Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happiness Is Contagious

Happy Monday everyone – and feel free to spread the happiness around, as this is #HappinessHappensMonth! Thus, #TGIM – because I happily look forward to Mondays, for they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share these memories of my mom!

Happiness means different things to different people. Furthermore, while there are those that believe otherwise, money does not really buy happiness – even though it does purchase THINGS that we enjoy temporarily, at least. Happiness is not a commodity that can be bought, sold, and/or traded. True happiness comes from deep within us and is totally free!

According to a study, conducted over a decade ago that still rings true, happiness is contagious! The study indicated that when one person is happy, the effect can spread up to three degrees in a social network; thereby, reaching family and friends, as well as family and friends of family and friends.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

#HappinessHappensMonth

It’s sort of like a virus, in that your happiness can affect the feelings of people with whom you come in contact, as well as those with whom each of them come in contact. Think about it… People whom you may never know are going to be happier tomorrow because you made someone else happy today. In turn, the same can happen to each of those people… so you can see how quickly it can spread.

Mom found a unique way to spread happiness through her renowned writings and recipes, as well as through her lesser-known cartooning. She had a contagious sense of humor and happiness about her that appealed to newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and TV talk-shows that continually requested interviews with her for four decades! The audiences were always very receptive to Mom’s “happiness virus” as well.

Mom was a pioneer, carving out An incredible new niche in the food industry with her “secret recipe” imitations that covered everything from fast food favorites, to “taboo” junk foods, to grocery store packaged products, to famous restaurant dishes, and more!

They not only made our family happy, but also millions of strangers and their families and friends, most of whom we never met, personally. But they, too, found happiness in making Mom’s copycat versions of their favorite noshing guilty-pleasures; as well as eating and sharing the creations they made!

Like Mom’s recipes, which never failed to spread happiness, I found her many humorous stories to also be contagiously happy. Mom had quite a talent for spinning a yarn. Her stories always bring a smile to my face and a laugh to my lips.

I hope that the hodge-podge of excerpts (below) from Mom’s writings about Life’s mysterious ways and how Secret RecipesTM began, step-by-step before Mom even realized it had begun… will bring you as much joy and happiness to read as it brought me to re-write it for you.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

The following excerpts can be found in…

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

THE CARTOONS & JOHN McPARTLIN

The cartoons… had been the very beginning of my work in newspapers, as I provided ‘The Roseville Community Enterprise’ and, later [in between which I was writing at the ‘Algonac Courier’], the ‘Richmond Review’ with a cartoon panel I called ‘Full House, As Kept By Gloria Pitzer’. The cartoons were published every week for four or five years.

At the same time, I was also giving another paper a panel entitled ‘Could Be Verse’, which was three or four lines of rhyme or bumper-sticker-type logic. One, for instance, read: ‘All marriages are happy… Love songs and laughter – What causes all the trouble is the living together AFTER!’

They were silly verses but fun to do at the time. From that, came [my] column entitled ‘No Laughing Matter’, which ran weekly for about six years; and, during some of that time, it was syndicated by Columbia Features out of New York. [p. 52]

AMAZING CHANGES

So, the time I spent trying to keep up with what was going on in the food industry, also included what was going on in the world in general. I wrote about everything the homemaker might be interested in, and in those days – the early 1960s and into the 1970s – women were trying to break loose from the housewife stereotype. [WLM –  Women’s Liberation Movement, which began in the late 1960s.]

It was a difficult period for those of us born during The [Great] Depression, raised during World War II and almost too young for Korea, but too old for Vietnam. The automation [evolution] that took so many jobs away from us, forced our generation into further education in order to compete.

I felt the pressure of having to keep up with the progressive community in which we lived. But little did I know, at the time, that every one of those precious experiences and semi-tribulations were actually stepping stones to a more stable lifestyle that was to come years later… [p. 52-cont’d]

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

STRETCHING FOOD & LEFT-OVERS

…We couldn’t afford anything beyond our immediate needs, at that time. And both of us came from parents who had survived The [Great] Depression of the 1930s, so we had been schooled to believe that credit was acceptable, as long as it was for [a house or] an emergency only!

If we needed something or wanted something, we would, according to the philosophy by which we had been brought up; first, save the money from what we had earned and then, go out and buy what we could afford. So our needs, 20 years ago [in 1969], were rather basic and included house payments, insurance, gas for the station wagon to get Paul to his job in the city all week and for our utilities.

Last but not least, if there was anything left over, [it went towards] groceries. Sometimes the groceries even had to wait a week or so and we’d make do with what we had… I would, then, learn how to do more with less. I learned how to mix the less-expensive reconstituted dry milk with regular whole milk, adding a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of sugar to each quart. The kids didn’t like it, especially compared to what they called ‘real’ milk; but, if I put it through the blender when combining the milk powder and water and refrigerated it all night, they accepted it without grumbles. [p. 30]

HOMEMADE GROCERIES & ‘PITZER PATTER’

It was during those ‘doing-more-with-less’ years that I also learned how to make the margarine mixture from canned milk and a number of other ingredients that gave me a product equal to anything at the store but for a fraction of the cost.

My recipe files were, then, beginning to grow in my aptitude for trying to develop new combinations of ingredients to produce a specific dish or food product was being energetically pursued due to necessity. When I figured how to camouflage 3 pounds of hamburger so that we could live on it for a whole week, not eating the same thing twice, I knew I was blessed. I wanted to share all of this great information with others. The opportunity was close at hand!

At that particular time, most of the information went into a newsy column I wrote for Charles Hasse’s ‘Algonac Courier’, which I called ‘Pitzer Patter’. Amid the gossip of who was going to Florida and who had just returned [and] what the schools were doing to celebrate the next holiday, I would tuck in these recipe ideas and they were so well-received [by the readers] that it was a cinch I would become ‘hooked’ on recipes sooner or later. [p. 31]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

JOHN McPARTLIN & THE ‘RICHMOND REVIEW’

My column at the ‘Algonac Courier’ was not exactly what the publisher wanted, but that did not defeat me either. When he indicated he was thinking of dropping the column, I called John McPartlin, who was, then, the editor of the ‘Richmond Review’, a paper that was beginning to compete with Algonac for the same reading area.

Since I had worked for John when he was at ‘The Roseville Community Enterprise’ while we were living in the Mt. Clemens area, I felt certain he would be able to use my work. And he did use it. He even paid me more than I was getting at the Algonac paper with many more opportunities there to learn various skills that have since contributed to the self-sufficiency of our present operation. [p. 41]

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

THE CARTOONS & FAMILY TALENTS

I didn’t “draw”. I doodled. The rest of my family could draw. My uncle, Earl Klein, is a celebrated artist in Southern California, who has spent most of his professional life with Walt Disney, Hanna-Barbera and other wonderful studios. His own company, Animation Inc., produced the milk commercials for TV that included, ‘Daddy, there’s a cow in the bedroom!’

Another of Uncle Earl’s commercials was the [Michigan] Faygo commercial, ‘Which way did he go… Which way did he go… He went for FAYGO!’ He even did the Cocoa Wheats commercial with the cuckoo clock. One of my mother’s other brothers, Herb Klein, was also an artist and had his own advertising agency in Detroit for many years.

My [two] younger sisters are, both, accomplished artists. Paul and I are glad to see even our children are blessed with this ‘artistic gift’, as our son, Michael, has gone through the Pasadena Arts Center to become an art director for many fine advertising agencies over the years…

Our daughter, Laura… Is just as talented as her brother, but she has had not a smidgen of special training. Her illustrations are currently with the Center For Creative Arts here, in St. Clair, and also at the Mortonville Shoppe across from the old Morton Salt Company plant in Marysville. My doodles can hardly fall into a class with either of our children, but they are fun to do and have also pleased the family over the years. [p. 75]

CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES

MY RELATIONSHIP with John McPartlin went back quite a few years to the time we were living in Clinton Township, near Mt. Clemens [1961]. Debbie was just a baby and I had no thoughts at that time of increasing the size of our family beyond Bill, Mike and Deb.

I wanted to finish college, which, to Paul was a senseless decision; considering that my ‘job’ was already consuming my entire day and that was, of course, as a wife and a mother. (Not necessarily in that order.) Paul felt a woman did not have to go to college if she planned to have a family and keep house, except to supplement her husband’s income for absolute necessities.

This, dear friends, was a notion, deeply embedded in his thought by the times during which we both were raised – when, silly as it seems by today’s standards, it was not important for the woman to have an education who only planned on having children and ‘keeping house’! Once our own daughters were at the age when college was to be considered, you’d be amazed at the sacrifices that same man was willing to make to see his own daughters through their schooling!

But, getting back to how I FIRST met John McPartlin – I finally talked Paul into letting me return to college at night to take the two classes I needed for the teaching certificate that would permit me to substitute teach for a limited time each semester. [p.82]

THE SCHOOLS

The schools were walking distance from where we lived. I assured Paul that I would be home when the children were and that my good friend, Eleanor Westbrook, down the street from us, was willing to babysit if necessary when I was asked to teach.

Sometimes I was only given 30-minutes notice, so Eleanor’s being there was a tremendous blessing. One of the things that really opened the door for me to teaching in the Clinton Dale schools was the fact that I had recently had [a food-related] article published in the Christian Science Monitor and, while the principal acknowledged that he was not a [Christian] Scientist, he did respect the newspaper and thought that anyone who had been published in it was an excellent writer…

The principal was not sorry he hired me, for the job required filling in for a teacher who would be out about six weeks due to an auto accident in which she was injured. I took over her class AND initiated a school newspaper while I was there – a project that was important to me, even though I worked on it without pay, but it led to my meeting John McPartlin, the editor, at that time, of ‘The Roseville Community Enterprise’.

The involvement with, both, the teaching assignment and the operation of the school newspaper led to other writing experiences that I had no idea would each contribute eventually [step-by-step] to the operation of Secret RecipesTM. [p.82 – cont’d]

In honor of… #HappinessHappensMonth… And, since some people find happiness in chocolate, I’d like to share with you Mom’s imitation of cream-filled cupcakes, like Hostess’!

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

#WHBY

My next visit on the “Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, is in two weeks. Be sure to tune in – Monday, August 31st around 11am (CDST)/12noon (EDST)!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…33 down, 19 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Make Happiness Happen

Happy Monday! August reigns and it’s National Happiness Happens Month! Additionally, #TGIM – because I happily look forward to Mondays; as they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share memories of my mom with all of you!

#HappinessHappensMonth

For the whole month of August, one of the subjects of focus and celebration is HAPPINESS! Thus, as Elbert Hubbard said: “Happiness is a habit – cultivate it!”

Likewise, Mom said, of true happiness [as seen in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, p. 304)]: “If [it] is acquired through persistence and patience, it would be like the fable of the Chinese profit who asked for a needle… when none could be found… somebody offered him a crowbar and a file. He was pleased… that it was only a matter of time before he could produce the needle he wanted.”

Mom used to tell me, whenever I was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated about all of the tough challenges I was facing, in life, that happiness is not found in what I think I want or in the stuff I attain; but, rather, in who I am. Mom would insist that true happiness came from within all of us. It is not about the things you have in life. It’s more about what you learn from life, that counts. After all, it’s the journey, not the arrival, that matters the most.

Surprisingly, or not, there are still those who truly believe that their level of happiness is in direct proportion to their level of success and financial worth. Nevertheless, “success levels” (if such things can really be measured) have no real correlation with how many things nor how much money one acquires.

Mom thought that real success was found in how well we lived our lives – for the good of ourselves and “our maker”, as well as for the good of others. Thus, she also trusted that we should always DO something that will make a positive impact on others.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Jan-Feb. 1988, pages 1 & 4)

GOOD SAM, GOOD EXAMPLE

One thing among many that I have learned from Good Sam, our national RV organization, to which Paul and I have belonged for three years now; is that you should never ever withhold your enthusiasm for caring about others.

Never regret anything you do or say on behalf of the good it might bring to those [about whom] you care – for, if your motives are unselfish, and your intentions are to encourage or enrich or benefit others, you can’t lose. You should jump right in, adding enthusiasm to whatever it is that you are doing that might appear to be just a passive condition when enthusiasm is needed.

Try a little enthusiasm! …Enthusiasm and optimism go hand-in-hand with happiness. These provide us with an emotional springboard from which we can dive quite smoothly, into deep and troubled waters, and still surface refreshed and invigorated.

The trouble with trying to be happy all the time is that most people look for one particular condition or experience or possession, from which they hope to derive complete contentment, forgetting that happiness is a moment – not a forever!

We all expect life to be good to us – at least, some of the time. But, when things don’t work out the way we plan, or hope, there’s an overwhelming tendency to feel down, as if all Life ever gives us is lemons. Yet, we all know the old adage for that (another quote from Elbert Hubbard) is to “make lemonade” with it.

Remember, though, that you need a lot of sugar to make a good lemonade. From wherever the sweetener comes – whether it’s self-love, inner-happiness, or something else – we need to pour all of it, all over it!

Mom always believed that the best learning experiences that Life gave us, often came out of our biggest disappointments. By simply turning “let-downs” into “set-ups” for something else – something better, some happening out there, through the window that God opened after the door was shut – we would then overcome and conquer.

In addition, Mom also taught me that every new day was a turning point for each and every one of us and that each experience, good and bad alike, eventually contributed in some way to our own personal growth and inner-happiness. For that, I am continuously grateful.

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. 61)

THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF GOOD

Whenever our best intentions are carried out for the good of all concerned, only good can result. How could good possibly produce something bad? It’s often just the still small voice of wisdom that turns us in the right direction. When it does, how silly it is of us to give credit to coincidence or chance. The purpose of something good is, of course, to bless, to enrich and to comfort and why, then, does even knowing this makes so many folks feel uncomfortable?

Having more doesn’t necessarily make us better-off, and most people limit their definition of good to an increase in more THINGS. Sometimes the good is not material, nor the least bit tangible, but instead is a feeling – a comforting and reassuring confidence – that, yes, everything can be all right, after all!

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

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 8)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Being able to get a handle on life by not letting it get the best of us, when the lemons outweigh the levity in our relationships, is a recipe worth having. Resolving the problem with recipes in the kitchen is something we’re all willing to accept, because cooking is an individual and very personal experience – a creative challenge for some, a positive involvement for others.

Yet, we accept the risk of failing at what we attempt with foods, more readily than we will with our relationships with other people. It’s a puzzle to me that we are willing to endure such a paradox, that we’ll put more effort into the table we set than into the examples we could set – and/or choose to follow.

Another wise bit of advice, of which Mom once wrote, is that… “the opportunities available to us aren’t always the most obvious when we’re in the throes of self-pity, or rejection, or weary from over-work…” Continuing on, she also said, “You certainly won’t hear opportunity knocking at the front door if you’re in the backyard, looking for four-leaf clovers.” [As seen in My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 4)].

Thanks to the happiness that Mom taught me to find within myself, first, I can also enjoy the happiness I find in other things like the colors of a rainbow after a storm, or the happy-go-lucky smile of my grandson, or the nuzzles and purrs from my cats (and my husband), or the sun sparkling on the magnificent blue waters of The Great Lakes, or the cheerful sounds of the birds and other wildlife in my backyard, or the aroma of a Crock Pot© Sunday meal – slow-cooking throughout the day – things that don’t have a price tag attached them! Where do you find your happiness?

STILL, 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. 92)

GOING IT ALONE

ONE OF THE BLESSINGS of being your own boss is that you can enjoy the freedom of discussing…subjects in your own publication, where you wouldn’t dear if someone else were publishing it, and you were subject to total agreement between you and them over all material published.

PEOPLE EXPECT US TO BE BETTER.

Whenever somebody has mentioned to me that they are surprised that the newsletter or the recipe books include non-recipe material, I usually replied, ‘I’m surprised that you’re surprised!’ Food for the table and food for thought should, and often do, go hand-in-hand. In our publications there will always be room for the kind of material that is humorous and uplifting – as the case may be.

I respond easily to the unusual, if it has a beneficial influence on others and find it a joy to share such information. The response is always encouraging. I am still hearing good comments on the little book we sent out in the fall of 1988, entitled ‘Good Thoughts And Things To Smile About’, which we did not sell, but GAVE to those people we felt we should express appreciation for their kindness and attention either to our work or to our family.

The little acts of overcoming the annoyance, impatience, indifference, apathy, that sometimes seem to be so much a part of our day – can make an enormous difference in the quality of our lives. This may not always seem easy, but each false tendency can be detected and rejected because it is wholly without foundation. Genuine love, caring, alertness and patience replace annoyance, indifference, apathy and impatience.

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. 94)

EVERY DAY, IN OUR OFFICE

Every day, in our office and our home, because it’s hard to separate the two, is the fact that things here are quite unpredictable! The layout of the newsletter is done – as I described it before – like a patchwork quilt, [as] are the books, at best, for there is not enough ‘quiet’ time in which to carry out a major project. Mostly, it is a day filled with pleasant interruptions – such as the grandchildren dropping by to see us for a few minutes – or a radio station calling and asking me to fill in at the last minute!

There are visits from the rest of the family, a phone call from my mother once in a while, when she needs somebody to talk to… and I am always a ready listener. There are the discussions over how to handle a particular problem with a shipping order, or how a dish should be coming out that doesn’t! Countless things occur in this office (and/or home) that contribute to the overall picture.

This is what I tried to describe recently to Julie Greenwalt of People magazine, when she called and asked me to think about those typical things that happen here which they could be photographed to accompany the story she was writing about us. It will be interesting to see how it comes out, as this book [cited above] will be ‘going to press’ before People does with their story… [which came out in their May 7, 1990 issue].

I love the attitude of George Burns, who was always an inspiration to everyone, of every age! Doing what we like best, whether we succeed or not, is what keeps us going and keeps us happy. I cannot imagine doing something badly that I enjoy doing. So, of course, we do our best at something we enjoy, because that is part of the satisfaction of doing it – seeing the good that results from our efforts.

[Paul and I,] both, take time during the week to enjoy something completely unrelated to our work and even our family. I bowl on a wonderful women’s league every Wednesday morning and Paul bowls with the men’s league on Friday nights.

For the past four or five years, I’ve driven to Algonac, about 40 miles round-trip, to participate in one of the nicest groups I’ve had the privilege of belonging to; and while I have yet to have that 200-game, whether I bowl badly or splendidly, I drive home all smiles, happy that I went! Paul, on the other hand, bowls just down the street from us here in town. He bowled so much when we were dating, I tell people we were married by an ordained pin setter!

In honor of…

#HappinessHappensMonth

And, since some people find happiness in chocolate, I’d like to share with you Mom’s imitation of Big Boy’s Chocolate Pie. Happy cooking!

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

#WHBY 

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…32 down, 20 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

 

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – De-Stress With Happiness

Happy Monday and happy August! As always, #TGIM – I continually look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom!

Stress and anxiety often accompany any kind of lifestyle changes. We’ve been going through these kinds of times for centuries – the names and places may have changed but the feelings of stress and anxiety remain the same. These days, some of the new lifestyle changes we’re dealing with include staying home as much as possible, extreme sanitizing practices, wearing masks in public, and social distancing – just to name a few.

Now it’s August and the pandemic is still rearing its ugly head in many “hot spots” due to people crowding and not properly wearing PPE, if at all. In addition, a lot of people are worried about sending kids back to “brick-and-mortar” schools before/after Labor Day. Some are trying to push online learning and home-schooling. But not every parent is cut-out to be a teacher and online learning is not easy, let alone available, for everyone.

Stress is just another word for worrying – only more severe – in how it affects us, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, the trying times that we’ve been facing, especially this year, are not going away anytime soon. Many experts are telling the media that it will likely get worse before we see it really start to get better.

Sadly, life doesn’t always go the way we want and, from time to time, when we start getting comfortable with how life is going, we forget that nothing in life is guaranteed to any of us. I recently read a really great article, “When It Seems Like Things Are Falling Apart, They’re Really Just Falling Into Place”, by Paul Hudson (Sep. 23, 2014) at EliteDaily.com. The timeless advice and reasoning in this almost-6-year-old article, about dealing with stress and creating your own happiness, sounds like it could have been written for our current pandemic situation. I highly recommend the read!

#SimplifyYourLifeWeek

#HappinessHappensMonth

Writing and cooking were among Mom’s top stress-relievers. Being the Secret Recipes Detective for 40 years, one was more apt to find Mom in the kitchen, creating an imitation of a popular restaurant dish or at her desk writing about the latest imitation she developed.

However, Mom also loved to write random bits of, what she called, “Food for Thought”. Almost half of what she published in all of her cookbooks and newsletters was devoted to “Food for Thought”, as she felt it was important to have a proper balance between good thoughts for the soul and good food for the table!

Mom’s other favorite stress relievers included reading “motivational”, “inspirational”, and “positive thinking” books; as well as crocheting and laughing at her favorite comedians like George Burns and Carol Burnett. As the old adage says, “laughter is the best medicine.” Mom always added to that, “you can’t smile on the outside without feeling good on the inside.”

When dealing with the stress of operating a family-run, cottage-style, dining room table business that was booming faster than expected, Mom also enjoyed listening to music and going for a walk along the St. Clair River or taking a long drive with Dad, beside the Lake Huron shoreline. There are countless techniques for managing stress these days. Yoga, dancing, bread-making, meditation, and exercise are just a few examples.

Like Mom, when I’m under stress, I also enjoy writing, cooking, listening to music (different music, though), going for walks, and/or taking a shoreline road trip with my husband to lift myself out of the rut. What kinds of things help you to de-stress and be happy? Use the hash tags (above) to share, what works for you, on social media.

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. 96-97)

RETHINKING OUR LIVES

If you have ever seen one million letters, you know how we felt when we tried to handle the overwhelming response. It was exhausting! Our home, which was both, our office and our sanctuary, too, became like a factory; with [extra] people helping us to process the mail, eventually having to return thousands of orders to the customers with our deepest regrets that we could not, in all fairness to them, delay their order.

The onslaught of mail forced us to do this. We were all working from seven in the morning to one or two the next morning, just to open the mail. We burned up two electric letter openers! Our phone bill was lost in the mail and when we forgot about our utilities having to be paid every month, our phone was dead one day when I picked it up.

From then on, our utilities were phoned in to us by the company so that we could keep them paid without having to sort through thousands of letters, looking for the bills. There were trays of mail stacked three and four deep in our living room, bedrooms, the basement, too.

At one point, I lay my head down on my desk and cried, reading the angry letters that were coming from probably very nice folks who thought we were trying to do something illegal, because they had not received their free recipes. They probably had not sent us their self-addressed, stamped envelope, either, which we have always required for the service.

As soon as we realized what the mail was doing to us, we tried to get Donahue’s people to stop the continued scheduled showing of our appearance. But that show remained on their repeat circuit for almost a year, playing in the Panama Canal zone, Greenland, Iceland, Australia and hundreds of small town stations across the states.

Most of the letters received from them still asked for the free recipes that were included with the order blank for a self-addressed stamped envelope to us. The offer would have been good for us if it had only been shown that once – the day on which we appeared on the show, but for nearly a year afterward the requests came and the complaints came and the threats to report us to postal authorities for not sending those free recipes, tore us apart emotionally and physically!

We had put so much money into returning the orders we could not fill in every postage stamp that we put on envelopes that requested free recipes also came out of our pocket, so it was an experience of mixed blessings. It cost us so much more than we had anticipated.

We talked about making a move to California in the fall of 1981. I really wanted to move out there to be closer to my sister, Hazel. Our son, Michael, was also living in Pasadena where he was attending the art center. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity for us to leave… St. Clair and begin a new life in Los Angeles…

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

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018, 1st Printing; p. 299)

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. 67)

WASTING TIME – WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE SIMPLE JOYS?

Unfortunately, were waiting for that golden day, that one lovely moment in which we feel everything is finally grand – everything is finally just the way we have always wanted it to be! Everything we’ve been working for and moving toward has been attained. We can relax! We’ve lost the weight we wanted to lose. The house is finally in ‘company is coming’ order. The bills are all paid. The bank account is adequate. Our children are living productive, useful lives.

Everything will be wonderful – and then, and probably only then, do we feel we have the right to be happy! Until we achieve that perfect moment, that ideal existence, however, we’re looking forever ahead to it, not even seeing the opportunities – small as they might be – to be happy, now, with what we already have, with who we are [and] with what we’re already doing.

Paul & Gloria Pitzer – 2012, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Everyone, at one time or another, seems to go through such trying times; carrying burdens we can’t seem to shake, with no one to help us make the load seem lighter. And in doing so, we end up making our mishaps more important than our smallest achievements. How easily we waste the time we have now, entertaining false pride as if it were the honored guest at our table of regrets. We try to avoid being natural, being ourselves, because it is usually less than we think we should be, or what others expect us to be.

So we look toward the moment when we’re sure everything will fall into its proper place. We finally have the time to call a relative we’ve been meaning to visit. Will write that newsy letter to the friend we somehow lost touch with. We’ll take that cake to the neighbor we haven’t had the chance to call on but meant to. But we can’t do those things now – not while were working out important problems and have so many things to worry about. Worrying takes time!

I’m nearly convinced that there is no such perfection toward which to work and for which to wait. Waiting seems an idol waste [of time] when there are so many things I want to do that have been pushed aside because obligations and commitments came first. Instead of looking ahead two years from now, days from now, hours from now, I look to the next moment. Human beings are not immortal, but some of us put off the wonders of living, as if we had forever to realize them.

For each moment that I didn’t enjoy as much as I could have, I’d like to be ready just in case I have a second chance at having them again. I would like to have all of our children with us around the dinner table once more, and really enjoy it, to make up for all of those times that I took their being there for granted. That would be a perfect moment, a perfect day!

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-Jun. 1988, p. 1)

NO SUCH THING AS A SURVIVOR!

I finally met someone who agrees with me that it is not a compliment to be called a ‘survivor’ – when one has apparently been able to meet the challenges of life and keep on going. Surviving is too much like wading around in a puddle of old problems or troubles.

Instead, I’d rather be considered a ‘pilgrim’ – going forward, pressing on. And, if I were told that I could no longer give others hope, I don’t think I would ever enjoy living again, but would probably just exist instead!

#NationalBrowniesAtBrunchMonth

In honor of August being, among other things, National Brownies At Brunch Month; here are two of Mom’s famous copycat recipes… Hostess-Style Brownies & Fudge Frosting, as seen in her cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Recipes Book (Secret Recipes, Marysville, MI; June 1997, pages 14 & 53). How’s that for some chocolate-covered happiness? Happy baking!

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

Find some time to enjoy the many national celebrations going on today, this week, and all month long…

#InternationalClownWeek

For International Clown Week, this week, here is one of Mom’s “Food for Thought” articles; about a small businesses that disappeared…

#FamilyFunMonth

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/family-fun-month-august/ & https://ucdintegrativemedicine.com/2018/08/family-fun-month/#gs.xodbky

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…31 down, 21 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Summertime Vacation Time

Happy summertime Monday to one and all! As always, #TGIM – I continually look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom!

We’re almost to the middle of summer and those hot and humid “dog days” continue to hound us, with no relief in sight. These are the days that a lot of Michiganders like to head “up north” to vacation in a slightly (usually) cooler and drier atmosphere – especially when close to one of the Great Lakes!

I have so many fond memories, from my childhood, of some of our own Michigan, summertime, family vacations. Mom and Dad took us to so many wonderful places around Michigan like the Tahquamenon Falls and Soo Locks in the U.P., as well as Petoskey, Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island in the “Tip of the Mitt” region.

Other “nearby” trips (to where we lived in the “Thumb Area”) included Sandusky’s Cedar Point Amusement Park and Aurora’s SeaWorld, both in Ohio; as well as Grand Bend, Toronto and Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. I tried to expose my own children to, at least, most of these wonderful places as well… Making memories!

Every summer that I can remember, while growing up in the “Thumb Area” of Michigan, there was usually a couple of these family trips; along with some special one-day-events like a festival, going to the beach, picnicking at a park and backyard barbecues that filled our summers with a lot of fun memories.

1970, Pitzer summertime vacation time at Fort Mackinac

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES

As seen in “No Laughing Matter”, by Gloria Pitzer (no printed date available)

HOW I’M SPENDING MY SUMMER VACATION

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

We didn’t try to vacation anywhere with the children this year, considering how we spent two weeks on the Turnpike with them last summer and lived to tell about it.

…There are positive virtues to the ‘nine-to-three’ schedules, which leave mothers five days a week, from September through June [minus the long Christmas and Easter breaks], during which they are not answering dumb questions.

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

Actually, it was all my husband’s idea. For, out of consideration for the neighbors, he only lets my sit on the patio in my bathing suit after dark. He claims I even discourage mosquitoes. This is the same man who will also stand on the porch whenever I sing so the neighbors can see he isn’t beating me!

The same man who can come home from (and I quote exactly) ‘an exhausting day of fishing’ and ask, seriously, when am I going to clear off the top of the refrigerator, will I write to his mother, did I have fun at the ‘book mobile’ with the five kids, and is it alright if we ‘eat out’ tonight… meaning, of course, hot dogs in the backyard!

He doesn’t understand why I spend my [summer] vacation counting the days until school opens again. But he doesn’t have to find band-aids for bra-less Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes, who have been sucked up into the vacuum cleaner hose.

He doesn’t have to wander through a vast wasteland of ‘Pop-Tart’ wrappers and ‘Mr. Misty’ cups, while 37 neighborhood kids motorbike their way through the yard, the flower beds, and into the center of a national noise abatement program, sympathetically excused by three probation officers who don’t have to live around here!

Summer VACATION – as some teachers laughingly refer to the 10 weeks, during which ‘families who stay together, get on each other’s nerves’ – is NOT a vacation! It’s enough to make a mother look like a wire service [‘Wanted’] photo that, by all rights, should be printed under the caption: ‘NEVER MIND SENDING HER KIDS TO CAMP… Help send this mother away!’

It’s mothers who need the vacations – not the kids! Ten weeks of kids at home [all day] and Mother can develop a personality of a dental drill with a voice to match! But, as I told the kids the other day, ‘as soon as Daddy gets home, everything will be all right.’

Sometimes it’s not easy on a mother to come up with the answers to questions all by herself, like: ‘How many more days until school starts?’ … ‘Can I have a Coke?’ … ‘Did you see my sneakers?’ … ‘Can I have a popsicle?’ … ‘How come you’re always yelling at me?’ … ‘Why doesn’t anybody like me?’ … ‘Can I have my allowance?’ – but, compared to all of the questions the kids ask me during the day, I can take THOSE [above] from my husband.

He means well, even though he doesn’t understand that a mother’s vacation doesn’t begin until school does in the fall!

Mackinac Island, Michigan is a very nostalgic place – the summer vacations that I spent there with my family are my most memorable ones. Except for the smell of horse dung (which, besides bicycles, horses are the popular mode of transportation on the island, as motor vehicles aren’t allowed), baking in the summer heat, the island is actually full of many DIVINE scents!

From the variety of flowers in the beautifully kept gardens everywhere to the yummy, sugary confections being made in the fudge and candy shops to the mouth-watering aromas wafting from the open windows and vents of the island’s restaurants and bakeries that line the downtown streets where the mainland ferries bring millions of tourists every spring through fall (as the island is closed to tourism during the winter months).

Whether we stayed in Mackinaw City and visited the island all day or we stayed at the Grand Hotel, right on the island; to me, as with many others, it was always a magical trip back in time! That was especially the case one summer, in 1979, when we were staying at the Grand Hotel while the movie, Somewhere in Time, was being filmed there! What a special treat for all of us to experience; plus, we all got to meet Jayne Seymour, Christopher Plummer, and Christopher Reeves!

[On a side note – long before Somewhere in Time was filmed there – in 1947, another movie was also filmed at the Grand Hotel called This Time for Keeps. The famous leading actress in that movie, Ethel Merman, swam in the kidney-shaped pool of the Grand Hotel during the filming of it there; thus, as I learned during one of our family trips, the pool was named after her.]

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES

As seen in “No Laughing Matter”, by Gloria Pitzer (no printed date available)

VACATION RETURNS (OR THE LAST RESORT)

It is only upon returning from a vacation that we realized just how much we could use one! Ours was nothing to write home about, so all of you out there, who were looking for a postcard from us, now know why you didn’t get one.

If – when I [was] at home, among conveniences, and circumstances used to force me to once write those ‘please-excuse-my-child’ notes in lipstick on the back of a Citizen’s Federal Savings [bank] slip, and take telephone messages down in the dust on the end tables – you just know that any postcard I’d be apt to send from our vacation would probably be written in campfire charcoal on the back of a Handi-Wipe!

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

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

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

We did learn a few things, though, about our trips [that] I’m perfectly willing to share with you. We now realize that the same vacation conveniences that would cost us $90 a day, while traveling, we could have had for free if we had stayed home.

Besides, nothing can deflate your ego, or undermine your significance as a person, like returning from a 3-week vacation; and, as you begin to carry the suitcases from the car into the house, have your neighbor greet you with: ‘Hi there! Going someplace?’

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

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

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

However you choose to spend your summertime vacation time – I hope you make a whole bunch of happy memories and enjoy it to the max!

IN CLOSING…

#NationalChickenWingDay

In honor of National Chicken Wing Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for chicken like Popeye’s…

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

#WHBY

My next visit on the “Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, is TODAY around 11:08am (CDST)/12:08pm (EDST)! Be sure to check it out, as we’ll be discussing cookies!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…30 down, 22 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – National Junk Food Day Eve

Happy Monday to one and all! Today is also the eve of National Junk Food Day! And as always, #TGIM – since I continually look forward to Mondays as my #52Chances per year to share these MEMORIES OF MY MOM with all of you!

Mom wrote, illustrated, published and promoted all of her 40+ cookbooks (and her newsletter, which ran 1974 through 2000) – mainly by herself but she incorporated our whole family into it in one way or another. It was a cottage-style, dining room table operation. Her cookbooks and newsletters were all quite unique and special in presentation and content!.

My mom built most of her recipe collection (starting in the early 1970s) on the taboo subjects of fast foods and junk foods, when all the food critics were warning the public to stay away from these things, lecturing about how bad they were for our health. That may be so, but as Robert Redford once said, “Health food may raise my consciousness, but Oreos taste better!” – a quote that Mom personally loved and, thus, put it on the first page of her cookbook, Eating Out at Home (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sept. 1978).

[Note: See the “Recipes” tab on this for Mom’s imitation of the Oreo-Style sandwich cookies. Mom calls her version “Gloreo’s”.]

Junk is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, Mom found a way to have her cake and eat it too, by TAKING THE JUNK OUT OF JUNK FOOD, making her own imitations at home, where she controlled the ingredients. It was a break-through that had many food companies, like Stouffers, Hostess, Sarah Lee, and many others up in arms! The idea that someone could possibly duplicate their products at home and then share these secrets with the public was as troublesome, if not more, than the competition they faced in the food industry, itself.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 2-3)

SECRET RECIPES

YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW exactly how the original dish was prepared by the commercial food chains. All you need is a basic recipe to which you will add that ‘special seasoning’ or that ‘secret method of preparation’ that sets one famous secret recipe apart from those similar to it…

When I work to duplicate a recipe so that the finished product is as good as (if not better than) a famous restaurant dish, I begin by asking myself a series of questions: I want to know what color the finished dish has…[and] was it achieved by baking, frying or refrigeration?…What specific flavors can I identify?… and about how much of each may have been used…

Similar tests are used in chemistry…[to]…break down the components of an unknown substance and try to rebuild it. So the cook must work like a chemist (and not like a gourmet; who, most of the time, never uses a recipe – but, rather, creates one.)

The most remarkable part of the duplication of famous recipes is that you can accept the challenge to ‘try’ to match their [dish or product]. Sometimes, you will be successful. Sometimes you will fail in the attempt. But, at least, it can be done [‘practice makes perfect’], and it certainly takes the monotony out of mealtime when, for reasons of financial inadequacy, we cannot always eat out…even if we could afford to eat at all or most of our meals away from home, wouldn’t that become monotonous in time?

Stop cheating yourself of the pleasure of good food. Eat what you enjoy, but DON’T OVER eat…This is what really causes the problems of obesity and bad health – rather than believing the propaganda of the experts that ‘fast food’ is ‘junk food’…It is not! Poorly prepared food, whether it is from a fast-service restaurant or a [$20-plate in a] gourmet dining room, is ‘junk’, no matter how you look at it…if it is not properly prepared.

TO DEBUNK THE JUNK…don’t think of Hostess Twinkies as junk dessert but, rather, the very same cake ingredients prepared in the Waldorf Astoria kitchens as the basis for their “Flaming Cherries Supreme”. All we did [to imitate the product] was shape the cake differently, adding a little body to the filling and putting it INSIDE the cake, rather than on top, as the Waldorf did!

Happy #NationalJunkFoodDay Eve!

National Junk Food Day is celebrated every year on July 21st, and it is all about indulging in your favorite junk foods – from the grocery store shelves to every “plastic palace” drive-thru – for one day, without guilt. However, keep in mind, National Junk Food Day is not to be confused with National Fast Food Day, which is celebrated on November 16th.

#NationalFastFoodDay

More times than not, “fast food” is considered to be synonymous with “junk food”. But nowadays, a lot of “fast food” places (which Mom called “plastic palaces”) are trying to change up their offerings and some are actually considered to be healthy. According to an article I read at MDLinx.com, “Healthiest Fast Food Options”, some of the “healthy fast food” nominations go to Chick-fil-A’s grilled nuggets, Wendy’s grilled chicken wrap, Taco Bell’s grilled steak soft taco, Subway’s tuna salad sub, and Chipotle’s steak burrito bowl – just to name a few.

In other words, one can say with some certainty that not all fast food is junk food AND not all junk food is fast food! By general definition, “junk foods” are considered to be those foods that are heavily processed; typically containing high amounts of either trans fats, sugar, corn syrup, fructose, or salt (or a combination of any of those). Additionally, junk foods are high in calories. Beware – they are also very high in luscious, tasty delightfulness!

NOTE: Next time you push your cart up and down the aisles of your favorite grocery store, keep in mind that if the food is in a can, box, plastic wrap/package, or the like; it is most likely “junk food”. A lot of grocery store “convenience” foods contain highly processed ingredients.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES

As seen in…

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

I DO, WITH RECIPES, WHAT RICH LITTLE DOES WITH VOICES!

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

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

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

Unfortunately, ‘fast food’ has carried a reputation, by default, of containing ingredients that are ‘harmful’ to us. Yet, they contain the same ingredients as those foods served in the ‘finer’ restaurants with wine stewards, linen tablecloths, candlelight, coat-check attendants, and parking valets; which separate the plastic palaces of ‘fast food’ from the expensive dining establishments.

One ‘eats’ at McDonald’s, but ‘dines’ at The Four Seasons. Steak and potato or hamburger and French fries – the ingredients are practically the same. How they are prepared makes the difference!

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Second Helping of Secret Recipes (Nat’l Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 1)

DE-BUNKING THE JUNK

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

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

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

This is infuriating to the good cooks and the more intelligent food chemists among us who know that JUNK FOOD is any food, which is poorly prepared. All food has nutritional value. Some just seem to have more than others. But, in the final analysis, it is purely personal taste that will determine the popularity of one food over another. The fast food industry has been the most successful of any phase in the business. Their success depending largely on the fact that their recipes are all closely guarded secrets! 

Junk foods and fast foods are also considered “comfort foods”. Science has shown, time and time again, that emotions and food are very much linked together. It’s widely believed that, in times of stress, “comfort foods” will often make you feel better. These foods provide a nostalgic or sentimental value but have very little nutritional value, if any at all. Cooking is also a great source of heart-and-soul happiness. Between the cooking AND the eating, I get to happily enjoy food twice as much!

For some of us, every day is “Junk Food Day” but for the rest of us National Junk Food Day is a special opportunity to eat our favorite junk foods – supposedly without the guilt. Speaking for myself, as a “junk food junkie”, they’re ALL my favorites and it’s very hard to choose; so I would most likely ravish myself on everything!

DISCLAIMER NOTE: Junk food may be hazardous to your health! Thus, indulge at your own risk! To me, that’s like telling a former smoker or an alcoholic or a compulsive gambler to “indulge responsibly” in whatever their “crutch” may be – after all, it’s just for a day.

According to TimeAndDate.com: “Studies have shown that consuming junk food ONCE-IN-A-WHILE does not have a negative effect on health – it is only when one eats junk food for a majority of their meals that their diet can be considered unhealthy. Consuming large amounts of foods considered to be ‘junk’, can lead to several health problems, including a high risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart issues.”

On a side note regarding junk food, I’d like to add that You Tube has a really good video called “Junk Food Junkie”, by Larry Groce (1976) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLiVeRJTtqo. I also found a lot of information and ideas for celebrating this awesome event tomorrow at Chiff.com.

In honor of National Junk Food Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for an 8-inch fudge cake like Aunt Jenny’s, as seen in her cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 4). Enjoy!

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

#WHBY

My next visit on the “Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, is next week. Be sure to tune in – Monday, July 27th around 11am (CDST)/12noon (EDST) – as we’ll be talking about one of most Americans’ favorite junk foods… COOKIES!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…29 down, 23 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Dog Days Of Summer

As always, happy Monday to everyone and #TGIM! I constantly await Mondays, with anticipation, for they are my #52Chances a year to share MEMORIES OF MY MOM with all of you!

Two weeks in and the dog days of summer (which refers to the hottest and most humid time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere – usually in July) have definitely been “hounding” us, so far, this month! It’s the kind of sweltering heat that makes me want to sell my stove in my next yard sale! Break out the cookbooks for microwaves, crock pots and grills!

Sometimes, like now, summertime is just too hot in which to cook anything in the oven. When our Michigan weather is hot and humid outside, the last thing any of us want to do is turn on the oven or even stand over a hot pot on the stove-top. Thus, taking the cooking outdoors is the natural solution. You can cook just about anything on the grill – far beyond the “meat family”. Just about everything tastes better when it is cooked on a sizzling hot grill and, with a little oil and foil, you can create some pretty awesome side dishes, as well!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, 1964

#NationalPicnicMonth

On these types of days, when it is too hot to cook, I like to eat out… As in outside! Who doesn’t love backyard picnics with wonderful, char-grilled food on beautiful, sunny, summer days? Besides, July is, among other things, National Grilling Month!

The Great Lakes region, in which I live, is all about celebrating summer. We, Michiganders, really appreciate the summer months – especially after a long, Michigan winter! This year, our usual winter “hibernation” period was extended throughout the spring months, with the Covid-19 pandemic and “Stay Home” orders all across the nation.

The Pitzer children in July around 1970 (left-to-right): Laura, Michael, Cheryl, Bill and Debbie

#NationalGrillingMonth

Most everyone, like us, is so tired of being cooped up that all we need is ANY EXCUSE for a backyard cook-out! Therefore, happy National Grilling Month! Whether you use gas, propane or lighter fluid and charcoal… whether you have a small, tabletop hibachi or a large, deck-sized apparatus… JULY IS SUMMERTIME… and summertime is practically synonymous with grilling.

These days, the smells of charcoal and lighter fluid, along with sizzling burgers, chicken, hot dogs or steaks seem to drift through all of the neighborhoods around me. Whenever you light up your grill this month, know that you are part of an ongoing celebration for National Grilling Month. Thus, share any or all of your grilling ideas and creations on social media with #NationalGrillingMonth. However, take note that July is also considered the driest and hottest month of the summer. So, also, be careful and mindful of the dangers of fire!

1970, Pitzer Vacation at Mackinac Island, MI

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in her syndicated column, No Laughing Matter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI)

SUMMER CAN BE FUN – BUT NOT FOR MOTHER!

(Published in the Port Huron Times Herald; Aug. 18, 1977)

Inasmuch as this is an election year, I wish the governor would include me in a kind of relief program to cover mothers of children who are on vacation for the summer. After two weeks of muddy blue jeans and wet towels, my Biz Bag turned in a letter of complaint and left for Yellowstone. And the refrigerator door has not closed since school did.

‘With Avon, you get personal service’, they tell me on TV. Well, since the kids have been home on vacation, my Avon lady asked me to pick up my order…in a locker at the bus terminal.

Of course, summer has not always made me feel like a wart on a hog at bay. In the days of my energy, I could spend a languid afternoon with the entire family at the beach and frolicking through the sand, could sally forth to the Good Humor truck, with brood in tow, while each one took 20 minutes to decide which flavor they would take.

I know you won’t believe this, but I could then bring myself to embrace a child with all of the tranquilized sweetness of Doris Day and plead: ‘Please, Michael, tell Mommy where you buried Daddy!’ I wouldn’t have minded so much except Daddy was carrying the money for the Good Humor man in his swim trunks pocket.

And it was completely unreasonable to expect the Good Humor man to accept one of the children as collateral – or ALL of them for that matter – until we could uncover Daddy. For these are the same children who follow you through the souvenir pavilion, commenting candidly: ‘Look, Mommy. That Lady has her wig on crooked.’ And “doesn’t that man have funny looking knees?’

At moments like these, I know I was never meant for motherhood. It can be very depressing. But gone are the days when I approached summer vacation with the children as if I had the unfailing cheer of Betty White and Ralph Edwards.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I wasn’t meant to spend my life serving Kool-Aid and Crispy Critters to swarms of children who embark on our porch like occupational troops in the Berlin Airlift.

I always found that, just as I was about to walk the gangplank of gloom, a cheerful neighbor (probably the mother of ONE) would enumerate for me all the blessings of having the children at home and prescribe how to enjoy them while they’re small – which is exactly like trying to tell me the only way to save money in Las Vegas is to step off the plane and walk directly into the propellers.

I mean, how can anyone live with children, who think all it takes to open a limeade stand is the garden hose and a sack of lime; who now slam the same door all summer they left open all winter; who, for the entire 87 days of summer [vacation] will ask questions like: ‘Why can’t we go see FRITZ THE CAT? It’s a cartoon – isn’t it?’ And ‘Why do you have that twitch in your neck, Mommy?’ Or ‘Can I put a band aid on this worm?’

If a summer relief program is out of the question for mothers like me, I personally feel that the least the governor could do is declare me ‘A Depressed Area!’

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

I have SO MANY, great, childhood memories of summer vacations with my family to places like Tahquamenon Falls, Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island (as pictured above), all in Michigan; as well as Cedar Point, in Ohio, and Niagara Falls, in Ontario, Canada just to name a few.

Every year, while my siblings and I were growing up in the Algonac/Pearl Beach (MI) area, there were always picnics and various backyard barbecues to have or to attend. Our parents created so many awesome memories, about which we can happily reminisce – well, speaking for myself, anyway.

Summertime also had another special meaning for our family, as Mom and Dad’s first born and last born children – my oldest brother, Bill, and my younger sister, Cheryl – ironically, share July 3rd as their birthdays (9 years apart)! The rest of us, Mom and Dad included, have wintertime birthdays (during November, January and March). The summertime memories that Mom and Dad created for us, as we were growing up, will last a life-time!

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. 103)

THE LOAVES AND FISHES

MY RELATIONSHIP with Hazel is among those blessings I always count twice! Even though we had different moms but the same dad, we were very close as sisters. In all of the many years that we’ve spent vacations together, even live together, we’ve never had one crossword between us. The worst part of our relationship has always been not being able to say goodbye when it’s time to part at the end of our yearly visits.

Hazel has always given me such enthusiastic support about my work, and such compassion for the events in our family, with our children. Even though there is an 18-year difference in our ages, you’d never know it by looking at us. In fact, you’d probably take HER for the younger one! She has incredible energy and we love to do the same things – even to having the same taste in furnishings and decorating our homes.

One example Hazel set for me to follow was her gracious ability to offer hospitality, to make the unexpected guests feel welcomed and sincerely wanted. Some people need a month’s notice before they can even have you stop for pie and coffee! Not Hazel!

Paul & Gloria Pitzer with Hazel & Chris Allen; Torrance, CA – May 1982

I have seen her carry off a steak dinner with all of the trimmings that started out for just the four of us (Hazel, Chris, Paul and me) and before the event was over, included six others, stopping by a few at a time, unexpectedly. In which case, we simply pulled up another chair to the table and set out another plate, while Chris put another steak from the freezer into the microwave to defrost and then onto the grill on the patio.

With each guest, who arrived unannounced, we added a little more lettuce and a few more tomatoes to the salad and [put] another potato into the microwave to bake. When we discovered there were only eight potatoes, however, and there would be 10 at the table, we improvised. We sliced each baked potato in half, lengthwise, and arrange them on an oven platter, cut side up, dusting each in a little grated Parmesan, a few parsley flakes [and] a little paprika.

Then, drizzling these in a bit of squeeze-bottle margarine, we popped the tray under the broiler for a minute just before sitting everybody down to eat. We opened three cans of assorted fruit and dump this into a pretty glass bowl, sprinkling some coconut over the top of it and by breaking each of the long ears of corn in half, we pulled off the best feast since ‘the loaves and fishes’ and with leftovers, yet. Nobody went away hungry that evening and we enjoyed so much being together. It was wonderful!

#NationalHotDogMonth

As seen in Mom’s syndicated column series titled “No Laughing Matter”, from the 1970s. The full article is called, This Cook is Rated X (or) Yes, Gloria! There Really is a Colonel Sanders (no publishing data available): “At our house ‘eating out’ meant roasting HOT DOGS in the front yard. But then, we didn’t know of many restaurants where 5 children, who hated green vegetables and spilled catsup on the tablecloths, were welcomed. I had to learn to cook by default…the way I saw it, as long as my husband could get marvelous fried chicken at home, why should he take me to Colonel Sanders’?”

#NationalCulinaryArtsMonth

SUMMERTIME COOKING… As seen on the cover page of Mom’s July-August 1988 newsletter: “Shaker cooks, whose culinary skills I admire, place ears of husked and ‘de-silked’ corn in a large pot of cold water, seasoned with the barest pinch of sugar (never salt because it toughens the tender fibers) until the water boils. At that point, they cover it and cook it for one minute more – or as long as it takes to recite ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Then they drain and serve the ears as fast as they can, with lots of sweet butter, salt and pepper.”

IN CLOSING…

#NationalIceCreamMonth

#NationalBlueberryMonth

#NationalPeachMonth

#NationalIceCreamDay

In honor of the National Ice Cream Month celebrations going on for July – and Sunday is National Ice Cream Day too – here is Mom’s copycat recipe for homemade ice cream like Baskin Robbins, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 252). You can substitute just about any frozen fruit, such as BLUEBERRIES or PEACHES, for the strawberries that are listed in the following recipe. The possibilities are endless!

Above recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer

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

#CelebrateEveryDay

#WHBY

My next visit on the “Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, is in two weeks. Be sure to tune in – Monday, July 27th around 11am (CDST)/12noon (EDST) as we discuss chocolate chip cookies, like Bill’s Brother’s Mother’s or Tom’s Mom’s; which, Mom claimed, were even better than Mrs. Field’s!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#ThankGodItsMonday

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…28 down, 24 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – It’s A Finger Licking Good Day!

Happy Monday, happy July, and happy National Fried Chicken Day! As always, #TGIM – I continually look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom!

I can’t believe it’s July already! I hope everyone enjoyed the nice, long Independence Day weekend in some way, safely. A lot of people around us, were having their own backyard celebrations all weekend.

#NationalFriedChickenDay

As I mentioned above, today is National Fried Chicken Day – which makes it a finger licking good day in my book – and tomorrow will actually be the 39th anniversary of when Mom FIRST appeared on the Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981); demonstrating, among other things, how she imitated fried chicken like the Colonel’s right at home!

As I’ve written about previously, that show was definitely a milestone event, to say the least – for our family as well as our community! Because of Mom’s appearance, our small post office in St. Clair was swamped with about a million letters, throughout that summer and fall. The requests and orders generated from that show, as it aired and re-aired around the world for about a year, just kept pouring in! It was truly an overwhelming response that none of us ever expected.

Donahue 1981 promo

Mom has written many stories about her experiences, on TV and radio shows, related to her KFC-style chicken imitation, which she called “Big Bucket In The Sky! Chicken”. Below is just one of those stories, from her book, My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop, and a copy of that recipe.

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. 71-72)

KFC & THE COLONEL

HISTORY BOOKS have said little of the one person who really put the state of Kentucky on the map, namely the gentleman whom will always be associated with ‘finger-lickin’-good’ fried chicken, Harland Sanders. He was born in Henryville, Indiana in 1890, and died in late 1980.

Harland was one of the food industry’s most successful men. In 1956, Harland Sanders was an out-of-work 66-year-old [man]. When he died, he left a multi-million-dollar food empire. One survey said that, next to Santa Claus, he was the world’s most recognized personality.

When he founded KFC, he had taken his Social Security check, a pressure-Fryer, a can of spices and herbs and set out across the country to show a few restaurant owners how to fry chicken the ‘right’ way! If they liked it, he promised to supply them with the secret coding.

He was a born salesman! And successfully so, considering the number of jobs he held in a lifetime. Once, over WFAA-Radio, in Dallas, I had the pleasure of speaking with the Colonel and it was that conversation, set up by the host of the show I worked with every Thursday, that gave me the clue on how to season flower at home so that it would taste like the Colonel’s coating on his Kentucky fried chicken.

He had just sold that business to the Heublein liquor and food conglomerate, for around $2 million and it was (quote) ‘the dumbest thing I ever did do!’ He complained that the gravy tasted like ‘wallpaper paste’ and the chicken was ‘dry as cardboard’ and that his recipe and technique had been so terribly altered that he was sick about it.

But he was also being taken to court by the company to which he sold KFC. To prove his point, he told me, in court, he prepared his chicken the right way and passed it out to the jury, the judge and the court along with the bucket of chicken purchased down the street from a KFC unit. The court ruled in his favor.

He told me he had read about our recipes in the Corbin, Kentucky newspaper and that he was flattered with my version of his product, but that I didn’t have to go to all of the trouble of imitating 11 herbs and spices.

He said he wanted to see just what kind of a detective I REALLY was, so he told me to go to the supermarket and find one product in a (quote) ‘package’ that would do the same job as those 11 herbs and spices. And I was to report back to him on the radio show the following Thursday. We tested a dozen or more products during the next six days. And finally I found Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix! It was wonderful!

Original illustration by Gloria Pitzer; edited by Laura Emerich

‘You really are a detective after all,’ Colonel Sanders told me on the air that next week, by telephone from his home in Kentucky. I was on the phone from our home in St. Clair. So it was, indeed, the Colonel himself who put me on the right track with this recipe, and with thousands of people listening in the Dallas area. I am so grateful for this wonderful experience. My cup runneth over!

It was also in the conversation with the Colonel that I was urged not to sell my business as long, he told me, as I had the energy and the aptitude to run it myself. At the conclusion of the lawsuit, I was pleased to see that the company was moved to improve the product and give it back its original goodness. Harland remained as a public relations representative for them until the time he passed away.

Most interesting about his background was that he was eight years old when he was turning out entire menus of American delicacies for his widowed mother, while he took care of the house and did the cooking so that she could work.

He said he went on to become a streetcar conductor, a farmhand, (to Cuba as) a soldier, a railroad fireman, section hand, insurance agent, a steamboat promoter, gaslight manufacturer, tire salesman and, finally, as a service station operator in Corbin, Kentucky.

When they could, Harland and his wife, Claudia, enjoy dining at the Elmwood Inn, in Berryville (KY), where as you might expect, his favorite dish was chicken! Given the honorary title of ‘Colonel’ by the state of Kentucky, for his contributions to its cuisine, he remains one of the most respected and recognized figures in the food industry.

Our ‘Better Cookery Cookbook’ [which I rewrote for Mom and it was republished under the title ‘Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective’, in January 2018 by Balboa Press] contains my versions of his products, which you can re-create in your own kitchen from those recipes.

I also tell you in detail, in that book, about our visit to The Donahue Show when I was asked to prepare the famous chicken on camera for millions of viewers and, instead of a deep fryer, the staff provided me, by mistake, with a toaster oven.

Still shot from mom’s Phil Donahue appearance 4-16-93

The recipe had to be revamped right then and there on camera. It worked out so well that we have, since that experience, included the ‘oven-fried’ version on our sheet of sample recipes, which we have probably sent without charge, just for a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to over a few million people!

Here is a copy of that “Big Bucket In The Sky! Chicken” recipe, as I’ve given out in a previous blog post and, also, posted under the “Recipes” tab, on this website:

See also http://therecipedetective.com/2018/11/06/big-bucket-in-the-sky-fried-chicken/ for another version included in this story.

#NationalPicnicMonth

July happens to be National Picnic Month, among other things. When I pack up a summer picnic for me and my husband, I like to use the same classics that Mom used to always make. I can’t eat them now, but I always loved her homemade fudge brownies, chocolate chip cookies, coleslaw, potato salad and, of course, fried chicken (which is always great, hot or cold)! My husband still enjoys them, on my behalf, while I now make low-carb dishes for myself. Our favorite picnic standards are very similar to those listed on HowStuffWorks.com, in Sara Elliott’s informative article, Top 10 Picnic Foods.

At our house ‘eating out’ meant roasting hot dogs in the front yard. But then, we didn’t know of many restaurants where 5 children, who hated green vegetables and spilled catsup on the tablecloths, were welcomed. I had to learn to cook by default…the way I saw it, as long as my husband could get marvelous fried chicken at home, why should he take me to Colonel Sanders’? – Gloria Pitzer [“No Laughing Matter”, This Cook is Rated X (or) Yes, Gloria! There Really is a Colonel Sanders (no date available – circa 1970s)]

Frankenmuth, Michigan is a city that has been world-famous, for many decades, for their family-style, sit-down, fried chicken dinners. This wonderful little town is not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI – from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows still airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio. Not now because of the pandemic, but normally tourists flock to this little German-style town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get their world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.

The two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners are Zehnders and the Bavarian Inn. The town’s German heritage exudes from its many restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (which is all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!

Mom and Dad loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do my husband and me. Although we can’t right now because of Covid-19 restrictions – we’re looking forward to a great day trip there in the future. I miss all the German culture experience that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the 40 years that Mom investigated different restaurant dishes as “The Recipe DetectiveTM”, she came up with many imitations from Frankenmuth of some of the famous dishes available at the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops, as well.

IN CLOSING…

#NationalFriedChickenDay

In honor of National Fried Chicken Day, here is Mom’s wonderful copycat recipe for Fried Chicken, Like Frankenmuth…Happy cooking!

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

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

If you missed last week’s show, you can listen to it at https://www.whby.com/2020/06/29/laura-pitzer-emerich-open-show/!

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter

Happy Monday to one and all! As always, #TGIM – because Mondays are my #52Chances a year to share my memories of my mom with all of you!

This week, I’d like to revisit “the beginning” – when Mom started her “cottage industry”, “family enterprise”, “dining room table operation”. It was about 47 years ago, in 1973, when mom was putting together her very first cookbook, entitled The Better Cooker’s Cookbook, comprised mostly from recipes her readers shared with her, as well as those she had developed and printed in her syndicated column, “Cookbook Corner”.

The self-published and self-promoted cookbook, written and illustrated by Mom, came out in 1973 and sold out within a couple of months. I’m not sure how many copies were printed but I remember getting to help color in Mom’s illustrations with colored pencils on hundreds of books. I was about nine years old and it was VERY important to always “stay within the lines”!

But there were so many more recipes in Mom’s collection that she decided to print them on individual index cards and sell them, through mail-order, for 25-cents each or five for a dollar. She also started putting them in a monthly newsletter format that could be collected in a 3-ring binder – a set of which would create a whole book.

“Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter” launched in January 1974 as a 5 ½” x 8 ½”, 12-page, monthly “magazine” full of food information, editorials and news related to “homemakers” and their families, entertaining stories, humorous illustrations, and witticisms; plus, readers’ comments and requests, reviews of products, restaurants, and other publications or similar entities, with about 16 unique recipes (give or take) sandwiched in between.

The newsletters sold for 50-cents each or $5 for a yearly subscription. Mom retired the newsletter in December 2000, with issue number 219. Over the decades, it had evolved to an 8 ½” x 11”, 8-page format with twice as many recipes, writings, and reviews than with which it began.

Some of Mom’s editorials covered the backstories of various fast food and fine-dining restaurants along with recipes for imitations of their most popular dishes. The recipes were developed and tested, personally, by Mom. Of course, the family pitched in also – especially when it came to taste-testing! I can’t recall a “dud” I didn’t like! The “duds” were the recipes Mom never printed because, while they were very good, they weren’t just like the original dishes/products she was trying to mimic.

The “duds” may not have been exactly the same as the products she was trying to replicate but they were always great, nonetheless. I sure wish I had those “dud” recipes now. What a magnificent cookbook they would make! Regardless, Mom wouldn’t stop there, when she was trying to “replicate” a dish as close as possible to the real thing. She was always refining her imitations until she felt they were spot-on! And then, sometimes, for various reasons, she’d revamp them again, proving that there was usually more than one way to reach the same goal.

One of Mom’s early promotions (in 1977) for her monthly newsletter depicted her wry sense of humor, claiming: “Gloria Pitzer is cooking with laughing gas as she explores the world of eating out in order to create recipe-adaptations for dining in. From her dining room table, she and her family write, illustrate, distribute and kitchen-test the recipe creations of the restaurant industry. Only the names of the recipes have been changed to protect the guilty. Any similarities between Gloria’s recipes and the original dishes is purely intentional.”

Another of Mom’s satirical promotions said: “The Pitzer Family’s Publications is a purely relative operation staffed by Paul and Gloria Pitzer and their five children, who also contribute the illustrations to, both, the family’s monthly newsletter and their series of original recipes. Paul and Gloria feel they know their readers more as friends than as customers.” Mom always said, about her monthly newsletter, that “it’s like getting together once a month for coffee with friends.”

The premise of Mom’s reproductions was based on the adage, by Charles Colton, that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Mom believed that, while the restaurants’ dishes and food companies’ products didn’t really come out of test tubes and laboratory beakers, they did come from “scientific” combinations of ingredients (and, in some cases, techniques.)

Photograph by Susan L. Tusa, for People Weekly (5-7-1990)

Mom theorized that there were only a few basic recipes from which most everything derived, with the additions of certain flavorings/seasonings and techniques that made one dish distinct from another. She would often try out many different combinations of ingredients, since trial and error usually produced the best results.

Basically, none of the copycat recipes that Mom published during her 40 years, working as “The Recipe Detective” (1974-2014), had been given to her by any of the restaurants or companies. They were HER versions of THEIR dishes/products. She never knew what THEIR “secret” recipes actually were. Furthermore, Mom felt that being able to make these items at home added more loving care to the preparation and controlling the ingredients eliminated the “junk” from the “junk food”.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

Additionally, Mom believed that cooking (and baking) was as much of an art as it was a science – often working like a chemist in the kitchen, trying to identify the various ingredients within a product through scent investigations, visual exams, taste tests, and other experimentations.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977)

FAMOUS DISHES aren’t really all that difficult to duplicate. The first thing you have to do is stop thinking of yourself as a COOK and start thinking as a CHEMIST! You want to take a substance and try to discover its individual components – whereas most cooks… [start] with one ingredient, building around it.

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

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

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

The only way to duplicate a dish is really to taste and test – over and over until you eventually achieve what you feel are satisfactory results… Restaurants do not always cook from scratch so don’t be disappointed when you find that a ‘duplicated’ recipe employs the use of prepared mixes, because that is the way most of today’s food service businesses do it.

Most of what you eat in the corner diner where the truck drivers stop for good, home cooked, hot [meals] is the same basic food you would also be served in a fine hotel, supplied by the same food manufacturing firms that also stock our supermarkets… The secret of the restaurant’s success is more in the management than the food.

Whenever Mom attempted to duplicate a dish or product, her two initial concerns were, first, being able to do it at home (without special gadgets or hard-to-find ingredients) for less of a cost than purchasing the original; and, second, being able to do it with only a minimal investment of time and labor. Mom always said that she never liked to cook but she did, however, LOVE to eat out!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977)

BUT, WITH A FAMILY of seven, who ate like 20, it wasn’t financially practical to have restaurant outings too often. It just seemed a shame that all of those delicious dishes that were served in restaurants had to be kept secret when families like ours could be enjoying them at home for a fraction of the cost of eating them out.

Our ‘National Homemaker’s Newsletter’ wasn’t using too many recipes in the beginning and those we used seemed to be just frosting on the cake. But each time I discovered the secret of duplicating a recipe from a favorite restaurant, the requests for more poured in. Soon enough, it became, not just the frosting, but the whole cake!

Mom always thought it was strange that it was okay to mention a company’s brand name in her list of ingredients, as companies thought of it like “free advertising” or “recommendations”. However, if she put their name in the title, at the top of the recipe, it was considered “infringing on their trademark” – or so their lawyers threatened with their “cease and desist” letters.

Although not all the companies whose products Mom attempted to imitate felt that way! There were many that accepted Mom’s imitations with honor, as the compliments they were meant to be. The critics predicted that Mom’s style of cookery wouldn’t last very long but it continued because it had merit! In fact, Mom pioneered a movement of copycat cookery for 40 years, until she fully retired in 2014.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977)

FOR NEARLY TWO YEARS, we had only a hundred readers or so. Then, because some good folks in the media took a liking to the newsletter and mentioned it, subscriptions picked up. Bob Allison of Detroit’s WWJ-Radio [show], Ask Your Neighbor, probably gave us the most enthusiastic reception, which led to our becoming a sponsor of the show and caught the attention of the ‘Detroit Free Press’ ‘Newsweek’, ‘National Enquirer’ and many others until we found our circulation had jumped…to nearly 4,000 in a little more than a year.

The duplications of the famous name recipes stirred the [public’s] interest. It was a service that apparently had not been offered to the public yet, and one we were most happy to supply. The humorous columns I had [been syndicating] to newspapers just a few years before became a popular attraction in the monthly newsletter…

The operation grew so quickly that it had the whole family working seven days a week, just to keep up with the orders. All of our five children helped to assemble, staple, address, and mail out the copies under my husband’s supervision, until we reached about 3,000 readers and then we found it [to be] such a full-time activity that my husband resigned from his position of 20-some years as an account t executive for a sign company… just  to devote all of his attention to running my ‘office’.

It was such a joy to be doing something for people that brought them so much happiness and our own family such a sense of unity. When our oldest son, Bill, went off to college… and our [other] son, Mike… we had to replace them. It was pure luck [or Divine intervention] that one of my friends, and the wife of one of the Little League coaches that Paul had worked with in baseball, here, in town, was anxious to help us out.

Sherry Ellis joined us, and I can only describe her as ‘bubbling like a happy brook’ – the best thing that this office could have hoped for. Debbie, our oldest daughter, continued to help us after school and our two younger daughters, Laurie and Cheryl… It even included my mother’s assistance and, you’ll note, I have used some of her recipes. Without her, I never would have learned to boil water properly. She’s a superb cook!

[As of] January 1977, we will publish our 37th monthly issue of the ‘National Homemaker’s Newsletter’ and we [now] have close to 5,000 readers. We say that getting the newsletter is just like getting together once a month for coffee with friends!

It was a bittersweet day when Mom produced her last newsletter in December 2000 – after 27 years of visits with her thousands of readers. By the way, it wasn’t always produced monthly. Sometimes it was produced bi-monthly, offering double the number of pages, recipes, editorials, household tips, and more,. During a few years, it was produced quarterly; again, offering even more pages of writings and recipes than the bi-monthly issues!

#CountryCookingMonth

Continuing, one last time, in the honor of National Country Cooking Month, here are Mom’s copycat recipes for griddlecakes and syrup, like Pancake House; as seen in her cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; June 1977, p. 32). Enjoy!

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

Listen to the “Good Neighbor” show, TODAY, at 11am (CDST)/ 12-noon (EDST), on #WHBY!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…26 down, 26 to go – WOW – the year is half-way through!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Sweet Summertime

Happy Monday AND happy summer! I hope all the dads out there had an awesome, memory-making Father’s Day with their kids yesterday! As always, #TGIM – I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year to share these memories of my mom with all of you!

Summer officially arrived over the weekend! I hope everyone got out – in the “Great Outdoors” – and celebrated the Summer Solstice! I’ve been writing a lot about June, being National Country Cooking Month. But, did you know June is also National Great Outdoors Month and National Camping Month, as well?

#GreatOutdoorsMonth

After being cooped up, to some degree, as usual, for the winter months, (which, in Michigan, is usually 4 months long instead of 3 – all of December through all of March) people are usually “biting-at-the-bit” to get out and enjoy spring! But this spring turned out to be a 3-month-long (and more extreme) extension of our “winter hibernation”, because of all the pandemic restrictions and closures. So, I ask: “Who isn’t ready to get outside now and explore the “Great Outdoors”?

My husband and I love to enjoy the outdoors by going on a nature hike, or by taking a long scenic drive around Michigan’s “Thumb Area” and having a picnic by the lake or checking out a small village eatery. We also enjoy camping whenever we can get away for the weekend – Michigan has a lot of beautiful campgrounds, parks, and state land to enjoy and explore.

#NationalCampingMonth

I, myself, have been spending more quality time outdoors, this month, going for long walks or working in my gardens, as the weather has been getting warmer. I pulled out our cushions for the backyard furniture and made it “visitor-ready”. In fact, we had a backyard campfire with a few friends to welcome in the summer solstice.

I’ve also started organizing all of our camping gear and going over my checklist so it’s “ready to go” (except for filling our coolers) whenever we are ready to go. We usually go camping a few times a year – spring, summer, and fall. We missed our usual springtime excursion – so we’re really looking forward to our annual summer get-away! How do you like to enjoy your summer?

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, 1964

An online survey of Americans, conducted four years ago, in 2016, by the National Recreation and Park Association, found that the three most commonly preferred summer activities, among all the different age groups, were walking/hiking, going to the beach and having a picnic/barbecue. That sounds about right, still, today! It was interesting, though, that the survey had also found that Millennials preferred going swimming in a pool over walking/hiking.

If you’re one of those who are working out of their home all the time, like Mom and Dad did – or as many have been doing, temporarily, for the past 3 or 4 months because of the Covid-19 restrictions – that can also make you want to “get out and about” every once in a while.

Mom and Dad loved to take a day just to go on a scenic road trip to unwind from the workload at home and refresh themselves. Sometimes, however, work would manage to creep back in whenever they stopped for a bite to eat. Mom always managed to find something good that she wanted to analyze and duplicate when she got back home.

FRIENDS ARE A TREASURE and, when we count our blessings, we count our friends twice! It’s not possible to have a full and happy life without others to share with, to help when help is needed, to be helped when help is offered. – Gloria Pitzer

Mom and Dad seemed to make friends everywhere they went. Some trips were just for relaxation and fun. But other trips involved some Secret RecipesTM work too, as Mom really did enjoy what she did and it was easy to incorporate a restaurant review and an imitation of a dish (or two); even an occasional, in-studio, radio show interview, instead of through the phone lines, as Mom usually did.

Mom with Sue Smith at WSGW-790, Saginaw MI

Mom and Dad also loved to spend a weekend, here and there, camping with their “Good Sam” friends around Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. In fact, Mom wrote about that in her book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 61); saying: “Recipe seminars that I have conducted for the Good Sam RV organization in, both, Michigan and Ohio, have given me the opportunity to meet with and talk to people from all over the country relative to their recipe interests and food needs.”

Mom often said that her writing made living worthwhile. But her legacy of Secret RecipesTM gave her so much joy that, for the most part, it wasn’t like “working” at all.

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. 100)

MORE THAN FRIENDS

Some of our best ideas that come from our friends and we happily share the good they have offered. But even before the recipes were a part of our livelihood, I was learning from friends, holding dear the wonderful ideas they offered. From Dolores Garavaglia, one of my first friends when Paul and I were married, I learned how to make a terrific Italian spaghetti sauce.

We were visiting Ray and Dolores at their cottage, recently, near Houghton Lake [MI], and laughing over the dramatic shortcuts we’ve learned to take since those days, over 30 years ago, when we cooked ‘from scratch’ and thought nothing of an 18-ingredient recipe. From Harold and Anna Muzzi, we have derived a sense of appreciation for a friendship that goes back to Paul’s childhood when Harold [Muzzi] and Ray Garavaglia were his best friends and neighbors.

Julia Bulgarelli, another long-time dear friend, has always given me good ideas and she came from the cottage next door to Ray and Dolores to share an ‘oven stew’ recipe with me that we used in our January-February 1990 issue of our newsletter. Our files are full of such wonderful dishes. But, in addition to that, we learn about living and about loving from our friends. There is a reciprocation that blooms with affectionate exchanges, whether by mail or with personal visits.

Sherry Ellis came to my aid more than once when I was bogged down and needed another pair of hands. I appreciate her sparkle and enthusiasm for just about everything. Sophie Wesley and I have been super friends since we bowled together years ago and, when I least expect it, and needed it the most, a card would come in the mail from Sophie, reflecting the beautiful thoughts that comfort when comfort is needed.

Betty Pumford and I became friends through Flossie Taylor, who passed away a few years ago. Flossie [also] introduced me to Elsie Masterton’s cookbooks, which I truly treasure. Some of Flossie’s recipes dated back to her childhood when she remembered visiting her Aunt Clara and Uncle Henry [Ford] at ‘Fairlane’, their home in Dearborn, Michigan. Betty and I had wonderful lunches with Flossie and after Flossie was gone, carried on the happy tradition, also exchanging some great recipes along the way, as well as understanding and happy conversations.

Since our camping experiences with the national RV organization, ‘Good Sam’, we have truly adopted their slogan… ‘In Good Sam there are no strangers – only friends you haven’t met yet!’ How very true. What would we have done had we not been blessed with meeting Irv and Helen Henze [or] Helen and Chuck Mogg? How much we miss Chuck since he passed away. Friends are those people who know everything there is to know about you, but like you anyhow!

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

To Good Sam RV Club (MI & OH Branches): Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with and talk to people from all over the country, relative to their recipe interests and food needs… Since our camping experiences with…’Good Sam’, [Paul and I] have truly adopted their slogan, ‘In Good Sam, there are no strangers – only friends we haven’t met yet! – from Gloria Pitzer (1989)

FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT

Since my dad passed away in the fall of 2014, Father’s Day has become one of those days when I miss my dad more immensely than others! Like any daughter might feel, he was and will always be my hero! Thus, being that yesterday was Father’s Day, I want to share with you an old, satirical editorial that Mom wrote about Dad called “Father’s Day (or) the King and I!” Below is a photocopy of the article, which I found in Mom’s June 1974 newsletter issue.

There weren’t many things that stumped my mom more than understanding my dad’s love of football.

MORE FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT

#CountryCookingMonth

When I shared the following passage in last week’s blog post, I knew something about it sounded familiar. The “Texas Fruitcake” and “Horton’s…family” referred to in Mom’s story were that of Puddin Hill fame.

Grandpa was holding a full house, trying to beat the town’s commercial Baker, and Grandma’s competitor. When Grandpa ‘called’ him, Hartwig Horton was holding a flush of diamonds, but confessed he couldn’t pay Grandpa in cash. However, he would call the debt squared, if Grandpa would agree to take, instead of cash, a much-coveted recipe for his family’s ‘Texas Fruitcake’ that Grandma had been trying to duplicate for years; the secret formula closely guarded by Horton’s Texas family [as in ‘Puddin Hill’]. Grandpa agreed. – Gloria Pitzer, Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 42)

Mom’s “imitation” of this famous fruitcake was in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 279); which was a rewrite of her famous, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).

It’s unclear if Mom developed this recipe, herself; or if she may have gotten it from “Grandma’s Kitchen Journal”, which she has mentioned a number of times in her “family folklore” stories that I’ve been sharing with you the last few weeks. I’m sure Mom would like to spin another yarn about this being THE recipe, won in a West Virginia saloon poker game! But I’m pretty sure it’s Mom’s own development.

#NationalOnionRingsDay

These recipes, pictured below, are worth repeating. In honor of today, being National Onion Rings Day – here is Mom’s copycat recipe for the BEST ONION RINGS IN THE WORLD! It’s the same batter she used for her imitation of Arthur Treacher’s fish. Both of the recipes, in the photo below, were on Mom’s sample sheet of recipes that she gave away years ago in exchange for a SASE. They were also among Mom’s “Original 200” recipes – the cornerstones of her Secret RecipesTM legacy. Enjoy!

http://therecipedetective.com/2019/04/16/archer-teacher-fish-chips-plus-onion-rings-option/

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

THIS IS COMING UP NEXT WEEK…

#WHBY

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Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Backdoor Bakery

Hi everybody! Happy Monday to one and all! As always, #TGIM because I continually look forward to Mondays as they are my #52Chances a year, in which I have to share memories of my mom!

Over the past few months of having been under “stay home, stay safe” orders for the Covid-19 pandemic, many people started learning the art of bread baking – if they didn’t already know it – in part, because of food shortages in the bread department; as well, it was something to do (with a lot of time on our hands) and bread baking has been known to relieve stress! Here is what Mom has to say about that subject…

For the last few weeks, I have been writing about and sharing some of Mom’s stories (her memories) about my paternal ancestry. I found a few more of Mom’s folktales about “Grandma” and her “Backdoor Bakery”. This series of stories that Mom wrote, about 40 years ago, are based loosely, in part, on some family fables that have been passed down through the generations. I call it her “kin-folk-tales”!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 3)

THE BACKDOOR BAKERY

(The family saga, as written by Gloria Pitzer, based on ‘kin-folk-lore’.)

Grandma never intended to bake for profit. She did it because Grandpa couldn’t keep a job. He was a talented man – restless and easily bored with the same job for very long. When the oldest daughter, Vivian, went to work in the city at the hospital, she always had something good for lunch that Grandma had baked; and, after a number of the doctors and nurses in the employees’ lunchroom had sampled the baked goods, Vivian was taking home requests to bake special orders for a fair price.

Word spread very soon about Grandma’s baking talents. If somebody wanted a wedding cake or special coffee cakes for holidays or other celebrations, Grandma took the order and filled it promptly. They finally had to turn the back ‘washroom’, next to the kitchen, into a storage and working area to accommodate another stove and more counters and cupboards.

If someone came to the house, usually up the walk to the [front] porch, and rang the pull-cord attached to the clapper on the milk-wagon bell, somebody would answer the door and direct the prospective ‘customer’ down the walk, around the flower beds, and along the gravel driveway to ‘the backdoor’.

Of course, at the back of the house, there were two doors. One went to the cellar and the other into the new kitchen room. So Grandpa hammered up a sign in the appropriate place reading: ‘This is the backdoor.’ – with an arrow pointing to it.

Soon afterward, Knowles (or Butch, as we called him – one of the older boys) added a hand-carved sign that said: ‘Bakery’. From then on, it was always called ‘The Backdoor Bakery’. And when they moved into a building in the business district of town, years later, Grandma picked one with a nice back entrance to a little traveled side-street so that the sign would be easily transferred to it.

In the introduction for the “Breads” chapter of Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018), she says: “Homemade bread can be anything you want it to be, depending on the amount of time and effort you put into it. The ingredients are simple for a good white bread. In fact, the first time I worked with this recipe [see end of blog post], making notes of what I put in the batch, I thought I had left something out when I discovered that the final product was light and lovely and evenly textured. But after 3 or 4 more tests, I was perfectly satisfied that this was going to be my favorite white bread recipe for lack of a better name I called mine… Thunder Bread!”

Mom wrote about the secret of good bread, being in the kneading and rising of the recipe’s process; and that, given enough time, bread will rise anywhere – whether it be in the refrigerator, on the sink top, or in a dark closet! Mom advised that the more you allow kneaded dough to rise and punch it back down again, the better the texture will be.

Some fascinating pointers that Mom offered, in the practice of bread making, includes:

    • Not enough salt in the dough will make it course.
    • Too much shortening will make it heavy.
    • Not enough shortening will make it dry.
    • Eggs will make it soft like a coffee cake.
    • No eggs at all will make it spongy like old-fashioned bread.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 24)

[Below, cont’d from p. 24]

They bartered for the baked goods when they didn’t have the cash to pay. A bushel of apples or a peck of potatoes might be a fair-trade for bread, sufficient to feed a large family for a week. From the batter bread recipe, many versions of baked goods were created. Greased cupcake or muffin wells half-filled with the batter produced a good dinner roll (when baked at 375° for 20 to 25 minutes.)

Grandma insisted on one test for ‘doneness’ – tapping the crust with a finger. If it made a hollow sound – it was done! Grandma and the five girls were up at 4 AM to begin the baking each Saturday. During the bristling winter days at her ‘Back-Door Bakery’, there was a large enamel pot of lemonade keeping hot on the back of the stove.

She sold [the warm lemonade] for a few cents a cup to go along with a doughnut or cookie to those customers warming their hands over the heat of the stove before departing. When Jasper Fillmore turned up, she noted in her journal, there was a slug of Grandpa’s favorite whiskey added to it – providing no local ladies from the Temperance Society were about.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

EVEN MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Eating Out At Home Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1981, 12th Printing, p. 42)

HOMESTEAD, HOTEL AND RESTAURANT

(The continuing family saga by Gloria Pitzer, based on ‘kin-folk-lore’.)

INSTINCTIVELY, GRANDMA KNEW what food combinations had to be ‘balanced’. She didn’t know why, nor did she anguish over the possibility that somebody in the family might be suffering from nutritional deficiencies. She didn’t fret because she lacked a formal education in the science of food chemistry or dietetics.

She just knew that 11 children grew healthy and strong with one soapy hot tub bath a week, baking soda-brushed teeth once a day, church on Sunday, school attendance without excuses – except for illness (and being sick of school was not an acceptable excuse) – combined well with definite daily chores, hot food, ample drinking water, sufficient sleep and loving tolerance of each other in spite of personal faults.

Cheese and eggs were both important ingredients in Grandma’s cooking. The eggs came every other day from Cousin Nell, who had a lucrative ‘egg route’ for many years, sufficient, in fact to feather her nest nicely with an all brick house of nine rooms and a live-in housekeeper and a handyman to tend to the chickens in the coops on the back of the 20 acre parcel where she resided.

No one knew what happened to Cousin Nell’s husband, Regis, who (some whispered) had up-and-left-with one of the saloon girls on a train heading for St. Louis. Nell pulled herself together quickly when she realized she had no one to look after her and the four children. She tended her garden, started selling the eggs from a dozen hens until she had enough money to buy more laying-hens from a hatchery and the business grew.

The cheese, in grandma’s kitchen, was homemade if it were the soft type that could be used within a few days. But she bought the hard cheese from the Mercantile in town once a month. She would wrap it in smaller portions, in wine-soaked cloth, or dip some in melted paraffin to keep even longer. These were interesting ingredients in the products of her ‘Backdoor Bakery’.

WHEN GRANDMA SLICED warm, fresh bread in her ‘Back-Door Bakery’ and made sandwiches for her customers, she kept it simple, using her homemade cooked salad dressing, sliced cheese – and their choice of apple butter, marmalade, or walnut butter with. Together, with a cup of hot cinnamon tea [or lemonade], from the enamel cattle (which I have now, sitting on the hearth in our living room) – no customer had to brave the chilly April rain without a warm cup of tea before leaving.

The food industry today markets their products in a more sophisticated method than Grandma did when she packaged her baked goods in brown paper and string, neatly piled in a large basket – sometimes in several baskets – and delivered by carriage over some hairpin curved roads between Grafton and Morgantown in West Virginia…

As for Nell, Grandpa’s brother’s girl, life was difficult at first. When the egg route began to support her nicely, there was talk around town that most of Nell’s money came from the card games she would sit in on when she delivered eggs to the hotel. No one ever confirmed it, since Nell was a handsome woman, to be envied by many of the matrons whose husbands found her attractive – and a good listener when they needed one.

The Homestead Hotel was the only place in town to stay – if you had to stay in town. And Vivian told how she ‘spent a week there one night’, when a snowstorm kept her from returning home from town. That was the night that Grandpa was with her – and Nell was sitting in on one of those ‘naughty’ poker games.

Grandpa was holding a full house, trying to beat the town’s commercial Baker, and Grandma’s competitor. When Grandpa ‘called’ him, Hartwig Horton was holding a flush of diamonds, but confessed he couldn’t pay Grandpa in cash. However, he would call the debt squared, if Grandpa would agree to take, instead of cash, a much-coveted recipe for his family’s ‘Texas Fruitcake’ that Grandma had been trying to duplicate for years; the secret formula closely guarded by Horton’s Texas family.

Grandpa agreed. But there were other hands dealt that wintry night, as Nell took on Morris Weismann, a few others, and came away holding the mortgage to the hotel as her winnings. The rather scarlet details of the all-night card game between Nell and the men, have been lost in verbal translation among aunts and uncles who still recall the excitement of it.

We only know that Nell and her four children, in their teens by then, moved into the hotel, staffed it themselves and kept the 20 upstairs guest rooms with the five baths between them, continuously occupied and tidy. Meanwhile, grandma worked out an arrangement with her niece to furnish the hotel restaurant with all of its baked goods for a fair price if Nell promised to shut down the saloon and the card games.

In honor of National Country Cooking Month, here is another one of Mom’s homemade bread recipes (an imitation of Wonder Bread) from page 60 of her cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997).

#CountryCookingMonth

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

COMING UP, IN 2 WEEKS! #WHBY!

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…24 down, 28 to go!

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