s imitations and she became great friends with the Sanders family, in the process.

A secret Mom discovered, in replicating the creaminess and flavor of Sanders’ hot fudge sauce, was to use Nestle brand milk chocolate, as no other brought the same taste and texture that she was trying to achieve. I’ve shared a couple of Mom’s copycat versions of Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce in the “Recipes” tab on this website. Her hot fudge sauce was always one of our family’s top 10 favorite treats from her homemade copycat creations!

#ChocolateCoveredAnythingDay

You can use the hot fudge sauce to cover ice cream, brownies or pies – to name a few. Likewise, you can dip cookies or chunks of fruit into the sauce, like a fondue! It all sounds like the makings for a party to me! I wish I could indulge in the real thing. I probably miss Mom’s hot fudge sauce more than any other treat that she made.

#ChocolateCoveredAnythingDay

I have a lot of great childhood memories of when Mom created her homemade, copycat versions of Sanders’ special treats for our family – and it was especially fun to help her make the hot fudge sauce! I remember, as well, when I made this treat with my own kids, when they were small – and it was a big treat for all of us to have Sanders style hot fudge sundaes! In honor of National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day, here is Mom’s favorite make-alike version of their hot fudge sauce:

HOT FUDGE SAUCELike Sanders

By Gloria Pitzer

[Recipe Number 1my own favorite!]

INGREDIENTS:

14-ounce can Eagle Brand milk

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

¼ pound butter*

(*per the “free sheet” directions; the cookbook – as it was written in 1983 – calls for ½ pound)

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

a few drops vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS:

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

AGAIN, FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

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

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.

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sander’s products and, I learned, encouraged many out-of-state orders for their products whenever I talked about them during my frequent radio visits around the country. As the slogan for Sanders’ Restaurants, Bakery and Candy company said, ‘When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…’

When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big treat. – Sanders’ Candy Co.

As I said in my blog entry on July 1st, “Sanders doesn’t just create chocolate delights – while they do have a large variety of products – the best things that they create are the memories!” Here is another memory from Mom about the Sanders family, as seen in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 256).

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

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. – Charles M. Schulz

From song to movie to soap opera titles, we’ve heard how “love is a many-splendored thing.” Oddly enough, many people find love and happiness in chocolate. Mom often demonstrated how to make her version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, when she appeared on various talk shows over the decades, because it’s so quick and easy – and one of her most requested recipes.

As with her fudge sauce imitation, Mom determined that Hershey’s brand chocolate (of course) is the best chocolate with which to re-create their peanut butter cups at home. In fact, this is another one of our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s homemade treats and it, too, was part of her “original 200” copycat recipes!

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

As I mentioned earlier, only a handful of companies, like Sanders Candy, were flattered by Mom’s efforts at imitating their products… In fact, the Hershey corporation happened to be a slight mixture of, both, frustrated and flattered. At first, their 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”, they said; inferring lawsuits would follow if she didn’t cooperate.

Then, Mom explained to the Hershey corporation the meaning behind her title and the use of the word recess (as in a retreat). She also offered to only use and promote Hershey’s chocolate in her recipe. The Hershey corporation was agreeable to, both, Mom’s explanation and offer…and they lived happily ever after!

So, with National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day and the up-coming holiday celebrations in mind, I’d like to re-share with you Mom’s make-a-like version of the famous peanut butter cups that she called “Recess Peanut Butter Cups”; again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Caramels are only a fad. Chocolate is a permanent thing. – Milton Hershey

IN CLOSING…

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

The Christmas pie (above) would taste even more awesome covered in chocolate! PLUS…

FOR A GREAT GIFT-GIVING IDEA…

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 – Homemade Holidays

Happy Monday! Did you know that today, December 9th, is National Pastry Day? Thus, it’s a great time to make those special holiday pies and tarts! In honor of this day, at the end of this blog entry, I’m including Mom’s favorite butter pie crust recipe (which, originally, came from her mom; but Mom thought it was a great imitation of the Baker’s Square product). I posted it in one of my early blog entries and it can also be found on the “Recipes” tab of this web site.

Debates are going on as to whether traditions are a joy to continue or a chore. There’s a great article about that very thing at https://sixtyandme.com/what-are-your-favorite-christmas-memories-and-traditions/. I just finished filling out my traditional Christmas cards this weekend and, like Mom, it started out with lots of joy and excitement and wishes for the receivers but, about half way through my address book, I started feeling like it was a chore; thus, my notes and wishes became shorter and shorter. As seen in last week’s blog entry [*with an additional paragraph added to it this week]…

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 3)

Sending Christmas cards has always been a favorite tradition in our house. In 28 years, we only sent store-bought cards twice. Every Christmas, other than that, we made our cards. That was the one important tradition we followed – and still do…

What usually happened was that we had every good intention of confining our list to those who really were important to us [and] who we rarely saw during the rest of the year… I like to put newsy little notes inside that would bring old friends up to date with what we had been doing since we sent them our last Christmas card.

…I am one of those annoying sentimentalists who will, too, read every word of the long, newsy Christmas letters and the page-by-page accounts of how our friends have been doing since the last Christmas.

*Christmas cards for our family have always found us writing newsy notes to those on our list, alphabetically, from the Andreason’s to the Groff’s [names]… I manage to tell them about the five kids, but before I am through the names on our list that begin with ‘H’, I’ve run out of synonyms for IMPOSSIBLE! From the Hudson’s through Zillich, I find that my newsy little notes have usually dwindled to just plain ‘Hi!’

I don’t know if fewer cards are being sent at Christmas since postage became so expensive – or if we simply don’t know that many people. The tradition, however, seems to be fading…

After writing about traditions in last week’s blog entry (titled the same), I couldn’t turn off the memories of my childhood holidays and all the traditions, including all the things that Mom usually made by hand just to make the season more special for all of us. It’s no secret that, before Secret RecipesTM took off, money was usually tight for our family of seven (nine, if you count the dog and cat!) Therefore, a lot of what we enjoyed during the holidays – be it greeting cards, food, gifts, decorations, clothes, etc. – was homemade simply to ease the budget.

Between Mom making our “treats” budget stretch and requests from her readers (when she was writing newspaper columns that focused on homemakers), that’s what inspired the “legend” we came to know as the Recipe DetectiveTM! Mom loved to imitate famous foods from famous places so we could enjoy eating out – right at home and at less of a cost! Homemade fast food and junk food – who’d have thought…!

Mom & Phil Donahue, during her 2nd appearance on his show. (1993)

As it turned out, there were millions of people who wanted to learn how to do the same for their families and they learned it from Mom, first. Now, there are all kinds of “copycats” who copied the ORIGINAL COPYCAT… yet, none of them give her the proper credit she deserves for having inspired them. The biggest culprit is Todd Wilbur, who continues to lie about from where he got his inspiration – saying it was from a Mrs. Field’s cookie recipe, but it was actually from one of Mom’s cookbooks that he ordered after her FIRST appearance on the Phil Donahue Show. Anyway, out of that rabbit hole and on to…

My childhood memories of by-gone holidays took me back to Mom’s (and Grandma’s) homemade holiday treats – such as the traditional rum-soaked fruitcake, bite-sized squares of Christmas fudge, little pastry tarts, a wide-variety of cookies and pies, hot fudge sauce, chunks of peanut brittle and, of course, the candy-covered gingerbread house.

All the memories and missing my parents have me craving the old-fashioned (and priceless) homemade holidays. When my own children were growing up and money was tight for our family, as well, we would often have homemade holidays. I still treasure all the artwork and ceramic/clay creations that my kids made for me every holiday.

Likewise, I remember Mom’s homemade gifts more often than any of the store-bought ones. My all-time favorite was a “rag” doll she made for me from scraps of material, yarn, ribbons and buttons. Oh, how I wish I still had it! Now, in hind-sight, I realize just how much love Mom poured into all of our homemade holidays.

I must say, I miss the treats immensely! Maybe I pine for them so much because I can’t have those kinds of things any longer – not if I want to continue controlling my weight and sugar levels and, thereby, my health, as well. As the old idiom imparts, “absence makes the heart grow fonder!” This holiday season, I’m determined to find ways to imitate my favorite treats in some low-carb way so that I can enjoy them once again!

The cards, treats and gifts weren’t the only things that were homemade. So were many decorations. I mentioned in my blog entries, many times, that Mom was very crafty. I remember some Christmas crafts Mom would do with us kids, back in the 1970s, making angels out of her old Reader’s Digest magazines and ornaments out of homemade salt dough.

Me and Mom – 1971 & 2016

At Christmas time, I liked to do those crafts with my children when they were little, as well. Together, we also collected various kinds of pine cones and branches, chestnuts and acorns – all with which to make winter bird feeders, wreaths and garland. We also strung popcorn to wrap around the christmas tree like garland.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book

(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, pp. 4-5)

Breaking through the barriers of tradition, we find a spirited acceptance of new family values. Occasions have replaced celebrations. Getting together has been replaced by BEING together! Good food, comfortable conversation [and] warm hospitality have become more important to the family circle than reverence without reason, tolerance without tact, relatives without relationships!

The lovely part about Christmas for us, was always being together – with our friends, our good and dear neighbors and our relatives; in a series of activities that began with Thanksgiving and tapered off around the new year. It was hectic, but it was also many happy reunions, mixed well with spontaneous visitations that, had they been a part of the ordinary activities of the rest of the year, would not mean so much now!

The food was simple, but ample. The food, I feel, should never be more important than the guests for whom it is prepared…All of these preparations are a part of Christmas – but, not the important part. The tokens only represent the real meaning – that of loving, of letting go of old grudges, of forgetting past hurts, of looking for something good (even though you don’t see it – until you do!)

Pitzer kids, group shot – Christmas Eve, 1969

LOVE, most philosophers conclude, is the highest level of thought. It is the logic of the heart. And no other season of the calendar year seems to reflect more of this feeling, this consolation to our woes, than the season of Christmas!

We reach out to others – and want them, in turn, to respond to us. Some of us do it with gifts that we buy or make and some of us do it with social gestures of food and hospitality. While all of these traditions are renewed at this particular time of the year, the critics complain and the cynics look for reasons to begrudge us the pleasure of loving the season, renewing the fellowship of it – with family, friends and neighbors.

But that’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be surprised by the criticisms that try to take some of the joy out of the holiday traditions we follow – or create for ourselves. There are always critics, unfortunately, for those occasions in our lives when we wish to be glad about something…

So, on with the celebration – whether we choose to keep it quietly in our own personal fashion of religious customs, or whether we choose to make it festive and pronounced with the traditions of gifts and food. The point is, we are celebrating the season of hope… It’s a time for loving – for expressing it [and] for offering it to others! How can something like that not be good!

Our own traditions have not been very elaborate in our family, during the Christmas season; but, the things we have always done to make the holiday more enjoyable, brought us pleasure. So, we have continued with them. Whether you choose to follow traditions or to create some of your own, the underlying meaning is still there to express joy and LOVE – that incredible, curious logic of the heart!

You really don’t need to be crafty to create a homemade holiday celebration with anything and everything from food to gifts to decorations. Barely more than a few decades ago, home computers were not a common thing – having a complete set of encyclopedias (in hard copy) was a must – we didn’t have the endless concepts, floating around the internet, like you have currently.

Nowadays, ideas and instructions for making just about anything and everything can be found on the world wide web by typing just a few key words into a search box. The knowledge of the world is, literally, at our finger tips! Pinterest is usually my first go-to-source for ideas and inspirations on the web, but I also like to use Bing, Google and YouTube, as well.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

My favorite inexpensive, homemade gift ideas use a Mason jar! Any size or style you choose, these jars are so versatile – and reusable too! They can be filled with dry mix ingredients and a recipe card for making/baking the product. They can be filled with natural elements (like pine sprigs, cinnamon, etc.) for potpourri that can be simmered in a pot of water on the stove. They can be filled with homemade soaps or salves – there are so many “how to” sites on the web, from which to gather many inspirations and instructions.

Pinterest is my favorite “search engine” for inspiration and ideas that I can’t find in my mom’s books, first. My own personal page at Pinterest, ldemerich(which I started years ago), can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/ldemerich and has quite an eclectic collection of boards; while the OFFICIAL page of The Recipe DetectiveTM (which represents Mom, her last cookbook and her website) can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective. Keep in mind – that page is still building up boards and is a continuous work in progress (WIP), as is this website, as well.

IN CLOSING…

#NationalPastryDay

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

Either form (or both) will make GREAT Christmas gifts!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Traditions

Happy Monday, belated! I apologize for missing my normal Monday deadline. I ran up north on Black Friday, with a couple of girlfriends, to see another girlfriend for an impromptu “Friends-giving” celebration. The weather forecast was calling for only a light dusting to an inch of snow but, of course, this is Michigan; and we ended up getting snowed in, with about 6-8 inches of snow and ice and no internet. But, now, let’s get on with this week’s blog…

I’m a lover of traditions. When I look back on my childhood, so many of my favorite memories involved our family’s holiday traditions. Mom and Dad succeeded at creating a lot of very special memories for me and my siblings. That’s why, after having children of my own, I always tried to carry on those traditions. We even added a few new ones over the years that have since continued.

Every year, world-wide, hundreds of millions of people commemorate the Christmas holiday in so many different ways. Christmas celebrations, traditions, customs and beliefs are incredibly diverse in America, alone, because we‘re a big melting-pot-nation; where numerous nationalities, and traditions thereof, can come together in harmony, melding multiple old traditions into new ones.

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… – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov-Dec 1990, Issue #147, p. 8)

According to Holiday Traditions of the United States…, while the tradition of “feasting” during the holidays is characteristic of all nations, with only the menus being different. We get many of our current combined traditions from our diverse ancestors who immigrated here from so many different countries, bringing their customs with them.

For example, as the article (mentioned above) explains, a lot of our Christmas carols came from England and Australia, whereas the decorated evergreens are a German influence. The man in the red suit that we know as Santa Claus (aka: St. Nicholas or St. Nick), originated in Scandinavia and his arrival down the chimney to fill stockings with fruit and nuts is reminiscent of the Netherlands. Additionally, Santa’s sleigh, being drawn by reindeer, began in Switzerland; and our annual holiday parades may have been inspired by the Latin processions.

Over the years, America’s influence has fattened up Scandinavia’s red-suited “jolly old St. Nicholas” and blended all the different traditions so that he magically came down everyone’s chimney on Christmas Eve, leaving gifts and stockings filled with treats. Additionally, he arrived and departed in a sleigh drawn by eight tiny reindeer – as in the classic holiday story, ‘Twas the Night before Christmas – then, later, a ninth reindeer, with a shiny red nose, was added.

‘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 [the] trivial… And always appreciating what we’ve already received before we can expect to receive more.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov-Dec 1990, Issue #147, p. 1)

Do you have a traditional Christmas Eve dinner and/or Christmas Day breakfast (or brunch)? As I was growing up, my family celebrated both, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For years, now, my husband and I have been hosting a Christmas Day Brunch for our families. Offering up a Christmas toast with a glass of homemade eggnog (or some kind of festive drink), is another tradition that many follow during the holiday meal gatherings.

Mom and Santa 2016

Another holiday tradition that I continued from my parents’ influence, as they did from their parents, is mailing out season’s greeting cards to all of our family and friends, along with little notes on them. However, Mom almost always made our family’s holiday greeting cards and every year they were different and special, with news and highlights about our past year and hopes for the coming year; sometimes, adding a recipe.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 3)

Sending Christmas cards has always been a favorite tradition in our house. In 28 years, we only sent store-bought cards twice. Every Christmas, other than that, we made our cards. That was the one important tradition we followed – and still do…

What usually happened was that we had every good intention of confining our list to those who really were important to us [and] who we rarely saw during the rest of the year… I like to put newsy little notes inside that would bring old friends up to date with what we had been doing since we sent them our last Christmas card.

…I am one of those annoying sentimentalists who will, too, read every word of the long, newsy Christmas letters and the page-by-page accounts of how our friends have been doing since the last Christmas.

I don’t know if fewer cards are being sent at Christmas since postage became so expensive – or if we simply don’t know that many people. The tradition, however, seems to be fading…

Hanukkah – Christmas, Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

December, and all the holidays within it, was probably Mom’s favorite time of every year. ‘Tis the season of Faith, Hope and Love! ’Tis the season of sentimentalists, as well. Mom said, in the memory above, ‘I am one of those annoying sentimentalists’… I don’t find it annoying to be a sentimentalist, as Mom wrote about (above) and I never have – but, then again, I’m in that sentimentalist club too! And what’s so wrong with being a sentimentalist? I think it’s a good thing to be affected and motivated by feelings of tenderness, sadness, happiness or nostalgia!

‘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 RecipesTM Quarterly, Winter 94/95.

American Christmas Traditions, by Robin Bickerstaff Glover, (Updated 03/20/19) lists many of the same wonderful traditions that my family has followed for decades and does so, still. Besides sending out the annual Christmas cards, as I mentioned above, I remember, as a kid, helping Dad put together our artificial Christmas tree and then decorating it with Mom after Dad put the lights on the tree. It was always a family event, hanging the ornaments, candy canes and tinsel. We know a few families who traditionally go to a tree farm on Thanksgiving weekend to pick out a real Christmas tree.

Other decorations that our family put up included Mom’s Christmas village and our empty stockings that were magically filled on Christmas morning with fruit and candy and little trinkets, while the plate of cookies and carrots that we left out for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve was always found empty on Christmas morning. A new tradition I want to start for my family is giving everyone a new ornament in their stocking each year.

A lot of my favorite Christmas decorations are simple, homemade items. Including my tree. I’ve always loved being kind of crafty, because I’ve never had a lot of money to spend on beautiful, store-bought decorations. Often, I’ve made my own wreaths and garland out of natural items from my backyard evergreens. I made my own artificial tree out of a large tomato cage and faux pine garland, with real pine cones, a string of lights and my ornament collection. When I don’t have ideas of my own, like the tree, Pinterest is one of my “go-to” sources for fresh ideas on decorations to make, myself. I also love walking through all the craft fairs for more ideas.

Initially inspired by Mom’s Christmas village, I started collecting my own village pieces over 30 years ago, when I was selling Home Interiors & Gifts. I’ve been collecting pieces from many different manufacturers, since then, and I love putting it all together every year – I’ve never set it up the same way twice, as I usually add a new building each year, along with a few new figurines and accessories. The village has grown quite large over the past 3 decades, with all the different styles, sizes and manufacturers. I need to trim it down to, at least, the styles and sizes that are most alike. I feel a yard sale is going to be necessary next spring!

As a child, growing up, and as an adult, with my own family, there were always many kinds of Christmas treats to make during the holidays such as cookies, fudge and a candy-covered gingerbread house, to name a few. I always loved helping to decorate the sugar cookies and gingerbread houses that Mom made every year, with all the different candies and frosting! My kids enjoyed that too and, now, my daughter, Tara, enjoys making holiday cookies and other treats with her son.

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

Along with decorating the house for the eyes to enjoy, traditional Christmas songs were usually playing on the stereo to please the ears. In addition, Mom always had scents for the nose to enjoy as well. When she wasn’t cooking or baking, Mom often had a simmering pot of homemade potpourri on the stove to give off all the scents of the season.

To make sure your house smells like Christmas, follow this tip I love from DaringToLiveFully.com at https://daringtolivefully.com/christmas-traditions: “Place 4 to 6 cups of water in a pot on the stove. Add orange peels (from 1 or 2 oranges), 3 to 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon of whole cloves and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. If you want to get fancy you can add cranberries and some ginger. Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce the heat so it is left to simmer.” I enjoy it because it’s very much like Mom’s homemade potpourri.

We usually attended at least one Christmas party a year that was geared towards the whole family, with great food, eggnog and punch. While the adults socialized, the kids would get to do some holiday crafts, sing Christmas carols, listen to someone read the classic story, ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, see Santa Claus and receive a special gift – early! We also drove through town, in the evening, to see all of the beautiful light displays. I think I enjoyed the Christmas parties and driving through town to see all the Christmas lights as much as a child as I did as a parent, taking my own children.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer

I followed a lot of the same traditions with my kids, when they were growing up, that my parents did with me and my siblings, plus some! Another tradition I enjoyed as much as a child as I did as a parent was when we’d eat popcorn and watch the old classic, holiday movies like “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”; plus, the newer classics (with my own kids) like “Home Alone,” “The Santa Clause” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. We also would string some of that popcorn to hang on the Christmas tree like garland.

Shopping is known to be a tradition for many people, but not one we really followed. A lot of families will spend their entire Thanksgiving holiday, camping out at some toy or electronic-type store to get the BIG Black Friday deals. Although, many see it as their family tradition, others believe that the holiday season has become too commercialized. The original, unselfish tradition of just GIVING has seemingly disappeared.

Nevertheless, we always hear about the many wonderful stories of “Secret Santas”, who paid-off peoples’ layaway-purchases or paid for someone else’s meal, while in line at a fast food place. Other stories often tell of someone, at a sit-down-style restaurant, having given their waiter/waitress a really big tip for the holidays. Start the ball rolling on a “Pay-It-Forward” chain, yourself, and help spread some holiday cheer in your town.

Some older traditions seem to have fallen to the wayside with the newer generations, like dressing up for the holiday. I remember Mom making all of us girls matching outfits for the holidays or other special event (like a wedding). After all, you know there are going to be photos taken and, possibly, a video recording made. Why wouldn’t you want to look your best?

Photo by Gloria Pitzer

No matter what your favorite Christmas tradition is, the most important thing to keep in mind this season is to simply MAKE MEMORIES with those you love – ones that will be cherished for years to come! Copy and celebrate some old traditions and continue creating at least one new traditions each year to share with your family and friends. Wikipedia.org says that imitation is a form of social learning that leads to the development of traditions.

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. Last year, I started a cookie exchange tradition with my girlfriends. I hope we can do it again in a couple of weeks or so.

As for me and my husband, our families’ gift exchanges have changed over the years. The old tradition focused more on the gifts and knowing exactly what the recipient wanted, while our new tradition of turning the exchange into a game focuses more on having fun and spending time together. In the end, years from now, the fun is probably what we’ll remember most when we share our memories of “Christmas Past”; not what we gave or received as gifts.

IN CLOSING…

To kick off the holidays, enjoy Mom’s homemade Kahlua-style liquor. Keep in mind, this isn’t something you can make and serve right away. Plan ahead because this needs to “sit” for at least 2 weeks before serving – but it’s so worth the wait!

Border artwork by 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 – Giving Thanks and Appreciation

Happy Monday to all! Just a few more days until Thanksgiving! Are you ready for it?

Being thankful and appreciative is as much a part of the preparation for Thursday’s big celebration as the righteous bird and all the trimmings that will sit in the middle of our tables as we gather together, with family and friends, to feast and be joyful. So, again, I ask, “Are you ready?”

Have you paused to consider GIVING thanks – not only in prayer before your Thursday meal but also directly to everyone you come in contact with throughout the week? Think about GIVING a thank you to your cashier at the busy grocery store this week and to the stocking clerk that found an item for which you were looking; to the person who delivers your mail, to the people who collect your weekly trash and to the officers that protect your neighborhood, daily – just to name a few.

The list can be endless, but it takes only two seconds to say, “thank you”; and only three seconds to say, “I appreciate you.” Everyone appreciates appreciation, so take five seconds to GIVE thanks AND appreciation to the “peeps” in your “village” for whatever they do in and around your life. So, as to not forget anyone, I suggest (as in Mom’s story of Maya Angelou – below) you get a yellow pad of paper and make a list of all those to whom you are thankful.

Mom’s faith was always a part of her writing AND her writing was always a part of her faith, as she journaled about it daily. In fact, Mom wrote a story on page 10 of her newsletter’s Winter 1994/95 issue about how Maya Angelou was even more of an influence in her faith-journaling. The re-inspiration came from a 1993 interview Maya had with David Holstrom of “The Christian Science Monitor”.

As Mom wrote about it, Maya had gone “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.”

Mom told of how Maya’s teacher gave her a yellow pad of paper and told her to write down all of her blessings on it. But, apparently, that was not the answer Maya wanted to hear. Her teacher insisted and, also, suggested that she start there – with the fact that she could hear him and, then, that she could see the page and that she could hold the pen and so on and so forth.

Mom added that Maya had said, in her interview with Mr. Holstrom, “Before I reached the end of the page, 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.” Mom was eternally thankful to Maya for the renewed inspiration in gratitude!

My mom was a very devout Christian – born and bred in Christian Science, with Jewish and Lutheran influences, as well. No matter what the problems and struggles Mom faced, she never lost her faith in “God’s plan”. As her parents raised her, Mom would always try to find something in every situation from which to learn and, also, for which to be grateful. Mom not only wrote about her faith in her personal journals but also in her cookbooks and newsletters. She shared it publicly and openly, with hopes to help and inspire others who may be facing their own trials and tribulations.

Happiness is a state of thought. It begins with gratitude for all we’ve already received and achieved – not with what we ‘own’ or the ‘things’… – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 5)

I believe that gratitude is the simplest and, yet, most priceless gift that you can give anyone at any time! A smile and a down-to-earth “thank you” and “I appreciate you” can have a rippling effect and these humble gestures WILL go far; thus, spread the cheer! Most people just don’t understand the “madness” that happens on “the other side of the fence”, in the restaurant and/or retail industries (unless they’ve worked in it), during the big shopping frenzies of the season.

I have this glass cutting board in my kitchen (pictured below) and every day, when I look at it, I feel like it’s a message from Mom to me. However, I also feel the message goes out to her, equally, as I am so thankful and appreciative for all she has given and taught me.

To Mom…Love, Me

I also feel that we should even be thankful for those whom we’ve perceived to have done us wrong in some way. Mom would always show me that we can, at least, be grateful for the learning experiences that were derived from the confrontations we faced. In one of her last newsletter issues, Mom wrote the following excerpt about being grateful – even for the struggles.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Secret RecipesTM Newsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; November 2000, p. 2)

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 in 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 [who wrote The Language of Letting Gosays [in her book], ‘Our past is a series of lessons that advance us to higher levels of living and of loving.’

Regarding: blessed with enthusiasm

Among other things, Mom was always grateful for her fans – her readers & radio show listeners – who kept her inspired with their endless requests to find the “secrets” to making this dish or that grocery product at home (and, preferably, at a lesser cost.) Mom was also very grateful to all the media sources (newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and TV talk shows) that interviewed her and wrote and talked about her new twist on recipes in the food industry, especially in the “fast food” area.

#MediaFriends

Likewise, Mom was also thankful for us, her family; for supporting and helping her in so many different ways – as office, art and promotional assistants; as well as recipe testers and taste testers. However, truth be known, Mom was especially thankful for us staying out of her hair when need be (like when she’d be doing a radio show from home)!

Mom penned her prayers, feelings, memories and hopes in journal-after-journal. She often wrote about finding the blessings in every day we’re given on Earth. Mom truly believed that – good and bad, alike – everyday had some form of a blessing within it. That’s how Mom was raised, to be grateful everyday – not just for the joyful moments, but also for what she confronted and overcame or from which she learned.

My mom believed that life’s best lessons and experiences came out of life’s biggest disappointments by learning how to turn a “let-down” into a “set-up” for something else – maybe even something better – something out there, through the window that opened when the door closed. Mom also believed that every new day is a turning point and that each experience (again, good and bad, alike) eventually contributes in some way to our growth and happiness. She called it “mixed blessings” (which became the title of one of her books in 1994) and for those things she was always thankful.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective ( Balboa Press; January 2018, p. 299)

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

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

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

THE TASTE OF THE TOWN!

WARREN PIERCE OF WJR – Radio, Detroit, was one of my first radio friends with whom I would visit on the air regularly, giving out recipe secrets from the food industry. When Warren had an evening show, we found that the listeners’ responses to the famous “make-at-home” recipes prompted some very interesting challenges. One of our annual visits was at Thanksgiving time, when we would reminisce about one of Detroit’s best-loved restaurants known as Greenfield’s. One of my favorite duplications was for their pumpkin pie, which I’ve included in this… [blog – see below]. Each time I offered Warren’s listeners one of [my] Detroit [copycat] recipes, along would come requests for even more that I had not yet investigated. So, I would check out the new eating place, taste the house specialty and return to Warren’s show with the previously requested recipe. This is how most of the recipes in my collection were originally [developed].

Myself, I will always be thankful for everything Mom has given me and taught me in my life-time with her. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I can only hope that everyone remembers those people or things for which they are thankful and, whenever possible, tell them so! As you gather around the turkey-laden-table with family and friends, try not to let the commercialism of the other up-coming holidays interfere with those heart-felt thoughts of gratefulness.

IN CLOSING…

Thank goodness for memories and for recipes that enable us to imitate our remembrances at home.’ – Gloria Pitzer

1-2-3 PUMPKIN PIE… [Like Greenfield’s]

By Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 243)

Ingredients:

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

1-pound can pumpkin

14-ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

2 eggs, well-beaten

2 tablespoons butter (or margarine)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, or to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°F and partially bake the empty crust for 10 minutes at 375°F. Combine all filling ingredients, beating thoroughly. Pour mixture into pie shell and return to oven to bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes one 9-inch pie. Serves 6 to 8.

‘The celebration of the moments worth remembering continues to have its place.’Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Quarterly (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Winter 1994/95).

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 – 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