Mondays & Memories of My Mom – “Famous Foods from Famous Places”

Hello to everyone, and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! I’d also like to say happy February 18th! According to the calendar at OCfoodies.com, it’s Crab-Stuffed Flounder AND Drink Wine Day – therefore, eat, drink and be merry! I’m down with that! In case you’re wondering who I am…

My name is Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, also known as the famous “Recipe Detective”TM. Mom passed away just over a year ago; thus, I started this blog last year to celebrate her legacy and share remembrances of her because she had such a huge effect on so many people, besides my family and I; some we’ve never met, from all around the world.

Even though I grew up surrounded by and involved in “the family”, dining-room-table operation, I didn’t truly understand Mom’s deep love of it all (like the love of a mother for her child) until about 4 years ago when I started collaborating with her to re-write her personal favorite, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes; St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing). The goal was to republish it for a new media generation, as Mom started a new phase of her life as a widow.

Mom chose the cookbook for me to re-write for her. It was, basically, her favorite revision of her very first (self-published) cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Gloria Pitzer, Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI – 1973). Ironically, it also became her last cookbook – 45 years and 5 or 6 revisions apart! Helping Mom to rewrite the “revised rewrite” of that original book, put me in touch with her in a whole new way! The cookbook was re-published under the title Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, in January 2018. The subtitle of the book is “Famous Foods from Famous Places”.

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

“Recipe Detective” is the name that was bestowed on Mom by her many friends and fans from her regular radio, talk show visits, which started in the early 1970s. One of her favorites was with Bob Allison on his “Ask Your Neighbor” show (WWJ-Radio; Detroit, MI). This show still airs today, with Bob Allison joined by his son, Rob! The nickname was a natural fit for Mom, because she could sleuth out and find the secrets of the food and restaurant industries, just like Sherlock Holmes, who happened to be one of her favorite fictional characters. Mom always loved to solve a good mystery! A lot of her endeavors as to which “top secret” recipes to crack were inspired by requests from her quickly growing, newspaper and radio fan-base.

Another of Mom’s favorite regular, radio, talk show visits, from which she received other “secret recipe” requests/challenges, were with Warren Pierce on The Warren Pierce Show (WJR-Radio, Detroit). I’ll discuss more about these visits in next week’s blog, Interesting Challenges; so, I hope you’ll come back and check it out! By the way, Warren’s show still airs on weekend mornings – see: http://www.wjr.com/the-warren-pierce-show/

“I made a living with my writing; but, it was my writing that made living worthwhile.” – Gloria Pitzer

Mom wrote for most of her life – starting with daily journaling when she was a young girl. As a matter of fact, her journaling never stopped for the rest of her life AND it was a tremendous help for her to remember things as she dealt with Dementia in her last few years. Besides journaling, Mom wrote for and worked on school newspapers, in secondary school and college. She also entered, and won, many essay contests; all of which lead to her writing for local newspapers, as well as, syndicating her columns and cartoons nationally.

Mom always knew she wanted a career in writing. At first, she never thought about a career writing about the food industry; however, it seemed that most of her successes in writing revolved around recipes and homemaking ideas. “They” say the best things to write about are the things that you know best! But, I guess Mom didn’t know what she knew, until she realized she knew it! Then, she grew to love it even more!

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” ― Theodore Roosevelt

After leaving the newspapers in the early 1970s, to fill a consumer need she felt was out there and not being fed, Mom started publishing her own newsletter, which was first published in January 1974 and continued on through December 2000 – 27 years and 219 issues in all. Every issue was jam-packed full of new recipe discoveries from her radio and restaurant visits; plus, laughable and inspirational stories to feed the heart and soul, household/kitchen/cooking tips and tricks, restaurant/author reviews and recommendations and so much more! As I mentioned in last week’s blog, Mom often said her newsletters were “…like getting together for coffee with friends” SM.

1974 heading of Mom’s first newsletter.

From time-to-time, the newsletter changed frequencies of printings per year (i.e. monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly); and the title changed slightly a few times too, starting out as Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter (Jan. 1974) and ending as Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, when Mom retired it (Dec. 2000). In addition, the price changed with the times also, starting out at $0.50 per issue or $5 for a 1-year (12 issues) subscription in 1974; and ending in 2000 at $2 per issue or $18 for a 1-year (12 issues) subscription. I’d love to hear comments from anyone who subscribed to Mom’s newsletters, or who know someone that subscribed – you can write to me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

2000 heading of Mom’s last newsletter.

Mom also wrote and self-published about* 40 cookbooks (*over, if you consider that many had multiple printings & some had multiple versions). She also wrote a couple of “feel good”, inspirational books and many “brand-specific” recipe folders, as well as a couple of small recipe booklets; all created, of course, from her 30-year, on-going collection of recipes that she developed, tested, wrote and published – a collection that grew from a couple hundred to thousands, imitating famous dishes and products of the food industry – certainly, as if she infiltrated their actual, “top secret” recipes and methods!

Rabbit Hole Note: I’m not sure exactly how many thousands of recipes Mom has to her credit, but I am currently working on a “Master List” based on the indexes in her 40+ books and other publications. When it’s finished, I’ll be posting the extensive “master list” under a new tab on the website – be sure to check out the website again when the “Master Index List” tab is added – you’ll be notified right away if you’re following me on any one, or all, of the following social media links: https://twitter.com/recipedetective, https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheRecipeDetective/, https://www.instagram.com/therecipedetective/ and https://in.pinterest.com/therecipedetective/. The dream for the “Master Index List” is to have all the posted entries linked to all the other related “Cookbooks”, “Other Publishings”, “Recipes” and “Blog” posts.

Mom’s books stood out, head & shoulders above the rest – not only for her unique concept of “eating out at home” recipes, imitating fast-food and fine-dining dishes; but also, like her newsletter, for their homemade, crafty designs and lay-outs that were filled with good humor, food-for-thought and food-for-the-soul editorials, household tips & tricks; as well as tidbits of interesting historical information! No other cookbooks on the market at that time, or since, have offered any kind of combination like that – especially not with “make-alike” recipes to imitate food industry dishes and products at home – unless they copied the original copycat! There’s a fine line between imitating and plagiarizing, which is a topic for another blog post in the near future. Mom was a trail-blazer, carving out a unique niche in the food industry, which inspired many followers and other copycats!

Before she started the newsletter in 1974, one of Mom’s very first cookbook creations was called, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Gloria Pitzer, Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI – 1973). This was a collection of recipes that Mom originally published in Cookbook Corner, one of the recipe columns that she syndicated to many different newspapers for over 5 years prior…

The Better Cooker’s Cookbook – written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI), 1973

Here are some excerpts from a wonderful review of this cookbook, written over 45 years ago by Mike Royko [Detroit Free Press, The Feature Page; MONDAY, DEC. 10, 1973]:

I Keep the Munchies Away by Writing

IF YOU spend any time in this corner, you have noticed lately that I have been writing a lot about food, restaurants and eating. It always happens when I go on a strict diet. I satisfy my hungers by writing about food… But to keep the ol’ write-and-lose therapy going, let me pass on some info about two rather novel cookbooks that have come to my attention.

First, there’s Gloria Pitzer’s handmade (her five kids in Algonac even helped hand-color the cover) delight called, “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook.” Gloria is a delightful newspaper columnist and she notes in[side] the front of her book: “If the Good Lord had intended for me to cook, why wasn’t I born with aluminum hands?”

Another sparkling observation: “Cookbooks do not tell you, for instance, such vital items as the Impossibility of Using Up Easter Eggs!” I really groove on the little asides she tucks between the over 200 sensible recipes. Like this one: “Frankly, I never met a melon squeezer I really liked. They always make me feel so insecure, the way they hold the melon to their eye and thump it like they are expecting a heartbeat.”

…It’s a buck and a half and a belly-laugh a page…

I remember getting to help color those cookbooks! I was only about 8½ years old at the time; but, even then, I was OCD enough to stay within the lines, which was a very important requirement if you wanted to be one of Mom’s colorists! That was so much fun! Almost as good as being one of her taste-testers – because even the “duds” were great! The dining-room-table operation was always a family business; however, Dad was just the last one in the family that was let in on “the secret”…as Mom wrote about in “her story” many times, one of which I included in my recent 4-part series, Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began.

As I got older, and learned how to cook and bake from Mom, I also got to help her make/test some of her “secret” recipes. I remember developing my own banana bread recipe when I was 14, after a small summer vacation at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan’s beautiful Lake Huron. That same week, a movie crew was there, filming “Somewhere In Time”, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour! It was one of my most memorable vacations with Mom and Dad (and my younger sister, Cheryl.)

Photo of Gloria Pitzer, on the porch of The Grand Hotel, taken by Laura Pitzer, 1979

I was very inspired by the hotel’s elegant presentation of snacks. In particular was a luscious, moist banana bread that seemed more like a cake than a bread, with a scrumptiously thick cream cheese glaze! My version of the hotel’s special treat turned out so good that Mom put it in her next cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1982, 1st Printing) – which is the original book (but 3rd printing) that I helped her re-write 35 years later. It’s ironic that it took Mom a couple years for her to write that book (based on her first, 1973 cookbook) and it took me a couple years to re-write it once again!

Thanks for visiting! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my tribute to Mom! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

In closing this week, along with one of Mom’s recipes from her “free recipes and ordering information sheets”, with which I usually end my blog, I’m also including a copy of MY “Banana Bread” recipe, as it’s found on page 182 of Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her favorite, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)] – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

 BANANA BREAD – Like The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island (MI)

On the lavish, luncheon, smorgasbord tables of the Grand Hotel, where we were staying during the filming of “Somewhere in Time” [1979], were a variety of sweet breads, as well as finger sandwiches prepared on quick breads. One of their sandwich ideas was softened cream cheese – possibly whipped with a little sour cream – on a wonderful banana nut bread. When we returned home from that vacation, our daughter, Laura, came up with a version of their bread which became one of our favorite recipes.

1/3 cup butter or margarine

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups self-rising flour (SEE NOTE BELOW!)

1 cup each: ripe, mashed bananas (2 to 3 medium-sized) and chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes – set your timer!) Add the eggs and beat another 2 minutes. Beat in half of the flour and all the bananas for 2 minutes. Beat in remaining flour for 1 minute. Stir in nuts with a spoon. Pour into greased and floured, 9-inch bread-loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until it tests “done” with a toothpick. Cool several hours before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

NOTE: If you don’t have self-rising flour, then substitute with – 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. The best results, I have found, is when I stir the ½ teaspoon baking soda into the mashed bananas, combining the remaining ingredients and adding that much as directed in the recipe above.

The following is, yet, another version of Mom’s homemade self-rising flour, as found on page 169 of the same book referenced above.

Sift together 3 c. flour, 3 TB baking powder and 1 tsp. salt. Store in covered container, in a cool dry place. Makes approximately 3 ¼ cups.

Mom always said there’s more than one way to reach a destination or desired result. The following picture is of another, updated version of Mom’s homemade self-rising flour from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):

Let me know which version of homemade self-rising flour that you prefer – feel free to email me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

2018 – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best of the Recipe Detective

2018 Jan – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective

2018 – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best of the Recipe Detective is a re-write of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook by her daughter, Laura Emerich (published by Balboa Press, Jan. 2018). This cookbook has 318 pages filled with over 500 of Gloria’s best recipes, Food-for-Thought, inspirational stories, household and cooking tips and tricks, witty jokes, illustrations and historical information on some of the companies whose dishes and products she mimicked at home!

*SPECIAL NOTE: This cookbook was Gloria’s personal favorite of all the ones she’s written. It was recently re-written by Gloria and her daughter, Laura (Pitzer) Emerich. It is currently (as of Jan 2018) published by Balboa Press and available for sale at $20.99 each (also, available as an eBook for $3.99 each)…see: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252

Fun Facts:

Comments (as seen on Amazon):

5 out of 5 stars from the Secret Recipe Detective – Lynne – July 20, 2018 – Format: Paperback

“Gloria Pitzer was famous for her copycat recipes and their clever sound-alike names. She experimented in her kitchen to recreate popular foods. The first was McDonald’s secret sauce, way back in 1968. At that time, it was an 80-mile round trip from her home to the nearest McDonald’s. Any of her cookbooks is worth owning. They can be hard to find, so buy them when you see them.

Gloria Pitzer died earlier this year. The best tribute I can include is her version of Open Pit BBQ sauce — which will give you the flavour (yep, pun intended) of her style and creativity. She called it (what else?) Open Pitzer BBQ Sauce – Combine 1 cup bottled apple butter, 1 cup ketchup, and 1 cup Catalina Dressing. Mix well. Store in covered container in the refrigerator.”

1997 – Gloria Pitzer Presents The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes Book

1997 Jun – Gloria Pitzer Presents The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes Book

1997 – Gloria Pitzer Presents The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes Book was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook is a collection of the first 200 recipes developed and tested by Gloria Pitzer in the early 1970s for her monthly newsletter and original 4” x 6” recipe-card sales before she ever had cookbooks; now in one collection, plus almost 100 more! Many of products or dishes from places no longer available all in a 60-page, 8.5” x 11” format.

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “Imitations”
  • Printings: 1
  • Years: June 1997
  • Recipes: 293 listed
  • Pages: 60
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11”
  • Original Price: $8.75
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: 1-886138-11-7
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began, Part 4

Hi, everyone, and happy Monday! Welcome!

If you’re new to here – I’m Laura Emerich and I started this blog 5 months ago to celebrate my mom’s legacy. My mom is Gloria Pitzer; known to millions as the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”. Mom passed away just over a year ago, leaving behind an extensive treasure that included her love of life, family and faith; as well as her creative writing, illustrations and “Secret Recipes” careers.

This week, I am finishing up my 4-part, special series, “Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began”, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of sleuthing challenges that earned her the title of the “Recipe Detective”, which she later trademarked. This series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, as seen on pages 292-297 in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – which is a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).

Now, on with the final part of Mom’s continued story, in her own words:

My list of “Secret Recipes” had grown to 200 and we offered them, on 4 x 6” cards [that I printed on my mimeograph], at $0.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders, so I put all those recipes into a book. It was going to be our “only” book on the subject, since most of the recipes were “fast foods” – but, as it turned out, it was only the 1st of a series of 5 books [not to mention all the ones that came after that series]. After “Book One” took off and became a very good seller, I did a Bicentennial American Cookery book [pictured below] as a limited edition and was pleased when the Henry Ford Library at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan ordered copies for their Bicentennial collection. That was July 1976…

This is the front and back covers of the bicentennial cookbook mentioned above –
Ad about Mom’s recipe cards, as seen on the back of Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook – written and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1976)

Mom’s books were different than the rest – they stood out, not only in their crafty designs and lay-outs, but also because they were filled with food-for-thought AND food-for-the-soul AS WELL AS food-for-the-table ideas – all served up with a lot of clever humor on top! No other cookbooks at that time offered a combination like that – especially not with “make-alike” recipes to imitate food industry dishes and products at home! She was a trail-blazer, carving out a unique niche in the industry! But, let’s get back to Mom’s story…

RECIPES TESTED TO TURN OUT RIGHT

PAUL GAVE HIS BOSS TWO WEEKS’ NOTICE and left his job of 20 years to devote full time to helping me with the recipes and the newsletter. The subscriptions had increased from less than 100 to over 3000 in a few months. Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” show was still one of our favorite contacts and before we knew it, we became a sponsor of Bob’s show.

1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter

“It’s like getting together…for coffee with friends!” – Gloria Pitzer, referring to her newsletter

It was just prior to buying advertising time on Bob’s show that one of his audience had called in a request for a fish batter like Arthur Treacher’s. The caller specifically asked on the air if Gloria, “The Recipe Detective”, might give the recipe a try. I did and went back to the phone with each of several developing steps, waiting for the response of Bob’s audience to each one. The 1st several recipes were not quite “on target”. I wanted the recipe to be exactly like the famous batter of the fish and chips chain.

Each step came closer and closer to the perfect duplication, and each was reported over Bob’s show. Finally, with the club soda and pancake mix combination, the radio show’s audience was so enthusiastic that a copy of the recipe was sent to Carol Haddix, who was, then, the Food Editor of the Detroit Free Press. She tested the recipe and published it with an endorsement, that she felt it was “right on target”…

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Speaking of the Arthur Treacher challenge (above) – the following is another commentary Mom wrote specifically about developing the recipe to mimic Treacher’s fish batter, as seen in her book, “My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop” [written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989; pages 73-74]. It was not a quick development, and others have tried to lay claim to this secret; but, in truth, Mom was the one to originally discover the “secret” ingredients AND process involved in developing a matching product at home. Unlike most of the companies, whose products Mom imitated, Treacher’s people accepted the copycat imitation as the homage it was meant to be.

“Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery” – One of Charles Caleb Colton’s most famous aphorisms (1824). Lacon, Or, Many Things in a Few Words: Addressed to Those who Think (8 ed.). New York: S. Marks. #217, p. 114.

The most exciting attention we received was the recognition given us by the Arthur Treacher people. At the time, the Arthur Treacher fish batter was unique. It was crispy and golden brown and very light. Everyone we talked to about fish wanted to know how to recreate the Treacher fish batter at home. The original challenge came directly from Bob Allison’s “Neighbors”. The TV commercials advertised that it was “the meal you cannot make at home!” I tried to disprove that.

Finding the nearest Arthur Treacher restaurant [from “beautiful, downtown Pearl Beach”] was the real challenge. With a friend, I drove into Mt. Clemens and located one. After dozens of tests and trying what I thought would be a good Oriental Tempura batter, again, I was disappointed. I tried every fish batter I could find, in every possible recipe source [at the time], over a 6- or 7-month period.

Finally, one day, by accident, I was preparing fish for our dinner – without any thought being given to Arthur Treacher’s batter – and on a lark, [I] mixed together boxed pancake mix and some Club Soda. Only because the plumber was working on the pipes and had turned off the water temporarily, did I resort to that Club Soda, so that I wouldn’t have to put off preparing dinner until the plumber was finished. Everybody had someplace to go that evening, so dinner had to be fast and on time.

Wouldn’t you know it! There, on the platter, was a mountain of the most beautiful, golden, crispy fish that you would have sworn came right from Arthur Treacher’s own kitchen! The next day, I retested the recipe and tried to work out some of the little flaws that we came across, before I could report back to Bob Allison and his “Neighbors” over, then, WWJ-Radio, Detroit.

The biggest problem was how the coating kept falling off the fish during frying. It turned out, I had to correct two things – coating [the] moistened fillets, first, in plain flour, before dipping [them] into the batter and, then, having the oil precisely at 385F. Oh! And a third point: Never to use tongs – or the coating would break apart.

Once the fish recipe proved to be free of faults, I sent a copy of the recipe to Carol Haddix, the Food Editor of the “Detroit Free Press” [at that time], for her comments. I had talked with her, by phone, during the many weeks that I worked on perfecting the batter, trying to discover why the batter would sometimes fall off the fish; why the fish was, sometimes, greasy; and a number of other problems. She offered me the benefit of her experiences with frying fish and told me to get her a copy of the recipe, if I ever perfected it.

When she published the recipe in the paper, it carried her approval as “on target”. So, it does, therefore, have ample validation that the recipe is ours and does belong to “Secret Recipes”, in spite of the number of people I have had to confront on the issue over the years, regarding the plagiarism of it from our publications. Because our recipes and newsletters are all “dated publications” and are subject to Interstate Commerce, we don’t use the same copyright procedures that book publishers use.

We validate the originality by date of publication and back it up with radio and newspaper endorsements and involvement with the development and printing of the recipes for public use. But, that one recipe really caught the attention of the press! The wire services picked up Carol Haddix’s story about us and the fish batter recipe and, before long, it appeared in over 100 papers…[and the rest is history!]

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading “Mom’s Story” as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it again for her legacy tribute. In closing, here is a picture of Mom’s make-alike recipe for Arthur Treacher-Style Fish Batter and a bonus recipe, using any extra batter for Onion Rings (like Burger King used to serve in the beginning). This comes from Mom’s 1985 “Free Recipes & Information” sheet; asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

More information about Arthur Treacher and a slightly different version of this recipe, using individual spices instead of the packaged ranch dressing mix, along with some other famous fish & chips-style dishes and stories, can be found on pages 105-115 of Mom’s last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

Go to https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 to purchase the book for only $20.99! An eBook version is also available for only $3.99!

Please, come back and check out my blog next week, “Famous Foods from Famous Places”, when I discuss more of Mom’s writing career and how she earned the title of “The Recipe Detective”, which she trademarked; plus, the cookbook that began it all!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began, Part 3

Hi everybody and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! This is a special blog I started last year to carry on my mom’s legacy. I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer; also known as (aka) the one-and-only, ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”! That’s the name or title bestowed on Mom in the 1970’s era by her many radio talk-show friends and fans, because she could sleuth out the secrets of the food and restaurant industries like Sherlock Holmes (who happened to be one of Mom’s favorite, fictional book characters), determining how their dishes could be made at home with a minimum amount of cost, effort and ingredients.

This week, I am continuing with “Part 3” of my 4-part, special series, “Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began”, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of how she came to be “The Secret Recipe Detective”, her trademarked name. This particular series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, in her own words, as seen on pages 292-297 in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).

Resuming the story, “…How Secret Recipes Began”, here is “Part 3” in Mom’s words:

THE FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE

IT WAS THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME to launch a new business. The unemployment rate was terribly high. There was a newsprint paper shortage. There was a gasoline shortage. But, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to have my own publication. It was something I had always wanted to do. I couldn’t tell Paul. I knew that! He would have been far too practical to have approved of my starting my own paper, so I enlisted the help of our children.

I was taking in ironing at the time [1973-ish], at $5 a basket, and sometimes earned as much as $50 a week. The money was supposed to supplement Paul’s paycheck, which – as soon as we found could make ends meet – we discovered somebody had moved the ends. So, I took what money I could from the ironing earnings and bought a mimeograph.

Gloria Pitzer – 1974

I kept it in a big box in the utility room under my sewing table. Paul would hardly pay attention to what I wanted him to think was only sewing paraphernalia. For 9 months [1974], I mimeographed, assembled and mailed out about 100 copies a month of my “newsletter”. Bill and Mike helped assemble it and Debbie help me test the recipes and address the copies. I don’t know how we ever kept it from Paul for that long, but I couldn’t tell him what I was doing until I could assure him that I could make a profit. All I was doing was breaking even.

Mom had a lot of creative gifts and writing was probably on the top of the list. She had a way with words that made me smile and laugh, as well as make me think, “Hmmm?!” Her newsletters and books were full of “Food for Thought”, jokes, meditation, inspiration, historic information and so much more than just recipes. It certainly set her products apart from all the rest on the market at that time. She was largely influenced by Carol Duvall and her crafting newsletter, as well as, by Elsie Masterson and her “Blueberry Hill Cookbook” (1959).

Mom always described her own newsletters as being like “getting together for coffee…with friends.” I would describe it, simply, as Mom’s “happy place”. Anyway, back to her story…

Then, Dennis Wholley, at Channel 7 in Detroit, called and said somebody had sent him a copy of my newsletter. He was tickled with the crazy names I gave the recipes and the home-spun format. He wanted the entire family to be his guests on his “A.M. Detroit” show on November 14th – which was also our Laura’s birthday. I couldn’t keep it from Paul any longer, because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to promote the paper on a popular local television show.

He took it quite well, considering the state of shock he must have been in at my announcement. But, we took all 5 of the kids with us across town, in a blizzard yet, with Laura having a bout of car-sickness during the hour’s drive there. And, during that experience, we met Coleman Young, the recently elected mayor of Detroit, who was also a guest on the show. All of Pearl Beach must have been tuned into “A.M. Detroit” that morning, with half of the population gathered at the Pearl Beach post office, watching the portable set there.

1974 – Paul & Gloria Pitzer going over orders at their dining room table in Algonac.

It brought us many new orders for our newsletter, and it wasn’t long before CKLW’s Bob Heinz asked us to appear on his show on New Year’s Day. We, again, took the family over to Windsor, Ontario – across the Detroit River – for another exciting experience and hundreds of letters that followed, wanting to subscribe to the newsletter. By that time, Paul was giving me every evening of his time when he came home from his own job at the sign company, plus all the weekends just to fill the orders.

Stay tuned, next week, for the final part of this 4-part series about Mom’s story – how she became the famous “Secret Recipe Detective” – in her own words, as she describes how Dad retired early, from the sign company, to help Mom full-time; and about her Arthur Treacher Fish challenge! I can say this, as one of the official taste-testers in the challenges that she endeavored from her radio listeners, “BEST job ever!” Even the “duds” (the ones that didn’t quite imitate the taste she was trying to achieve) were great!

The best way to tell how successful a dish will be is to look for the first one to disappear. Find the cook & get the recipe! [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 146, Sep-Oct 1907; pg. 1, w/in “Dear Friends” editorial]

In closing, as I’ve been doing each week, I want to conclude this blog with one of Mom’s famous imitation recipes (pictured below), Applebee’s-Style Oriental Dressing, that appeared on one of her “Free Recipes/Information” sheets (2000) – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Note: this particular dressing recipe was not included in Mom’s last cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, many other wonderful salads and dressings dishes, as well as wonderful morsels of “Food for Thought”, preparation tips and humorous antidotes can be found in the “Salads & Salad Dressings” chapter or section of this book on pages 26-48. Enjoy!

1994 – The Best of the First 20 Years by Gloria Pitzer

1994 Apr – The Best of the First 20 Years by Gloria Pitzer

1994 – The Best of the First 20 Years was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook is a special, limited edition, anniversary issue of select recipes from the first 20 years of Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, 1974-1994; having a 60-page, 8.5” x 11” format full of 376 select recipes, family stories and pictures, editorials on The Newsletter’s history, food tips, tricks & techniques and information on Gloria’s regular radio visits. It sold for $10 per book.

“The Secret Recipe Detective” is the name or title given to Mom by her many radio talk show friends and fans, because she could sleuth out the secrets of the food and restaurant industries, determining how their dishes could be made at home with a minimum amount of effort and ingredients.

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “Anniversary Issue”, “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter”, “Special Limited Edition”, “First of a Series”
  • Printings: 1
  • Years: Apr 1994
  • Recipes: 376 listed
  • Pages: 60
  • Size: 8.5”x11”
  • Price: $10
  • Used copies on eBay: unknown
  • Used copies on Amazon: unknown
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1995 – Gloria Pitzer Presents The Best of the Better Cookery Cookbook

1995 Nov – The Best of the Better Cookery Cookbook

1995 – Gloria Pitzer Presents The Best of the Better Cookery Cookbook was revised again. It’s called the “16th printing”; but is, actually the first printing titled this way, which could also be considered the 6th printing of “The Best of” version. This limited edition cookbook used the 8.5” x 11” format – with the 120 pages of the smaller format laid out sideways on 60 larger pages, showing 2 pages of the old layout on each page, with more than 400 recipes still listed, including some new additions. Copies sold for $7.50 each.

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “New improved better than before” and “This is a very special edition based on the original text.”
  • Printings*: 1+
  • Years*: November 1995+
  • Recipes: 481
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11″
  • Price: $7.50
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: 1-886138-05-2
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1990 – THE BEST OF Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook

1990 Feb – The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook

1990 – THE BEST OF Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook is an updated & revised version of the original, 1982-1988 editions of The Better Cookery Cookbook.

Shown above, this revised edition says it’s the “11th printing”; however, technically, the “11th Printing” is actually the “1st Printing” of THE BEST OF Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook, which is a revised collection of the most popular and most favorite recipes from the original collection, condensed into a 120-page, 5.5” x 8.5” format from the original, larger and more detailed book from the 80’s format.

Fun Facts:

  • Printings: 5
  • Years: February 1990 – 1994
  • Recipes: 472
  • Pages: 120
  • Sizes: 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Price: $7
  • Used copies on eBay: $45
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1989 – Gloria Pitzer’s My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop

1989 Dec – Gloria Pitzer’s My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop

1989 – Gloria Pitzer’s My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this limited edition book has a 120-page, 5.5″ x 8.5″ format and is a culmination of the Pitzer family and how they got into the merry – sometimes mad – world of Secret Recipes, with a few special recipes thrown into the mix. This book is full of food-for-thought and witty stories of the trials and tribulations of a kitchen table, family enterprise .

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “The True Story of a Family”
  • Printings: 1+
  • Years: Dec 1989+ (sold out by Nov 1990)
  • Recipes: 32 listed
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Original Price: $7
  • Used copies on eBay: $17.98
  • Used copies on Amazon: $19.95
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1986 – Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4 Ingredient Recipes

1986 Apr – Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes

1986 – Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4 Ingredient Recipes – was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook has a 120-page, 5.5″ x 8.5″ format, boasting about 470 recipe listings in its index of her radio-listeners’ favorite dishes – ones that Gloria developed and tested to perfection. This cookbook includes all of her favorite shortcuts to success that have been popularly requested by her radio-listeners, during her visits with over 150 radio stations around the world.

After Paul and Gloria became “empty-nesters”, this book came in handy for cooking just for two again! This book would also suit those singles who want to impress their dates with “home cooked” meals, but don’t want to deal with complicated recipes. College students will also like the simple 1-2 serving recipes in this book. You can also customize the recipes to your needs by doubling, tripling or quadrupling ingredients for more servings.

*Special note: There are still a few hundred copies (new/unused) of the 3rd printing of this cookbook; available to purchase for $10 each (includes shipping). For details, contact: TheRecipeDetective@outlook.com

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “The Radio Recipe Detective Rides the Range Again!”
  • Printings: 3
  • Years: Apr 1986, Dec 1986 & June 2002
  • Recipes: 470 listed
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Price: 1st printing was $6; in Fall ’90, it was $7; then, $7.50 in Spring ’95. Since 2002, it has sold for $10*
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: 886138-21-4 (for 3rd printing)
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT – but, a few hundred, “new/unused”, 3rd printing copies are still available for purchase at $10 each (*includes 1st class postage) contact: TheRecipeDetective@outlook.com)