October is special in so many ways besides being one of the most colorful months in Michigan. In relation to my mom, the Secret Recipe DetectiveTM, it’s also, among other things, National Eat Better & Eat Together Month, a subject of which I discussed in last week’s blog entry, as it relates to family bonding.
In addition and still in relation to Mom, October also observes National Book Month, National Cookbook Month, National Women’s Small Business Month, National Work and Family Month, National Self-Promotion Month, and National Positive Attitude Month!
In a time, similar to these days – with political upheaval, low wages, and rising costs of living – Mom quit her job as a columnist at a local newspaper, after finding a niche in the recipes industry that people wanted and needed and being told by her editor to stop fulfilling it, as it was upsetting their food industry advertisers.
Mom went home to start her own “paper”, combining her humoristic cartoons with tips, tricks, and hints; as well as her “Food for Thought” and “No Laughing Matter” columns, in addition to her copycat cookery concept for “Eating Out At Home” – designed like a classic quilt, with pieces of this and that put together with love to create a functional work of art..
She “went to work” at home, every day, discovering how to recreate our favorite fast food & restaurant dishes from regular pantry items and without any special gadgets or appliances. She often incorporated the help of me and my siblings (and, later, Dad’s help); thereby, creating a small, dining-room-table, cottage-style, family business.
Mom’s copycat cookery didn’t stop at fast food and restaurant dishes. She also created imitations for shelf-stable groceries and freezer products purchased at the supermarket, as she discovered more things to make at home and thereby save money.
If something saved our household budget money, she loved to share it with others to help them save money too. She often referred to it as literally and figuratively having your cake and eating it too!
Mom’s trailblazing copycat cookery concept began in the 1970s, developing and writing her own recipes, as well as self-publishing them. Plus, she self-promoted her talents through newspapers and magazines, as well as through local, national, and international TV and radio talk shows.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 36)
HOW SECRET RECIPESTM BEGAN
IT WAS THE WORST possible time to launch a new business. The unemployment rate was terribly high. There was a newsprint paper shortage. There was a gasoline shortage. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to have my own publication, however.
My confrontation with the editor at the Times Herald over the cheesecake recipe [like Sarah Lee’s], was probably the best thing that ever happened to me – us, as a family, in fact. I was forced to finally do something that, until then, I had only talked about doing because the advice I had listened to was bent on having somebody else handle my work.
Of course, I could not tell Paul what I was going to do – that I was going to publish a newsletter and I was going to try and sell subscriptions to it all without the help of the [publishing and syndicating] agencies to which I had previously been turning.
I was determined to make this idea work because I knew it was a good idea! It was a service that was needed and one that I could provide without ever having to leave the children again. With the help of the Almighty, I had every confidence that turning out a recipe newsletter was going to be something that would bless everyone concerned: me, the readers, the products mentioned, the reviews of restaurants – every idea was a blessing!
Mom’s favorite way to market her ground-breaking recipes was through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years, she was a regular weekly or monthly guest on numerous radio talk shows, geared toward working homemakers all over the country and internationally. She promoted herself, her copycat cookery concepts, along with her recipes, books, and newsletter.
Mom liked to describe her newsletters as being like a visit from a friend – as you sit at the kitchen table, having coffee, discussing various topics of the day and sharing household tips and recipes. I would describe it, simply, as Mom’s “happy place” and her “legacy of love”.
In the early years of her home-based business, Mom sold her recipes for a quarter each, printed on 4”x6” index cards, from a mimeograph she kept in our laundry room. It didn’t seem to take long before her recipe library grew to hundreds, through requests from fans of her writing.
Within a few years, she went from recipe cards to monthly newsletters and multiple cookbooks; seemingly in the blink of an eye, as her recipes collection grew from hundreds to thousands. Over the years, it evolved into what finally became known as Secret RecipesTM – her legacy of love!
I find it so ironic that over the decades, since Mom officially launched her Secret RecipesTM enterprise, in 1973, so many people have imitated her, the ORIGINAL copycat cook. However, not all have given Mom the appropriate credit due her for being the first to uncover the supposed secrets of the food industry, imitating “famous foods from famous places” at home! Kudos to those who have, though!
Friday is (for 2022), among other things, National Body Language Day and World Smile Day; which go hand-in-hand, as a smile is part of body language. It’s welcoming, soothing, friendly – even contagious, as Mom described in her self-published book, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 43).
YOU’VE MADE A FRIEND
A SMILE IS the universal, unspoken language between us. Some people smile more easily than others, but a smile is as good as a hug. I just LOVE people who smile a lot! Even when I’m shopping or [when Paul and I are] walking around the campgrounds on one of our abbreviated ‘get-aways’ with our motorhome, I find myself smiling at people I have never seen before, and they smile back. It’s contagious!
People don’t smile as much as they should! I’ve noticed lately how seldom strangers smile at each other in shopping centers and restaurants and other places where average folks mingle or pass. It occurred to me that there was nothing to lose by smiling and nodding at people as I shopped or glanced across a restaurant to other tables.
A surprising thing happened! Grim looking faces spontaneously responded with smiles and nods, as if they were trying to place me or recall where we might have met before. It was just wonderful!
In honor of this being National Chili Week and October being National Chili Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for California Chili; as seen in her self-published cookbook, Sugar-Free Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1987, p. 93).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
October’s observances include: National Halloween Safety Month, Italian-American Heritage Month, National Applejack Month, National Bake and Decorate Month, National Bullying Prevention Month, National Caramel Month, National Cookie Month, National Dessert Month, National Fire Prevention Month, National Go On A Field Trip Month, National Kitchen & Bath Month, National Pickled Peppers Month, National Pizza Month, National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, National Pork Month, National Reading Group Month, National Sausage Month, National Seafood Month, National Pear and Pineapple Month, Polish-American Heritage Month, National Rhubarb Month, National Spinach Lovers Month, National Tackling Hunger Month, National Vegetarian Month, and World Menopause Month!
Today is also… National Techies Day and National Boyfriend Day! Plus, as the first Monday in October (for 2022), it’s… National Consignment Day and National Child Health Day! Additionally, as the start of the first, full, Monday-through-Friday workweek in October, it’s also… Customer Service Week!
Tomorrow is… National Cinnamon Bun Day, National Taco Day, National Golf Lover’s Day, and National Vodka Day! Plus, as the first Tuesday in October (for 2022), it’s also… National Eat Fruit At Work Day!
October 5th is… National Rhode Island Day, National Do Something Nice Day, and National Apple Betty Day (as well as being National Apple Month)! Plus, as the first Wednesday in October (for 2022), it’s also… National Pumpkin Seed Day and National Walk to School Day, while it’s also… International Walk To School Month!
October 6th is… National Orange Wine Day, National Plus Size Appreciation Day, National German-American Day (as well as being German-American Heritage Month), and National Noodle Day (as well as being National Pasta Month)!
October 8th is… National Fluffernutter Day, National Hero Day, and National Pierogi Day! Plus, as the second Saturday in October (for 2022), it’s also… National Chess Day, National Costume Swap Day, and I Love Yarn Day!
Sunday, October 9th is… National Moldy Cheese Day!
…40 down and 12 to go!