Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began, Part 2

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! My name is Laura Emerich and I started this blog series last year to share remembrances of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, because she made such a big impact on, not only our own family, but also on people we never met, all around the world. Mom passed away just over a year ago and I started this blog series to carry on her torch – her “legacy of love“ – “Secret Recipes”.

My mom was such a huge influence on who I’ve grown to be that I felt compelled to keep her torch lit and to keep it shining bright! To me, her love of writing and cooking and inspiring others in the same was one of the biggest parts of her legacy – especially since I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook; which was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI – 1982), so it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age”! Shortly before Mom passed away, it went to print, being published by Balboa Press, with the title re-adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective. Ordering information is near the end of this blog.

This week, I want to continue my special series, “Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began”, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of how she came to be “The Recipe Detective”, her trademarked name. This series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, in her own words, as seen on pages 292-297 in her 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 famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (May 1983, 3rd Printing):

THE DIRECTION WAS ALREADY DETERMINED FOR ME!

WHEN I LOOK BACK now, I realize that I was so busy trying to prove that others were wrong about me, I couldn’t see how events were taking place that would sooner or later put me where I had always wanted to be – [Mom would call each of these “events” a “meant-to-be”] writing for a worthwhile living, while making living worthwhile!

In high school, I pestered the school newspaper sponsor, Mr. Rosen, to let me be on the staff. He had no hope for me at all as a reporter! I was secretary of the Senior Class, January 1954, and Judy Guest was secretary of the June 1954 Senior Class. Judy was on the staff of the paper; but, even then, it was well-known that she hoped to write “the Great American novel”– and that she did, 20 years later, with Academy Award-winning “Ordinary People”! Judy’s great-uncle was Edgar A. Guest and Bud Guest, a famous radio commentator, was her uncle. It was only natural that writing would run in her family.

We were friends because we liked each other and were both involved with the same school activities. I was always glad that we continued to keep in touch, if only at Christmas, for nobody appreciated Judy’s eventual success with “Ordinary People” as I probably did, knowing how long she had wanted to accomplish that work. Somehow, despite my personal objections to the direction in which I appeared to be going, it was just as likely that I would accomplish a properly-written cookbook. Even in high school I was put on 2-weeks’ probation with the cooking class instructor, for having disregarded the recipe for a pie crust we were assigned to prepare in class. Mine was a recipe that I still use – and have published in this book – for the “No Rolling Pin” crust. Apparently, it’s true, that “Life” is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.

DIVIDENDS

Every successful accomplishment with my writing, after high school and the one year in college, was involved with recipes and cookbooks and restaurants. But I couldn’t see that it was a kind of calling. I saw it only as an interest that temporarily kept me writing and making a worthwhile living at it.

WDEE-Radio, in Detroit, gave me a portable radio or a recipe that took 1st place in a contest they conducted – and in 1962, it was WBRB, in Mt. Clemens, that gave me a check for 1st place in their recipe contest. Soon after that, Better Homes & Gardens sent me a check for a recipe in a contest they had conducted. WJ BK-Radio gave me a maple stereo and radio set for their most unusual experience while listening to the radio, in 1964, when I wrote them about our “Picnicking in the Snow”. Again, the story was food related, including recipes for having a cook-out on the beach at Metropolitan Park in the middle of winter, with the radio going to keep us in the proper mood. It was all leading to my eventual work in the food industry – but, I couldn’t see that at the time I could only see that I had to write and with any luck at all, luck would be when preparation and experience met opportunity. The opportunity was close at hand.

The source of this photo is unknown. I found the clipping in one of Mom’s old scrap books. The date would obviously be when Mom worked as a cartoonist for a local newspaper, The Review. I think that this was from the early 70’s, shortly before she started her “Secret Recipes” business.

Speaking of competitions, I remember when one of my grade school teachers, at an Algonac Schools’ Parent-Teacher Conference, made a special point of telling Mom that I wasn’t very competitive, and it bothered her, as she was extremely competitive, herself. Mom thought that was an important drawback in my life, because she was a competitive-type also; and thus, she felt that I lacked the determination to do as well as, if not better than, others in my class or in sports. She later thought that I had found my competitive drive and learned from it such things as “teamwork” and “self-worth”.

I actually never learned to be competitive – I have always favored being the cheerleader or fan that applauds the competitors, rather than being the player! I’ve always rejoiced in others’ glories and never craved my own. Which is ironic since my name, Laura, which comes from Latin, meaning or referring to the Laurel tree or sweet bay tree (symbols of honor and victory).

The fact is, I did learned teamwork in school; but, on things like class projects that involved group participation assignments – and I learned self-worth from always trying to do my best in everything I attempted. My rewards were the grades and compliments I received from my teachers, peers and family. I wasn’t driven to be #1 – I was driven to just do things to the best of my ability. Anyway, enough of that little memory detour – back to Mom’s story…

A MEAL BY ANY OTHER NAME

FAST FOOD RECIPES were not published in the best-sellers – and these were the restaurants where families were apt to frequent if they wanted a meal that was affordable! Paul and I could take all 5 of the children to Capri’s, an Italian restaurant down the road from us in Pearl Beach, and we could feed the whole family for less than $10, providing we ordered the large pizza with only pepperoni and cheese on it and one soft drink for each of us.

It was not for substance that we ate out. It was for entertainment. We could take the kids to McDonald’s and it did the same thing for us that going to the movies did for our parents. It was an affordable pleasure. It was a diversion from meatloaf and pot roast and peas and carrots. It was a treat. We looked forward to it. We felt good about the experience and even better after it was over. It carried us through a long week of paying the utilities, insurance, house payments and car payments and grocery expenses. When we had to have our 10-year-old station wagon repaired, we had to skip eating out that week. If one of us had to see the dentist, it might be 2 or 3 weeks before we could afford to eat out again. We made do with what we had…

In the 50s, 60s and early 70s, this was the way parents raised their families, budgeted their earnings and allowed for their pleasures [because their parents grew up in The Great Depression Era]. Things changed, as well they should. Women went out to work. If they weren’t working to supplement the family income, they went to work for their own satisfaction. Whatever the reasons, families changed. Eating at home became less and less appealing – and less and less convenient. Homes were built with smaller kitchens and bigger bathrooms. Microwave ovens were more affordable – and “defrost and heat” became more popular.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973 (her family)

WE WANTED OUR CAKE AND WE WANTED TO EAT IT, TOO!

We wanted to eat out at a price we could afford; and, when we couldn’t afford to eat out, we wanted to dine-in as if we were eating out! At the time, there were few recipes for this kind of cooking. We wanted to spend less time preparing the foods and less money on the ingredients and still serve a dish to those who shared our table…that would be equal to – if not better than – anything we could buy in a restaurant or from a supermarket. For all of these reasons, I have pursued the investigations of the food industry with the greatest joy and the utmost care, translating into recipes, those secrets that I have been able to decipher.

Stay tuned, next week, for part 3 of this series about Mom’s story, in her own words, as she describes her very first television appearance in Detroit, November 1974, and a few other appearances after that; as well as in 1976, when the Henry Ford Library at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan ordered copies of one of her very first cookbooks, designed to celebrate the American bi-centennial in food and history, to place in their bi-centennial collection!

Super Bowl Sunday is Feb 3rd!

In the mean time, in honor of my dad’s memory, I want to say that it’s only 6 more days until the big Super Bowl event, happening in Atlanta, GA! The NFC’s New England Patriots face off against the AFC’s Los Angeles Rams. Parties have been planned, squares have been bought, bets have been placed and all the hype about the half-time show and ads have begun!

WEBSITE  UPDATE for TheRecipeDetective.com

I’ve recently started putting together a “Time Line”, of sorts, about all the different publications that Mom has written, illustrated and self-published over the past 4½ decades (around 1973-2018). There’s a few books listed that I don’t have, myself; so, I may have to search the Amazon and Ebay websites for them since they’re out-of-print books. I’ve been to many used book fairs over the years and have never seen any of my mom’s old books – never seen them in any garage sales either, but I have come across many editions of Betty Crocker’s & Julia Child’s cookbooks (to name a few) at these types of venues. Soon, you’ll see updates to this website regarding the 2 current “Cookbooks” tabs being merged together with updated information on each of the books; plus, links to some of her famous “free recipes”, which I’m also still working on, uploading more to that tab as well. Speaking of which…

As I do each week, I will end this blog with one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on one of her “Free Recipes/Information” sheets. In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, whether you’re hosting a party or taking a dish-to-pass for someone else’s party, this is a picture of her easy and awesome, make-alike version of Coney Sauce from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (1985) to go great on hot dogs or your favorite tortilla chips – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Another version of this recipe (along with a related recipe for making your own dry, starter mix) can be found on page 61 of Mom’s 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 her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]; which can be purchased from Balboa Press at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 for $20.99, or in eBook form for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253 – as Mom would always say, “Happy sleuthing in the kitchen!” …until next week!

1976 – The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book by Gloria Pitzer

1976 Aug – The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book by Gloria Pitzer

 (The picture above is from an ad. I can’t find any available pictures of the original cover from the 1st printings in 1976-1977, using the 5.5” x 8.5” format – they may have originally sold for $3 per copy, as “Book 2” did in 1977.)

1976 – The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook, sometimes referred to as “Book 1” or the “Blue Book”, was actually a revised edition of her original cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (1973). Although this version wasn’t Gloria’s first cookbook, it was her first true “commercial success”.

Note: So far, I have yet to find any copies of the original, August 1976, small format of this book. I would love to know if anyone still has one – it would be over 42 years old now! Please write to us at: therecipedetective@outlook.com

Over the many years of various printings, the cover design, title and subtitle changed slightly, as did the size and price of the book. The size changed from the original 80-page, 5.5″ x 8.5″ format to a 42-page, 8.5″ x 11″ format in 1977. The masthead, “Secret Recipe Report” was added in 1979 and changed to, simply, “Cookbook” in 1981. These changes can be seen on the various cover photos shown below.

1977 Jan – The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book by Gloria Pitzer
1978 Apr – The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book, Revised by Gloria Pitzer
1979 Jan – The Secret Restaurant Recipes Cookbook, Revised by Gloria Pitzer
1981 Aug – The Secret Restaurant Recipe File Cookbook, Revised by Gloria Pitzer

In 1982, Michael Pitzer (Gloria’s son, who illustrated many of the printings of this book) was working at Wells Rich Greene in Los Angeles on the Jack-in-the-Box® advertising account. During one of their creative presentations, then President of JIB, Barry Krantz asked if he could get a complete set of Gloria’s cookbooks for their “test kitchen”. Now, we wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions, but shortly thereafter Jack-in-the-Box was not only back in the burger business, but they also began introducing fresh-baked cookies and wonderful chicken sandwiches. Coincidence? Maybe…

Fun Facts

    • Sub-Titles: “Book 1”, “Fast Foods and Other Favorites”, “The Junk Food Junkie Rides the Range Again” and “The Original Junk Food Book”
    • Printings: 25+
    • Years: Aug 1976 – Aug 1981+
    • Recipes: unknown for original, smaller format; 290 listed in the larger size format
    • Pages: originally 80; larger format had 52
    • Size: originally 5.5″ x 8.5″; later format was 8.5″ x 11″
    • Cover: Paperback
    • Price: original (possibly) $3 per copy; later printings were $5 per copy
    • Used copies on eBay (of larger formats): $9.99
    • Used copies on Amazon (of larger formats): $20.95
    • ISBN: unknown
    • NO LONGER IN PRINT

Comments (as seen on Amazon):

5 out of 5 stars – This became a primary cookbook for me – By John Korkowon November 19, 2012
The hostess twinkie recipe, and ho-ho recipe, and wonder bread recipes are contained in this cookbook.. This was a primary cookbook for me for years! https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R96UQWR58GDOC/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0006WQ2KO

1976 – Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook

1976 (July) – Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook

1976 – Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook was a bi-centennial edition written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI), having a 5.5” x 8.5” format of 46 printed pages with 200 index listings. NO LONGER IN PRINT – this Limited Edition cookbook boasts a collection of 200 years of recipes, humor, history and hints selected from each of the 50 states of the U.S. and sold for $2 each.

We’d love to hear from anyone who still has old copies of Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook! Please write to us at: therecipedetective@outlook.com

Fun Facts:

    • Sub-Title: “Random Notes”, “Economical Receipts from Colonial Times to Present”, Native Cooking from the Heart of America”
    • Printings: 1 (Limited Edition)
    • Years: 1976 (July)
    • Recipes: 200 index listings
    • Pages: 46
    • Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
    • Cover: Paperback
    • Price: $2
    • Used copies on eBay: not found
    • Used copies on Amazon: not found
    • ISBN: unknown
    • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1975 – Gloria Pitzer’s Snow Thyself

1975 – Gloria Pitzer’s Snow Thyself

1975 – Gloria Pitzer’s Snow Thyself was a sort of “self-help” book written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this book was sub-titled “The 1975 Happiness Handbook” and had an 8.5” x 11” format with 16 pages full of feel-good stories, quotes and meditation. No information could be found regarding the price for which it sold.

Fun Facts:

    • Sub-Title: “The 1975 Happiness Handbook”
    • Printings: 1
    • Years: 1975
    • Recipes: none
    • Pages: 16
    • Size: 8.5″ x 11”
    • Cover: Paperback
    • Price: unknown
    • Used copies on eBay: not found
    • Used copies on Amazon: not found
    • ISBN: unknown
    • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s The Better Cooker’s Christmas Cookbook Collection

1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s The Better Cooker’s Christmas Cookbook Collection

1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s The Better Cooker’s Christmas Cookbook Collection was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI), having a 5.5” x 8.5” format of 128 pages with over 150 index listings. NO LONGER IN PRINT – Gloria described this book as a small, “unsophisticated” collection of perfectly reliable recipes, interesting customs, Hanukkah foods and some history about this December holiday; as well as humorous readings tucked in here and there to prove that cookbooks needn’t make dull reading. The 3-ring binder-style books were printed on salvaged paper and sold for $2 each.

Fun Facts:

    • Sub-Titles: “Holiday Recipes and Ideas”
    • Printings: 1
    • Years: 1974
    • Recipes: over 150 index listings
    • Pages: 128
    • Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
    • Cover: Paperback
    • Price: $2
    • Used copies on eBay: not found
    • Used copies on Amazon: not found
    • ISBN: unknown
    • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1974 – The Big-Little Cookbooklet by Gloria Pitzer

1974 – The Big-Little Cookbooklet was a small-sized booklet written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI) & was part of a limited series called “Dumb Little Cookbooks – Reliable Recipes for Reluctant Cooks” from Gloria’s Homemaker’s Newsletter. NO LONGER IN PRINT – This book has a 5.5” x 4.5” format of 48 pages with 22 recipes for low & no sugar dishes, desserts, main dishes, salads and side dishes. The booklet also has 15 “write-your-own-recipe” pages, plus extra “cook’s notes” pages. The booklets were assembled and decorated by hand and sold for $1 each.

Fun Facts:

    • Printings: 1
    • Years: 1974
    • Recipes: 22
    • Pages: 48
    • Size: 5.5″ x 4.5″
    • Cover: Paperback
    • Price: $1
    • Used copies on eBay: not found
    • Used copies on Amazon: not found
    • ISBN: unknown
    • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1973 – The Better Cooker’s Cookbook by Gloria Pitzer

 

1973 – The Better Cooker’s Cookbook by Gloria Pitzer

1973 – The Better Cooker’s Cookbook was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI), having a 5.5” x 8.5” format of 53 pages, filled with humorous quips, tips and cartoons; plus, over 150 index listings. NO LONGER IN PRINT – This is a collection of recipes that Gloria originally published in Cookbook Corner, a recipe column she syndicated to many newspapers for over 5 years. The recipes were all “reluctant-cook-budget-tested” by Gloria and her family of seven! The books sold for $1.50 each, plus $0.25 postage.

This cookbook was part of Gloria Pitzer’s “Laughable Books”™ series, which were free-lanced in newspapers and magazines, previously included Reliable Recipes for Reluctant Cooks, Helpful Hints for Helpless Housekeepers (or Housework has its Hang-Ups), Shakespeare: Wherefore Art Though? (or It Could be Verse), What Dr. Spock Left Out (or Bringing Up Parents), Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer and Woman’s Lip as Ms-Pronounced by Gloria Pitzer.

Fun Facts:

    • Sub-Titles: “Budget Recipes”, “Over 200 Simple Sensible Suggestions from and for Semi-Gourmets”
    • Printings: 1
    • Years: 1973
    • Recipes: 150 listed
    • Pages: 59
    • Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
    • Cover: Paperback
    • Price: originally $1.50
    • Used copies on eBay: not found
    • Used copies on Amazon: not found
    • ISBN: unknown

THE HISTORY OF “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter”

1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter – written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI) – started as “a monthly compendium of fact and fancies”, as Gloria referred to it, adding that it was “the almost-magazine…not quite a newspaper…that can build into a book.” NO LONGER IN PRINT – this was, originally, a small, 3-ring binder-style publication, printed in a 5.5” x 8.5” format with 12 back-to-back pages packed full of “food for the table and food for thought”, household tips, humorous quips and cartoons; plus, a “Readers Swap Shop”. The newsletter originally sold for $0.50 per issue, as well as $2.75 for a 6-month subscription or $5 for a 1-year subscription.

Over the decades, the newsletter evolved with the changing times – the name slightly changed a few times, as well as the size and number of issues printed in a year; plus, of course, the cost grew with inflation too. By 1976, it was being published monthly in an 8.5” x 11”, 10-page format and sold for $0.50 per copy or $6 for a 1-year subscription. By 1978 the name slightly changed to Gloria Pitzer’s National Home News Magazine, though the format remained the same; and it sold for $7 per 1-year subscription.

In 1980, Gloria Pitzer revised the newsletter again, getting right to the heart of cooking – reducing the number of ingredients to comply with your time and, most of all, your budget. While the format size remained the same, the name was changed to “Gloria Pitzer’s Monthly Cookbook of Secret Recipes”. Each copy contained about 100 recipes and sold for $1 per issue, or you could subscribe for a full year.

Starting with the Summer issue of 1984 (Jul-Aug-Sep), the newsletter was published quarterly under the name Gloria Pitzer’s Cook’s Quarterly, still in an 8.5” x 11” format with up to 20 pages full of “Food for Thought” & “Thoughts on Food”; plus, household hints, short cut cooking tips and recipes for imitating favorite restaurant dishes and grocery products at home. It sold for $10 per 1-year (4 issues) subscription or $2.50 for a single issue.

By 1986, the newsletter was being published every 2 months under the name Secret Recipes Newsletter. Still in the 8.5” x 11” format, the 12-page publication boasted at least 50 recipes per issue along with humorous stories, “Food for Thought” and news on nutrition, restaurants and product reviews. It continued to sell for $10 for a 1-year subscription of 6 issues (or $2 per single copy) until 1989, when the price was raised to $12.50 for a 1-year subscription (or $2.50 per single copy). Then, in 1991, the price went down to $12 per year and $2.50 for single copies. The bi-monthly newsletter was temporarily retired after the March-April 1994 issue.

However, in 1995, the publication was back by popular demand under the name Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Quarterly for $16 per year (4 issues) with 20 pages per issue; each issue featured at least 75 recipes for imitating famous restaurant dishes and grocery products at home; plus, more “Food for Thought”, household hints and cooking tips. But, by 1997, the publication went back to the bi-monthly, 12-page format under the old name, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter and sold for $16 per 1-year subscription (6 issues) or $2.75 per single copy.

In January 1998, the newsletter went back to being a monthly publication with the name shortened to Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes. The 8.5” x 11”, 8-page format was still full of “Food for Thought”, household hints and tips, famous restaurant recipes and grocery products you can make at home. During its last year of publication, it sold for $18 per 1-year subscription or $2 per single copy. It was permanently retired, after 27 years, with the December 2000 issue.

“Every issue is like getting together for coffee with friends!” SM – Gloria Pitzer

We’d love to hear from anyone who still has old copies of her original newsletters! Please write to us at: therecipedetective@outlook.com

The Inception of “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes”

1972-1976 – The development of the “Original 200” – a recipe card collection by Gloria Pitzer

(July 1976 ad for Gloria Pitzer’s 4×6-inch recipe cards.)

1972-1976 – “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes” began with a unique collection of about 200 recipes (each printed on 4”x6” index cards, ready for filing), which Gloria developed and tested in her own kitchen – recipes for making famous fast-food dishes and favorite supermarket products right at home; with the intention to save households money on their “entertaining” & “grocery” costs. This photo (above) is a copy of one of her own ads [as seen on the back of her bi-centennial cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook (July1976)], for how to buy these recipe cards at $0.25 each or 5 for $1. These are NO LONGER IN PRINT!

We’d love to hear from anyone who still has her original, individual recipe cards! Please write to us at: therecipedetective@outlook.com

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began, Part 1

Hi, Everyone! Happy Monday to all!

If you’re new to here, welcome! I’m Laura Emerich – one of 5 who called Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, “Mom”. I started this blog series in September (2018) to carry on Mom’s legacy of her Secret Recipes “empire”, as it was very special to me too; especially over the last few years of her life while I collaborated with her in re-writing her favorite cookbook, to be re-published by Balboa Press, and inspire a new generation!

This week, I want to start a special series on Mondays & Memories of Mom, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of how she came to be “The Recipe Detective”, her trademarked name. This series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, in her own words, as seen on pages 292-297 in her 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 famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing):

BEHIND THE SCENES Private Investigator of Secret Recipes” or “The Recipe Detective” are the names that my friends in radio and newspapers have given to me, and I enjoy living up to that assignment! 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! The one year that I spent at Michigan State (when it was still a college, mind you – you figure that out!) … Was one year in which I learned 2 important things – I could not pass my Creative Writing course and I was “kicked out” of Home Economics! My Creative Writing instructor told me that I typed a neat looking paper and probably should be a secretary, for I would never make it as a writer. My Home Economics instructor advised me to spend the rest of my life having my meals delivered, for I was always finding fault with the way so many cookbooks were written.

I took a position with the J. Walter Thompson Advertising company in Detroit, working as a secretary to the copywriters. I met my husband, Paul, there when he returned from a 4-year tour of service with the Air Force. 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. During those years, Paul was working for a sign company in Mt. Clemens, Michigan – where, in the 20 years he spent with them, he did everything from drafting to purchasing agent to account rep! 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 a big city paper carried Erma’s column, Columbia placed mine in their competing paper. I split with Columbia on a 60/40 basis (I took 40) and finally, by mutual-agreement, we broke the contract. I was on my own.

HOW SECRET RECIPES BEGANWhen Columbia Features and I parted company, they had acquired only 2 additional papers from me and lost several more. Within 6 months, I had regained all my original papers and was syndicating the column from our dining room table, where we then lived in what my friend, Bob Allison, called “beautiful downtown Pearl Beach” – a town so small that I told people City Hall was over a Dairy Queen, our McDonald’s had only one arch and, if we had a Howard Johnson’s, it would’ve had only 3 flavors! We had a 9-year old station wagon at that time. It burned oil and barely got Paul to work and back without something breaking down! I rode a bike to and from the Pearl Beach post office every day where I mailed out my columns and, then, looked for responses to ads I had placed in the Tower Press and Grit magazines for recipes on 4×6” cards that enabled you to imitate famous dishes at home.

[That might have been around 1973.]

Ad about Mom’s recipe cards, as seen on the back of Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook – written and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1976)

I remember (around 1974-1976) when Mom would take my sisters and I to Sears, JC Penny’s and JL Hudson’s at the Macomb Mall near Detroit and, later (1976), to Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights (MI), where we would all get a handful of Mom’s business cards to stick in the pockets of various clothes and purse displays for shoppers to find, and then we’d have lunch in the Hudson’s dining room, where Mom found a lot of great dishes to mimic at home. We had a 5-star rating system of our own when we were with Mom on any of her restaurant reviews – it was, actually, largely based on how clean they kept their restrooms! But, back to Mom’s story…

BOB ALLISON’s “ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR”I was a regular participant on Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” radio show that aired 5 days a week for 2 hours in the morning. I used Bob’s program for asking for food information that I needed for my weekly columns. Bob’s audience was very helpful in supplying me with answers. To reciprocate, I would reply to some of the requests made by his audience when they called into Bob’s show. It was a unique format in that one could not simply call in a recipe or information simply because they wanted to share it with others. The information or the recipe had to, first, be requested by a previous caller. Many of my first “Secret Recipes” were developed because of requests made specifically by Bob’s callers for such dishes as The Colonel’s secret spices, Arthur Treacher’s fish batter, Sander’s hot fudge, Win Schuler’s bar cheese and so on.

As I re-type her words, another fun memory comes to me, regarding Mom’s radio visits on “Ask Your Neighbor” – because of the show’s format, Mom couldn’t just phone in to the show and “announce” make-alike recipes she had developed. There were only 2 types of callers allowed – (1) those requesting certain recipes or tips and (2) those who have the answer to one or more of those requests. When she developed a make-alike recipe that nobody requested, but she was anxious to share it, she would have a friend or one of us kids call the show “as a listener” to make a request for it; then, she could call in with her answer! That was so much fun! Once again, back to Mom’s story…

[NOTE: “Ask Your Neighbor” is still heard weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 11AM EST on WNZK 690AM, Detroit. A live stream can also be found on the show’s website at http://www.askyourneighbor.com/index.htm]

The Better Cooker’s Cookbook – written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI), 1973

At the suggestion of one of Bob’s callers that I should put all my column recipes into a book, I wrote my 1st edition called “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook”. 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, for 106 consecutive monthly issues, brought me in contact with the many so-called secrets of the commercial food and restaurant industry.

I probably wouldn’t have done the monthly, except for a falling-out I had with the editor of a small-town paper for which I was writing a food column. I had published some of my 1st attempts at duplicating famous dishes in that column and the response was beautiful, until I offended one of the papers biggest advertisers with a rendition of their cheesecake… “The kind that nobody doesn’t like.” The editor told me I would have to go back to standard recipes like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf or chocolate cake – or I could pick up my check. I told him to MAIL it to me. That’s when I decided it was time to launch my own paper. That afternoon, I put out my charter issue, sending samples of it to those whose names and addresses I had on file from having written to me at the paper. That was the beginning of “Secret Recipes”!

Paul & Gloria Pitzer, around 1974

I’ve recently started putting together a “Time Line”, of sorts, regarding all the different publications that Mom has written, illustrated and self-published over the past 4½ decades (1973-2018). There’s a few books that I don’t have, myself, so, I have to search the Amazon and Ebay websites for some of her old, out-of-print books. Soon, you’ll see updates to this website regarding the 2 “Cookbooks” tabs. I’m also still working on uploading more recipes to the “Recipes” tab as well. Also, stay tuned, next week, for part 2 of this series about Mom’s own story.

In the mean time, as I do each week, I will end this blog with one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on one of her “Free Recipes/Information” sheets. In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, whether you’re hosting a party or taking a dish-to-pass for someone else’s party, this is a picture of her easy and awesome, make-alike version of 5-Alarm-Style Taco Sauce (1985) to go with your favorite tortilla chips – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Another version of this recipe can also be found on page 69 of Mom’s 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 her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]; again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it; but, here it is for you – again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

FIVE-ALARM TACO SAUCE – Prepare 1 recipe of Gloria’s “Big Match Special Sauce” [see blog from 11/19/18] and add to it: 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon chili powder and ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or to taste). Sufficient to top-off a dozen tacos [or for dipping!]