Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter

Happy Monday to one and all! As always, #TGIM – because Mondays are my #52Chances a year to share my memories of my mom with all of you!

This week, I’d like to revisit “the beginning” – when Mom started her “cottage industry”, “family enterprise”, “dining room table operation”. It was about 47 years ago, in 1973, when mom was putting together her very first cookbook, entitled The Better Cooker’s Cookbook, comprised mostly from recipes her readers shared with her, as well as those she had developed and printed in her syndicated column, “Cookbook Corner”.

The self-published and self-promoted cookbook, written and illustrated by Mom, came out in 1973 and sold out within a couple of months. I’m not sure how many copies were printed but I remember getting to help color in Mom’s illustrations with colored pencils on hundreds of books. I was about nine years old and it was VERY important to always “stay within the lines”!

But there were so many more recipes in Mom’s collection that she decided to print them on individual index cards and sell them, through mail-order, for 25-cents each or five for a dollar. She also started putting them in a monthly newsletter format that could be collected in a 3-ring binder – a set of which would create a whole book.

“Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter” launched in January 1974 as a 5 ½” x 8 ½”, 12-page, monthly “magazine” full of food information, editorials and news related to “homemakers” and their families, entertaining stories, humorous illustrations, and witticisms; plus, readers’ comments and requests, reviews of products, restaurants, and other publications or similar entities, with about 16 unique recipes (give or take) sandwiched in between.

The newsletters sold for 50-cents each or $5 for a yearly subscription. Mom retired the newsletter in December 2000, with issue number 219. Over the decades, it had evolved to an 8 ½” x 11”, 8-page format with twice as many recipes, writings, and reviews than with which it began.

Some of Mom’s editorials covered the backstories of various fast food and fine-dining restaurants along with recipes for imitations of their most popular dishes. The recipes were developed and tested, personally, by Mom. Of course, the family pitched in also – especially when it came to taste-testing! I can’t recall a “dud” I didn’t like! The “duds” were the recipes Mom never printed because, while they were very good, they weren’t just like the original dishes/products she was trying to mimic.

The “duds” may not have been exactly the same as the products she was trying to replicate but they were always great, nonetheless. I sure wish I had those “dud” recipes now. What a magnificent cookbook they would make! Regardless, Mom wouldn’t stop there, when she was trying to “replicate” a dish as close as possible to the real thing. She was always refining her imitations until she felt they were spot-on! And then, sometimes, for various reasons, she’d revamp them again, proving that there was usually more than one way to reach the same goal.

One of Mom’s early promotions (in 1977) for her monthly newsletter depicted her wry sense of humor, claiming: “Gloria Pitzer is cooking with laughing gas as she explores the world of eating out in order to create recipe-adaptations for dining in. From her dining room table, she and her family write, illustrate, distribute and kitchen-test the recipe creations of the restaurant industry. Only the names of the recipes have been changed to protect the guilty. Any similarities between Gloria’s recipes and the original dishes is purely intentional.”

Another of Mom’s satirical promotions said: “The Pitzer Family’s Publications is a purely relative operation staffed by Paul and Gloria Pitzer and their five children, who also contribute the illustrations to, both, the family’s monthly newsletter and their series of original recipes. Paul and Gloria feel they know their readers more as friends than as customers.” Mom always said, about her monthly newsletter, that “it’s like getting together once a month for coffee with friends.”

The premise of Mom’s reproductions was based on the adage, by Charles Colton, that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Mom believed that, while the restaurants’ dishes and food companies’ products didn’t really come out of test tubes and laboratory beakers, they did come from “scientific” combinations of ingredients (and, in some cases, techniques.)

Photograph by Susan L. Tusa, for People Weekly (5-7-1990)

Mom theorized that there were only a few basic recipes from which most everything derived, with the additions of certain flavorings/seasonings and techniques that made one dish distinct from another. She would often try out many different combinations of ingredients, since trial and error usually produced the best results.

Basically, none of the copycat recipes that Mom published during her 40 years, working as “The Recipe Detective” (1974-2014), had been given to her by any of the restaurants or companies. They were HER versions of THEIR dishes/products. She never knew what THEIR “secret” recipes actually were. Furthermore, Mom felt that being able to make these items at home added more loving care to the preparation and controlling the ingredients eliminated the “junk” from the “junk food”.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

Additionally, Mom believed that cooking (and baking) was as much of an art as it was a science – often working like a chemist in the kitchen, trying to identify the various ingredients within a product through scent investigations, visual exams, taste tests, and other experimentations.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977)

FAMOUS DISHES aren’t really all that difficult to duplicate. The first thing you have to do is stop thinking of yourself as a COOK and start thinking as a CHEMIST! You want to take a substance and try to discover its individual components – whereas most cooks… [start] with one ingredient, building around it.

Your task is to take the final result and break it down… in other words, working backwards from the creation of the skilled cook, who usually stirs up a piece of culinary artistry with just a ‘pinch’ of this and a ‘dollop’ of that and a ‘dash’ of something else.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Start with questioning yourself about the food you wish to duplicate… What color is it? What is the texture like? How is it flavored? How is it prepared? You must have something to which you can compare it – a basic recipe from which you can draw the ingredients that lay the groundwork for a duplicated masterpiece.

The only way to duplicate a dish is really to taste and test – over and over until you eventually achieve what you feel are satisfactory results… Restaurants do not always cook from scratch so don’t be disappointed when you find that a ‘duplicated’ recipe employs the use of prepared mixes, because that is the way most of today’s food service businesses do it.

Most of what you eat in the corner diner where the truck drivers stop for good, home cooked, hot [meals] is the same basic food you would also be served in a fine hotel, supplied by the same food manufacturing firms that also stock our supermarkets… The secret of the restaurant’s success is more in the management than the food.

Whenever Mom attempted to duplicate a dish or product, her two initial concerns were, first, being able to do it at home (without special gadgets or hard-to-find ingredients) for less of a cost than purchasing the original; and, second, being able to do it with only a minimal investment of time and labor. Mom always said that she never liked to cook but she did, however, LOVE to eat out!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977)

BUT, WITH A FAMILY of seven, who ate like 20, it wasn’t financially practical to have restaurant outings too often. It just seemed a shame that all of those delicious dishes that were served in restaurants had to be kept secret when families like ours could be enjoying them at home for a fraction of the cost of eating them out.

Our ‘National Homemaker’s Newsletter’ wasn’t using too many recipes in the beginning and those we used seemed to be just frosting on the cake. But each time I discovered the secret of duplicating a recipe from a favorite restaurant, the requests for more poured in. Soon enough, it became, not just the frosting, but the whole cake!

Mom always thought it was strange that it was okay to mention a company’s brand name in her list of ingredients, as companies thought of it like “free advertising” or “recommendations”. However, if she put their name in the title, at the top of the recipe, it was considered “infringing on their trademark” – or so their lawyers threatened with their “cease and desist” letters.

Although not all the companies whose products Mom attempted to imitate felt that way! There were many that accepted Mom’s imitations with honor, as the compliments they were meant to be. The critics predicted that Mom’s style of cookery wouldn’t last very long but it continued because it had merit! In fact, Mom pioneered a movement of copycat cookery for 40 years, until she fully retired in 2014.

Cartoon written and illustrated by Gloria Pitzer

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977)

FOR NEARLY TWO YEARS, we had only a hundred readers or so. Then, because some good folks in the media took a liking to the newsletter and mentioned it, subscriptions picked up. Bob Allison of Detroit’s WWJ-Radio [show], Ask Your Neighbor, probably gave us the most enthusiastic reception, which led to our becoming a sponsor of the show and caught the attention of the ‘Detroit Free Press’ ‘Newsweek’, ‘National Enquirer’ and many others until we found our circulation had jumped…to nearly 4,000 in a little more than a year.

The duplications of the famous name recipes stirred the [public’s] interest. It was a service that apparently had not been offered to the public yet, and one we were most happy to supply. The humorous columns I had [been syndicating] to newspapers just a few years before became a popular attraction in the monthly newsletter…

The operation grew so quickly that it had the whole family working seven days a week, just to keep up with the orders. All of our five children helped to assemble, staple, address, and mail out the copies under my husband’s supervision, until we reached about 3,000 readers and then we found it [to be] such a full-time activity that my husband resigned from his position of 20-some years as an account t executive for a sign company… just  to devote all of his attention to running my ‘office’.

It was such a joy to be doing something for people that brought them so much happiness and our own family such a sense of unity. When our oldest son, Bill, went off to college… and our [other] son, Mike… we had to replace them. It was pure luck [or Divine intervention] that one of my friends, and the wife of one of the Little League coaches that Paul had worked with in baseball, here, in town, was anxious to help us out.

Sherry Ellis joined us, and I can only describe her as ‘bubbling like a happy brook’ – the best thing that this office could have hoped for. Debbie, our oldest daughter, continued to help us after school and our two younger daughters, Laurie and Cheryl… It even included my mother’s assistance and, you’ll note, I have used some of her recipes. Without her, I never would have learned to boil water properly. She’s a superb cook!

[As of] January 1977, we will publish our 37th monthly issue of the ‘National Homemaker’s Newsletter’ and we [now] have close to 5,000 readers. We say that getting the newsletter is just like getting together once a month for coffee with friends!

It was a bittersweet day when Mom produced her last newsletter in December 2000 – after 27 years of visits with her thousands of readers. By the way, it wasn’t always produced monthly. Sometimes it was produced bi-monthly, offering double the number of pages, recipes, editorials, household tips, and more,. During a few years, it was produced quarterly; again, offering even more pages of writings and recipes than the bi-monthly issues!

#CountryCookingMonth

Continuing, one last time, in the honor of National Country Cooking Month, here are Mom’s copycat recipes for griddlecakes and syrup, like Pancake House; as seen in her cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; June 1977, p. 32). Enjoy!

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

Listen to the “Good Neighbor” show, TODAY, at 11am (CDST)/ 12-noon (EDST), on #WHBY!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…26 down, 26 to go – WOW – the year is half-way through!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

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

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