Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happiness Is…

Hello, Everyone! If you haven’t been here before, my name is Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. I started this weekly blog series last month to carry on her legacy through my memories of her; as well as, through the memories others have of her. This week’s subject is “happiness”! As Elbert Hubbard said, “Happiness is a habit cultivate it.” 

If true happiness is acquired through persistence and patience, it would be like the fable of the elderly Chinese profit who asked for a needle when none could be found. However, somebody offered him a crowbar and a file. He was pleased and assured his friends that it was only a matter of time before he could produce the needle he wanted. [a Food-for-Thought entry on page 304 of “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”; published by Balboa Press (January 2018) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

When I was feeling depressed and frustrated, miserable about life in general, Mom told me that happiness is not in what you want or what you get, but in who you are! True happiness comes from within us. It’s not about what you have in life, but what you get out of life, that counts. After all, it’s the journey, not the arrival, that matters the most.

Yet, there are those who truly believe, in their heart-of-hearts, that their level of happiness is in direct proportion to their level of success, which is in direct proportion to how much money they earn or have. However, success “levels” (if there really are such things) have nothing to do with how much money one has acquired; and, thus, has no correlation with a “level” of happiness. Mom believed that real success was found in how well we lived our lives – for the good of ourselves, as well as for the good of others. Thus, we should always do something that will make a difference for the good of others.

We all expect life to be good to us – at least, some of the time. But, when things don’t work out the way we plan, or hope, there’s an overwhelming tendency to feel that all life gives us is lemons. Everyone knows the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” (Also, a quote from Elbert Hubbard.) However, you need a lot of sugar to make a good lemonade. Whether the sweetener comes from self-love or from inner-happiness, we need to pour that sugar all over it!

One of Mom’s favorite “happy” and “feel good” movies was always The Sound of Music, in which Julia Andrews’ character was constantly bombarded with life’s “lemons”; but, like mom, she never lost her faith. She always found a way to turn it into lemonade. One of mom’s favorite references in the movie was from a scene in the Abby when Julia’s character was told, “When the Lord closes a doorhe opens a window.” Similar to Mom’s favorite Norman Vincent Peale quote: “God never closes a door that He doesn’t open a window.”

Photo of Gloria Pitzer, taken by Laura Emerich, March 2013

Mom believed that life’s best experiences often came out life’s biggest disappointments by, simply, turning “a let-down into a set-up” for something else – something better – something out there, through the opened window. She also believed that every new day was a turning point and that each experience (good and bad) eventually contributed in some way to our growth and happiness. For that she was always grateful. Since these life-lessons continue on a daily basis, we should be learning something new every day. After all, we are always growing and evolving – mind, body and soul. Mom once wrote, “…the opportunities that are available to us aren’t always the most obvious when we’re in the throes of self-pity [or rejection], or weary from over-work… You certainly won’t hear opportunity knocking at the front door if you’re in the back yard, looking for four-leaf clovers.” [“My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989; page 4].

Photo taken by Laura Emerich at a Michigan State Scenic Turnout along M-25, Oct. 2017.

Because of the happiness Mom taught me to find within myself first, I can also enjoy the happiness I find in the colors of a Michigan fall, the happy-go-lucky smile of my grandchild, the nuzzles and purrs of my cats (and husband), the sparkling sun reflected on the magnificent blue waters of The Great Lakes, the cheerful sounds of the birds and other wildlife in my backyard, the aroma of a slow-cooker Sunday meal – and in so much more! Where do you find your happiness?

Some people find happiness in chocolate. So, with that and the up-coming Halloween celebrations, I’d like to share with you Mom’s make-a-like version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which she called Recess Peanut Butter Cups; asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

An alternate,1983 version, can be found on page 234 of her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)].

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Made With Love

My mom, Gloria Pitzer, loved many things and many people and many animals; but, Mom’s greatest love (next to my dad, of course) was her writing. She 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. Her Food-for-Thought editorials were written with a great love and passion for helping and informing her readers – whether it was requested by them or something she came upon and thought it might be interesting to them. Her cartoons were drawn with loving satirical humor, meant to entertain her readers and bring a little smile to their day. Mom combined them all, for decades, into monthly/bi-monthly newsletters, as well as the many dozens of books that she wrote and self-published.

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

Everything Mom made was done so out of love and with love. Since I was very small, I remember Mom hand-making my sisters and I beautiful rag dolls with an array of fashion to go with each. To this day, that’s still my favorite Christmas present from her. She also created a lot of our Barbies’ furniture, clothes and linens. She often made our own clothes, as well as blankets/afghans for us. Her attention to details showed all the thought and love that she put into making everything.

Family meal-time was even an event! Not like when my brother, Mike, was caught hiding his peas in a napkin under the edge of his plate, because he couldn’t leave the table until his plate was cleared – after all, there were children in Ethiopia starving – and, no, Mike couldn’t send them his peas! But, meal-time was always a family-together-time event, where we all sat at the table, sharing feelings & stories of our day (while the siblings might elbow or kick each other under the table, if those stories turned into tattles.) But, family meal-time was especially fun if we were testing some of Mom’s famous make-alike dishes – like the KFC-style chicken I shared with you a couple of weeks ago in my blog, “More than 15 Minutes of Fame!”. Even the “duds”, as we lovingly referred to those samplings that weren’t quite right enough to make it into her newsletter, were still made with just as much love as the final products that did…and they all tasted wonderfully delicious!

Just a few weeks ago, our local historical museum did a tribute to 10 residents; people (no longer with us) who contributed greatly to our community of St. Clair, Michigan. It’s a yearly tribute called “The Next 10”. This year’s presentation included my mom as one of the 10 special people. I was so honored when a few different people, working on this project, contacted me for any information, stories, photos and other materials that I could contribute.

The St. Clair Historical Museum put on a beautiful picture slideshow-like presentation for each honoree; and each had a different speaker, presenting the family’s and community’s memories of them. Family members and friends of some of those honored were present. To feel the love in the room, coming from all those other loved ones, was tremendous. I was very honored to be among them. I was especially honored that during the social, following the presentation, they served ice cream with a batch of Mom’s Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce that someone had lovingly made for the event! This week, I will share that recipe with you, as it was on her “free sheet” of recipes and ordering information and, also, on page 255 of her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write of her 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.  You can also find it on this website under the ‘Recipes’ tab.

Michiganders (especially southeastern ones) know all about the mouth-watering, luscious, milk chocolate delights put out by Sanders’ Chocolatiers ! As their company slogan once said, “When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat.” I have a lot of great family-time memories of when Mom made this special treat for all of us – and it was especially fun to help her make it too! I mean, who wouldn’t LOVE to lick that spoon when done? I remember, as well, when I made it for my own kids while they were little – and it was a big treat for all of us! Here is what Mom had to say in her original book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (self-published by Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, May 1983, 3rd Printing) about the Sanders Company; plus, her favorite make-alike version of their hot fudge sauce:

   SANDERS’ HOT FUDGE was one of the nicest experiences I had in working with imitations of the famous recipes, for John (Jack) Sanders, the grandson and president of the company founded by his grandfather, Fred, was one of the sponsors of Warren Pierce’s radio show [found on WJR – Detroit]. Imagine my reluctance to share with his listeners my version of Sander’s hot fudge. I had previously had so many threatening letters from food company lawyers that I didn’t know what to expect if I heard from the Sanders people! To my amazement, the letter we anticipated did arrive only 2 days after I gave my version of the hot fudge recipe to Warren’s listeners. The letter, however, said – if it wouldn’t ruin my fun in trying to duplicate these famous dishes, would Paul and I and all the kids kindly accept an invitation from Jack Sanders to tour their Oakman Boulevard Bakery and Confection plant and meet their Head Chef, Edy Mader. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sander’s products and, I learned, encouraged many out-of-state orders for their products whenever I talked about them during my frequent radio visits around the country. As the slogan for Sanders’ Restaurants, Bakery and Candy company said, “When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…”

HOT FUDGE SAUCELike Sanders

14-ounce can Eagle Brand milk

14 ounces light corn syrup (use EB milk can to measure)

¼ pound butter* (*per the “free sheet” directions; the book – as written in 1983 – calls for ½ pound)

12 ounces Nestlé’s milk chocolate candy bars – Do not substitute on brand of candy!

a few drops vanilla extract

In top of double boiler, over simmering water, combine all ingredients as listed, stirring about 15 minutes until smooth and melted. Cover and continue cooking for at least 30 more minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes. Cool and put through your blender in small portions, using on/off agitation on high speed until mixture is satiny-smooth. Makes 1 quart. Keeps refrigerated up to a month – reheat in top of double boiler over simmering water. Freezes well up to 6 months.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Best Things in Life

What’s “best” to me may not be the same as what’s “best” to you or to anyone else. But, from all the comments I’ve read on the subject, a LOT of people seem to feel that the best things in life really are the “free stuff”. As far back as I can remember, my mom taught me that the best things in life aren’t necessarily tangible things! Mom – as do I – always treasured things like feelings, thoughts and expressions of caring. A smile or a hug or a strong, loving, family bond (be it by blood or by choice) have always been very important “best things” too. All of these kind of things are given and received freely…at no monetary costs. I’ve tried to teach these “values” to my kids also – as my mom taught me and her mom taught her – now my daughter teaches these values to her son. Chivalry, courtesy and civility are not dead – nor can it hibernate, as long as we continue to teach it to each new generation!

Mom once wrote: “We must…remove price tags from people. Everyone has worth; the excitement lies in the discovery of their value!…Wealth does not equal worth and so the amount of money we could have earned, but turned down instead, as a result of keeping our publications at home, is not as important as the work itself.” – as found in her self-published book, “My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop”, 1st Edition, December 1989; p. 106

In the Fall season of 1981, after the over-whelming response to her 1st appearance on the Phil Donahue Show – Mom was repeatedly laying her head on her desk, “in tears of anguish and fatigue”, as the family-operated, dining-room-table business went from “rags-to-riches”, in terms of public response to her creations. But, fame was not all it was jacked-up to be; and, it was taking its toll on everyone! The cookbooks couldn’t be printed fast enough, to fill all the orders that were continually coming in; some customers were upset that they hadn’t received their orders, due to all sorts of confusing reasons; and the family was stressed-out and crumbling apart from all the related fall-out of “fame”. Hence, I left home early (just before my 17th birthday), running away with a boy of whom my parents disapproved.

Mom and Dad thought that, by moving to the Los Angeles area with my younger sister (near one of my older brothers, Mike, and Mom’s oldest sister, Hazel, and her family), they could all have a new beginning and leave all their problems behind, in St. Clair. As I did, in moving to the Houston area with my boyfriend. All of us soon realized we were mistaken – about what we thought we wanted/needed and how to go about getting it.

“Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.” – Dick Syatt

 

In California, it wasn’t long before Mom and Dad started missing the things about St. Clair that originally attracted them to move there from Algonac, in the first place…the friendliness of the town, the security of walking the streets without fearing harm, the simplicity of her small-town life. As much as they loved being near their family members, out there, that they rarely got to see, Mom couldn’t work or create in California! The peace and contentment she sought, but couldn’t find there, made her suddenly re-appreciate the freedom she had of living in a small, mid-west town, and she was eager to go “home”. She went back to what she loved best – writing and radio “visits” that kept her connected with her “readers” and “listeners”.

Remembering – Recollections of how we developed our Secret Recipes and the unique circumstances under which this dining room table operation has endured… will surely never make the best sellers list, and perhaps not even interest most critics, let alone the skeptics. They predicted that the public’s interest in my kind of cookery would not last long. It continues because it has merit! – (by Gloria Pitzer; from “The Original 200 Plus – Secret Recipes Book”, 1st Printing, June 1997; p. 2)

During that same time period, while I was on my own journey in the Houston area with my boyfriend, I also found that to be so true. It wasn’t long before I realized that being in a new place with my boyfriend was not making either of us happy. After 5 months in the Houston area, my boyfriend and I, along with another couple, moved back to our hometown area in Michigan. But, things still weren’t good/better for either of us. I was looking through rose-colored glasses at something that was just not meant to be. Mom found out, through friends of mine, where I was living and how I was struggling. She started sending me little, anonymous, “angel” cards with a $20 bill – no return address or any writing other than my name and address on the envelope. I knew it was from her, even though the writing was “disguised”. Angels were our “connection”. While the money did help – that I cannot deny – it was the “anonymous” angel cards, themselves, that meant the most to me. She was reaching out, without any pressure or judgement. After my boyfriend and I split up, circumstances led me back to a loving and forgiving relationship with my parents.

Mom said, of that whole experience, “Sometimes we need to have something, lose it and get it back again, before we can really appreciate what we have.”

Back to the best things in life – as I said in the beginning – things like feelings, thoughts and expressions of caring. A smile or a hug or a strong, loving, family bond (be it by blood or by choice) have always been very important “best things”! They are the things that truly make me happy…given and received freely…at no monetary costs.

Before Mom hung up her hat and magnifying glass and fully retired, (in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope) she was graciously giving away “free” sheets of 12-20 of her “best”, most popularly requested, recipes and information on what publications she had in print and how to get them. All her recipes are copyrighted; and one thing she always asked for, when she gave permission to copy, was to give her the proper credit for it. I am going to share one of those recipes with you each week, here in my blog, as they also appear 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 of her 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.

In last week’s blog, “More than 15 Minutes of Fame”, I shared her “Big Bucket In the Sky Chicken” recipe, which was also on the “free sheet”. This week, as “Pumpkin Season” begins, I’d like to share Mom’s favorite butter pie crust recipe from that “free sheet”, which is also found in her last book (cited above) on page 243.

BUTTER CRUST (My Most Dependable & Very Favorite Recipe!)

Melt ¼ pound butter – NOT margarine – in a small sauce pan on medium heat until it’s frothy, but don’t let it change color or become the least-bit brown. (I like to put the stick of butter into my heat-proof, 1 ½-quart, glass mixing bowl, placing it in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on “Defrost”.)

As soon as the butter is melted, and while it’s still hot, dump in the remaining ingredients:  1 tablespoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup all-purpose flour.

Turn your electric mixer on high and beat mixture in a bowl for about 30 seconds or until it comes away from the center and hits the sides of the bowl. Quickly gather it into a ball and pat it out to cover the bottom and sides of a Pam-sprayed, 10-inch, Pyrex pie plate. (Pyrex plates work best with this very rich recipe.) If you don’t have Pam, grease the pan in Crisco only! It might stick otherwise!

Bake crust at 375°F for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Fill as desired. Makes one 10-inch pie crust. Note: Do not double this recipe. The dough becomes difficult to work with as it cools and, then, it crumbles and breaks apart. Make one single recipe at a time.

   To make top crust: Pat out a single recipe, as given above, on a Pam-sprayed and waxed-paper-lined dinner plate. Invert crust over filling spread in crust-lined pan, per recipe of your choice. Lift off plate and peel back waxed paper. Make slits for steam to escape. Gently press crust to rim of pie pan with a floured fork (or a fork dipped in ice water.) Use an egg-wash if you wish (one egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water and brushed lightly – lapping it, rather than pressing it, over top of crust), but the butter in this crust should allow it to brown beautifully without the wash. Bake per filling recipe directions. Generally, the best temperature is at 375°F for 25 to 28 minutes or until filling begins to bubble up through the slits in the top crust in the crust is golden brown.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Legacy of Love

To blog or not to blog? That is the question…and I’ve been asking myself that for a while now… as well as, about what should I blog?

Hi! I’m Laura Emerich, and Gloria Pitzer is my mom!

I’ve always loved to write, draw and craft things since I was very young. The arts (on so many different levels) seemed to run in my blood. If there’s an artistic gene, our family seemed to be blessed with it… and it was something my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles would always encourage and nurture further in us whenever we created something.

Over the years, my mom has personally inspired me in so many ways…as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, mother, teacher, aide, etc. How she managed to juggle all of these same hats with a husband and 5 kids for which to take care always amazed me (except for a few of my teen years, when I thought I knew better than she.) When I became a mother, myself, (and got a little older and wiser) it all made so much more sense – about why she did things the way she did. However, I had only 3 kids and a husband to contend with while doing that hat juggling act; so, I was still amazed at all of her accomplishments. I was always asking her for advice and I loved to learn from her. To me, she was just Mom; but, to the world, she was Gloria Pitzer, “The Secret Recipe Detective”.

She was very gifted in her own right as a writer, publisher, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook and so on. Her taste buds and culinary skills, combined with her creative writing skills and sarcastic sense of humor, developed into their own super power. In a time, not unlike what we are in now – with political upheaval, low wages and high costs of living – she found a niche that people wanted – “eating out at home”, she called it – and she set to work, discovering how to mimic fast food & restaurant dishes at home; as well as, shelf-stable grocery items. If it saved her household money, she wanted to share it with others to help them save money too.

She was a trail-blazer in the 70’s – writing her own recipes and marketing her talents through newspapers, magazines, local television talk shows…but, especially through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years she was a regular on a few local radio talk shows such as “Ask Your Neighbor”, hosted by Bob Allison on WWJ-Radio, which still airs out of the Detroit area today and “Listen to the Mrs.”, which is still hosted by Art Lewis on WSGW-Radio in Saginaw, MI. Mom said Warren Pierce of “The Warren Pierce Show” put her “in touch with some of the most responsive and enthusiastic listening audiences.” That show also still airs out of the Detroit area on WJR-Radio. Mom did radio shows all over the country – mostly by phone, from the comfort of home.

In the early years of her “Secret Recipes” business, Mom sold recipes for a quarter each, printed on 3”x5” index cards from a mimeograph she had in the laundry room. She started with an index of about 200 recipes. She promoted these mostly through radio programs. But, newspapers and magazines also picked up on it quickly, as she blazed that trail of uniqueness among all the ‘Betty Crockers’ and ‘Julia Childs’ of that time, and they wrote articles about her, as well. It didn’t seem to take long before her recipe library grew through requests from fans of her writing. She went from index cards to newsletters and multiple cookbooks in the blink of an eye. Soon, she was getting national, as well as international, recognition. Mom only did a few TV appearances – the first was on “Kelly & Company” in the mid-70’s – a local talk show on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. Later, in the early 80’s, “PM Magazine” created new interests in Mom’s recipes, sending their Detroit television crew to our house (then, in St. Clair, MI) to film Mom doing what she does best…creating “art” in the kitchen! However, it was her first appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” that created the most overwhelming response to her talents than she could have ever expected… More to come on that next week!