Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Day in the Life of the Happy Homemaker

Happy Monday AND happy “Please Take My Children to Work Day”! Yes, Virginia! There is such a thing!

Before my mom was the Recipe DetectiveTM, before she authored all those newsletters and cookbooks, Mom penned and syndicated various “hot topic” and “homemaker” satirical-styled editorials/columns, as well as a series of cartoon panels! One of her later series of columns was called “No Laughing Matter” (aka: “No Laugh ‘N Matter”), which she continued doing for a while, even after the rise of her Secret RecipesTM business took off in the 1970s.

Mom would have had a field day writing a column about this national “Please Take My Children to Work Day” – I can’t believe there really is such a thing! Apparently, it’s been celebrated yearly on the last Monday of June for 16 years (since 2003). This year, that happens to be today! Who knew? I could have used that when my kids were young – NOT! I can just hear my mom laughing and saying the same thing, too!

Photo by Gloria Pitzer (1970-ish)

We got our “me times” the old fashioned way… when the kids were involved in school, sports, play groups, Scouts, city activities… the list goes on, including hiring a sitter for a day every now and then – or exchanging sitting favors with another mom! Sorry – but, really people – you don’t need a national holiday to devise a one-day break from parenting responsibilities! It’s a lifelong commitment. Besides, there’s already a yearly national “Take Your Child to Work Day” on the last Thursday in April!

For more information on what the “Please Take My Children to Work Day” holiday is really all about, you can check out these three websites, on which I found some interesting information; or do a search of your own, but here are some starting points:

In one of Mom’s “No Laughing Matter” columns from the 1970s (not sure what date it was actually published in the papers wherever it was syndicated), Where Have All Our Homemakers Gone?, Mom wrote: “The full-time homemaker is, unfortunately, being short-changed by today’s ‘paycheck-oriented’ society and, if Women’s Lib have their own way, ‘homemaker’ will be a 4-letter word… the women who either by choice or by circumstance makes a career out of making a home.”

Here it is about 40 years later and not much has changed. I constantly recognize the timelessness in a lot of the issues about which Mom once wrote. I guess it’s true – the more things change, the more they also stay the same!

Illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

In another “No Laughing Matter” article (circa 1970s), Just a Housewife and a Pro!, Mom wrote: “As a ‘suburban housewife’, I fail to see how anyone could classify my routine as ‘dull’! For one thing, everyone knows that the mother of an active family has no routine! We’re lucky if we can get our slippers on the right feet first thing in the morning. In fact, we’re lucky if we can even find those slippers, having to, first, plow through an undergrowth of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs on the way to the kitchen, where we must witness testy debates over who gets the [prize] in the box of [cereal] and why a 40-year-old man refuses to take the Donald Duck thermos in his lunch…

What’s wrong with a quest for a roll of Scotch tape that’s your very own or having the phone ring and the call is for you instead of your teenager? [Margaret Mead’s] working definition [of a ‘first-class’ woman, not being a housewife or homemaker,] is a ‘trained, competent, professional woman’. Now, I’d be the last one to contradict an expert, but in defense of women who become wives and mothers… we have had training (although much of it’s on the job), are extremely competent and are professional [according to Webster’s dictionary] in that we have ‘a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or skill’…

If you don’t think it takes learning or skill to varnish a complex-of-disorder with enough love and efficiency that husbands and children grow up with security and comfort, drop around my kitchen some Sunday night… no matter what they tell us [working-outside-the-home homemakers] about turning our kids over to a day care center, there’s nothing like coming home from school to know that Mom’s in the kitchen, whipping up a pitcher of Tang and a plate of Twinkies.” [NOTE: See Mom’s recipe for homemade Twinkies at the end of this blog.]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Mom often referred to our family as being the total opposites of the Brady family on TV! Here’s a take, from the early years of the Recipe DetectiveTM, when Dan Martin of Newsday Wire Features wanted to come to our house in Pearl Beach to interview Mom about her bi-centennial cookbook that he had seen at The Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village… To hear Mom tell the story, it was just another day in the life of the “happy homemaker” – the kind of “stuff” from which country songs (or reality TV shows) are made!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

When he knocked on the door that day, it was like inviting him into a Jean Kerr production of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”. There were a dozen baskets of ironing here and there in the large dining room, each tagged with the [customer’s] name, phone number and date… Two long tables, under the windows [along the east wall], were covered with freshly mimeographed 4×6 cards of recipes, spread out for the ink to dry. Several times a week, I printed up about 200 recipes, at 50 copies each. At that time, we sold these through our newsletter for 5-for-a-dollar or 25-cents each. We did very well with them too!

Gloria Pitzer, mimeographing in her early years as the Recipe Detective [TM]

In the living room, Debbie’s friends had gathered with their driver’s training manuals to quiz each other for the big day coming up – when those six teenagers would be taking their driving tests. In the kitchen, Cheryl and Lorie were working on Girl Scout badge projects with some of their friends. It was a mad house!

Mr. Pipersack was shuffling in and out of the side porch door [off of the utility room], trying to unplug the bathroom pipes and clean out the septic tank for us. In the back room, where the prehistoric furnace was located in the 80-year-old house, a man from the gas company was arguing with a man from [the electric] company about what was wrong with our furnace and why it wouldn’t work [and recommending that I hide Paul’s wrench!]…

Our oldest son, Bill, was hunting through the kitchen drawers for some tools… so he could get under the hood of his [car] out in the driveway and, then, let Mr. Pipersack pull his truck into the yard. Mike, our next oldest, was on the phone trying to convince a girl that the things she had heard about him weren’t true and, if he could get his dad’s car on Saturday, would she go to the movies with him…

[Furthermore,] the cat was having a litter of kittens under the sewing table and our police dog, Suzie, was about to have a litter of pups and was moping about, looking for comfort…

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Had our life been made into a TV series, it probably would’ve been called ‘The Pitzer Pack Rats’! …Based purely on the unfounded talents of our five kids to keep our house looking like it was just about to be condemned by HUD! I pretend not to care for ‘The Brady Bunch’, because I envied their lovely lifestyle, where problems were solved without so much as a hair out of place or a tear shed in despair…

My husband… loved the way the Brady’s bathroom mirror never got steamed up from somebody’s shower and how Mr. Brady never had to threaten a child… for catapulting a meatball off of their fork and into [his] coffee cup the way our kids would! I liked the way their stairway was always free of common household litter and their door wall never had fingerprints on it.

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

Their house plants flourished and when their phone would ring, it was always somebody… who had something pertinent to contribute to the entire 30-minute story… When [the phone] rings in this house, it’s usually a lady calling long-distance, from Toledo, to tell me about an exciting new offer on my favorite… magazines at drastically reduced rates, or… my Avon lady…

Mrs. Brady lived the kind of saccharine existence all mothers of my day dreamed of, for she never had to explain why they had Coca-Cola stains on the ceiling or how she blew the food budget on a pot roast for Sunday’s dinner, or why she had to take down phone messages in the dust on the end table because she could never locate a pencil and paper when she needed it, like I did!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Her kids did not spend hours on the phone with a friend just listening to each other breathe, nor did they waste their allowances on a record album with a 3-aspirin rating! And, I noticed, the Brady kids never used a windowsill for a foot-rest, a lampshade for a coat rack or a younger brother for a punching bag.

Mr. and Mrs. Brady never argued with each other over his bowling night and her Bridge Club. Have you ever noticed how their oldest boy never stood around, cracking his knuckles when he was bored? Ours did. Everything that happened to them was an object lesson with a happy conclusion where the parents always come out on top, knowing what was best for the youngsters and proving it, too!

Illustrations & Photo by Gloria Pitzer

We always felt lucky, on the other hand, if Paul and I could only get the cherries out of the fruit cocktail before the kids did! And, while all of the Brady kids uttered adorable little sayings… our teenaged son explained how he had just initiated his new chemistry set by concocting Nitro-glycerin in the utility room.

The Brady Bunch may have lived in a Walt Disney [style] happily-ever-after world, but I did really like them… because [the story] didn’t tell it like it WAS, but how it COULD be! – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 27-29)

Inspired by some of Mom’s stories and cartoons, I wrote the following parody of The Brady Bunch theme song, That’s the Way we all Became the Brady Bunch, by songwriters, Frank DeVol and Sherwood Schwartz (© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC):

Parody by Laura Emerich, Illustrations & Photo by Gloria Pitzer

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

Friday marked the first day of summer! On the first day of spring I adopted the low-carb lifestyle (like Atkins). It has been 97 days of no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar – you know, all the good stuff! After starting out at a 20-gram-carb-limit for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit to 25 grams a day and have kept it there so far.

I’ve recently started using almond flour to make some Keto recipes. I LOVE the 90-Second Microwave English Muffin! I turned my slices into a Monte Cristo sandwich one morning and, OMG, I was in heaven (and stuffed) for a maximum 9-grams of carbs! I’ve also discovered that some heavy whipping cream and sugar-free, flavored gelatin make awesome “carb-free” desserts!

As of today, I’ve lost about 30 pounds! My goal is to lose another 10 pounds, at least; maybe 15 pounds at most. However, my “exercise regimen” is not steady, to say the least, and I still need to change that! I don’t spend near enough time weeding my garden or going for brisk walks.

IN CLOSING

‘Hopeless Twinkles’ recipe developed by Gloria Pitzer

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Food for Thought

Happy Monday everyone! Welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom by Laura (Pitzer) Emerich.

This is a weekly blog series that I began 8 months ago to honor the legacy of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, aka: the famous Recipe DetectiveTM and founder of Secret RecipesTM. My mom investigated the alleged mysteries and furtive formulas of the food industry, and discovered how to imitate their famous, popular products and dishes at home!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Beginning in the mid-1970s, Mom was becoming known, world-wide, for busting the mysteries behind making fast food and junk food fare at home! She reasoned that she could take the junk out of junk food if she controlled the ingredients that went into the cuisine in the first place. Mom developed thousands of recipes, imitating the trendy menu choices from many popular chain and fine-dining restaurants, in addition to well-liked, shelf-stable grocery products!

All of these recipes she put into over 35 of her self-published cookbooks and her hundreds of newsletter issues; sandwiching in snippets of satirical humor and caricature illustrations, household hints, “food for the heart and soul” commentaries, her timeless Food for Thought and No Laughing Matter editorials and background/historical information on various companies, chefs, products or dishes as well.

Those are the kinds of things that made Mom’s cookbooks stand out from all the rest, back then; besides being the first to pioneer the copycat recipes movement and carve out such a unique niche, as to capture the public, the critics and the food industry by storm! Each of Mom’s cookbooks and newsletters were designed to be just as much of a coffee table or bedside table read as it was a collection of recipes for the kitchen!

Food for Thought and No Laughing Matter were the titles of two of the news columns that Mom wrote in the late 1960s through the late 1970s, for local newspapers and syndications across the country. Other columns Mom wrote included Pitzer’s Patter and Cookbook Corner. As I’ve mentioned previously, there was also a series of humorous and satirical cartoon panels that Mom drew for The Richmond Review (Richmond, MI) in the late 1960s and early 1970s called Full House as kept by Gloria Pitzer. I’ve been including pictures of some of the panels (as well as Mom’s other illustrations) in many of my blogs.

Photo by Laura Emerich

It seems that Mom’s cartoon panels, either, inspired or were inspired by the various subject matters of her columns. Like the chicken and the egg analogy – I’m not sure which came first (as some are not dated but matched in subject matter). Food for Thought is also part of the title of one of Mom’s few self-published books that were not cookbooks. In fact, Mom called it This is not a Cookbook – It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986)!

Mom was always keenly aware that sustenance for our brains (aka: brain food, information, food for the mind or Food for Thought) is just as important for our well-being as are food for the soul and food for the body – as each of us are the sum of mind, body and soul! But, there was not a single cookbook on the market that could give all of that to the readers…not until Mom’s cookbooks came along, that is!

According to UrbanDictionary.com, Food for Thought means: “Learning new information that you never thought was important to think about. It enables you to have a greater intelligence in every aspect of life while feeding your mind.”

Similarly, Merriam-Webster.com says Food for Thought is “something that should be thought about or considered carefully.” Likewise, Dictionary.com declares, besides being “an idea or issue to ponder”, Food for Thought is also a “…metaphoric phrase, transferring the idea of digestion from the stomach to mulling something over in the mind…”; adding that it “dates from the late 1800s, although the idea was also expressed somewhat differently at least three centuries earlier.”

That last little tidbit of information was news to me! Is it to you? Anyway, the moral is that we should follow a well-balanced diet of brain food, as well as soul and body foods, on a daily basis, in order to be truly (and literally) fit from head to toe!

#OneSizeDoesNotFitAll

Speaking of “diet”, earlier in March, I wrote two blogs about dieting, food-choices, lifestyle changes and losing weight. Since then, I’ve been saving bits and pieces of ideas, or Food for Thought, on dieting about which I wanted to write further in a future blog. Now, it’s time to revisit the subject, answering the questions – “What diet will work for me?” and “What is BMI?”

As for “What diet will work for me?” There are so many diets out there, and all are as individual as are we! Thus, everyone considering dieting should do their research and feed their brain with information first; but, beware – not all of them are legitimate or safe! Nor, are they all a “one-size-fits-all” approach, from which to simply pick one and run with it! So, first, be informed; but, also, do so by reliable sources!

The U.S. News recently identified 41 of the best and most popular diets, assessing their target audiences as well. You can find a lot of brain food (aka: information) about the different diets on these two links: https://health.usnews.com/best-diet and https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall. In addition, before starting any such endeavor, consult your doctor for recommendations also!

As for “What is BMI?” AND why we should know more about it or should we even be concerned with it at all? Just the other day, I saw a report on my local news show’s health segment about this very thing! Hence, I wanted to include this link at http://www.fox2detroit.com/health/stepping-on-the-scale-can-be-scary-but-we-can-t-ignore-the-number-it-shows for you, as the report contained a full course meal of great information to consume without the worry of counting its calorie, fat or carbohydrate contents!

We all have certain numbers that the health experts say we should know. One such number is called BMI (Body Mass Index), which is generally calculated (using the metric system) by dividing a person’s weight by the square of their height. Most medical professionals will tell you that a generally calculated BMI below 18.5 can indicate conditions of being underweight, signaling that you could be malnourished or have some other underlying medical condition.

On the other hand, if the BMI is in the range of 25-29.9, it indicates being overweight; while any score of 30 or more is considered to be obese. BMI numbers in the higher ranges are indicative of being at risk for possible, future metabolic diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease – even type 2 diabetes is within the realm of indicators. BMI is considered the most common measurement for identifying the obesity level.

Believers in the BMI formula feel it is important because of its widely accepted indicators for one’s chances, of having a longer and healthier life, being more favorable if the number is in the so-called “healthy range” of 18.5-24.9. A large body of research supports the idea that people with higher BMIs are more prone to a number of health-related complications. Additionally, experts found that being overweight or obese at middle-age (about 40) is associated with a significantly increased risk of dying prematurely.

Regardless, critics of the BMI formula claim that the formula doesn’t paint an accurate picture because it doesn’t consider other variables of our body make-up such as our activity level, gender, age and race. In addition, it does not distinguish between weight attributed by muscle mass and that which comes from fat, as the latter is lighter than the former. Consequently, someone with more muscle mass than fat mass will have a deceptively higher BMI number.

Additionally, BMI is not always accurate in the elderly either, because these people often have LESS muscle and bone mass than do younger subjects. So, the build and activity level of a woman age 55-60 years old and in menopause, for example, does not (and cannot) compare to the build and activity level of a woman who is 25-30 years old, let alone to men in the same age brackets. Plus, there are inherited biological differences among the various races that can also impact the BMI method!

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

This is Day 62 of my new low-carb (Atkins-like) life-style that I started on the first day of spring. I changed my eating habits and choices and aimed to keep my carbohydrate intake within a 20- to 25-gram target area. I stay completely away from certain carbohydrate sources, such as potatoes, legumes, rice, pasta, breads and sweets…as well as anything else made with flour/sugar. Having hypoglycemia (but not diabetes), this low-carb life-style is good for me, anyway; since my body doesn’t process those types of carbs properly, causing sudden drops in my blood-sugar levels.

So far, I’ve lost about 22 pounds! I had been losing about 3 pounds per week, on average! But, for the last week or two, I seem to have hit a “plateau”. Admittedly, I have yet to add any REGULAR exercise regimen into my already busy days – maybe, because I hate to exercise! Thus, I’ve procrastinated at re-prioritizing things that take up my time in order to make room for exercise, by mis-associating being busy with being active and thinking it can wait. But, sitting and typing at my computer (when I’m not earning a part-time paycheck) are not big calorie burning activities – not even close!

Healthfully.com claims that a 185-pound person will burn about 61 calories sitting at a computer and typing for 30 minutes. Using their calculations, I found that I burn about 130 calories per hour when I’m working on my blogs and this website, even when I’m pinning on Pinterest or posting on my various social media accounts.

However, there’s also a great calorie-burning chart at NutriStrategy.com, where I found that weeding and cultivating my garden this weekend burned about 393 calories per hour for someone my size – and I spent three hours in my vegetable garden getting most of my transplanting completed before it began to rain and storm!

About the only other kind of exercise regimen that I don’t mind doing, besides gardening, is walking! It’s about 1.7 miles around my “block” and it takes me about 30 minutes to walk it at a brisk, 3.5 MPH stride. My 30-minute “brisk” walks burn about 166 calories, given my size, according to NutriStrategy’s chart. I just don’t do it regularly or often enough. Below is a picture I made of information, or Food for Thought,  I assembled about what to do if you’re on a weight loss plateau.

#NationalBurgerMonth, #NationalSalsaMonth and #NationalSaladMonth

In closing, for all of you food-lovers out there, I’d like to add that May is host to many food celebrations, including National Hamburger Month, National Salsa Month and National Salad Month – 3 celebrations that, together, make up a great food-for-the-body taco salad! Even though the National Hamburger Month celebration is focused on the sandwich-style “burger”. I would just grind up my seasoned, grilled “burger”, since I can’t have bread/buns anyway, and toss it together with some homemade salsa (see Mom’s recipe below) and shredded lettuce; topping it with some grated cheddar-jack cheese, sliced black olives, and a sprinkling of finely chopped tomatoes, bell peppers and onions to create a marvelous, low-carb taco salad that can also be served on/in a low-carb tortilla.

The following is a picture of Mom’s mild salsa imitation, inspired by Chi Chi’s. This recipe title was one of the original “free” recipes offered on this website before my brother passed the website on to me to cultivate for our Mom’s legacy. However, I don’t know if this was the same version offered then as the recipes didn’t transfer to my site host. The version below is not in her last cookbook, as it was not in Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (1983 edition), from which that one was rewritten. But, I did find this version (below) in The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Feb. 1990, p. 45)… as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – For the Love of Writing

Greetings! Welcome to my blog home, Mondays & Memories of My Mom! My name is Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to the memory of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, because she left behind such an incredible legacy when she went to be an angel last year.

Most knew her as the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM, investigator AND imitator of the food industry’s “secrets” behind the well-known products and dishes from famous companies and franchise chains like Olive Garden, Olga’s, Applebee’s, TGIF, Ruby Tuesday, Bob Evans, Big Boy Restaurants, Chi-Chi’s, Cracker Barrel, KFC, Wendy’s, White Castle, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Sanders, Famous Amos, Mrs. Field’s, Kraft, Heinz, Nabisco, Keebler, Sara Lee… and the list goes on!

I’ve been writing these blogs on a weekly basis since last September, to channel the many wonderful memories I have of my mom and, also, to share her astonishing legacy – her special story – with a new, digital generation. Like Mom, I’ve always loved to write. One of my youngest memories are of Mom & I, when she was first teaching me how to write my name. I was going on 4 years old and about to start Kindergarten that fall. Mom sparked my love for writing, which she stoked in me throughout my life.

Mom left her mark on many from her over 60-year writing career, to her famous Secret RecipesTM profession to her personal loves of faith, family and life; all of which she always found a way to intermix in her creations, like the ingredients of a great recipe.

My mom’s first and last love (besides my dad) was with writing. She had always loved to write short stories and poetry since she was a young girl, as did I. She told me many stories of how she dreamed of writing “the great American novel” when she was a teenager. But, Mom’s childhood dream never came to fruition, as events in life took her in a slightly different direction with writing.

As a teenager and young adult in the 1950s and 1960s, she entered and won multiple contests, on radio shows and in magazines, usually winning cash or some sort of prize for her essays. However, every winning achievement that Mom had in authoring, usually included food in some manner.

Mom was creatively gifted, not just as a writer, but also as a publisher, advertiser/marketer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook… and the list just goes on. Combined with a clever and satirical wit, all these ingredients uniquely formed Mom’s own special recipe for success – like a “super-power”! (FYI – yesterday was National Super Hero Day!)

Similar to stand-up comedians, Mom found her ‘family life’ to be the best source on which to base her cleverly witted cartoon panels and stories. In the course of her syndicated writing of “food-for-thought-and-table” columns, Mom found a unique niche that her readers wanted – even if the newspapers’ editors and their food industry advertisers didn’t.

Mom called it “eating out at home”! She set out to discover how to imitate the popular fast food & fine dining dishes in her own kitchen; as well as, some shelf-stable grocery items too. If it saved her household money, my mom wanted to share it with the world to help others save money also. Mom was a trail-blazer and pioneer for copycat cuisine, as no one else was doing this – imitating the fast food and junk food dishes/products that people craved, but critics constantly warned us were unhealthy!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

From 1973 through 2004, Mom wrote and self-published hundreds of newsletters and at least 40 books filled with not only thousands of these “secret” recipe imitations that she personally developed and tested, but also with her humorous stories and anecdotes, helpful kitchen and household tips, as well as some background or history about many of the companies and products being imitated.

Mom put so much love and passion into the recipes she developed and wrote, testing them over and over again (which was a labor of love all its own) until she felt they were good enough to share. In addition, Mom found that by promoting the making of these “taboo” foods at home, it gave the cook control over the ingredients that went into the recipes; thereby, debunking the “junk” to which the critics referred!

Her food-for-thought editorials were always written from her heart, with a devotion and hunger for helping and informing her readers, as well as entertaining them. Mom designed each of her books and newsletters, to be as much a coffee-table or bedside-table read as it was a recipe collection for the kitchen. No other such products on the market, at that time, could do that and Mom’s compositions took the monotony out of meal time!

Illustrations by Gloria Pitzer

Additionally, more of Mom’s memories about writing are in the following excerpts from of her own story, as seen in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, (Balboa Press; January 2018, pp. 292-297). This book was actually a re-write by me of Mom’s favorite and most famous, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing):

I enjoy working with these recipe secrets, but most of all, I enjoy writing about them. I’ve been writing all my life… Going way-back to when I was in grade school. I was always writing a book, or a poem or a short story. It was a way of life from my earliest memories – a way over which I seem to have no personal control! I had to write… Preferably about what I knew best at the time. Little did I know that what I would come to know best would be cooking!

… I met my husband, Paul… We started dating and one year later we were married. That was 1956. Bill was born over a year later and, then, Mike came 20 months after that, and Debbie came along 20 months after that. I lost 3 babies in the next 3 years, but Laura was born in 1964 and Cheryl came 20 months after that.

That reminds me of one summer in my teen years, as our family was traveling on vacation to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH – during the long, 3-hour drive, Mom sat in the back of the van with me and helped me work on a poem that I was inspired to write about her and our family. Another cherished memory! I’ll include the poem at the end of this blog. But, for now, here is the continuation of Mom’s memories about writing…

During those years…I kept up with my writing, always working for one of the suburban papers and constantly free-lancing to magazines. When Redbook sent me $500 for my ‘Young Mother’s Story’ submission in February 1963, called ‘We’ll Never Live with In-Laws Again’, I put part of the money into a typewriter, as I had always had to borrow one before that. I wanted a typewriter more than Reagan wanted to be president!

I put a lot of miles on that $39.95 machine – I designed a column for weekly newspapers and mailed out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, I had acquired 60 regular papers for my ‘No Laughing Matter’ column and another column I called ‘Minding the Hearth’. Columbia Features in New York offered me a contract, and, for a year, I allowed them to syndicate the column in competition with a new humorist, Erma Bombeck! (Right church, wrong pew for me!)

When Columbia Features and I parted company…within 6 months I had regained all my original papers and was syndicating the column from our dining room table…I rode a bike to and from the Pearl Beach post office every day, where I mailed out my columns and looked for responses to ads I had placed… for [my] recipes on 4×6” cards that enabled you to imitate famous dishes at home.

1972 advertisement that Mom designed and mailed out regularly, to papers’ and magazines’ editors, for syndication.

At the suggestion… that I should put all my column’s recipes into a book, I wrote my 1st edition called ‘The Better Cooker’s Cookbook’ [1973]. In less than a month, I had sold 1000 copies. I wasn’t satisfied with the book, so I didn’t reprint it – but, decided that it might work out better if I could do those recipes monthly…I put together my 1st issue of what came to be my ‘Secret Recipe Report’, a newsletter that… brought me in contact with the many so-called secrets of the commercial food and restaurant industry.

It was a perfect storm – from the unique subject matter of her books and newsletters to the media exposure of them through radio, newspapers, magazines and TV – which, all together, brought about Mom’s fame as the Recipe DetectiveTM.

I’m currently working on a time line of her appearances and interviews to add to this website’s tabs, gathering most of the information through her books, newsletters and other works as best as I can. However, I haven’t decided on a title for the new tab yet. I’m also still working on updating the “Recipes” tab with more of Mom’s creations. Before closing, here is the poem I mentioned above:

The poem, on which Mom helped me in 1979; along with a cartoon panel she drew in 1969!

Shortly after starting these blogs, I decided to include one of Mom’s recipes with each one. For the 35-plus years that Mom “worked her business”, she offered (in exchange for a SASE) a sheet of free recipes, along with information on how to order her currently available (at that time) self-published cookbooks; as well as how to subscribe to her newsletter.

I’ve recently exhausted all the recipes from the information sheets of which I have copies. However, this website, originally developed by my brother, Michael Pitzer (for internet exposure to our parents and their Secret RecipesTM business), used to offer other “free” recipes that Mom authorized; some of which weren’t on those information sheets.

Since my brother transferred the website to me, with which to carry on Mom’s legacy through these blogs, I’ve been working on updating the “Recipes” tab to include all the free recipes that were on the site to begin with (as they didn’t transfer to the new host), as well as the ones on Mom’s information sheets. It’s taking some time because I only have a printed list of the original 34 recipe titles that were offered on the website. As times change, so do some companies’ recipes; thus, Mom has had a few different versions of some of her recipes. I’ve found almost half of the original list so far. Stay tuned for more updates!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

The following recipe may not be the same one that used to show for free on this website before last September, but this is the recipe I found for the same or similar title – as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Olive Garden-Style Alfredo Fettucine

By Gloria Pitzer, from My Personal Favorites (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 19)

Ingredients:

8-oz cream cheese, in bits

¾ c grated Parmesan

8 TB butter

½ c milk

1-lb box fettucine, prepared as box instructs

Instructions:

Put first 4 ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring until smooth and piping hot – but, don’t let it boil or it might scorch! Spoon sauce mixture over 4 portions of prepared fettucine. Serves 4 sensibly or 2 foolishly!

#NationalShrimpScampiDay

For all of you shrimp-loving foodies out there, this happens to be National Shrimp Scampi Day! Shrimp Scampi was one of Mom’s many favorite dishes at Olive Garden. It goes awesome with her imitation of their Alfredo Fettucine, as given above! The National Day Calendar website has a link to a great shrimp scampi recipe by Elise Bauer on “Simply Recipes”. Enjoy making this wonderful dish, along with the pasta, for dinner to celebrate the day and use #NationalShrimpScampiDay to post about it on social media.

P.S.

#NationalGardeningMonth

This week also brings an end to National Gardening Month. So, as we come from celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day last week, now it’s Stewardship Week – one of the world’s largest conservation-related observances… this year’s theme is “Life In the Soil: Dig Deeper.” Since conservation is the preservation of resources, it sounds like a great segue from April into May! So is this old proverb…“April showers bring May flowers” – people have quoted this for centuries; but, as we approach May, I find it ironic that the first week is also National Wildflower Week! Additionally,  Wednesday, the 1st, is “May Day”, as well as “Bird Day”!

In honor of Saturday, May 4th, being National Star Wars Day…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Teach a Child to Fish

This memory is not exactly of my mom…not directly anyway. Some of my favorite early childhood memories are of fishing with my dad and two brothers. My brothers didn’t very much care for me tagging along, but Dad was happy with my enthusiastic interest in fishing… especially, I think, because I liked to find the worms with which for him to bait our hooks. I was pretty good at it too!

Dad & I relaxing in the front yard. Photographed by Gloria Pitzer, July 1970

We were living in the Algonac-Pearl Beach area (of Michigan), on the beautiful St. Clair River (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway), across from the North Channel (west of Harsens Island) that flows into Lake St. Clair. We fished off the end of our dock often, Spring through Fall; for bass, perch, walleye, whitefish, trout, salmon, etc. – whatever was in season at the time.

One day, when I was about 7 or 8 years old, fishing with my dad and brother, Mike; my line caught something that I just couldn’t pull in by myself. Dad came over to help me. I was very excited that I had caught something, and it was apparently BIG because I couldn’t reel it in by myself! After a couple minutes of struggling, even with Dad’s help, we finally got it pulled up to the surface of the water, only to find it was an old shoe filled with mud! Dad helped me to cast my line out again and I patiently waited for a real bite. Then, I got a rather strong pull on my line and Dad had to help me reel it in again – this time it was an old coffee can filled with mud! My brother, Mike, got the biggest kick out of that and roared with laughter!!!

Dad set me back up with a new worm on my hook, to try again on the other side of the dock, hoping I wouldn’t catch another shoe or can of mud. Within MINUTES I had hooked something big and heavy again! Mike teased me that it was another can of mud. But, as Dad helped me, again, to get the object to the surface, we saw it was a HUGE catfish, which broke my line as soon as we got it up on the edge of the dock. It flopped back into the water and swam away quickly. So, I do have a story about “the one that got away” – and it was real!

Mom drew this cartoon in 1971, for her syndicated column, Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer, based on my love to fish, and my brothers’ irritation of it:

When it was raining outside, and I couldn’t go out on the dock to fish, Mom would set me up on our screened-in porch with a large tub of water, a lawn chair and a “pretend” pole she made from a stick, with a piece of rope tied to it and a rock tied to the other end of the rope (as seen in the photo below, with my little sister.) This reminds me of a “meme” (a humorous image, video, or piece of text) that I like, being shared on Facebook in many forms that, basically, says something along the lines of: “When I was a kid… I didn’t have cable, a computer, internet, Nintendo, X-Box, or Wii. My toys were a bike, fishing pole, bat, ball, mitt, sand box, swing set, trees and so much more. My playroom was the outside world and I had a curfew and drank water out of a hose. If I didn’t eat what my mom made me, I didn’t eat. I didn’t dare tell my parents ‘no’, nor did I dare talk back to them disrespectfully. Life wasn’t hard, it was just life… And I survived.’

Cheryl & I, fishing on the front porch (Algonac, MI) Photographed by Gloria Pitzer, September 1971

I love the aroma of a good fish fry!!! Mom had a few good recipes for coating and frying the fish we caught. Below is Mom’s 1983 make-alike version of Long John Silver’s fish batter, as seen on page 111 in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

LONE JOHN SLIVER FISH BATTER – Similar in texture and flavoring to my ‘Archer Teacher Fish Batter’, but made a bit differently. You can pirate your way through a seaworthy voyage of vittles with this crispy fish coating!

½ cup each: flour and biscuit mix

1 teaspoon season salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons corn oil

about 1 cup club soda, or Busch light beer

grated rind of half a lemon

¼ teaspoon onion salt

Combine flour, biscuit mix, season salt and sugar. Set aside. Beat egg and oil, adding to half of the club soda or beer. Stir in flour mixture, plus enough more club soda or beer to make it the consistency of buttermilk (as in my “Archer Teacher Batter” recipe.) Stir in lemon rind and onion salt. Tenderize fish fillets in buttermilk as directed in my Treacher recipe (see Index.) Drain fillets and dredge in plain flour. Allow them to dry a few minutes. Dip to coat in prepared batter and fry, a few pieces at a time, in 425°F oil/Crisco mix as directed in my Treacher recipe. When golden brown, remove and keep warm on a paper-lined cookie sheet in a 300°F oven until all pieces have been fried. Serve with my Tartar Sauce (see Index.) Serves 4 to 6 sensibly!

Note: Mom found years later that the fish coating fried best in 385°F oil.

This updated version is from Mom’s “Free Recipes & Information” sheet (2000), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Labor of Love

I was going to continue from the end of last week’s blog, regarding Mom’s experiences from being on the Phil Donahue Show. Then, I decided I needed to write more about Mom’s back story first – who she was before becoming that “Secret Recipes” “trail blazer in the 70’s.”

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…” [from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/the-best-laid-plans-of-mice-and-men-often-go-awry]

Mom used to tell me, “life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.” In other words, while we’re busy making plans for how we’d like our lives to be, life changes and all we can do is hop on the wave and go with the flow…”re-calculating” as we go.

Mom’s first love was writing. As a girl, she dreamed of writing a great American novel one day. She loved to write short stories and poetry. In high school, she pestered her school’s newspaper “sponsor”, Mr. Rosen, to let her be on the staff. She told me that he had no hope for her as a reporter, but she set out to prove him wrong anyway. From her love for writing, she also became Secretary of her January 1954 Senior class at Royal Oak High School in Michigan. Sharing that love of writing with Mom was Judy Guest (who became the author of “Ordinary People” about 20 years later.) Mom said Judy had also worked on the Royal Oak High School paper and everyone knew that she was destined to be a great author – it was in her genes. Judy, like Mom, was also Secretary of her Senior class (June 1954 – 6 months after Mom’s class.)

However, Mom’s own dream of writing “a great American novel” never came to fruition, as “life” took her in a slightly different direction. Every successful accomplishment that Mom had with her writing efforts in and after high school and college involved cooking and recipes in some manner. In the 50’s and 60’s, she won multiple contests on radio shows and in magazines for recipes; as well as for food-related stories, articles and essays that she wrote and entered. With the prize money from one contest in 1963, she bought her first typewriter, as she had always borrowed one before then.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973 (her family)

As a wife and mother, Mom found her ‘family life’ to be the best subject about which to write. She was very creative and funny. She designed a few columns for weekly papers on that new typewriter, mailing out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, she was writing two different columns (“No Laugh’N Matter” and “Minding the Hearth”) for 60 regular papers. She even created her own cartoons (similar to “Family Circle”), which she called “Full House – as Kept by Gloria Pitzer”. They depicted her life as a wife and mother of 5 in the mid-60’s to mid-70’s. Yet, Mom still did not see recipes as a “calling” – to her, it was merely an interest that kept her writing and making a living from it.

Then, when she was writing a regular food column, syndicated through Columbia Features, she realized there was a niche – no cookbooks on the market took the monotony out of meal time for her. There wasn’t even a single recipe in the newspaper’s food section that didn’t come off, to her, as “down-home dullness.” She approached the editors with an idea to change things up from the usual meatloaf and chocolate brownies recipes. They told her to write the recipes that she thought would excite the readers, and so she did! The readers loved it! However, the food industry advertisers of the paper were not so happy with her inventive ways to make family-favorite, “fast-food” meals like you were “eating out at home.”

So, the editors asked her to go back to the monotonous meatloaf and chocolate brownies recipes or “pick up her check.” But, it was too late…the bug had bitten her, and she realized this was her calling. She told them to mail her the check, and she went home to start her own paper! She knew someone needed to give homemakers, like herself, something more. The food industry was so much bigger than what was being offered in the colored, glossy magazines and the cookbooks of those days. Fast food recipes weren’t found in any cookbooks back then – and these were the types of restaurants that struggling, middle class families would frequent when they wanted an affordable meal out. What were they to do when they couldn’t afford to take their family out for such a treat? Mom knew! Make it at home! And she couldn’t wait to investigate all the possibilities there were to offer from this new platform!