Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A 2nd Helping of Not Losing It!

Welcome to “Mondays & Memories of My Mom”! I’m Laura Emerich and this blog site is dedicated to my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the “Recipe Detective”TM – private investigator of the recipe secrets of fast food, junk food, fine dining and grocery products. Mom was the original “copycat” of the food industry’s secret recipes. I created these blogs to celebrate Mom’s legacy and to carry on her torch. As I mentioned last week, she left her mark on many from her over 65-year writing career, to her famous “Secret Recipes”TM profession and her personal loves of faith, family and life that she always intermixed like the ingredients of a great recipe.

Last week, there was so much information I wanted to write about regarding the national observations of nutrition, diet and getting fit that’s going on in March, I had to edit out half of the blog to keep it from turning into a novel. Thus, I decided to put those cuts into a sequel for this week’s edition. According to the NationalDayCalendar.com website, it’s still National Procrastination Week, which is actually observed for the first two weeks of March; and, for the whole month, we’re also celebrating National Nutrition Month, among other things!

As I mentioned last week, the NDC’s website link recommends that everyone who observes and participates in this month-long event: “use #NationalNutritionMonth to post on social media. Spread the word about how you are boosting your nutrition this month! Eat healthy and get exercising… You’ll be glad you did!” It’s a great challenge – I hope it goes viral on social media!

This national observance has re-inspired me to get fit again, myself. I was once, then I let myself go – and then, turned around and did it again – and again! Now, I’m in my mid-50s, arthritic, hypoglycemic, over-weight and out of shape. I love to walk, but I haven’t done a “fitness” form of it in about 10 years. I’ve procrastinated getting back into shape based from a multitude of excuses. But, excuses are just reasons to rationalize accountabilities.

The most common New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, to lose weight and exercise more (or get healthy/fit), followed by other lifestyle changes like quitting smoking. Another thing I mentioned last week, 80% of New Year’s resolutions are aborted by mid-February. I quit making New Year’s resolutions about losing weight and getting fit years ago because, not only was I not following through on them; but, it got to where I wasn’t even starting them at all. Thus, I started thinking, “why bother ever making that resolution again?”

Man is the only animal which sleeps when he isn’t tired, drinks when he isn’t thirsty, fights when he isn’t angry, eats when he isn’t hungry – and diets. – Carl Riblet, Jr. (The Solid Gold Copy Editor, Falcon Press, 1972)

Recently, I’ve realized that I lost it! I lost my desire, my drive, my focus and, in the midst of it all, I lost myself too. I also realized that it doesn’t have to be New Year’s Day to declare a resolution. Now is the time for me to “suck-it-up”, own it and make the change – for me! I quit smoking cigarettes – cold turkey – almost 13 years ago and never went back to it. If I could do that, I can do this using the same mind-over-matter process!

Mom wrote the following parody-style poem, pictured below, “1979 – The Year of Nutrition”. I don’t remember the original source, which book or newsletter it was printed in other than, as pictured, it was copyrighted in 1979. I’m guessing it was from Mom’s November or December newsletter since it’s a wonderful satire she wrote based on the famous Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore. I used this as a bookmark for inspiration years ago and recently found it in my old copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution by Robert C. Atkins M.D. (Avon; 1997).

After years of failed resolutions to change this or that about myself, I finally realized (after I stopped smoking cigarettes in 2006 and have not gone back to it since) that the commitment must first happen in my mind! I discovered this route of success to change my lifestyle (in relation to quitting cigarettes) from a book my mom gave me, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr (Sterling; September 2004). I think it might have been recommended by Oprah or Dr. Oz, on one of their shows. Mom went right out to her local “Barnes & Noble” retailer to buy a copy. She read it, applied it and stopped smoking. Then, she bought copies for each of my two sisters and I; hoping, I suppose, that we’d all join the “band wagon” too.

I didn’t want to quit smoking, I enjoyed it. I hadn’t even thought about quitting before, except during my three pregnancies, in which I did quit for just those time periods; but, I always chose to go back to it as soon as I started bottle-feeding each of my kids. Nonetheless, I promised Mom that I’d, at least, read the book and think about it. After I finished reading the book, and while I was still thinking about it, I loaned the book to a girlfriend who was dealing with cancer and Chemo. She was struggling with the “want” of smoking cigarettes over the “want” of quitting. The book’s thought process worked for her immediately and she hasn’t smoked a cigarette since – 13 years so far!

I happened to quit smoking cigarettes on May 1st, less than 2 months later. I think what made the difference in time between us each reading the book and quitting is that my friend already wanted to quit even before she read the book and I hadn’t even really thought about it. The concepts in this book can probably apply to any type of addiction or bad habit you want to quit. The key word being want. Wanting to stop a bad habit, addiction or lifestyle and thinking about it are two different things – similar, but different – like apples and oranges.

The key to resigning for good is in the choice you make to stay away completely or not. I found that if I dabbled even a little bit in my bad habit after I’ve quit doing it, I go right back to that situation like a drug addict hooked on heroine. I applied that realization when I quit smoking cigarettes. In my mind, I equated cigarettes to heroine, something I would never try, and it’s kept me from giving into that addictive urge for 13 years!.

I probably loaned that book out to about half a dozen people, most of whom said they were “thinking” about quitting cigarettes. To my knowledge, my friend and I are the only two, out of about 10 people (if you count my mom and 2 sisters), who actually quit after reading the book and stayed that way. Nevertheless, even with only a 20% success rate in my little circle of experience with it, I would still highly recommend everyone read it! It’s not a concept everyone gets; but, it works for those who understand it and work it. I believe the difference that separates the failures from the successes is based on the differences between “wanting it” and “thinking about it”.

It takes commitment! Mom went back to smoking, herself, about a month after stopping. My dad said he didn’t think Mom really wanted to quit smoking in the first place; but was likely prompted by the book’s recommendation, as well as the new Michigan laws and other efforts to try to stop people from smoking, at least in public if not altogether. Dad had quit smoking, himself – cold turkey – using the mind-over-matter approach (plus, he was motivated by health conditions) more than 25 years earlier. He never went back to it either. I don’t know if he ever thought about it. I know I have. But the book gave sound advice on how to deal with those afterthoughts. Again, it’ll work if you work it; but, it’s not going to do the work for you.

# NationalNutritionMonth

In observance of National Nutrition Month, as well as National Procrastination Week, I want to make the same mind-over-matter commitment and re-pledge to “get fit”! WikiHow.com offers an excellent article at https://www.wikihow.com/Get-Fit, listing13 great tips for getting on the path of getting fit. I think I’ll incorporate some of them into my own plan for fitness. To begin, I want to get back on the path – the walking path!

Where I live, in St. Clair; walking and biking are very popular activities! In fact, I live right on one of the very special, paved “routes” that connect towns all over Michigan’s “thumb area” – one of Pure Michigan’s benefits is to be able tour it and get fit while doing it, too! Therefore, this week, while it’s still National Procrastination Week, I am putting off my excuses to not start a regular walking routine because of the winter weather or busy schedule and I’m just going to start doing it! I’ll make a point to fit it in whenever I can until I can create it’s own regular place in my life-style.

Eating is as much an emotional experience as it is a fueling system for the body. In regard to dieting, Mom thought “will power” was for the strong and secure person (which she didn’t really picture herself to be) and “won’t power” was for the insatiable people with whom she readily grouped herself – those who ate away their troubles with “comfort” food and/or compensated themselves (for any old reason) with food “rewards”. I’ll admit it – I think I fit into that latter group too. Mom describes the “won’t” power as refusing to keep on doing what’s bad for you and replacing it with something that’s good for you AND that you enjoy! So, I want to give up my junk-eating-no-exercise lifestyle and replace it with healthy choices. Doing activities I enjoy will also help me to stay focused on my goal and distract me from the short-term urges to go back to my old ways.

Mom offered the following editorial advice on dieting (not as a professional dietician/nutritionist, but as an experienced weightwatcher) in the opening of the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018; p. 283):

If your choices, now, include things you eat without really enjoying them, you can begin to exercise, instead of your “will” power, your “won’t” power – and refuse to keep on eating what is not good for you and what you don’t really need, replacing it with something you do enjoy and that will benefit you in nourishment, either emotionally or physically.

The WON’T power exercise for me meant no bread, no potatoes, no pastries, no gravy, no grains or other starches. It worked beautifully. For you, it might not be satisfactory. So, you can choose another course of action. I merely wish to share my experience with you because it worked for me…

What works for one person, may not work for another; but sharing the secrets of a weight loss diet that works, is too good to ignore. Even if you, personally, are not interested in losing 10 pounds, you probably know someone who is! The diet industry pulls in millions and millions of dollars every year, developing new gimmicks, pills, plans, menus, clubs and published materials about losing weight. I have tried them all in my adult life – and never with success! So, I finally developed my own diet… [Based, largely, on the low-carb diet developed by Dr. Atkins.]

… It’s not really a diet, but a new pattern of eating that can, if I wish, serve me all my life. The best way to learn any new pattern of behavior – whether it is eating or dancing or jogging or working – is to break it down into small manageable parts and work through them step-by-step! This is not a diet to be used, discarded and taken up again. It is a way of life at the table. It is a new attitude towards food…

Also included in the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of Mom’s cookbook, is a lot of low-cal and low-carb recipes; as well as advice that benefitted her own diet journey. She doesn’t claim to be an expert nutritionist or dietician – she just offers bits of inspiration that helped her in hopes it would benefit someone else’s journey.

Whether you’re dieting for health reasons or for reasons of vanity, there’s one expression to always keep in the forefront of your mind – the one thing that most people will not dispute – positivity is a crucial key to success! “YOU CAN DO THIS!” should be written in large letters on your bathroom mirror just to reinforce your motivation and remind yourself of it often – read it out loud every time you see it!!

I’ve chosen my “start date” and decided that I will begin my metamorphosis into a “healthy-eating life-style” next Wednesday, March 20th. The symbolization of starting on the 1st day of Spring will help to support my motivation in my mind as I re-build it into the right frame of thought between now and then, keeping me focused on the drive to be a new me – a forever me – a healthy and fit me! I created this picture (below) to hang on my bathroom mirror for daily inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog today and that it helped to motivate you to get healthy & fit, if that’s your goal too! In closing, if you’re watching your carb intake as I will be, the following picture is of one of Mom’s free recipe offerings for her copycat version of an Outback Steakhouse-Style steak seasoning and marinade process from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):

*Note: if you’re watching your intake of sugar, carbohydrates and/or calories, substitute the Coke with Diet Coke or Tab in the “Overnight Marinade”.

By the way, this particular copycat recipe (above) is not included in Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018). However, there is a whole selection of other wonderful low carb & low sugar copycat recipes in the “Dieting Dishes” chapter of the book. There’s also many other recipes sprinkled throughout the cookbook for making your own grocery items such as seasonings and mixes right at home, where you can control the ingredients, yourself! More on THAT subject in next week’s blog, “Grow and Make Your Own Groceries!”

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – How Not to Lose it While Trying to Lose It!

Happy Monday, everybody! Welcome to my blog!

I’m Laura Emerich and this blog home is dedicated to my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the famously renowned “Recipe Detective”TM. I started writing these blogs to honor my mom’s memory and the legacy she left, not just for me, but also for the world – from her life-long writing affair to her secret recipes profession to her other personal loves of life, family and faith.

As I’ve often mentioned in my blogs, Mom was a trailblazer and pioneer of the “fast food copycat” movement. She was reportedly included in the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records for being the first to recreate “fast foods” at home. They were particularly interested in her make-alike versions of “The Colonel’s” secret spices, McDonald’s-style “special sauce” and Arthur Treacher’s-style fish batter; all of which were among Mom’s first deduced, “fast food”, secret recipe imitations, starting back in the early 1970s. You’ll find copies of those recipes in some of my other blogs on this website, as well as under the “Recipes” tab.

This week’s blog subject is inspired by all the nutritional and get-fit type of celebrations going on right now. In fact, there’s so much to write about on this topic that I find myself writing a lot more than the normal blog length should contain. Therefore, this subject will be continued on next week’s blog, “A 2nd Helping of Not Losing It!”

According to the National Day Calendar website , some of the things being celebrated today, this week and this month include many food/nutrition and fitness related things – such as today, March 4th, is National Pound Cake Day among other things.

The NDC website offers visitors the full, “traditional” recipe and this little fact: “the traditional recipe for pound cake makes a cake much larger than most families can consume, as it calls for a pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. Hence the name Pound Cake.” Okay – so, pound cake is not exactly nutritional; but, it is food related, therefore, I couldn’t help mentioning it. Plus, after all, it is “Fat Tuesday Eve”! Thus, if you want to get the temptation out of your system now…Enjoy! For tomorrow is another day – but, obviously, so is the next one! Just remember the old adage, “everything in moderation!”

The first full week of March is recognized as, among other events, national “Read an eBook Week”  – in case you didn’t know, Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018), which has over 300 pages full of great reads as well as over 500 index listings of “secret” fast food and grocery imitations, is also available as an eBook for only $3.99 at: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.

In addition, the country is also observing National Procrastination Week, which is actually observed for the first two weeks in March –  According to the website link, “the goal for [National Procrastination Week] is to celebrate the act of procrastinating by leaving necessary tasks to be done at a later time… However, the holiday does not advocate sloth, laziness or inaction. Instead, it emphasizes accomplishing tasks, and leisurely activities that could not be completed while one had other responsibilities. These may include reading, cooking, cleaning, and exercising.”

In other words, if you’ve put off reading a good book because you’re so busy with responsibilities; then, you can “have your cake and eat it too” by procrastinating on a responsibility this week and reading an eBook instead! This can also have a hidden advantage as a stress reliever!

Another double-benefited activity includes: if you’ve put off initiating a “get fit/exercise” type of plan, now is a great time to procrastinate on the “excuse” or “conflicting responsibilities” and just do it. Correspondingly, share it on social media with the hashtag: #NationalNutritionMonth, because it’s also National Nutrition Month , among other things!

According to the NDC website, emphasis of this month long, March event focuses on… “the significance of physical fitness as well as eating nourishing meals. Taking charge of your health contributes to overall well-being; as well as losing weight…which reduces risks of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes… This year’s theme is ‘Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle’, focusing on exercising regularly and making the best food choices…”

As mentioned above, the website also recommends that everyone who observes and participates in this event: “use #NationalNutritionMonth to post on social media. Spread the word about how you are boosting your nutrition this month! Eat healthy and get exercising… You’ll be glad you did!” Even if you’ve already started a diet and/or exercise routine but failed to follow it through – remember the old adage, “if, at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again!” Now, this sounds like a worthwhile challenge to have go viral on social media, as opposed to some of the dangerous challenges that go around on there!

”Success is not in never failing, but in never fearing to begin again.” – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)

The most common New Year’s resolutions are, more often than not, to lose weight and exercise more (or get healthy/fit). These decrees also happen to tie in with the National Nutrition Month observance. We’re 9 weeks in to the new year now! How many resolutions do you think are already broken? If you’ve already given up on your own, it might feel comforting to know that it’s extremely rare to keep a New Year’s resolution all year, let alone all Winter. In fact, according to The U.S. News (Dec. 29, 2015) , around 80% of resolutions fail by mid-February. So, if you’re still sticking to your New Year’s resolution as of today, then you’re further ahead of the game than most of us; therefore, rejoice!

One of Mom’s cartoon panels from her syndicated series, “Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer”

Stress and anxiety often accompany lifestyle changes like starting a new diet or exercise regimen, which is why it’s so important to be in the right frame of mind, so you don’t lose it – whether “it” is your focus or your inspiration or your emotional stability – while you’re trying to lose it (which could refer to weight or some other health issue)! Nowadays, in order to calm and focus myself, I just try to remember the silly term “goosfraba” from the hilarious movie, Anger Management (starring Jack Nicholson & Adam Sandler).

”Having a goal gives us hope and it’s hope that keeps us going, enabling us each to meet whatever the world dishes out.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.24)]

Furthermore, breaking my plan down into a manageable series of short, daily steps/goals seems like it will help make it simpler for me to remain better focused and more continuously motivated as I reach each step/goal and persevere in moving forward to the next one – one day at a time, one step at a time. Thus, relieving my stress to reach the final finish line, by stopping to smell each rose along the way and rejoice in it. At least, I think, the plan looks good on paper.

I also find comedy to be a huge stress reliever. I remember a funny example of one of Mom’s positive thinking “one-liners” – in the face of tension or stress she’d say, “…be a tea kettle! I could be up to my neck in hot water and still be able to whistle!” For some reason, it makes me picture her as Mrs. Potts in Disney’s movie, Beauty & the Beast, whistling the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show! I will draw on that comedic visual as often as I need a giggle and smiling thought.

”Start Now! Good thoughts and good feelings reinforce each other…When you hold on to one good thought, the better you’ll do things that make you feel good about yourself…Nothing will work for you unless you work for it.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p.32)]

Mom and I, both, struggled most of our lives with yo-yo weight, going up and down. Diet after failed diet left us wondering why they seemed to work for other people, but not for us! Unfortunately, our mindsets (like many others’) were to only diet until we got to our desired goals. Thus, once there (if we ever reached “there”), we’d slowly forget about the discipline and start allowing ourselves to slack a little. Before we knew it, we’d just sink back into our old habits; immediately regaining what we had lost, and sometimes more, as we further sabotaged ourselves for the failure.

Nevertheless, we found one diet that actually did help us – Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution by Robert C. Atkins, M.D. (1972). We both found, from Dr. Atkins’ description in his book, that we have a carbohydrate intolerance. Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution is not a quick “weigh-fix” solution. It’s actually a low-carb lifestyle commitment. Thus, it only works if you work it! And, truth be told, neither of us made the lifetime commitment to it.

 ”Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Half effort does not produce half results. It produces no results! Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last.” – Hamilton Holt

Therefore, as I did when I quit smoking cigarettes on May 1, 2006 (based on Carr’s book), I need to get my mind into a certain frame of thought – a commitment – one geared towards a new lifestyle of healthy living! Once I get that frame of mind set, then, I need to pick my change-of-life-style “start date” and just stick to it! Yes, it is easier said than done; but still doable! Consequently, I think, if I could use the mind-over-matter process to quit smoking and stay such for almost 13 years, so far; then, I should also be able to apply it to changing my lifestyle to a healthier one that includes regular exercise and better nutritional choices.

”Live up to the best you can see yourself to be, never compromising with excuses and examining every reason for not doing what you are capable of doing…If, every day, we find a way to contribute our best efforts in thought, in action and with no regrets, we’ll never have to fear the future.” – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 14)

Positivity is believing that every day is a good day – some are just better than others. Mom wrote: “Keeping good thoughts is a healthy exercise all the way around; but, like any form of exercise, you do have to work at it. And, like any other exercise, the more you work at it, the better it works for you.” – Gloria Pitzer [This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 32)] Mom also journaled, as opposed to saying, “have a good day”, she suggested saying, “keep good thoughts”, instead; deducing, “How can you not have a good day, if you’re keeping good thoughts?”

I’ve tried the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach many times – it just doesn’t work for me in the long run. I’ve discovered within myself that I’m not going to change anything – not for very long anyway – if I don’t truly want to change it in the first place (as it needs to be from myself and for myself.) It takes the power of positive thinking, among other things, to succeed. But, according to my Mom, it’s not a “will” power that leads to that diet/fitness success, it’s a “won’t” power. I’ll write more about that next week. I hope you come back and check it out!

In closing, as I do each week, I’d like to leave you with one of the recipes that Mom gave out for free on her product-ordering information sheets. Mom often used the following low-carb, Olive Garden-Style, house dressing imitation when watching her carb intake. This updated version is from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):

Note: This particular copycat recipe is not included in Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018); however, there is a whole selection of other wonderful copycat recipes in the “Salads and Salad Dressings” chapter of the book. Remember, this book is also available in eBook format AND it is national “Read an eBook Week”! Enjoy!

Totally unrelated, is this fun little fact about this date in history:

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – “Famous Foods from Famous Places”

Hello to everyone, and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! I’d also like to say happy February 18th! According to the calendar at OCfoodies.com, it’s Crab-Stuffed Flounder AND Drink Wine Day – therefore, eat, drink and be merry! I’m down with that! In case you’re wondering who I am…

My name is Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, also known as the famous “Recipe Detective”TM. Mom passed away just over a year ago; thus, I started this blog last year to celebrate her legacy and share remembrances of her because she had such a huge effect on so many people, besides my family and I; some we’ve never met, from all around the world.

Even though I grew up surrounded by and involved in “the family”, dining-room-table operation, I didn’t truly understand Mom’s deep love of it all (like the love of a mother for her child) until about 4 years ago when I started collaborating with her to re-write her personal favorite, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes; St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing). The goal was to republish it for a new media generation, as Mom started a new phase of her life as a widow.

Mom chose the cookbook for me to re-write for her. It was, basically, her favorite revision of her very first (self-published) cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Gloria Pitzer, Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI – 1973). Ironically, it also became her last cookbook – 45 years and 5 or 6 revisions apart! Helping Mom to rewrite the “revised rewrite” of that original book, put me in touch with her in a whole new way! The cookbook was re-published under the title Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House, in January 2018. The subtitle of the book is “Famous Foods from Famous Places”.

Mom and I at her 80th Birthday Party – Photo by Paul Jaekel, Jan. 2016

“Recipe Detective” is the name that was bestowed on Mom by her many friends and fans from her regular radio, talk show visits, which started in the early 1970s. One of her favorites was with Bob Allison on his “Ask Your Neighbor” show (WWJ-Radio; Detroit, MI). This show still airs today, with Bob Allison joined by his son, Rob! The nickname was a natural fit for Mom, because she could sleuth out and find the secrets of the food and restaurant industries, just like Sherlock Holmes, who happened to be one of her favorite fictional characters. Mom always loved to solve a good mystery! A lot of her endeavors as to which “top secret” recipes to crack were inspired by requests from her quickly growing, newspaper and radio fan-base.

Another of Mom’s favorite regular, radio, talk show visits, from which she received other “secret recipe” requests/challenges, were with Warren Pierce on The Warren Pierce Show (WJR-Radio, Detroit). I’ll discuss more about these visits in next week’s blog, Interesting Challenges; so, I hope you’ll come back and check it out! By the way, Warren’s show still airs on weekend mornings – see: http://www.wjr.com/the-warren-pierce-show/

“I made a living with my writing; but, it was my writing that made living worthwhile.” – Gloria Pitzer

Mom wrote for most of her life – starting with daily journaling when she was a young girl. As a matter of fact, her journaling never stopped for the rest of her life AND it was a tremendous help for her to remember things as she dealt with Dementia in her last few years. Besides journaling, Mom wrote for and worked on school newspapers, in secondary school and college. She also entered, and won, many essay contests; all of which lead to her writing for local newspapers, as well as, syndicating her columns and cartoons nationally.

Mom always knew she wanted a career in writing. At first, she never thought about a career writing about the food industry; however, it seemed that most of her successes in writing revolved around recipes and homemaking ideas. “They” say the best things to write about are the things that you know best! But, I guess Mom didn’t know what she knew, until she realized she knew it! Then, she grew to love it even more!

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” ― Theodore Roosevelt

After leaving the newspapers in the early 1970s, to fill a consumer need she felt was out there and not being fed, Mom started publishing her own newsletter, which was first published in January 1974 and continued on through December 2000 – 27 years and 219 issues in all. Every issue was jam-packed full of new recipe discoveries from her radio and restaurant visits; plus, laughable and inspirational stories to feed the heart and soul, household/kitchen/cooking tips and tricks, restaurant/author reviews and recommendations and so much more! As I mentioned in last week’s blog, Mom often said her newsletters were “…like getting together for coffee with friends” SM.

1974 heading of Mom’s first newsletter.

From time-to-time, the newsletter changed frequencies of printings per year (i.e. monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly); and the title changed slightly a few times too, starting out as Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter (Jan. 1974) and ending as Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, when Mom retired it (Dec. 2000). In addition, the price changed with the times also, starting out at $0.50 per issue or $5 for a 1-year (12 issues) subscription in 1974; and ending in 2000 at $2 per issue or $18 for a 1-year (12 issues) subscription. I’d love to hear comments from anyone who subscribed to Mom’s newsletters, or who know someone that subscribed – you can write to me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

2000 heading of Mom’s last newsletter.

Mom also wrote and self-published about* 40 cookbooks (*over, if you consider that many had multiple printings & some had multiple versions). She also wrote a couple of “feel good”, inspirational books and many “brand-specific” recipe folders, as well as a couple of small recipe booklets; all created, of course, from her 30-year, on-going collection of recipes that she developed, tested, wrote and published – a collection that grew from a couple hundred to thousands, imitating famous dishes and products of the food industry – certainly, as if she infiltrated their actual, “top secret” recipes and methods!

Rabbit Hole Note: I’m not sure exactly how many thousands of recipes Mom has to her credit, but I am currently working on a “Master List” based on the indexes in her 40+ books and other publications. When it’s finished, I’ll be posting the extensive “master list” under a new tab on the website – be sure to check out the website again when the “Master Index List” tab is added – you’ll be notified right away if you’re following me on any one, or all, of the following social media links: https://twitter.com/recipedetective, https://www.facebook.com/pg/TheRecipeDetective/, https://www.instagram.com/therecipedetective/ and https://in.pinterest.com/therecipedetective/. The dream for the “Master Index List” is to have all the posted entries linked to all the other related “Cookbooks”, “Other Publishings”, “Recipes” and “Blog” posts.

Mom’s books stood out, head & shoulders above the rest – not only for her unique concept of “eating out at home” recipes, imitating fast-food and fine-dining dishes; but also, like her newsletter, for their homemade, crafty designs and lay-outs that were filled with good humor, food-for-thought and food-for-the-soul editorials, household tips & tricks; as well as tidbits of interesting historical information! No other cookbooks on the market at that time, or since, have offered any kind of combination like that – especially not with “make-alike” recipes to imitate food industry dishes and products at home – unless they copied the original copycat! There’s a fine line between imitating and plagiarizing, which is a topic for another blog post in the near future. Mom was a trail-blazer, carving out a unique niche in the food industry, which inspired many followers and other copycats!

Before she started the newsletter in 1974, one of Mom’s very first cookbook creations was called, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Gloria Pitzer, Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI – 1973). This was a collection of recipes that Mom originally published in Cookbook Corner, one of the recipe columns that she syndicated to many different newspapers for over 5 years prior…

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

Here are some excerpts from a wonderful review of this cookbook, written over 45 years ago by Mike Royko [Detroit Free Press, The Feature Page; MONDAY, DEC. 10, 1973]:

I Keep the Munchies Away by Writing

IF YOU spend any time in this corner, you have noticed lately that I have been writing a lot about food, restaurants and eating. It always happens when I go on a strict diet. I satisfy my hungers by writing about food… But to keep the ol’ write-and-lose therapy going, let me pass on some info about two rather novel cookbooks that have come to my attention.

First, there’s Gloria Pitzer’s handmade (her five kids in Algonac even helped hand-color the cover) delight called, “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook.” Gloria is a delightful newspaper columnist and she notes in[side] the front of her book: “If the Good Lord had intended for me to cook, why wasn’t I born with aluminum hands?”

Another sparkling observation: “Cookbooks do not tell you, for instance, such vital items as the Impossibility of Using Up Easter Eggs!” I really groove on the little asides she tucks between the over 200 sensible recipes. Like this one: “Frankly, I never met a melon squeezer I really liked. They always make me feel so insecure, the way they hold the melon to their eye and thump it like they are expecting a heartbeat.”

…It’s a buck and a half and a belly-laugh a page…

I remember getting to help color those cookbooks! I was only about 8½ years old at the time; but, even then, I was OCD enough to stay within the lines, which was a very important requirement if you wanted to be one of Mom’s colorists! That was so much fun! Almost as good as being one of her taste-testers – because even the “duds” were great! The dining-room-table operation was always a family business; however, Dad was just the last one in the family that was let in on “the secret”…as Mom wrote about in “her story” many times, one of which I included in my recent 4-part series, Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began.

As I got older, and learned how to cook and bake from Mom, I also got to help her make/test some of her “secret” recipes. I remember developing my own banana bread recipe when I was 14, after a small summer vacation at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan’s beautiful Lake Huron. That same week, a movie crew was there, filming “Somewhere In Time”, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour! It was one of my most memorable vacations with Mom and Dad (and my younger sister, Cheryl.)

Photo of Gloria Pitzer, on the porch of The Grand Hotel, taken by Laura Pitzer, 1979

I was very inspired by the hotel’s elegant presentation of snacks. In particular was a luscious, moist banana bread that seemed more like a cake than a bread, with a scrumptiously thick cream cheese glaze! My version of the hotel’s special treat turned out so good that Mom put it in her next cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1982, 1st Printing) – which is the original book (but 3rd printing) that I helped her re-write 35 years later. It’s ironic that it took Mom a couple years for her to write that book (based on her first, 1973 cookbook) and it took me a couple years to re-write it once again!

Thanks for visiting! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my tribute to Mom! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

In closing this week, along with one of Mom’s recipes from her “free recipes and ordering information sheets”, with which I usually end my blog, I’m also including a copy of MY “Banana Bread” recipe, as it’s found on page 182 of Mom’s 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 favorite, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)] – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

 BANANA BREAD – Like The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island (MI)

On the lavish, luncheon, smorgasbord tables of the Grand Hotel, where we were staying during the filming of “Somewhere in Time” [1979], were a variety of sweet breads, as well as finger sandwiches prepared on quick breads. One of their sandwich ideas was softened cream cheese – possibly whipped with a little sour cream – on a wonderful banana nut bread. When we returned home from that vacation, our daughter, Laura, came up with a version of their bread which became one of our favorite recipes.

1/3 cup butter or margarine

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups self-rising flour (SEE NOTE BELOW!)

1 cup each: ripe, mashed bananas (2 to 3 medium-sized) and chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes – set your timer!) Add the eggs and beat another 2 minutes. Beat in half of the flour and all the bananas for 2 minutes. Beat in remaining flour for 1 minute. Stir in nuts with a spoon. Pour into greased and floured, 9-inch bread-loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until it tests “done” with a toothpick. Cool several hours before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

NOTE: If you don’t have self-rising flour, then substitute with – 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. The best results, I have found, is when I stir the ½ teaspoon baking soda into the mashed bananas, combining the remaining ingredients and adding that much as directed in the recipe above.

The following is, yet, another version of Mom’s homemade self-rising flour, as found on page 169 of the same book referenced above.

Sift together 3 c. flour, 3 TB baking powder and 1 tsp. salt. Store in covered container, in a cool dry place. Makes approximately 3 ¼ cups.

Mom always said there’s more than one way to reach a destination or desired result. The following picture is of another, updated version of Mom’s homemade self-rising flour from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000):

Let me know which version of homemade self-rising flour that you prefer – feel free to email me at therecipedetective@outlook.com.

1986 – Granny Square How To by Gloria Pitzer

1986 (Fall) – Granny Square How To by Gloria Pitzer

1986 – Granny Square How To was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this 4-page folder of crochet patterns and projects (for vests, sweaters, purses and hats) had an 8½“ x 11” format and sold for $1 a copy. It was meant to be “Number 1 in a series” that could be collected in a 3-ring binder, like the Gloria Pizer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter. However, the series never came to fruition as Gloria had a number of other publishings happening at that time as well. Thus, the project was put on a back-burner, to simmer. I have not found any other issues to the series.

We’d love to hear from anyone who has any of these folders still! Please, write to: therecipedetective@outlook.com

1986 – This is Not a Cook Book by Gloria Pitzer

1986 Oct – This is Not a Cook Book by Gloria Pitzer

1986 – This is Not a Cook Book was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this book has a 120-page, 5.5″ x 8.5″ format and sold for $5 each. There are no recipes in this book; however, it is filled with a unique collection of Gloria’s trademark humor, “Food for Thought”, feel-good stories, inspirational quotes and other things to smile about!

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought”
  • Printings: 1
  • Years: Oct 1986 – Dec 1987
  • Recipes: none
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Price: $5
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – New Year, New Attitude

Wow – it’s 2019! Where has the time gone?

If you’re new to here, my name is Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. I started this blog series in September (2018) to carry on Mom’s legacy, as that is what “Secret Recipes” was to her and what it became to me, 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 – a digital generation!

There’s always something special about celebrating a new year! It’s commonly looked upon as a chance to start over and wipe the slate clean; to forgive and forget or just bury the hatchet and move on. It’s a time to improve and better ourselves, so as to evolve in the human race. The beginning of a new year is a time when people want to make real and positive changes in their lives. Simply changing the calendar out seems to be a turning point that offers us up new inspiration and attitude. It’s a fresh new start, a new beginning for whatever we aspire. The older I get, especially since I lost my mom almost a year ago, the more I realize that every day I wake up is a turning point in which I have to develop and grow a new and positive attitude!

In the same way as Joel Osteen was one of Mom’s favorite inspirationalists, she was one of mine. What does it mean – to inspire someone? Whether it be through their words or through their actions, it’s about motivating someone else from within their souls; sparking their fire in some stirring and exciting way that helps them strive for and achieve their desired successes.

“Don’t go into the new year holding a grudge from last year. Leave the hurts and disappointments behind.” – Joel Osteen (#25 at https://www.wow4u.com/joelosteenquotes/)

As the song goes, should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” – it begs the question as to whether or not we should forgive and forget. If Mom could have had her way, the whole world would’ve been friends forever. However, even she knew that was an unrealistic hope, considering the course of human behavior and events. But, even though history tends to repeat itself, there’s no reason not to start making new, inspiring history to repeat!

So often, people can’t even find friends within the same family. Mom always felt that the family unit was so important to our troubled world, which seemed to lack any direction in which to go for comfort and relief. Nonetheless, she continued to hope – as do I. Mom often emphasized, in her writing, the importance of really caring about each other. She held a strong faith in LOVE and all the things it could overcome and yield. She found common ground for this caring attitude in the loving manner that cooks have toward the food they prepare and present to those with whom they share their tables.

“You certainly won’t hear opportunity knocking at the front door, if you’re in the back yard looking for four-leaf clovers.” – Gloria Pitzer (“My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989; p. 4)

I grew up, as my mom did, inspired by my parents to seize opportunities (although there were many I didn’t see and, thus, missed) and to always put across my best efforts in everything I do. When I can’t do “Plan A”, I go to “Plan B”! Everyone should have a few good examples to follow. As my mom once wrote about her mom [on page 8 of her self-published book, “This is not a Cook Book” (Oct. 1986)], I shall repeat for her – and this is a perfect example of inspiring history repeating itself – “My mother is another good example I’ve followed. Her best gift and her greatest asset is that she’s always been a patient listener and a wise advisor. She was absolutely loyal to my father…The world could turn [its] back on her children, but she would always be there for them when we needed her. She’s given me an example that’s going to be tough to equal.”

“I’ve had so many good examples to follow – I’ll try to be one, myself, to somebody else.” – Gloria Pitzer (“This is not a Cook Book”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Oct. 1986; p. 8)

 A 4-generation photo of my mom & I with my daughter, Tara, and her son, Gage (2010)

I can only hope that I have done the same with my own children, as I feel Mom did with me and my siblings; as her mom did with her and her siblings as well! James Keller once said, “A candle loses nothing in lighting another candle.” Mom embellished on it a bit by adding that if you can’t be a lighthouse, be a candle!

 Happy birthday, Mom! (1/7/1936)

As with my pervious blogs, I’d like to share with you one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000), which she used to give out in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope – this is her Red Lobster-Style Cheese Biscuit, which she calls “Glad Lobster Cheese Biscuits” – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Note: this particular biscuit recipe was not included in Mom’s 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). However, many other wonderful bread-type recipes and humorous stories can be found in the “Breads” chapter or section of this book on pages 141-182.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to Crouton Crackerjacks, who did a wonderful YouTube video, making Mom’s version of Cracker Barrel’s Buttermilk Biscuits, which the guy in the video says tastes nothing like Cracker Barrel’s biscuit even though it is an excellent biscuit. Keep in mind that some restaurants change their recipes over the years and, even in a chain like Cracker Barrel, not every restaurant across the country makes every dish exactly the same. All-in-all, it’s an excellent video to check out at https://youtu.be/CLc0Hkbwz7c and, like the guy in the video claims, it is an excellent biscuit recipe that my mom developed – regardless of what restaurant inspired it.

In closing, I wish a very happy New Year to everyone! Be determined and decided to have a splendid and awe-inspiring year!