Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Where Did All The Good Noshes Go? – Part 1

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

Just last week, I saw a commercial announcing the 84th birthday (1936 – the same year that Mom was born) of the “Big Boy” restaurants chain and their signature, self-titled, double-decker, cheese burger. The “Big Boy” was introduced to the public long before Ray Kroc started the McDonald’s fast food chain, offering the same double-decker, cheese burger – slightly changing the name to “Big Mac”!

Funny note: In the mid-1970s, the McDonald’s Corporation was very upset, to say the least, when Mom started imitating their signature offerings and, likewise, slightly changing the name of her products to “Big Match”! The only difference was that Mom was selling the recipes, not the final products, so people could make their favorite products, at home, themselves (and at less of a cost than eating out).

I compared the “Big Boy” to the “Big Mac” – both offer 2 beef patties with a “special” sauce (resembling 1000 Island dressing), lettuce, pickles, onions, and cheese on a 3-piece, sesame seed bun. I found that the “Big Boy” is (normally*) “plated” and “presented” to you, in an eye-pleasing, palatable way, at your table, by a waiter/waitress (*except right now, during Covid-19 restrictions, as you can only get it as take-out/delivery in many areas).

Conversely, the “Big Mac” is assembled quickly, (some might say it’s “thrown” together) without regard for eye-pleasing palatability, and it’s served to you in a disposable, cardboard box at the cashier’s counter/drive-thru window. Additionally, you first have to pay for it, sight-unseen; then you can take your food to a table, yourself, to sit and eat; or you can leave with it, to eat elsewhere.

That’s basically what separates a restaurant chain apart from a fast food or “cafeteria-style” chain – how it’s ordered, along with being paid for first, and then how it’s received (in disposable packaging). I was inspired to look into what else classifies fast food chains from restaurant chains and which ones were the oldest in the U.S.

Although a wide variety of different foods, in either establishment, can be made FAST, the term, “fast food,  is a commercial term limited to food sold in a restaurant (or “store”) with frozen, preheated and/or precooked ingredients. In the restaurant realm, food that is made fast is called “short order”. 

I found that a restaurant chain is a set of “related” eateries  in different locations that are either under a shared corporate ownership or a franchising agreement. What depicts a restaurant/eatery (from the fast food establishments) is the majority of its food sales are in-store, with sit-down service, where the food is served in washable dishes and/or baskets for consumption on the premises.

[Of course, Covid-19 restrictions have affected that explanation, as most restaurants are, for now, limited to only take-out, curbside services and deliveries.]

Did you know that, fast-food and restaurant chains have been around for over a century? I formed a list of 30 of the oldest restaurant and fast food chains I could think of, but as I wrote a small paragraph about each one, it ended up being too long for one blog post. So, I’ve cut my list to give to you over the next few weeks’ blog entries. I stooped at 1940 for today’s blog entry and I will continue with the nostalgic list over the next week or two, as well.

Some information I learned from these three, wonderful articles: https://www.oldest.org/food/fast-food-chains/ and https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/the-countrys-oldest-chain-restaurants/ and https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Media/Slideshow/2017/01/13/26-Oldest-Restaurant-Chains-America?page=25 – along with material I gathered from Mom’s 40+, self-published cookbooks and hundreds of newsletter issues, as she has written about and made many imitations of the famous foods from almost all of the following chains. I’ll also re-share, with you, some of Mom’s recipes for these famous chains that I’ve shared in previous posts.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 7)

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES

THEY LAUGHED! THEY DOUBTED! They even tried to take me to court when some famous food companies insisted that I stop giving away their secrets. They couldn’t believe me when I said that I did NOT know, nor did I want to know, what they put in their so-called secret recipes. I did know that there are very few recipes that can’t be duplicated or imitated at home. And we could do them for much less than purchasing the original product. I proved…it can be and should be done!

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950’s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There is speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy ‘eating out’, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants. To each, his own!

Who would want to imitate ‘fast food’ at home? I found that over a million people who saw me demonstrate replicating some famous fast food products on The Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981) DID – and their letters poured in at a rate of over 15,000 a day for months on end! And while I have investigated the recipes, dishes, and cooking techniques of ‘fine’ dining rooms around the world, I received more requests from people who wanted to know how to make things like McDonald’s Special Sauce or General Foods Shake-N-Bake coating mix or White Castle’s hamburgers than I received for those things like Club 21’s Coq Au Vin.

Nathan’s Famous is the oldest restaurant chain I could find. It first opened as in 1916 on Coney Island (NY); founded by, husband and wife, Nathan and Ida Handwerker! They built a reputation on and are most famous for their all-beef franks and signature-spiced Coney sauce, which are also marketed in grocery stores in all 50 states. There are more than 300 Nathan’s Famous restaurants. The original one still stands at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, in Coney Island, New York. Mom developed several of her own copycat versions of “Coney Sauce” over the decades, but never accredited any as being like that served by Nathan’s Famous restaurants.

A&W is the next oldest chain I could find. Originally, it started as a drink stand, founded by Roy W. Allen in California in 1919. Allen’s employee Frank Wright partnered with him in 1922 and they founded their first restaurant in Sacramento, CA, in 1923. A&W developed the first “drive-in” carhop option to “casual dining”. However, It didn’t franchise until 1925. Thanks to A&W, by the WWII era, carhop services for drive-up establishments, serving burgers and other “fast food” choices, became common place. A&W’s signature Root Beer Float was always a family favorite treat for us. Mom developed several imitations of A&W’s menu offerings, including their Coney sauce!

White Castle was the next fast food chain establishment to open in 1921. It was founded, initially, by Billy Ingram, in Wichita, KS. The small, square hamburger (called a “Slider”), for which they are most famous, was declared the most influential burger ever, by Time® Magazine, in 2014! White Castle was one of the few fast food chains that were actually FLATTERED by Mom’s imitations of their products, sending her a very complimentary letter and a check to purchase a bunch of her cookbooks for all of their company’s executives.

Howard Johnson’s was founded in 1925, by Howard Deering Johnson; starting as an ice cream/soda fountain shop, near Boston, that was very popular. It later grew into a full-service, family restaurant in 1929, in Cape Cod.

Most famous for its signature orange roof and cupola, the Simple Simon and the Pie Man plaques, and its limited-menu food items – including it’s most famous 28 flavors of creamy, “homemade” ice cream, GRILLED hot dogs, and fried clam strips – it officially became a chain in 1935, when the first “link” opened in a “hot spot” in the Orleans district of Cape Cod, where Routes 28 and 6A meet. Howard Johnson’s continued to grow, becoming one of the biggest restaurant chains in the country. It evolved even more, in 1954, by becoming a chain of motels, as well.

Mom developed her own versions of their ice creams, sherbets, Boston Brown Bread, and Clam Chowder – just to name a few!

The Krystal restaurant first opened in 1932, in Chattanooga, TN. It was founded by Rody Davenport Jr. and J. Glenn Sherrill, who were “inspired” by the White Castle they visited in Chicago. Like the McDonald’s-Big Boy copycat story (above), they also offered their customers small, square hamburgers called “Sliders”.

In 1936, in California, Bob Wian founded the first restaurant in the soon-to-be-famous Big Boy® chain of family restaurants. The Big Boy® restaurants went under slightly different owners’ names per region/franchise – but always with “Big Boy” in the title. Bob’s Big Boy® is in California. Frisch’s Big Boy® is in Ohio. Big Boy® Restaurants (formerly Elias Brothers’…) are in Michigan and Shoney’s are in Tennessee.

Big Boy® was always one of our family’s favorite restaurant chains! Mom loved to imitate their dishes at home when we couldn’t afford to go out; and she replicated just about every item their menus featured! I’m working on a “Master Index List” of all the recipes from all of Mom’s works. So far, there are 35 recipes listed that Mom developed to imitate her favorite Big Boy® offerings at home – most of which appeared in her first 4 cookbooks, and many of those were among her “Original 200” recipe cards, on which Mom had built her Recipe DetectiveTM legacy.

Also, finding its start in 1936, was Chicken in the Rough; which was founded by Beverly and Rubye Osborne, in Oklahoma City.

Only two other cities, besides Oklahoma City, still serve “Chicken in the Rough” today – Port Huron, MI (just north of where we live, in St. Clair) and in Sarnia, Ontario (Canada), just east of Port Huron, across the southern base of Lake Huron, where it meets the north end of the St. Clair River.

Although most people would assume McDonald’s was the first fast-food chain, it actually didn’t start until after many others of their famous competitors. In fact, it was decades after the launches of A&W and White Castle, in 1954, when Ray Kroc purchased the McDonald’s fast food chain from the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac.

Mom absolutely loved McDonald’s! She imitated many of their menu offerings. In fact, it was her imitations of McDonald’s “Special Sauce” and the “Big Mac” that began her “Original 200” recipes collection, on which she built her Secret RecipesTM and Recipe DetectiveTM legacy!

The soft-serve ice cream formula was first developed in 1938 by John Fremont “J.F.” “Grandpa” McCullough and his son Alex. They convinced, friend and loyal customer, Sherb Noble to offer the product in his ice cream store. In 1940, the soft-serve ice cream chain, called Dairy Queen, was launched in Joliet, IL and operated by Sherb Noble. In 2001, the “Grill and Chill” eatery concept was added to some of their ice cream shops. Mom imitated several of their sweet treat offerings – but just going there was always a fun treat in itself!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

IN CLOSING…

Next week, I’ll cover the launching of other fast food fare chains from 1941 through 1960!

#NationalTrailMixDay

In honor of today, being #NationalTrailMixDay, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Snacker Crackers”, as seen in her self-published cookbook, Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986, p. 104). Add your favorite nuts, dried fruit, and/or chocolate chips/candies. 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 TODAY around 11am (CDST)/12noon (EDST)!

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

#CelebrateEveryDay

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

…35 down, 17 to go!

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

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES, like A&W’s

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES, like A&W’s

By Gloria Pitzer, The Copycat Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; April 1988, p. 10)

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded, cooked beef roast (or round steak)

1 cup Heinz Ketchup

1 cup apple butter

1 cup Catalina dressing

¼ cup Heinz 57 sauce

2 TB Worcestershire

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a 2 ½-qt baking dish.

Cover tightly and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until piping hot.

Fill 8 hamburger buns and serve at once!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – There is a Recipe for That!

Happy Monday to everyone, as we approach the end of August and Labor Day weekend – it’s the “unofficial” end of summer! Although, technically, there are 4 more weeks until fall really begins.

Mom kept a well-rounded library of sources from which to draw upon for inspiration and information. Remember, this was decades before the World Wide Web was available to households. Her favorite “go-to” books and magazines, when she was laying the groundwork for her copycat versions of the famous dishes and products of the food industry, included: Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping and Farm Home Journal.

Mom also loved her copies of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor Recipes cookbooks, the Bentley Farm Cookbook by Virginia Williams Bentley, the Blueberry Hills Menu Cookbook by Elsie Masterton, The Complete I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken; and she considered her copy of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer to be the bible of every good cook. In fact, Mom often recommended it, even though her own cookbook, The Joy of Not Cooking – Any More Than You Have To, was a bit of a spoof on it.

However, Mom’s first two biggest influences in the kitchen were, of course, her own mom; as well as my dad’s mom, as they lived with Dad’s parents for a short while, when they were newlyweds. Below is a picture of the story, which Mom re-printed in one of her last issues of the newsletter that she wrote and published for more than a quarter of a century (Jan. 1974 through Dec. 2000.)

Likewise, my mom was my initial kitchen influence as well. Besides some of the basics, which my high school Home Ec. class didn’t teach me as a teenager; Mom taught me many things in my young adult life as a busy, working-mom with a baby and another on the way – especially about recipe ingredients and substitutions – including “short-cut-cooking”, as she termed it.

Eventually, Mom put a collection of her “short-cut-cooking” recipes together into one cookbook, which she called Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret Recipes©, St. Clair, MI; April 1986). It has always been one of my own favorite “go-to” cookbooks. But, of course, I love all of her books! I have most of them, but not all.

I also have her copy of Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book and some of her copies of Bob Allison’s cookbooks, called Ask Your Neighbor Recipes. Bob Allison and his “neighbors” were other huge influences on Mom, as that’s basically where “The Recipe Detective” was born, back in the 1970s. Below is a collection of Mom’s writings regarding “short-cut cooking” and ingredient substitutions that work and don’t work.

Radio editorial from Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI 48079; April 1986, pp. 1-2)

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes© Newsletter, 125th Issue (Secret Recipes©, St. Clair, MI; Mar-Apr 1987; p.3)

You have to learn to be versatile when it comes to ingredients. Some things can be substituted, and some cannot. In [my] 1977 issue of The Second-Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977), I wrote a little poem that pretty well says it all…

SAD RECIPE

I didn’t have potatoes,

So, I substituted rice…

I didn’t have paprika,

So, I used another spice!

I didn’t have tomato sauce –

I used tomato paste –

A whole can, not a half can…

I don’t believe in waste.

A friend gave me the recipe.

She said you ‘couldn’t beat it!’

There must be something wrong –

We couldn’t even eat it!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977, p. 4 & 6)

HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE YOUR OWN RECIPES!

Most good cooks can whip up a culinary storm in the kitchen but, when it comes to putting a recipe on paper… they forget the basic rules of recipe writing. Remember, there’s a recipe for writing a recipe and it goes like this:

Always list the ingredients in the same order in which they will be used in the method. Some of the greatest dishes are lost in translation when the recipe is given with the ingredients out of order…

If you’re working with canned products, it’s easier to identify them as either ‘drained’ or ‘undrained’ in the list of ingredients, rather than take a complete sentence to direct the cook to do this in the method [instructions] portion of a recipe.

The method should be a double-check against the ingredients listed… It helps, too, suggesting what size utensils to use… [don’t] start to combine ingredients in a bowl that is… too small for the final result… Always give the size of the dish, pan, casserole, etc., in which the ingredients should be baked, cooked, [mixed,] etc.

Give accurate temperature and time for cooking or baking or chilling or freezing. Approximate time for cooking or baking should give the cook a five minute margin within which to work. [Using a Pyrex baking dish and not a metal baking pan requires a lower temperature for a longer period of time.] Identifying the color of a dish at various points of the cooking stages is helpful too. Beating time approximation should be given when it is essential to the success of the dish.

When you write a recipe for cookies and you are not certain how many it will make, you can approximate the yield by allowing one dozen cookies for every cup of flour used, if cookies are about 1-inch in diameter before baking.

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

Some recipes cannot succeed with substitute ingredients. Self-rising flour is one ingredient to be careful of when substituting without specifics. Butter can usually be substituted with margarine – but, in pie crust recipes, margarine makes a crust tough and heavy.

Lard may make a crust flaky, but it is difficult for many people to digest and is often greasy. Pure vegetable shortening, such as Crisco or Spry is best for pie crust shortening. ‘Shortening’ is a term used to identify fats or oils in a recipe. It can mean butter, lard, oil, margarine, etc.

If a recipe specifically calls for ‘sour cream’, don’t try to substitute homemade sour milk, as it may cause a failure. Many cheese product ingredients are interchangeable in baked side dishes and main dishes. But, substitutions can not be used in the case of pasteurized cheese spreads. Velveeta is most successful in most combinations, calling for a smooth and mild flavored dish.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Baking powder and baking soda are NOT alike and should not be substituted, one for the other, unless [very] small amounts are called for that will not possibly affect the outcome [in which case, it could possibly be skipped, altogether]. Many bread recipes do call for both, yeast and baking powder; as well as soda, even though some may be reluctant to accept the combination.

Even the size of eggs used in a recipe can determine the success of a cake or souffle or another light dish. Use large eggs, unless otherwise specified – or use 2 small eggs for every large egg called for in a recipe or use 3 medium eggs for 2 large eggs.

Do not reuse solid shortening for deep frying unless it is within 48 hours of the original use. Even though shortening is refrigerated and strained, the solid shortening has a tendency to take on the flavor of the food previously fried in it – even potatoes. However, oil may be used over, up to 10 days or 2 weeks, if it is carefully strained after using, covered and immediately refrigerated until the next use.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Do not mix food flavors with same oil – such as fish and, then, chicken or onions and, then, something else… The best suggestion for reusing oil is to reheat it no more than three times. Discard it and begin fresh the next time.

RESTAURANTS DO NOT ALWAYS COOK FROM SCRATCH

…Don’t be disappointed when you find that a duplicated recipe employs the use of prepared mixes, because that is the way 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 [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 with products for the homemakers. For instance, did you know that Ore Ida offers a large selection to restaurants of the same variety of potatoes that you probably buy from the frozen food counters of your local supermarket?

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

#NationalWomensEqualityDay

P.S. Today is also “Women’s Equality Day”!

On this day in 1920, almost 100 years ago, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women their voting rights. The Women’s Civil Rights movement had been decades in the making, before it finally came to fruition. For more information, check out these two websites: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-womens-equality-day-august-26/ & http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/August/womensequalityday.htm

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

IN CLOSING…

BBQ BEEF SANDWICHES, like A&W’s

By Gloria Pitzer, The Copycat Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; April 1988, p. 10)

Ingredients:

4 cups shredded, cooked beef roast (or round steak)

1 cup Heinz Ketchup

1 cup apple butter

1 cup Catalina dressing

¼ cup Heinz 57 sauce

2 TB Worcestershire

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a 2 ½-qt baking dish.

Cover tightly and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until piping hot.

Fill 8 hamburger buns and serve at once!

Photo from Mom’s “free recipes and ordering information” offer (Nov/Dec. 1987)

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available, for sale, at $20.99 each through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253