Archer Teacher Fish & Chips, plus Onion Rings option
By Gloria Pitzer, first published in The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977, p. 1)
Arthur Treacher was once Merv Griffin’s right-hand-man. A dignified and accomplished actor that we best remember from the 1930s & 1940s.
3 cups boxed pancake mix
3-4 cups club soda
0.4-oz. pkg. ranch dressing mix powder
2-3 lbs. fish fillets (any good frying-type)
With wire whisk, combine the pancake mix and enough of the club soda so that the batter is the consistency of buttermilk – pourable! Whisk in the ranch dressing mix.
Dip the fillets into just enough plain, all-purpose flour to coat them lightly but evenly. Let coated fillets dry a few minutes on wax paper. Dip coated fillets into wet batter to coat lightly but evenly, letting excess batter drip back into bowl.
Using a heavy sauce pan or electric fryer, fry a few pieces at a time in 3-inch deep oil heated to 385F degrees. Turn the pieces once to brown each side (at about 2-3 minutes per side).
Remove from hot oil, using the tip of a sharp knife. Do NOT use tongs as it may cause coating to break and fall off. Keep pieces warm on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan in a warm oven until all pieces have been fried. Serves 4-6.
ONION RINGS OPTION: (what to do with extra, left-over batter, as it does not keep well…)
Cut 3 firm white onions, each about the size of an orange., into 1/4-inch thick slices and separate into rings. Run these under cold tap water in a colander and let excess water drain off.
As with the fish (above), dip the rings into just enough plain, all-purpose flour to coat them lightly but evenly and let them dry for a few minutes on wax paper. One at a time, dip coated rings into the wet fish batter (above) to coat lightly but evenly, letting excess batter drip back into bowl. Then, drop each ring into 2-inch deep oil heated to 385F degrees. Turn the pieces once to brown each side (at about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy).
Remove from hot oil, using the tip of a sharp knife. Do NOT use tongs as it may cause the coating to break and fall off. Drain rings on paper towels and keep warm on a cookie sheet in the oven, on low, until all rings have been fried. Serves 4 nicely.
Hello, all! Happy Monday and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom.
I’m Laura Emerich and I write these blogs in relation to my memories of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Secret RecipesTM detective. I started this tribute, in September of last year, to honor Mom’s legacy – besides being Mom, lover of life, family and God; she was also a satirist cartoonist and writer, as well as the famous Recipe DetectiveTM, investigator of the secrets of the food industry, pioneer and trail-blazer of the “copycat recipes” crusade – and, thus, this was a great way to channel my cherished memories of her and how she’s influenced my own life, as well as the lives of others.
I don’t know the true answer, anymore than Mom knew the true recipes of the products she imitated at home; but, I do know that writing and artistry seem to run throughout generations of our family. As a writer and artist, myself, whenever my children did anything of the like, I highly-encouraged more of it from them – nurturing a natural talent, I suppose. My mom did the same for me and my siblings, as her parents (as well as aunts and uncles) did for her and her siblings…so is that nature or nurture? I feel like it’s a combination of both.
I believe my love of writing and drawing stemmed from my mom and her relatives, as many of them (in both of her parents’ families that we know of) are gifted writers and artists, in some way, as well. However, while guesses can be made, whether the talent and/or passion for such are inherited and/or influenced by one’s up-bringing remains an unanswered question.
Besides her many years of syndicating weekly and bi-weekly columns and cartoons to papers and magazines around the country, Mom also wrote, illustrated and self-published close to 40 cookbooks in almost 30 years, 1973-2001 (plus a couple of books that were just food-for-thought/soul and “our family story”). A few years ago, I helped Mom re-write one of her favorite cookbooks, The Better Cookery Cookbook (1983) for a new digital generation. It went to press shortly before she passed away last year, under a new title, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective(Balboa Press, Jan. 2018). Mom was so happy about reaching a new generation with her recipes and stories!
Similarly, Mom wrote, illustrated and self-published a “homemaker’s” newsletter for 25 years (Jan. 1974 through Dec. 1998 – 219 issues in all). It began and ended as a monthly publication, but there were some years in between when she published it bi-monthly (doubling the size) and other years when it was published quarterly (at about 4 times the monthly size). Each issue of the newsletter was always stuffed full of witty humor, stories from her radio show visits all around North America, restaurant reviews, food-for-thought, food-for-the-soul and, of course, her wonderfully unique recipes that were “food-for-the-table”. Mom would always write a little bit about our family and close friends too, because she always considered her subscribers as family and close friends also.
The newsletter’s title evolved over the years – from Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter, in its 1974 conception, to Gloria Pitzer’s National Home News Magazine in 1978, to Gloria Pitzer’s Monthly Cookbook of Secret Recipes in 1980, to Gloria Pitzer’s Cook’s Quarterly in 1984, to Secret Recipes Newsletter in 1986, to Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Quarterly in 1995 and to its final name, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, in 1998 (it’s last year of publication.)
I would love to hear from anyone who still has their issues of Mom’s newsletters and still uses them! Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t have a lot of the issues, myself, but I still use the ones I have all the time, as well as her cookbooks. I’m also missing a couple of her cookbooks because, like others, I lent them out and never got them back.
Speaking of writing, did you know that April is National Records & Information Management Month? “Records” and “Information Management” are very general terms that encompass so many forms! I love to keep records of important things that have happened throughout my life (and the lives of my kids), using calendars, scrapbooks and “time capsule” boxes. I have boxes in the basement for myself and each of my three grown kids full of special keepsakes and creations (ceramic/clay projects, drawings and creative writings). My dad had given me a box of stuff like that once, when I was grown and having kids of my own. I loved it so much, because he and Mom treasured these things, that I created these kind of “time capsule” boxes for my kids too. Over the years, I’ve added our special “creations” and keepsakes from special events to each of them, including my own.
My mom’s extent of record-keeping for her life included all the family stories she wrote about in her newsletters and books, plus a few scrap books she kept, full of pictures and keepsakes from special events. But, most of her experiences and thoughts were inscribed in the journal entries that she wrote on a daily basis, book after book, since she was a young girl until she passed away in January 2018. Mom’s love of writing especially helped her to remember things in her last years, after developing dementia from a double-stroke she suffered in June 2014.
And, speaking of record-keeping, my dad’s side of the family (both, the Knotts and Pitzer clans, from the West Virginia area) kept a lot of excellent records of their heritages! By the way, did you know that there’s a National Genealogy Day and it was just celebrated last month on March 9th? When I inherited Dad’s collection of our relatives’ pictures (from his Mom’s collection), I found many were documented with who, when and where descriptions – some pictures were accompanied by letters/cards that depicted the people, places and events. Likewise, on the internet, I can trace both of my paternal grandparents’ families back to their great-great-grandparents (in the mid-18th century) thanks to their families’ excellent records & information management that has made all this data available for a new, digital generation!
However, our Klein-Carter family history, from my Mom’s parents’ side of the family, has not been an easy lineage to trace. Even with the “free” membership at Ancestry.com, I can’t seem to find anything more than I already know from Mom’s stories. Under this picture (above), found on page 52 of Mom’s cookbook, Eating Out at Home Cookbook (self-published by Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; September 1981), Mom mentions her dad’s parents and a second cousin, plus, his older brother. I know my Mom’s dad was born in May of 1894. Thus, since his mom, setting type in this picture, doesn’t really look pregnant yet, but his 7-year-older brother is there (and looks about that age), working the press, I can only guess that this picture may have been from around early 1893.
The pictures I inherited from Mom, of her side of the family relatives, were rarely labled with any who, when or where information. I know she always meant to get around to it, but never did. I have many albums like that, myself. Now, all the more, I want to go through all of them, while I still can, and date, identify (people/places) and organize them for my kids to add to and pass on to their kids.
While Mom’s dementia, during her last few years before passing, brought up fairly clear memories of decades ago, almost like they were yesterday; sometimes, however, the picture was still missing a few puzzle pieces or the pieces were rearranged a little. So I keep trying to track down Mom’s ancestry records as best as I can with the bits and pieces of information that I have gethered from her stories.
Mom wrote a story about her mom’s side of the family, the Klein’s, in her book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop! [subtitled, “The True Story of a Family”] (self-published by Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 83-84). The picture above is also seen on the back cover of that book. Here is Mom’s story about the legend she knows as her mom’s family heritage:
…my mother’s parents were originally German, but they were also Jews, and living in Russia at the turn of the [20th] century. It was dangerous for any Jew in Russia at that time – so much like the story of “Fiddler on the Roof’, my grandparents with two small children and my grandmother expecting their third child, took a crowded freighter to America [around 1906]. They couldn’t speak a word of English and had nothing with them but what they could carry by hand.
On the way over, unfortunately, they came down with what suspected to be TB [Tuberculosis]… years later [around 1915], following the birth of their 7th child [my mom was their 4th child, born in 1909], TB finally took my grandmother. Having settled in Pittsburg, my grandfather moved on to Cleveland where he hoped to find relatives who would help him with a job and a place to raise the motherless children. It didn’t work out as he expected, however. The relatives were not where he had last contacted them.
The orphanage was over-crowded that he had been directed to, in order to leave the children and seek treatment for the TB that seemed to be getting worse for him. Having been turned away by the orphanage, he was about to leave all the children on a street corner, telling them that somebody would come along to help them, but that he had to get his train to the sanitorium that the government was sending him to for help. At that point, the nuns were passing by on their usual afternoon walk…on their way back to the Catholic orphanage down the street.
They stopped long enough to ask if they could be of help and, upon hearing the story from the older children, who spoke English, and [from my] Grandpa’s broken English, they concluded that the children needed to be cared for. They took the children to the Catholic orphanage, ensuring my grandfather that they would see to it that they went to Temple every Saturday, even though they would be in the Catholic schools and living in the dormitories with the other children.
When there was room for them at the Jewish orphanage, they would then be transferred – and the promise was kept. There, they all remained until each one turned 16 years of age… The compassion of those Catholic nuns and the care they gave the children of that Jewish immigrant, when Jews were hated as much as they ever were in this country, kept me from ever harboring feelings of prejudice toward other people due to their religious or racial backgrounds…
Consequently, I grew up without prejudices – with an open mind to all of us being different and yet the same and that’s okay, respecting our differences. As a result, my children also grew up without prejudices…whether nature or nurture, it’s all relative!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading “It’s all Relative” (the blog) and will return again next week – as Monday, the 22nd, happens to be National Earth Day and Easter Monday! Next week is also celebrating (besides my oldest two kids’ birthdays) Easter Sunday, National DNA Day on Thursday and Arbor Day (for most states) on Friday!
In closing, I usually end with one of Mom’s recipes that she gave away for free on her product information and ordering sheets in exchange for a SASE. The following recipe for “Carrot Square Cake, Like Sara Lee’s” wasn’t on any of those sheets, but it was given away for free when my brother, Michael Pitzer, first developed TheRecipeDetective.com website years ago for internet exposure to our parents and their “Secret Recipes”TM business. This particular recipe was also printed on page 47 of Mom’s cookbook, Secret Fast-Food Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; 1985).
Combine first 8 ingredients with electric mixer on medium-high. Beat 3 minutes scraping down sides of bowl often. Remove beaters. Stir in last 3 ingredients. Grease and flour 9″ square pan. Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake at 325 degrees F about 50 minutes. Cool in pan about 30 minutes. Frost with Cream Cheese Icing (below) and sprinkle with additional walnuts.
6-oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 lbs. Butter
1 lb. Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Orange Extract
1 tsp Orange Peel (I use Spice Island brand)
1 TB Light Corn Syrup or Pancake Syrup
1 TB Cornstarch or Flour
Instructions for Icing
Cream the cream cheese with the butter until light and fluffy, using med-high speed of electric mixer. Add half of the sugar, increasing speed to high. Add extract and peel and beat about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl often. Resume beating adding remaining powdered sugar. Beat smooth. Frost sides and top of cake.
Happy Monday and welcome, again, to Mondays & Memories of My Mom, a blog series I started last year to honor my mom’s legacy.
I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, aka the famous “Recipe Detective”TM, investigator of the food industry’s “Secret Recipes”TM. Starting in the early 1970s, Mom was the pioneer of imitating the food industry’s favorite fine-dining dishes, as well as fast food, junk food and grocery products at home! She carved out the original niche in copycat recipes movement. Mom also created the slogan, “eating out at home”, which became the title of one of her more than 40 self-published books in a 28-year span, from 1973 through 2001. You can find more information on most of her publishings by clicking on the “Cookbooks” and “Other Publications” tabs on this website. I’m still updating the “Other Publications” tab as I find more of Mom’s syndicated work from the 1960s and 1970s era.
Mom’s books were all quite unique and special. She built most of her cookbooks on the taboo subject of embracing fast food and junk food, while all the critics were saying to stay away from it and how bad all of it was for our health. Well, maybe so, but as Robert Redford once said, “Health food may raise my consciousness, but Oreos taste better!” – a quote that Mom noted on the first page of her September 1978 cookbook, Eating Out at Home. [Note: See the “Recipes” tab on this website (another tab to which I’m working on adding more) for Mom’s copycat version of Oreo-Style sandwich cookies, which she calls “Gloreo’s”.] Opposed to those critics, Mom’s definition for junk food was “poorly prepared food”.
People know what they like, and Mom found a way to “have your cake and eat it too!” Mom claimed to be able to take the junk out of junk food by making it at home, where you can control the ingredients. It was a break through that had many companies, like Hostess, up in arms – that someone could possibly duplicate their product at home and, then, share it with the public! However, Mom never knew what the companies’ actual “secret recipes” were for their sumptuous products, as she wrote on page 2 of her Eating Out at Home cookbook…
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 can not 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?
Mom found out decades later, in her and Dad’s retirement years, without 5 kids in tow and being able to afford it from the success of their “Secret Recipes”TM business, that eating out all the time did not get as monotonous for them as she thought it might! They enjoyed, at least, breakfast and lunch out almost every day and they made friends everywhere they went too!
Given that Dad was diabetic, they were always conscious of the choices they rendered – from the places where they chose to dine to the menu selections and portion sizes they made. They even afforded themselves the occasional fast food breakfast sandwich once in a while – everything in moderation. As Mom also wrote on the same page as the excerpt above:
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.
Junk is in the eye of the beholder…as Mom also wrote about in the following excerpt from page 3 of her Eating Out at Home cookbook, for imitating a cake similar to that of Hostess Twinkies:
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!
Furthermore, on the subject of “junk food” (including James Dewar, inventor of the Twinkie), the following excerpts came from one of Mom’s “Food-for-Thought” writings; as found on page 6 of her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018); originally written for Mom’s famous, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; 1982):
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… ‘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 ‘fine’ restaurants with wine stewards, linen table cloths, 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!…
James Dewar started out driving a horse-drawn wagon in Chicago and, by 1930, was manager of the Continental Baking Company’s Chicago establishment. He invented “The Twinkie’, a sponge-type cake with creamy vanilla-flavored filling [in the early 30s.] It has been called the “Grand-daddy’ of modern snack foods. Today, the finger-sized cream-filled cake is as big a confectionery sensation as they were when Dewar first introduced his creation to American cuisine. The company that put out the Twinkie was originally called the Continental Baking Company and later became the Hostess company.
At the time, he wanted to give the public something reasonably priced, for the Great Depression of the 30s brought grave times to this country. Treats like the cream-filled Twinkies, would be a luxury to people who couldn’t afford otherwise. For decades, the appealing factor about the Twinkies national popularity has been that it is affordable! Dewar put 2 cakes in each package, selling them for $.05 a pair. For the price of a nickel, it was quite a bargain. Dewar remembered how the Continental Baking Company was selling small finger-sized shortcakes for strawberry season in the 1930s. The pans they used to bake them in were not being used except for the spring promotion to produce the shortcakes. He, therefore, came up with the idea of preparing the same shortcake in those pans, but filling each cake with an injection of vanilla cream. The Twinkies became an immediate success! The idea for the name, on the other hand, came while he was on a business trip to St. Louis and saw a billboard advertising “Twinkle Toes Shoes’, which was, then, a terrific sales pitch. The name “Twinkies’ was a spinoff of that shoe advertisement. From then on, the cakes took off. When Dewar retired from Continental in 1968, he boasted often to the press that he ate scores of Twinkies every day. That’s not a bad endorsement for the critics who claim junk food will shorten your life span.
Mom has always tried to encourage the inner cook in all of us, through her many publishings. Even if you didn’t think you could cook at all, Mom could make you feel like a gourmet, making your own creations and bringing joy back into eating at home. Additionally, without publishing any pictures in her cookbooks or newsletters, Mom could, very-well, describe in detail how the product should look throughout the various stages of the recipes; so that you knew or not if your duplication was coming along properly. Her recipes are always fun and easy to follow. She also made them simple to “customize”, to suit your own diet needs.
Mom’s original concepts of “eating out at home” and “taking the junk out of junk food” has brought so much joy to so many people who couldn’t afford such “luxuries” as eating out, even fast food, or buying junk food; either for monetary or health reasons. Mom gained a lot of followers in the copycat movement (also some plagiarists) since she started the concept in the early 1970s.
Just running a search on the term “copycat recipes concept” brought me 6,370,000 results on Bing and about 3,410,000 results on Google. Searching the term “blogs for copycat recipes” brought me about 18,200,000 results on Google, including this great article, “Top 25 Copycat Recipe Blogs of 2017” by Toby Kuhnke, Editor, AllFreeCopycatRecipes.com. In addition, when asking Bing, “How many copycat recipe blogs are there?” – I received 95,100,000 results. In all, I’d say that’s quite a movement.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading “Eating out at Home” (the blog) and will return again next week for “Mondays & Memories of my Mom” when my next blog, “It’s all Relative”, discusses Mom’s writing heritage as seen on the last page of her cookbook, Eating out at Home (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; 1978). Also, in closing, I usually end with one of Mom’s recipes that she gave away for free on her product information and ordering sheet in exchange for a SASE. The following recipe wasn’t on any of those sheets, but it was given away for free when my brother, Michael Pitzer, first developed TheRecipeDetective.com website years ago for internet exposure to our parents and their “Secret Recipes”TM business. This particular recipe was also printed in Mom’s cookbook, Eating Out At Home(Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; 1978, page 47)
A-1-Style Steak Sauce by Gloria Pitzer
1/2 cup Dark Molasses
2 Green Onions, chopped
3 TB Kosher Salt, coarse
3 TB Dry Mustard
1 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1 clove Garlic crushed — or, 1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 Anchovy Filet chopped — or, 1 TB Anchovy Paste
6 TB Tamarind Fresh — or, 1 TB Tamarind Extract
1 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Fenugreek
1/2 tsp Powdered Ginger
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Powdered Cloves
1/2 tsp Cardamom Seeds
3 drops Tabasco
6 oz. Rhine Wine
2 oz. Rose Wine
1 pint White Vinegar
1 TB Kitchen Bouquet
1 TB Postum Powder
Put all spices (except last 6 ingredients) through blender until it’s a fine powder. Place over low heat with half vinegar and simmer 1 hour; adding rest of vinegar a little at a time as mixture is reduced in bulk. Stir in tabasco, wines and kitchen bouquet. Cook 3 min. to dissolve. Remove from heat. Pour into crock or Tupperware container (2qt) and let stand covered for 1 week. Then strain through cheese-cloth, six times. Bottle and cap tightly. Keep refrigerated indefinitely. Freeze to keep for years.
Hello, everyone! HAPPY Monday, April Fool’s Day, National Sourdough Bread Day, National Gardening Month and National Humor Month! Yep – that’s a happy smorgasbord!
If you haven’t been here before, my name is Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to and for my mom, Gloria Pitzer, aka the ORIGINAL secret “Recipe Detective”TM. I started this weekly series last year to carry on her legacy – from her life-long love affair with writing to her “Secret Recipes”TM profession to her other personal loves of life, family and faith – through my memories of her; as well as, through the memories others have of her. She was an enormous influence, in so many ways, on so many people; especially on the woman I’ve become. Mom motivated and inspired a whole movement because she was the pioneer that blazed the original trail to imitating fast food, fine dining dishes, junk food and various grocery store products at home!
This week’s blog covers a smorgasbord of subjects. For instance, for all the foodies out there, besides it being April Fool’s Day, today is also National Sourdough Bread Day. In addition, for the gardeners in all of us, April is National Gardening Month! Consequently, April is also National Humor Month – which makes sense, given that the first day is April Fool’s Day – and, where I live in Michigan (as well as other states, I’m sure), Mother Nature seems to like to play continuous jokes on us throughout the month by often exhibiting 3 different seasons, all in one day! Plus, while it’s not a national holiday, the season for birding has also just begun as migrations head north to roost for the spring to fall months.
April is National Gardening Month!
Starting with my memories of Mom and our garden when I was growing up in Algonac – Mom always had a small, raised-bed garden full of strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and other such popular, homegrown garden staples. I also recall picking rhubarb, apples and pears for her pie and cobbler recipes. But then, as her “Secret Recipes”TM business grew in the mid to late 70s, she had less and less time to spend on the care of the garden let alone the harvesting. I enjoyed learning from Mom how to take care of it and I loved picking the fruits and vegetables for her, from which to create all those wonderful dishes. Her strawberry-rhubarb pie was one of my favorites!
After we moved to St. Clair in 1977, she couldn’t devote anymore time to a garden again, but she did continue to, at least, have a couple of tomato plants in patio pots every spring to fall. Mom had a very green thumb with all the plants, in the house and in the garden. She liked to use coffee grounds and grounded egg shells in her patio pots, which helped the tomato plants thrive.
Mother Nature’s grand arena is bursting with activity as spring awakens and regenerates life around us. Initially, the National Gardening holiday was a week-long festivity for which President Reagan signed a proclamation to kick off the first annual celebration of it in 1987. Then, in 2000, the National Gardening Association extended the celebration to last for the whole month of April.
To celebrate the event, have a picnic in a garden or go to a nursery and purchase a new plant for your garden. Decorate your garden, even add a seating area in it, where you can enjoy it up close. Another way to celebrate is to give a gardening gift, like seeds or plants, to someone special!
This month is a great time to start planting the bulbs of late-Spring bloomers as well. Other plants that are great to plant in April include fruit trees and berry plants or bushes. I planted a couple of cherry trees on our property about 7 years ago and they’re doing really well. The birds love them immensely! Our property already has a few old pear trees on it, so I’d like to get a couple of apple trees established this year.
This is also a great time to plant perennial vegetables like asparagus, chives, rhubarb, horseradish and so many more. I already have the first three in my garden. I plan on adding horseradish this year. It’s also a good time for me to start my “cold crop” annuals like cabbage, spinach and other “greens”; as well as root vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots and beets. I’m not sure where she got it from, but I think I inherited Mom’s green thumb.
According to the infographic, 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening, on https://www.organiclesson.com/6-wonderful-health-benefits-of-gardening/, gardening strengthens the immune system, relieves stress and elevates happiness, provides a physical workout, stimulates the brain and encourages a healthier diet! It sounds like a win-win-win-win-win-win set of beneficial circumstances to me!
In addition, this month is usually a good time for me to start pruning the few large patches of wild, black raspberries we have in our backyard’s wooded area – cutting out all the dead canes to make room for the new ones to grow. Thick gloves are highly recommended for this task to help prevent the hands from getting impaled by the thorns!
Backyard Bird Watching
On a related side-subject to spring and April, in general, it’s also a wonderful time for backyard bird watching! Lately, our cats have been going crazy, at the dining room windows, watching all the birds and squirrels in their usual spring, backyard activities – eating at the feeders, playing in the trees, building nests and other such things.
We have some birds that are here all year like cardinals, woodpeckers and blue jays. However, most of the varieties that we see migrate in with the spring season and back out by mid-fall. We get a wide variety of birds in Michigan. The arrival of the robins, our state bird, is usually one of our first signs of spring, even before the bright, sunny yellow of witch hazel starts to pop on the fading winter landscape. Some robins don’t migrate south in the fall, like others do. Instead, they’ve adapted to our Michigan Winters.
This weekend, Mackinaw City will be host to the 4th annual “Mackinaw Raptor Fest”, celebrating a unique convergence of migrating birds every spring and fall due to the area’s exceptional location at the rare intersection of two peninsulas and two of the Great Lakes. Mackinaw City (and Mackinac Island) was one of my parents favorite destination areas whenever they had a chance to get away for a long weekend.
Watching birds is said to be very therapeutic. If you feed them, they will come! Growing up, I remember Mom always putting out special treats for the squirrels and birds in our backyard. Watching the birds always seemed to relax Mom and also helped to form the flow of her thoughts for writing her food-for-thought-style articles and editorials. I know it helps me too.
April through June, I usually put out orange halves and small cups of grape jelly for the orioles that migrate to our backyard. I’ve seen the woodpeckers enjoy the spring treats too! The yellow finches will always fight over the perches on the thistle feeder, but when the oriole wants thistle, they all move out of the way.
I heard our resident woodpecker early Friday morning, “rat-a-tat-tat”, on a maple tree outside one of our kitchen windows. The sound seemed to echo in our quiet neighborhood that morning. Then I saw a “Mama” robin perched in another tree, looking into my garden – for good materials to add to her nest, I’m sure. My husband and I really enjoy watching all the flora and fauna activity surrounding our homestead.
April 1st is National Sourdough Bread Day!
Now, out of the garden and backyard and into the kitchen for another food related happening today, as National Sourdough Bread Day is also being observed across the country. Amish Friendship Bread is a really great recipe to make and share with friends. My girlfriends and I used to exchange bags of AFB starter a lot. A super-great article about the process involved in making the starter and how to use it can be found on the “Friendship Bread Kitchen” website at https://www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com/amish-friendship-bread-starter/.
The bread of primitive man was unleavened and perhaps, as the story goes, the discovery of a leavening agent by a cook of ancient Egypt was purely by chance. However, it came about that the Egyptians baked some of the finest bread in the ancient world in cone-shaped ovens. Flattened, and perhaps coarse to present-day taste, the ancient round or triangular loaves unearthed at Deir el-Bahari were a great improvement over the open-air baking of earlier times. Bread, the symbol of the bounty of the Nile, was cast upon its waters as a tribute to the gods. It was, also, placed in tombs to feed the departed spirits of the deceased. Egyptians literally earned their daily bread as workers, as they were given bread at the end of the day as wages for their labor. The Egyptians, who discovered the principle of baking raised bread, didn’t fool around. They just left some dough around in the hot weather until it went bad, and then they baked it. And – lo – it puffed up in old clay ovens and tasted great! The leavened loaf was launched, with no questions asked. The Egyptians regarded “yeast-ification” as an occult, not subject to the whim of man.
Mom also advised, when making a yeast bread, do not use a metal bowl or spoon in the developing process! Metal and yeast are not compatible and using such utensils or bowls with yeast could keep the yeast from working properly. Mom always preferred using either plastic or Pyrex bowls and only wooden or plastic spoons with which to stir or mix the ingredients.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my smorgasbord of topics today! In closing, I usually end with one of Mom’s recipes that she gave away for free on her product information and ordering sheets in exchange for an SASE. The following recipe wasn’t on any of those sheets, but it was given away for free when my brother, Michael Pitzer, first developed this website years ago for internet exposure to my parents and their “Secret Recipes”TM business. Since it is National Sourdough Bread Day, I’d like to share Mom’s copycat version of Schlotzsky’s sandwich rolls, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.
In large mixing bowl combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes till very bubbly. With wire whisk add the rest with only 1 cup of the flour, beating to smooth dough. Beat in rest of flour until batter is thick and sticky but smooth, all flour being dissolved. Divide dough between 5 ovenproof, Pam-sprayed, cornmeal dusted (let excess shake out) soup bowls (each 5 inches in diameter). Cover each one in a square of Saran wrap sprayed in a bit of Pam and that side down. Let rise almost an hour or till above rim of bowls or cans. Discard Saran pieces. Bake on center rack of 375º F oven about 20 minutes or till golden brown. Let cool in containers on rack, spraying tops each in a bit of Pam while they cool to keep crusts soft. To use for sandwiches – slice in half horizontally and grill on lightly buttered hot griddle as you would for grilled cheese sandwich or broiler toast till golden. Then fill with lettuce and assorted lunch meats and cheese or sandwich fillings.
Hello, again, and happy Monday to everyone! Spring has finally arrived! However, in Michigan, other than a sporadic tease here and there, it doesn’t actually feel like Spring is here until closer to May. Nonetheless, it’s a light in the dark that gives us hope for tomorrow!
If you’re new to here – I am Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to and inspired by my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the private investigator of “Secret Recipes”TM (aka the ORIGINAL “Recipe Detective”TM). I want to carry on her amazing legacy, which is why I titled my first blog in this series “A Legacy of Love” (9/17/2018). That is what “Secret Recipes” TM always was to Mom – and that’s what it became to me over the last few years of her life while I collaborated with her to re-write her favorite self-published cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook; which was published by Balboa Press in January 2018, with a slightly different title (more information on that at the end of this blog), for a new generation of foodies!
I made a living with my writing; but, it was my writing that made living worthwhile. – Gloria Pitzer
I also mentioned in last week’s blog that I wanted to discuss cleaning, this week, since it’s the beginning of Spring AND National Cleaning Week – hence, my choices of Mom’s cartoon panels to share with you. As well, I wanted share some more special memories of Mom, in relation to cleaning. Mind you, Mom was not a fan of cleaning at all, even if it did have calorie-burning benefits! But, by no means, did we ever really live in a dirty home! As in stand up comedy, Mom often stretched and twisted reality a little bit to generate a laugh.
Mom was brought up in a generation that just did what they “had to”; keeping a clean or tidy home was just something that they’re parents taught them to do as responsible, civilized people – at any age. So, in honor of National Cleaning Week, plus Mom’s writing and comedic legacy, here is one of her old No Laugh’N Matter columns that she syndicated, called “Eat Your Heart Out Mr. Clean!” (as seen in The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan; Feb 14, 1974).
Many of you have written, asking what shortcuts I recommend for getting through the hang ups of housework. I thought you’d never ask. And I’m happy to share with you some of the lesser known household hints that you are not apt to find in the elegant publications…
Now, my household hints are NOT necessarily recommended by GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, Dr. Seuss, my mother-in-law, the neighbors, Mr. Clean…but they do work! Unless, that is, you’re expecting miracles.
If the good Lord had intended for me to have a clean house, He would have given me a maid! – Gloria Pitzer
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS: If, while they are in the refrigerator, leftovers become as hairy as hedgehogs at bay, don’t try to throw them out. Feed them dead flies and keep them as pets!
WHAT TO DO ABOUT COBWEBS: If you have cobwebs in your corners and can’t figure out why, because you don’t have a cob in the house; ignore them if you can’t reach them. If somebody calls them to your attention, exclaim with pride, “Oh! I can’t touch those. They’re my son’s science project!”
WHAT TO DO ABOUT JAR LIDS THAT REFUSE TO BUDGE: Tell a 4-year-old not to touch them!
IF YOU HAVE OVER-SIZED HIPS: Wear Jodhpurs. They’ll go out where you do!
IF YOU PUT ON WEIGHT EASILY: Let out your couch!
TROUBLE FALLING A SLEEP? If you can’t count sheep… try talking to the Shepherd!
CONCERNED ABOUT SHORTAGES? Help conserve water… bathe with someone you love! Help conserve paper… stamp out bumper stickers! Get an education… drive a school bus! Eat a beaver… save a tree!
TO CONSERVE ENERGY: Don’t hold post-mortems, brooding over your mistakes. The faster you make one, the less apt anybody is to notice it.
BEFORE GOING TO THE EXPENSE OF REDECORATING YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE: Move!
TO PREVENT SCRUB WATER FROM RUNNING DOWN YOUR ARMS WHILE WASHING WALLS: Hang from your feet!
CLEANER FLOORS: If you have tried the miracle product as advertised on TV and you still can’t get your floors to look as clean as those seen on the commercial, write to the manufacturer of that cleaner and have them send you that mop!
SHORT ON SILVERWARE AT MEALTIME? Delegate a search party of children to check out the sand box, toy chest and cold air returns. Chance are, you’ll find them!
TO REMOVE CHEWING GUM from a new, white bedspread, apply peanut butter by rubbing with vigorous motions. If it still doesn’t come out, get a new bedspread!
TO AVOID HAVING YOUR HUSBAND USE THE GUEST TOWELS to clean the carburetor…hang only cleaning rags on the bathroom towel racks!
One sort of recent memory I have of Mom, regarding cleaning, is from shortly after her stroke in 2015. Mom had to go through a lot of different therapies, including physical and occupational therapies. One of her therapists called me one day, very concerned about Mom’s sudden dislike of her since they seemed to get along so beautifully during her first couple of visits. I met her at Mom’s place during her next scheduled visit to see just what she was describing to me.
The therapist went through everything she did during the previous visit. It all seemed to be going fine, at first; thus, I was beginning to think that either she misinterpreted Mom’s reactions to her, or it wasn’t happening on that day because I was there. Then, after having Mom do some simple stretches, the therapist asked Mom to make her bed as one of her daily exercises. Just then, in an instant, Mom’s mood changed from “sunny-and-75” to “stormy-and-below-freezing”! Right away, I started laughing out loud! The therapist and Mom, both, looked at me rather strangely. I guess it was an inside joke.
Mom hated cleaning – well, “hate” is a strong word; let’s say she “clearly disliked” it. I’m not saying she didn’t do it; but, that never meant she had to like it! In fact, I think making the bed was at the top of her “torture” list. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at the situation, as did the therapist when I explained it! Not everyone get’s a joy out of cooking and cleaning any more than they have to – thus, the subject inspired the parody title of one of Mom’s cookbooks, The Joy of NOT Cooking…Any More than You Have To(Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1983).
I, on the other hand, like to clean – and, especially, to organize! I don’t know why – it’s some OCD thing I have – but organizing is more like a favorite hobby to me. When it came to her desk, Mom preferred what she called an organized mess, as in her illustration above. My own kids and husband like to tease me that I’m not OCD but, rather, CDO because I prefer things in alphabetical (and numerical) order.
When I heard that this is National Cleaning Week, I actually got a little giddy at the thought of flipping the bedroom mattress; as well as, rotating the seasonal clothes and living room furniture – just some of the things I usually do in the Spring and Fall seasons. I know I’m weird – and that’s okay!
According to NationalDayCalendar.com, “besides a clean home, it’s a week that can produce improved moods, decreased stress levels, and increased creativity. It’s a week to put away winter essentials and tidy up our homes to usher in a fresh start with spring.” Furthermore, it also declares that “the American Cleaning Institute says, on average, Americans spend approximately six hours per week cleaning their homes.” As well, “our most dreaded of cleaning tasks [are]: cleaning the bathroom (52%), kitchen cleaning (23%), dusting (21%), mopping (20%) and doing the laundry (17%). Sorry, Mom – making the bed did not make it onto this list! However, dusting is the least favorite for me (mostly because it impacts my allergies more than anything else.)
20 Everyday Activities and the Calories They Burn by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd. (as seen on HowStuffWorks.com) says that 30 minutes spent on dusting burns 80 calories and 30 minutes of mopping burns 153 calories. As for laundry day, 30 minutes of folding clothes burns 72 calories and ironing for 30 minutes burns 76.5 calories.
Among other housework activities, the article also claims that 1 hour of moving furniture burns 504 calories, 10 minutes of sweeping a broom back and forth burns 28 calories and 20 minutes of vacuuming burns 56 calories. Even 30 minutes of preparing dinner burns 74 calories and, obviously, you should make healthy meal choices too.
Additionally, outside the house, the article claims that pushing the lawn mower for 1 hour can burn 324 calories… and spending an added 30 minutes raking up the clippings will burn another 171 calories. The article also suggests that picking up yard-waste can, correspondingly, reduce your waist size. Furthermore, it advocates that, by spending 4 hours of hard-work cleaning up the neighborhood, you’ll burn 1,800 calories AND improve your community! What a great idea! Plus, 2 hours of gardening burns about 648 calories or more and you can grow some nice, healthy vegetables at the same time. If you don’t have your own garden, or room for one, you can check around your area for a community garden?
If you live in a state like Michigan, where it snows at least half of the year, you may be interested to know that 30 minutes of shoveling snow burns 202.5 calories. Also, now that it’s Spring and weather is starting to improve, 20 minutes of hand-washing the car will burn 102 calories.
To observe National Cleaning Week, NationalDayCalendar.com also suggests, “to make cleaning week less intimidating: Tackle one room at a time, start from the top and work down; dusting ceiling fans, door moldings and window tops. Don’t be afraid to move furniture…” And, on social media, it asks that you “use #NationalCleaningWeek and #CleaningWeek to follow and share your cleaning tips.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog and will return again next week when I discuss more about gardening, as it will be the start of National Garden Month! In closing, as I do each week, I’d like to leave you with one of the recipes that Mom developed and gave out for free on her “product-ordering/information sheets”. Mom used the following TGIF-Style, Jack Daniel’s sauce imitation when she wanted to make chicken or steak with a little kick. The version pictured below is from Mom’s “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.
This particular sauce is not in Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective ( Balboa Press; January 2018) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, there is a large section filled with other great “Soups, Sauces and Side-Dishes” to tantalize, tease and tempt your taste buds. This cookbook (also available in eBook form) has 318 pages filled with over 500 of Mom’s best recipes, Food-for-Thought articles, inspirational stories, household/cooking tips and tricks, witty jokes, illustrations and historical information on some of the great companies whose dishes and products that she famously imitated at home!
Hi, everyone, and happy Monday! Welcome to my blog, Mondays & Memories of My Mom!
If you’re new to here – my name is Laura Emerich and I started this blog last year to celebrate my mom’s life and legacy. My mom is Gloria Pitzer; known to millions of people around the world as the ORIGINAL “Recipe Detective”TM, private investigator of the secrets of the food industry! Mom passed away 14 months ago, leaving behind an extensive legacy; from her love of life, family and faith to her creative writing, cartooning and “Secret Recipes”TM professions. She was often heard on radio talk shows all around North America and even overseas. She also did a few TV appearances, including the Phil Donahue Show – twice!
Mom wrote, illustrated and self-published about 40 books (+/-) and penned hundreds of her own newsletter issues; as well, she wrote and syndicated thousands of columns across the country and for local newspapers during her 60-year-plus writing career. However, my mom is best known as the pioneer who started the “fast food” and “junk food” copycat recipes movement back in the early 1970s! When times were tough and we were on the edge of another recession, Mom created the concept of “eating out at home”! It was not only for her own struggling family, but also, for all the others from whom she saw and heard, as they were struggling and looking for answers too!
One of my personal favorites of Mom’s cookbooks is called, The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979). This book is no longer in print, but I’ve seen used copies on eBay and Amazon. When I was a young and struggling mother of three, money was tight, and the pantry was often close to bare! This book taught me how to make some grocery products from scratch, at home; and how to stretch/extend other products, saving me quite a bit of money on my monthly groceries expense! Now, there’s a renewed movement to make a lot of things at home, where you can control the ingredients – and save money too! That is, basically, what initially inspired Mom to write this particular cookbook (aka: “Book 5”) in 1979.
It’s currently maple sugaring time in Michigan. A great article about it, March is Maple Syrup Season in Michigan, can be found at Michigan State University Extension’s website (a part of MSU.edu). I just learned, this weekend, on my local morning news program, how to collect a few gallons of the sweet maple tree sap and then cook it down for a day or so in a slow cooker, yielding about a half cup of homemade syrup when done! Two gallons of sap doesn’t render a lot of syrup, but it’s fun to try. Check out the story and video at Fox2Detroit.com.
Vegetable gardening time is also approaching quickly and many growers are starting their seeds indoors, right now, to transplant in the garden in about 6-8 weeks. I remember when I was young, helping Mom do the seasonal harvesting of our little garden and orchard for tomatoes, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb for sauces and pies and such. Besides the nutritional aspect of growing your own food, it’s also healthy in that you burn a lot of calories tending a garden – planting, weeding, mulching, composting, watering and harvesting – there are so many aspects involved! I’m really looking forward to getting back into my garden this spring.
We’ve all heard the old adage about what to do when life gives you lemons; but don’t stop at making lemonade! There are so many groceries (maybe as much as 75%) you can make at home with what life gives you – if you plant the seeds! Homesteading has found a new revival movement, as health and wellness are coming back towards the top of the fundamental “priorities list”. More and more people are regaining interest in making their own food and OTC health and beauty products. Many even going into business, selling their homemade products to those who don’t have the time or talents for it.
As I said, homemade is one way you can control the ingredients, if you’re concerned with all the additives that are put into today’s convenient, shelf-stable groceries; plus, you can also save money – as long as you don’t add the value of your time into the equation!
WAY BACK WHEN, about the only things purchased for the homestead kitchen at the “General Store” were the items we, now, refer to as “staples” – the pantry dry goods most people didn’t make, themselves, such as flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cornstarch, etc.
Even later, still pre-supermarket era, if we didn’t “kill it & grill it” ourselves, fish was purchased at the fish market and other meats were bought at the butcher shop. If we couldn’t have our own vegetable/fruit patch, we went to the farmer’s market for garden-fresh produce. Also, since we can’t all be bakers, fresh baked goods were often purchased at the local bakery. And, if you didn’t have your own cow or goat to milk or a hen from which to gather your own eggs, fresh dairy products were delivered right to your home!
The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it has to be done, whether you like it or not. – Aldous Huxley
What happened? We’ve become such a too-busy-with-other-things, convenience-laden society! Just walking down the aisles of my local grocery store and looking at all of the products on the shelves, I would say over 75% of them are convenience foods and mixes – boxed, canned and packaged for our expedient ease that can simply be made at home, from scratch and for less of a cost. Also, take into account that these shelf-stable products are filled with unnatural and unpronounceable preservatives and synthetic additives, in order to last for years on our grocers’ shelves and in our pantries.
These are the items we used to make from scratch – usually, because money was scarce and needed to be spent on more important things that weren’t easily homemade. But, then, we came into times where both parents in a family unit had to work to make ends meet. Many families still struggle to survive this way. There isn’t enough time to make things from scratch anymore; so, we opened the door for convenient, processed foods in order to save us some time (instead of money), as time suddenly became a more valuable commodity.
Any change, even change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. – Arnold Bennett, English Novelist (b.1867, d.1931)
The “overhead costs” and “expected profits” that are added to “convenience” food products are what kill us at the grocery store check-outs! The lack of real nutrition that’s missing from these manufactured goods are not benefitting our health any either, as they’re loaded with unnatural shelf-life stabilizers, none of which are found in homemade groceries, where YOU control the ingredients!
Most of Mom’s cookbooks focused on imitating fast food, junk food and restaurant dishes at home – except for “Book 5”, which deals exclusively with homemade grocery products and “extenders”. This exceptional cookbook includes some principles of canning and freezing foods, as well as making your own mixes, sauces and seasonings at a great financial savings compared to buying them at the store! Although, sometimes, we just can’t financially or physically afford convenience. The concept of homemade was hugely popular once and is, now, making another comeback. In fact, I found an unfinished sequel to Mom’s “Book 5” among some of the things I got from her estate. I wish she would have finished it and published it. The following is a bit of Mom’s Food-for-Thought from “Book 5”:
Many people feel that life is uphill all the way. They fail to look at the things that are good, enjoyable and worthwhile. They are conscience only of the climb. No road is ever uphill forever! We should soon learn the importance of being able to also come downhill without fear and be able to notice the scenery along the road, too.
Going through life without noticing the scenery and trying to see some of the beauty that is there – waiting to be recognized – reminds me of running helter-skelter up and down the supermarket aisles without seeing the ABUNDANCE that is there. Just take a moment to look at the heart-breaking plight of starving people in many parts of the world and, then, take a good look at the aisles and aisles of food available in this country!
We have so much available to us here…many people fill their backyards each spring with flowers and shrubs, when they could easily plant food-seeds instead, thus cutting something off that weekly grocery bill! – Gloria Pitzer, The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979)
In closing, I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog this week and will return, here, next Monday to read, “Spring into Cleaning”, when I share more special memories of Mom and the calorie-burning benefits of cleaning, as it will be the beginning of Spring AND National Cleaning Week!
In keeping with homemade groceries AND make-alike “junk food”, the following recipe is Mom’s 1983 copycat version of Oreo-Style cookies, which she called “Gloreos“, cookies – if you’re watching your calories, many of the ingredients can be substituted with sugar-free versions – and can be found on this website in the “Recipes” tab. It was not one of her “free-information-sheet” recipes; but, it can be found in many of her various cookbooks. Additionally, it is on page 219 of her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective ( Balboa Press; January 2018) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.
Oreo is a brand of cookie usually consisting of two chocolate wafers with a sweet crème filling, marketed as “Chocolate Sandwich Cookie”. Introduced in 1912, Oreo is the bestselling cookie in the United States. As of 2018, the version sold in the U.S. is made by the Nabisco division of Mondelez International.
GLOREO SANDWICH COOKIES
When the Washington (DC) Post once interviewed the Nabisco people to ask how they felt about a Michigan housewife, claiming she could imitate their famous chocolate sandwich cookie at home, they were very insistent that it was impossible! Well, I felt if Hydroxy could come close, so could I – and I gave the big food company a taste of their own product! To my readers overseas, while I was publishing my monthly Secret Recipe Report, it was a blessing – or so they said!
The cookie dough:
18-ounce package devil’s food cake mix
2 eggs, plus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
½ cup bitter cocoa powder
Blend all ingredients together until you can shape the dough into a smooth ball. Let it stand 20 minutes, loosely covered. Form dough into marble-sized balls and place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Flatten each with smooth bottom of drinking glass, greased once and dipped into Nestlé’s Quick powder. (Or use any sweetened, chocolate drink powder.) Bake at 400°F for 8 minutes. Remove cookies at once from baking sheet to paper towels – quickly, flatten each cookie with the back of pancake turner. Makes 96 cookies. Cool for 20 minutes. Prepare the following mixture as directed:
The cookie filling:
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ cup cold water
1 cup Crisco
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound, plus 1 cup powdered sugar
Soften gelatin in cold water. Place in a heat-proof cup, in pan of hot water, until gelatin is transparent. Meanwhile, beat Crisco until fluffy, adding vanilla and sugar a little at a time. Beat in gelatin mixture when it is completely cooled, but not “set” or firm. This is used to give the filling stability – as well as protein! When cooled, shape filling into 1-inch balls. Place each between 2 bottom-sides of cooled cookies, pressing gently until filling has spread to the edge of the cookies and rounded-out like the originals. Makes 4 dozen sandwich cookies.
If you have a comment or question, please email me at email@example.com – I will get back to you as quickly as possible!
Welcome to “Mondays & Memories of My Mom”! I’m Laura Emerich and this blog site is dedicated to my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the “Recipe Detective”TM – private investigator of the recipe secrets of fast food, junk food, fine dining and grocery products. Mom was the original “copycat” of the food industry’s secret recipes. I created these blogs to celebrate Mom’s legacy and to carry on her torch. As I mentioned last week, she left her mark on many from her over 65-year writing career, to her famous “Secret Recipes”TM profession and her personal loves of faith, family and life that she always intermixed like the ingredients of a great recipe.
Last week, there was so much information I wanted to write about regarding the national observations of nutrition, diet and getting fit that’s going on in March, I had to edit out half of the blog to keep it from turning into a novel. Thus, I decided to put those cuts into a sequel for this week’s edition. According to the NationalDayCalendar.com website, it’s still National Procrastination Week, which is actually observed for the first two weeks of March; and, for the whole month, we’re also celebrating National Nutrition Month, among other things!
As I mentioned last week, the NDC’s website link recommends that everyone who observes and participates in this month-long event: “use #NationalNutritionMonth to post on social media. Spread the word about how you are boosting your nutrition this month! Eat healthy and get exercising… You’ll be glad you did!” It’s a great challenge – I hope it goes viral on social media!
This national observance has re-inspired me to get fit again, myself. I was once, then I let myself go – and then, turned around and did it again – and again! Now, I’m in my mid-50s, arthritic, hypoglycemic, over-weight and out of shape. I love to walk, but I haven’t done a “fitness” form of it in about 10 years. I’ve procrastinated getting back into shape based from a multitude of excuses. But, excuses are just reasons to rationalize accountabilities.
The most common New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, to lose weight and exercise more (or get healthy/fit), followed by other lifestyle changes like quitting smoking. Another thing I mentioned last week, 80% of New Year’s resolutions are aborted by mid-February. I quit making New Year’s resolutions about losing weight and getting fit years ago because, not only was I not following through on them; but, it got to where I wasn’t even starting them at all. Thus, I started thinking, “why bother ever making that resolution again?”
Man is the only animal which sleeps when he isn’t tired, drinks when he isn’t thirsty, fights when he isn’t angry, eats when he isn’t hungry – and diets. – Carl Riblet, Jr. (The Solid Gold Copy Editor, Falcon Press, 1972)
Recently, I’ve realized that I lost it! I lost my desire, my drive, my focus and, in the midst of it all, I lost myself too. I also realized that it doesn’t have to be New Year’s Day to declare a resolution. Now is the time for me to “suck-it-up”, own it and make the change – for me! I quit smoking cigarettes – cold turkey – almost 13 years ago and never went back to it. If I could do that, I can do this using the same mind-over-matter process!
Mom wrote the following parody-style poem, pictured below, “1979 – The Year of Nutrition”. I don’t remember the original source, which book or newsletter it was printed in other than, as pictured, it was copyrighted in 1979. I’m guessing it was from Mom’s November or December newsletter since it’s a wonderful satire she wrote based on the famous Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore. I used this as a bookmark for inspiration years ago and recently found it in my old copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution by Robert C. Atkins M.D. (Avon; 1997).
After years of failed resolutions to change this or that about myself, I finally realized (after I stopped smoking cigarettes in 2006 and have not gone back to it since) that the commitment must first happen in my mind! I discovered this route of success to change my lifestyle (in relation to quitting cigarettes) from a book my mom gave me, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr (Sterling; September 2004). I think it might have been recommended by Oprah or Dr. Oz, on one of their shows. Mom went right out to her local “Barnes & Noble” retailer to buy a copy. She read it, applied it and stopped smoking. Then, she bought copies for each of my two sisters and I; hoping, I suppose, that we’d all join the “band wagon” too.
I didn’t want to quit smoking, I enjoyed it. I hadn’t even thought about quitting before, except during my three pregnancies, in which I did quit for just those time periods; but, I always chose to go back to it as soon as I started bottle-feeding each of my kids. Nonetheless, I promised Mom that I’d, at least, read the book and think about it. After I finished reading the book, and while I was still thinking about it, I loaned the book to a girlfriend who was dealing with cancer and Chemo. She was struggling with the “want” of smoking cigarettes over the “want” of quitting. The book’s thought process worked for her immediately and she hasn’t smoked a cigarette since – 13 years so far!
I happened to quit smoking cigarettes on May 1st, less than 2 months later. I think what made the difference in time between us each reading the book and quitting is that my friend already wanted to quit even before she read the book and I hadn’t even really thought about it. The concepts in this book can probably apply to any type of addiction or bad habit you want to quit. The key word being want. Wanting to stop a bad habit, addiction or lifestyle and thinking about it are two different things – similar, but different – like apples and oranges.
The key to resigning for good is in the choice you make to stay away completely or not. I found that if I dabbled even a little bit in my bad habit after I’ve quit doing it, I go right back to that situation like a drug addict hooked on heroine. I applied that realization when I quit smoking cigarettes. In my mind, I equated cigarettes to heroine, something I would never try, and it’s kept me from giving into that addictive urge for 13 years!.
I probably loaned that book out to about half a dozen people, most of whom said they were “thinking” about quitting cigarettes. To my knowledge, my friend and I are the only two, out of about 10 people (if you count my mom and 2 sisters), who actually quit after reading the book and stayed that way. Nevertheless, even with only a 20% success rate in my little circle of experience with it, I would still highly recommend everyone read it! It’s not a concept everyone gets; but, it works for those who understand it and work it. I believe the difference that separates the failures from the successes is based on the differences between “wanting it” and “thinking about it”.
It takes commitment! Mom went back to smoking, herself, about a month after stopping. My dad said he didn’t think Mom really wanted to quit smoking in the first place; but was likely prompted by the book’s recommendation, as well as the new Michigan laws and other efforts to try to stop people from smoking, at least in public if not altogether. Dad had quit smoking, himself – cold turkey – using the mind-over-matter approach (plus, he was motivated by health conditions) more than 25 years earlier. He never went back to it either. I don’t know if he ever thought about it. I know I have. But the book gave sound advice on how to deal with those afterthoughts. Again, it’ll work if you work it; but, it’s not going to do the work for you.
In observance of National Nutrition Month, as well as National Procrastination Week, I want to make the same mind-over-matter commitment and re-pledge to “get fit”! WikiHow.com offers an excellent article at https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Fit, listing13 great tips for getting on the path of getting fit. I think I’ll incorporate some of them into my own plan for fitness. To begin, I want to get back on the path – the walking path!
Where I live, in St. Clair; walking and biking are very popular activities! In fact, I live right on one of the very special, paved “routes” that connect towns all over Michigan’s “thumb area” – one of Pure Michigan’s benefits is to be able tour it and get fit while doing it, too! Therefore, this week, while it’s still National Procrastination Week, I am putting off my excuses to not start a regular walking routine because of the winter weather or busy schedule and I’m just going to start doing it! I’ll make a point to fit it in whenever I can until I can create it’s own regular place in my life-style.
Eating is as much an emotional experience as it is a fueling system for the body. In regard to dieting, Mom thought “will power” was for the strong and secure person (which she didn’t really picture herself to be) and “won’t power” was for the insatiable people with whom she readily grouped herself – those who ate away their troubles with “comfort” food and/or compensated themselves (for any old reason) with food “rewards”. I’ll admit it – I think I fit into that latter group too. Mom describes the “won’t” power as refusing to keep on doing what’s bad for you and replacing it with something that’s good for you AND that you enjoy! So, I want to give up my junk-eating-no-exercise lifestyle and replace it with healthy choices. Doing activities I enjoy will also help me to stay focused on my goal and distract me from the short-term urges to go back to my old ways.
Mom offered the following editorial advice on dieting (not as a professional dietician/nutritionist, but as an experienced weightwatcher) in the opening of the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018; p. 283):
If your choices, now, include things you eat without really enjoying them, you can begin to exercise, instead of your “will” power, your “won’t” power – and refuse to keep on eating what is not good for you and what you don’t really need, replacing it with something you do enjoy and that will benefit you in nourishment, either emotionally or physically.
The WON’T power exercise for me meant no bread, no potatoes, no pastries, no gravy, no grains or other starches. It worked beautifully. For you, it might not be satisfactory. So, you can choose another course of action. I merely wish to share my experience with you because it worked for me…
What works for one person, may not work for another; but sharing the secrets of a weight loss diet that works, is too good to ignore. Even if you, personally, are not interested in losing 10 pounds, you probably know someone who is! The diet industry pulls in millions and millions of dollars every year, developing new gimmicks, pills, plans, menus, clubs and published materials about losing weight. I have tried them all in my adult life – and never with success! So, I finally developed my own diet… [Based, largely, on the low-carb diet developed by Dr. Atkins.]
… It’s not really a diet, but a new pattern of eating that can, if I wish, serve me all my life. The best way to learn any new pattern of behavior – whether it is eating or dancing or jogging or working – is to break it down into small manageable parts and work through them step-by-step! This is not a diet to be used, discarded and taken up again. It is a way of life at the table. It is a new attitude towards food…
Also included in the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of Mom’s cookbook, is a lot of low-cal and low-carb recipes; as well as advice that benefitted her own diet journey. She doesn’t claim to be an expert nutritionist or dietician – she just offers bits of inspiration that helped her in hopes it would benefit someone else’s journey.
Whether you’re dieting for health reasons or for reasons of vanity, there’s one expression to always keep in the forefront of your mind – the one thing that most people will not dispute – positivity is a crucial key to success! “YOU CAN DO THIS!” should be written in large letters on your bathroom mirror just to reinforce your motivation and remind yourself of it often – read it out loud every time you see it!!
I’ve chosen my “start date” and decided that I will begin my metamorphosis into a “healthy-eating life-style” next Wednesday, March 20th. The symbolization of starting on the 1st day of Spring will help to support my motivation in my mind as I re-build it into the right frame of thought between now and then, keeping me focused on the drive to be a new me – a forever me – a healthy and fit me! I created this picture (below) to hang on my bathroom mirror for daily inspiration.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog today and that it helped to motivate you to get healthy & fit, if that’s your goal too! In closing, if you’re watching your carb intake as I will be, the following picture is of one of Mom’s free recipe offerings for her copycat version of an Outback Steakhouse-Style steak seasoning and marinade process from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):
*Note: if you’re watching your intake of sugar, carbohydrates and/or calories, substitute the Coke with Diet Coke or Tab in the “Overnight Marinade”.
By the way, this particular copycat recipe (above) is not included in Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective(Balboa Press, January 2018). However, there is a whole selection of other wonderful low carb & low sugar copycat recipes in the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of the book. There’s also many other recipes sprinkled throughout the cookbook for making your own grocery items such as seasonings and mixes right at home, where you can control the ingredients, yourself! More on THAT subject in next week’s blog, “Grow and Make Your Own Groceries!”
I’m Laura Emerich and this blog home is dedicated to my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the famously renowned “Recipe Detective”TM. I started writing these blogs to honor my mom’s memory and the legacy she left, not just for me, but also for the world – from her life-long writing affair to her secret recipes profession to her other personal loves of life, family and faith.
As I’ve often mentioned in my blogs, Mom was a trailblazer and pioneer of the “fast food copycat” movement. She was reportedly included in the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records for being the first to recreate “fast foods” at home. They were particularly interested in her make-alike versions of “The Colonel’s” secret spices, McDonald’s-style “special sauce” and Arthur Treacher’s-style fish batter; all of which were among Mom’s first deduced, “fast food”, secret recipe imitations, starting back in the early 1970s. You’ll find copies of those recipes in some of my other blogs on this website, as well as under the “Recipes” tab.
This week’s blog subject is inspired by all the nutritional and get-fit type of celebrations going on right now. In fact, there’s so much to write about on this topic that I find myself writing a lot more than the normal blog length should contain. Therefore, this subject will be continued on next week’s blog, “A 2nd Helping of Not Losing It!”
According to the National Day Calendar website , some of the things being celebrated today, this week and this month include many food/nutrition and fitness related things – such as today, March 4th, is National Pound Cake Day among other things.
The NDC website offers visitors the full, “traditional” recipe and this little fact: “the traditional recipe for pound cake makes a cake much larger than most families can consume, as it calls for a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Hence the name Pound Cake.” Okay – so, pound cake is not exactly nutritional; but, it is food related, therefore, I couldn’t help mentioning it. Plus, after all, it is “Fat Tuesday Eve”! Thus, if you want to get the temptation out of your system now…Enjoy! For tomorrow is another day – but, obviously, so is the next one! Just remember the old adage, “everything in moderation!”
The first full week of March is recognized as, among other events, national “Read an eBook Week” – in case you didn’t know, Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018), which has over 300 pages full of great reads as well as over 500 index listings of “secret” fast food and grocery imitations, is also available as an eBook for only $3.99 at: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.
In addition, the country is also observing National Procrastination Week, which is actually observed for the first two weeks in March – According to the website link, “the goal for [National Procrastination Week] is to celebrate the act of procrastinating by leaving necessary tasks to be done at a later time… However, the holiday does not advocate sloth, laziness or inaction. Instead, it emphasizes accomplishing tasks, and leisurely activities that could not be completed while one had other responsibilities. These may include reading, cooking, cleaning, and exercising.”
In other words, if you’ve put off reading a good book because you’re so busy with responsibilities; then, you can “have your cake and eat it too” by procrastinating on a responsibility this week and reading an eBook instead! This can also have a hidden advantage as a stress reliever!
Another double-benefited activity includes: if you’ve put off initiating a “get fit/exercise” type of plan, now is a great time to procrastinate on the “excuse” or “conflicting responsibilities” and just do it. Correspondingly, share it on social media with the hashtag: #NationalNutritionMonth, because it’s also National Nutrition Month , among other things!
According to the NDC website, emphasis of this month long, March event focuses on… “the significance of physical fitness as well as eating nourishing meals. Taking charge of your health contributes to overall well-being; as well as losing weight…which reduces risks of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes… This year’s theme is ‘Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle’, focusing on exercising regularly and making the best food choices…”
As mentioned above, the website also recommends that everyone who observes and participates in this event: “use #NationalNutritionMonth to post on social media. Spread the word about how you are boosting your nutrition this month! Eat healthy and get exercising… You’ll be glad you did!” Even if you’ve already started a diet and/or exercise routine but failed to follow it through – remember the old adage, “if, at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again!” Now, this sounds like a worthwhile challenge to have go viral on social media, as opposed to some of the dangerous challenges that go around on there!
”Success is not in never failing, but in never fearing to begin again.” – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)
The most common New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, to lose weight and exercise more (or get healthy/fit). These decrees also happen to tie in with the National Nutrition Month observance. We’re 9 weeks in to the new year now! How many resolutions do you think are already broken? If you’ve already given up on your own, it might feel comforting to know that it’s extremely rare to keep a New Year’s resolution all year, let alone all Winter. In fact, according to The U.S. News (Dec. 29, 2015) , around 80% of resolutions fail by mid-February. So, if you’re still sticking to your New Year’s resolution as of today, then you’re further ahead of the game than most of us; therefore, rejoice!
One of Mom’s cartoon panels from her syndicated series, “Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer”
Stress and anxiety often accompany lifestyle changes like starting a new diet or exercise regimen, which is why it’s so important to be in the right frame of mind, so you don’t lose it – whether “it” is your focus or your inspiration or your emotional stability – while you’re trying to lose it (which could refer to weight or some other health issue)! Nowadays, in order to calm and focus myself, I just try to remember the silly term “goosfraba” from the hilarious movie, Anger Management (starring Jack Nicholson & Adam Sandler).
”Having a goal gives us hope and it’s hope that keeps us going, enabling us each to meet whatever the world dishes out.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.24)]
Furthermore, breaking my plan down into a manageable series of short, daily steps/goals seems like it will help make it simpler for me to remain better focused and more continuously motivated as I reach each step/goal and persevere in moving forward to the next one – one day at a time, one step at a time. Thus, relieving my stress to reach the final finish line, by stopping to smell each rose along the way and rejoice in it. At least, I think, the plan looks good on paper.
I also find comedy to be a huge stress reliever. I remember a funny example of one of Mom’s positive thinking “one-liners” – in the face of tension or stress she’d say, “…be a tea kettle! I could be up to my neck in hot water and still be able to whistle!” For some reason, it makes me picture her as Mrs. Potts in Disney’s movie, Beauty & the Beast, whistling the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show! I will draw on that comedic visual as often as I need a giggle and smiling thought.
”Start Now! Good thoughts and good feelings reinforce each other…When you hold on to one good thought, the better you’ll do things that make you feel good about yourself…Nothing will work for you unless you work for it.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.32)]
Mom and I, both, struggled most of our lives with yo-yo weight, going up and down. Diet after failed diet left us wondering why they seemed to work for other people, but not for us! Unfortunately, our mindsets (like many others’) were to only diet until we got to our desired goals. Thus, once there (if we ever reached “there”), we’d slowly forget about the discipline and start allowing ourselves to slack a little. Before we knew it, we’d just sink back into our old habits; immediately regaining what we had lost, and sometimes more, as we further sabotaged ourselves for the failure.
Nevertheless, we found one diet that actually did help us – Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution by Robert C. Atkins, M.D. (1972). We both found, from Dr. Atkins’ description in his book, that we have a carbohydrate intolerance. Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution is not a quick “weigh-fix” solution. It’s actually a low-carb lifestyle commitment. Thus, it only works if you work it! And, truth be told, neither of us made the lifetime commitment to it.
”Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Half effort does not produce half results. It produces no results! Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last.” – Hamilton Holt
Therefore, as I did when I quit smoking cigarettes on May 1, 2006 (based on Carr’s book), I need to get my mind into a certain frame of thought – a commitment – one geared towards a new lifestyle of healthy living! Once I get that frame of mind set, then, I need to pick my change-of-life-style “start date” and just stick to it! Yes, it is easier said than done; but still doable! Consequently, I think, if I could use the mind-over-matter process to quit smoking and stay such for almost 13 years, so far; then, I should also be able to apply it to changing my lifestyle to a healthier one that includes regular exercise and better nutritional choices.
”Live up to the best you can see yourself to be, never compromising with excuses and examining every reason for not doing what you are capable of doing…If, every day, we find a way to contribute our best efforts in thought, in action and with no regrets, we’ll never have to fear the future.” – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)
Positivity is believing that every day is a good day – some are just better than others. Mom wrote: “Keeping good thoughts is a healthy exercise all the way around; but, like any form of exercise, you do have to work at it. And, like any other exercise, the more you work at it, the better it works for you.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 32)] Mom also journaled, as opposed to saying, “have a good day”, she suggested saying, “keep good thoughts”, instead; deducing, “How can you not have a good day, if you’re keeping good thoughts?”
I’ve tried the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach many times – it just doesn’t work for me in the long run. I’ve discovered within myself that I’m not going to change anything – not for very long anyway – if I don’t truly want to change it in the first place (as it needs to be from myself and for myself.) It takes the power of positive thinking, among other things, to succeed. But, according to my Mom, it’s not a “will” power that leads to that diet/fitness success, it’s a “won’t” power. I’ll write more about that next week. I hope you come back and check it out!
In closing, as I do each week, I’d like to leave you with one of the recipes that Mom gave out for free on her product-ordering information sheets. Mom often used the following low-carb, Olive Garden-Style, house dressing imitation when watching her carb intake. This updated version is from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):
Note: This particular copycat recipe is not included in Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018); however, there is a whole selection of other wonderful copycat recipes in the “Salads and Salad Dressings” chapter of the book. Remember, this book is also available in eBook format AND it is national “Read an eBook Week”! Enjoy!
Totally unrelated, is this fun little fact about this date in history:
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”.
“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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
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…
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.)
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 email@example.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” , 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.