Mondays & Memories of My Mom – In the Beginning…

Happy Monday everyone! Thank you for stopping in…

Since I started this blog series over a year ago, I have found so much joy in re-reading all of my copies of Mom’s old “No Laughing Matter” columns, books and newsletter issues. As I mentioned last week, they are my go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my writing of these blog entries. Technically, even before that – I was re-inspired by Mom’s writing when I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing). We were hoping it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age” – and it has!

Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, she was so pleased to hear that her “new” book went to print; being published by Balboa Press. The title had to be adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, but most of the rest, inside the book, remained close to the same as the original 1983 edition. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the first printed copy… Then again, she probably saw it, “hot-off-the-press”, before anyone else, from her new vantage point.

[Note: To get your own hard copy and/or eBook editions of Mom’s last book, here are the links at Balboa Press. By the way, they’ll make great Christmas gifts too! Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253]

Mom was so creative, in so many ways, and had all sorts of talents; but, writing was probably at the top of the list. She had a way with words that made me smile and laugh, as well as make me think, “Hmmm?!” Her newsletters and cookbooks were full of food-for-thought columns, comedic quips, food-for-the-soul meditation and inspiration, historic information and so much more than just recipes.

Mom often said that her books were just as comfortable on the coffee table, for reading, as they were on the kitchen counter, for cooking. In addition, Mom wrote her recipes in an easy-to-understand manner – without any glossy, color photos – just describing it like she was right there, in the kitchen talking to you about it every step of the way. She felt that, since they were products we already know, photos weren’t really necessary; which I, now, find ironic because Mom was the “shutter-bug” in our family – always taking pictures at every gathering.

All of those extra components that Mom put into her works created such a unique combination that it set her products apart from all the rest on the market, at that time, bringing her more media attention than she ever expected. Even without the internet, in the mid-1970s era, word got around fast about the small town housewife that discovered how to make fast food and junk food imitations at home!

The crafty format for Mom’s newsletters and cookbooks was largely influenced by her favorite crafter, Carol Duvall; who, in the 1970s, had a “Craft Letter” (as she called it) and a 5 minute crafting segment on WDIV-TV (Channel 4 in Detroit), called “Here’s Carol Duvall”. Mom followed her craft show religiously and subscribed to her Craft Letter too. That was decades before Carol moved to ABC’s “Home” (1988-1994) and before she began hosting “The Carol Duvall Show” on HGTV (1994-2005), which then moved to DIY (2005-2009).

Mom and Carol became fast friends and, when Carol retired her “Craft Letter”, she offered her subscribers the option of switching to Mom’s newsletter for the same price. She was always a wonderful lady. I found a delightful video clip of Carol Duvall’s 1000th (HGTV) episode celebration on YouTube and pinned it to Mom’s Yarn & Sewing Crafts board on her Pinterest page, which you can follow at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective/.

In the beginning… Mom promoted her creations through radio programs, magazine ads and newspaper food columnists’ reviews that focused on the homemaker. Within the first year of Mom’s newsletter start-up, local television show hosts started hearing about this exceptional lady with a unique, new twist on cooking! Word spread rapidly through the newswire service and national, as well as international (Canada), television shows started requesting interviews with Mom and demonstrations of her distinct recipes.

While Mom always felt most at home on the radio shows in which she participated, there’s no denying that she probably had her greatest (or largest) “claim-to-fame” from television exposure. I’ve put together a rough timeline of Mom’s local and national television appearances over the decades, of which I can remember and find reference to in her writings.

Mom’s first on-television interview was 45 years ago, on my 10th birthday (Nov. 14, 1974). The whole family was invited to the studio, where Mom appeared on “AM Detroit” with host, Dennis Wholley. The show aired locally on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in the Detroit-Metro area. Below is a copy of Mom’s story about it.

As a result of that local exposure, Mom was invited to appear on another local, but international, television program. It was on New Year’s Day 1975, across the river from Detroit, in Canada, with host, Bob Hines. The show he hosted aired movies with Bob doing commentary and “intermission interviews”. The show aired locally on CKLW-TV, Channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario­. That was when Mom met Lynn Redgrave, whom Bob was interviewing about her role as the “Happy Hooker”. Mom introduced herself to the actress as the “Happy Cooker”.

That’s about when Mom’s collection of “Secret Recipes” had grown to more than 200 different recipes. She had been printing them all on index cards from her mimeograph machine in our laundry room and selling them for $0.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders. All of us kids and Dad helped Mom on a daily/nightly basis.

Seeing which recipe cards sold the most and getting more requests from her fans for fast food and junk food imitations than any other type of recipe, Mom decided to put all of her popular recipes like those into a cookbook. She thought it was going to be her “only” book on the subject of fast food and junk food, since even the critics thought it was a fad that wouldn’t last long – that was in August 1976 and it was called The Fast Food Cookbook; which Mom revised the following year as The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book [aka: Book 1].

As it turned out, that was only the first in a whole series of books that Mom wrote on the subject. It wasn’t long before Mom retired the recipe cards and started writing and self-publishing more cookbooks, showing people how to make their favorite foods at home. For 30 years, from the launch of her first newsletter in 1974 to her last self-published cookbook in 2004, Mom continued to write and self-publish about 40 cookbooks and 219 issues of the newsletter; covering popular restaurant dishes from across the country, homemade grocery products, fast foods and so-called “junk” foods!

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

Mom carved a new niche in the food industry that caught the media’s attention by storm. On Christmas Eve 1976, Jack McCarthy of WXYZ-TV’s “Action News” team (seen locally on Channel 7 in Detroit) came out to our house in Algonac to do an at-home-interview with Mom. Below is a copy of one of Mom’s memories about Jack, by whom she was quite impressed.

In the winter of 1980-1981 (not sure of the exact date), Mom did an at-home-interview with the Detroit TV crew of a national show called “PM Magazine”. They came out to St. Clair and filmed Mom making a few of her popular imitations in her own kitchen. That same winter, Mom also had a brief appearance on our local “Noon News” show on WDIV-TV (seen on Channel 4 in the Detroit area).

On a side note, regarding the last statement in the picture (above), Mom did eventually grant “People Magazine” an interview in 1990. However, back to Mom’s television exposure – on July 7, 1981, Mom and Dad flew to Chicago for her FIRST appearance on the “Phil Donahue Show”; demonstrating, again, some of her quick and popular fast food and junk food imitations for the entire hour. Over the following year, that episode re-ran world-wide! As I said in the beginning… Mom “probably had her greatest (or largest) ‘claim-to-fame’ from television exposure”. If you’ve ever wished to be famous – all I can say, from our experience, is “be careful about what you wish!”

Donahue 1981 promo

The fallout from that 1981 “Phil Donahue Show”, which I’ve discussed in other blog entries; left Mom (and Dad) reluctant to do any more television appearances for the next 7 years – that is, until Mom’s friend, Carol Duvall, set her up to appear on a TV show that she was, then, involved with out in California (ABC’s “Home Show”). Wish I could find copies of those episodes on which Mom appeared.

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

It was February 1988, when Mom and Dad flew out to California for Mom’s FIRST appearance on ABC’s “Home Show” with Rob Weller, then host. That was when Mom first met Wally Amos in person! It was one of Mom’s most favorite experiences and memories. Even when she got dementia after her stroke in 2015, Mom always remembered how wonderful and friendly Wally Amos was to her.

 

A couple of years later, on Memorial Day 1990, Mom did an at-home-interview with CNN Cable News. They even came back the next day to film more, while Mom was on the phone, doing a radio show. Their production consequently sparked the interest of a weekly, local paper called “The Voice” and a columnist named Pat Heck, who wrote a very complimentary article about Mom; which she mentions in the clip below!

That fall, in October of 1990, Mom made her first appearance on a local talk show, called “Kelly & Company”; which aired on WXYZ-TV (channel 7 in Detroit) with hosts, John Kelly & his wife, Marilyn Turner. Mom’s interview went so well, they invited her back the following spring. She did the show on May 8, 1991. Mom wrote all about the great experience on the front page of her July-August 1991 newsletter (Issue #151) and she also included three pages of all the recipes she demonstrated on the show. I’ll be adding those to my list of recipes that I want to share with all of you in my blog entries and in the “Recipes” tab on this website. There was also this little clip (below) on page 9 of that issue.

In between the two “Kelly & Company” appearances, on March 19, 1991, Mom had her second appearance on ABC’s “Home” show in Los Angeles. I don’t know what really happened that time around that Mom felt she was “ganged-up-on”, as she mentions in the clip pictured above; but, when Mom came home, she was feeling very disappointed by the whole experience and her own reaction to it. Again, she didn’t want to appear on television anymore.

However, a couple of years later (April 16, 1993), Mom appeared for a SECOND time on “The Phil Donahue Show”. Again, it was for the entire hour; however, this time, the show was not allowed to give out Mom’s contact information – only copies of the recipes she demonstrated on the show. As a result, requests for transcripts of that episode, shattered the show’s record and they sent Mom a letter and a special plaque to commemorate the event. That turned out to be the real FINAL time Mom appeared on TV.

I should mention, though, in the summer of 1993, Mom went back out to California to make an infomercial with the Guthy-Renker Corporation, called “Ask Mike”. It was produced & directed by Positive Response Television for a new way to promote Mom’s Recipe DetectiveTM image and her Secret RecipesTM enterprise. The infomercial was set up similar to Mom’s “Phil Donahue Show” appearance, with cooking demonstrations of some of her most famous imitations, except there were “on-the-street-interviews” of people taste-testing Mom’s imitations and giving their opinions (as Phil Donahue did with his in-studio audience). Unfortunately, the infomercial never aired on TV. But, our family received our own copies of it, at least. Mom was so thrilled that Wally Amos was also involved in the infomercial production, as he was with her first “Home Show” experience in 1988. Wally Amos was the “on-the-street-interviewer”.

IN CLOSING…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – My Favorite Things

Happy Monday to all! And to ALL members of our military, past and present, THANK YOU SO MUCH for your service, defending and protecting our country! Now…

Tell me… What are some of your favorite things? I’ve found, over the years, that most of my favorite things are those which really don’t cost any money and, yet, are considered by some people to be priceless. Like Mom, some of my favorite things include writing, reading, drawing, seeing the magnificent array of autumn colors on a backroad’s drive through Michigan and the happy-go-lucky smile of my grandson.

Equally, I love the snuggles, nuzzles and purrs of my cats (and my wonderful husband), the sparkling sun reflected on the magnificent blue waters of The Great Lakes, the cheerful sounds of the birds and other wildlife in my backyard, the aroma of a Sunday slow-cooker meal wafting throughout the house – you know, the simple things in life!

Another of my favorite things is how much my mom has influenced and inspired me – as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, wife, mother, teacher, etc. After I had kids of my own, I asked Mom for advice even more often than when I was young, and I loved to learn from her. To me, she was special just being “Mom”; albeit, to the rest of the world, she was special by being Gloria Pitzer, aka: the Secret RecipesTM detective.

I really consider myself lucky to have her as my mom and that I (as well as everyone else) can continue to learn from her, even from beyond, through her timeless writings – her legacy of love. That’s what I enjoy most, sharing those memories, discoveries and lessons with all of you! I also love to hear others’ stories about how Mom had touched their lives, as well.

As I’ve said many times, Mom was a pioneer and trailblazer in her field, especially being a woman! But, she was never fully on board with the Woman’s Lib movement that was going on at that time. It was a time, very similar to now – with “women-empowerment” campaigns and political upheaval, unequal pay between the sexes and below-poverty-level wages that weren’t rising proportionately with the high costs of living.

That’s when Mom set to work, writing and publishing her own recipes about how to imitate the public’s favorite fast food and restaurant dishes right at home; as well as shelf-stable grocery items and so-called “junk food”. Mom took the “junk” out of “junk food” by controlling the ingredients that went into her imitations. It was like having your cake and eating it too!

Mom often found ways to duplicate our favorite foods at a lower cost, too; and, if it saved our household money, she wanted to share it with others to help them save money as well – ‘because’, as Mom would say, ‘great recipes need to be shared!’

In the early 1970s, during the beginning years of what was to become Mom’s Secret RecipesTM legacy – which she often described as a “cottage industry” and “dining room table” family-operation – she had built up an index of about 200 “copycat” recipes, mostly favorites from the requests of her readers, family and friends. Mom developed and tested all of her recipes, herself, sometimes by taste-test-comparisons to the original products and sometimes from just a description by the requester.

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

It didn’t seem to take long before Mom’s collection of recipes grew from hundreds to thousands and went from individual-index-card-sales to multiple self-published cookbooks and newsletters, for over 40 years before she “retired”. But, do writers ever really retire? Mom continued writing in her journals, just for her own joy and not for publishing.

I don’t have copies of all of Mom’s books and newsletters, but I have a lot and they are my FAVORITE go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my new blog-writing journey. Mom’s “cottage industry” creations (her self-published newsletters and books) are as unique in their style as they are in their content – including large collections of recipes sandwiched between household tips, comedic quips, “Food-for-Thought” articles and food-for-the-soul editorials. Mom often compared her handiworks to coffee-table-reading-material because they feed the mind and soul, as well as the belly.

Within the first year of her newsletter publication, Mom was getting national and international recognition for her talents and ingenuity. For the most part, Mom self-promoted her recipes through radio talk-show programs aimed at the homemaker. But, very quickly, newspapers and magazines picked up on the stories of a small town housewife who blazed a trail for recreating favorite restaurant dishes, fast food, junk food and grocery products at home. Even television news and talk shows, locally and internationally (in Canada), were contacting Mom with requests for interviews. [I’ll write more about those next week.]

None of Mom’s original, self-published books and newsletters are in print anymore. But, you can find used copies on eBay and Amazon. The only book of Mom’s, currently in print, is her last book, on which I collaborated with her, during the last few years of her life. It was Mom’s favorite, self-published cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing) and we wanted to have it re-published to inspire new generations in this “digital age”.

But, first, the new edition had to be re-written in Microsoft Word, which took me a couple of years (working “part-time”) to complete. The whole process created a new and unique bond between me and Mom. All of the highs and lows and pain and joy of re-writing the book to the new publisher’s specifications, while maintaining as much of the original content as possible – it was like giving birth all over again. Mom agreed that each of her books were like her children, to which she had “given birth”.

Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, the “new” cookbook went to print (published by Balboa Press) with the title adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the 1st printed copy, but she was so thrilled that her favorite book was being published again, even though it was by a publishing house – which she swore for decades that she’d never do. Nonetheless, time and age change a lot of things.

I have the first “author’s copy” now. It’s another of my favorite things because it represents the unique time and bond that it granted me with Mom, during the whole re-writing and re-publishing process, before she passed away.

No one else, before Mom, had ever taken on imitating the public’s favorite products and dishes from some of their favorite companies like McDonald’s, White Castle, Wendy’s, KFC, Arby’s, Applebee’s, Big Boy, Bob Evan’s, Hershey’s, Hostess, Sarah Lee, and so many more (based on the requests she received)! Mom even took on the companies and their lawyers who started demanding that she cease and desist her imitations!

Mom insisted that she didn’t know what these companies actually put in their own “secret” recipes; but she could certainly GUESS and create an imitation similar to, if not better than, the original product. The retail industry was already doing the same thing with the introduction of “generic” products in the stores. Similarly, she changed the names of her imitations to be like (but not the same as) the dish or product she was mimicking.

There were a handful of companies that saw Mom’s imitations as they were meant to be – compliments to the public’s favorite, great-tasting products. Some of Mom’s corporate “fans” included White Castle, Sanders Candy Co. and Hershey’s – to name a few.

Mom didn’t do a lot of television appearances – only a few local and a few national shows – she thought of them as more like cooking demonstrations, where she didn’t get to connect with as much of the audience as she did on the radio shows in which she took part. But television made a huge impact on Mom’s business. I’ll further discuss the TV shows mom did in next week’s blog entry. But, for now…Mom’s favorite experience in her Secret RecipesTM career…

The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing) is now in print as Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018)

It was her first appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” (July 7, 1981) that created the MOST overwhelming response to Mom’s copycat cookery – more than she (or any of our family) could have ever expected! Over a million letters came through our small town post office, just for Secret RecipesTM and the Recipe DetectiveTM. The whole family (and some of my girlfriends) were working day and night that summer to process it all. In some ways, it was a devastating mess for a “dining-room-table” family operation! But, there’s no denying, it was also a great learning experience!

Despite the fallout, the show opened many doors for Mom that she never expected; allowing her to let her light shine bright and inspire others world-wide. That is why, it always remained one of Mom’s “Top 10” favorite experiences. She even agreed to appear on the show, again, almost 12 years later, on April 16, 1993 – but, only on the condition that they not give out her contact information!

The show was only allowed to give out copies of the recipes Mom demonstrated on that episode. As a result, the public’s requests for transcripts of that episode broke the show’s record! They sent Mom a plaque to commemorate it – another of Mom’s favorite things. A rough recording of that 1993 episode can be found on YouTube, in 5 parts. Regardless, the whole experience, Mom’s inspiring light kept shining until the day she passed away. Now, I attempt to carry her torch in her honor.

Whenever my husband and I host a football party (like we did last weekend)… or any party for that matter, I love to channel my mom, whether I’m planning to serve a big meal or simple hors d’oeuvres. My mom was the hostess with the “most-ess”.

I have my own “Rolodex” of ideas, but most of them were inspired by my mom, first; then, ‘Pitzer-ised’ to fit my diet (or somebody’s diet) at the time. Much like Mom, it makes me feel good to make others feel good through food and friendship and entertaining. That is a priceless feeling and another one of both of our “Top 10” favorite things.

In fact, one of my favorite fall-football-season meals to prepare is chili. Like Mom, I can make it from scratch and let it simmer all day in a slow-cooker or I can whip it up from the left-overs of “taco night” or “spaghetti night” or “sloppy joe night” – you get the gist. I can also prepare it the day before an event, to re-heat the day of while I focus on other details or simply enjoy our guests’ company without distraction.

Chili is one of those few dishes that tastes even better the second day! I can “stretch it out” to feed more than expected by adding more meat or diced tomatoes or beans or sauce. Even by using smaller bowls or mugs – or by adding toppings like shredded cheddar cheese or corn chips – making a small amount seem like a lot. Plus, adding a quick-to-make side of inexpensive cornbread or some hot dogs can also stretch the meal even farther!

IN CLOSING…

This week, I’d like to share one of my own recipes on which I get a lot of compliments – my favorite, football-gathering, chili creation. I’m inspired to reveal it to you…”because”, as Mom liked to say, “great recipes need to be shared!” As always, I’m just asking for proper credit if you care to share it…

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

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Bring on the Holidays!

Happy Monday, everyone; and happy November, too! Thank you for visiting and…

The fall/winter holidays are upon us now. For many, the countdown to “the holidays” began with the onset of the autumn solstice. Now that Halloween has passed us by, it’s only 24 more days until Thanksgiving! About four weeks after that, is the start of our winter solstice, Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah or Chanukkah), Christmas and Kwanza celebrations – all within a few days of each other.

Not only that, but in the week following those events, the 2020 new year’s festivities begin. Blink your eyes again and suddenly the Super Bowl festivities will be here, followed by Valentine’s Day a couple of weeks later and, then, St. Patrick’s Day a few more weeks after that – and all before the spring solstice arrives in March!

Nonetheless, all of those many fall/winter holidays that are still to come will, seemingly, be here and gone before you know it – so, start preparing now by making checklists and you won’t forget or miss anything. Even Santa makes lists (and checks them twice) to stay organized during the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays. In addition, you’ll also be better able to enjoy the holidays and the gatherings, yourself. After all, who wants to feel stressed out and/or left out during the holidays, while trying to “get it all done” at the last minute?

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

ADVICE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 4)

THANKSGIVING

The make-ahead dishes for the thanksgiving dinner will help to relieve the cook of those last-minute chores and this leaves more time to enjoy the company. After all, the reason we gather together on this occasion is not to make the food more important than those with whom we share the feast.

A list of what you intend to serve is the first thing to take care of. From this you make up the grocery needs and the dishes that can be prepared…in advance…and then checked off the list so [you] can see [of] what is left to take care. It sounds to some like ‘work’ but cooking for a big group is not as much WORK as it can be a LABOR of love and the efforts you put into the party will be well-appreciated when the day arrives. These occasions are what memories are made of and memories can be quite comforting!

Mom made creative cooking a new art form when she pioneered the copycat cookery movement over 45 years ago. Before Mom began writing and publishing her own newsletters and cookbooks, she wrote many satirical stories in her syndicated food columns about not being a good cook when she and Dad were first married.

I only knew Mom as a great cook, myself; so I don’t know how much was fabricated for humor’s sake and how much was based on truth. But, like any craftsman, Mom was always fine-tuning her kitchen skills with all of her experiences over the decades.

For every holiday gathering she hosted or to which she took a dish-to-pass – even with only a few ingredients on hand – Mom was a combination of Copperfield and DaVinci (creating, both, magic and art) in the kitchen! There’s a great article called “Cooking Is An Art: What Makes A Chef An Artist, Craftsman And Visionary” by Colt Taylor (Jul 3, 2014) that I enjoyed reading. Check it out at https://www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/chef-artist-craftsman-visionary/632690!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1987)

MADE WITH LOVE

When you cook with skill, you need experience and knowledge – plus, courage to risk various combinations of ingredients of what you might only suspect will be compatible enough to produce a harmonious result. The divine principle of good cooking is not a secret! It is taking pleasure in the activity, in the information previously retained and called upon through the facilities of memory. The spirit of good cooking is individualistic. It is not shrouded in mystery – but in love, for what you are doing and for whom you are doing it! (p. 1)

SOMETHING MORE

No two cooks are ever going to have identical results with the same recipe. If such a promise accompanied all recipes, cooking would be an exact science – which it is not. Cooking is an art BASED on science. A recipe is a guideline, not a litigation! Just as you can’t tell which way the train went by looking at the tracks, neither can you tell how difficult a dish is by looking at the recipe! (p. 2)

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

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 make the mistake of starting with one ingredient and building around it.

Your task is to take the final result and break it down… working backwards from the creations 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.

Start with questioning yourself about the food you wish to duplicate… What color is it? What’s the texture like? How is it flavored? And, how is it prepared? [Also,] 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. [At that point,] 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. (p. 6)

Photo by Susan L. Tusa for an article about Mom in People Magazine (May 7, 1990; p. 81)

Mom inspired many reluctant cooks with her reliable recipes. Having the Secret RecipesTM detective as my mom certainly made my learning experiences in the kitchen, experimenting with food and seasonings, exciting and rewarding!

I rarely ever cook the same dish the same way, twice because I love to try out different food and seasoning combinations. Especially now, with my low-carb life-style. I’m so delighted and proud to have learned the art of cooking from one of the best – I love you, Mom!

I am often hearing wonderful memories from others who’ve shared the same fantastic learning experiences, with their own moms, through my mom’s cookbooks and newsletters. I love to hear how much Mom touched the lives of others and created special memories on which they can reminisce and recreate for future generations to experience – almost like traditions!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

MORE FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; January 1977)

COOKING IS BOTH, ART & SCIENCE

Cooking is not only an art, but also a science; and, when you’re trying to imitate the recipe secrets of famous restaurant and fast food chain dishes, you must work like a chemist – not a cook! You don’t have to have a background in food chemistry to identify various ingredients. The only thing I have in common with a chemist is curiosity…

Some of the famous dishes of the food industry, today [1976-1977], are vastly oversold to a very gullible public. We’ve become a television oriented society and, because the commercials are, sometimes, so much better than the programs they sponsor…

While the products don’t really come out of test tubes and laboratory beakers, they do come from combinations of ingredients that produce desired results. What you have to strive for, in imitating any recipe, is the right combination. Trial and error is the only way to arrive at a satisfactory result! (p. 1)

AN ENCOR OF PASSAGES FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Nov-Dec 1989, p. 1)

WHOLESOME, HEALTHY, HEARTY MEALS…

[Those] pretty well describe the heart and soul of good home cooking! We’re reminded of warm, roomy kitchens full of wonderful mingling aromas – where our mothers and grandmothers made marvelous meals from scratch [and] when cooking was not as much a job as it was a joy! What we seem to have forgotten is that the art of good basic cooking practices has not been lost because we have less time.

The art has been lost because the interest in it has dwindled. We still have the same number of hours in our day that Grandma had in hers. We even have less manual labor to perform than she did in her day, but we don’t always think so. Making the time is what it really takes when reluctance sets in. However, when the chips are down, the reluctant cook wants reliable recipes to work with – not masterpieces…

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home Cookbook (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 1)

A PHILOSOPHY

A whole approach to life, can be expressed in a bowl of soup. For ‘cooking’, as everyone is so fond of saying, ‘is an art.’ It’s an art we all can learn. As with the other arts, practicing it competently requires care, patience and the skill that comes with experience. But, above all else, to be a good cook, you must WANT to.

At one time or another, most of us have had the experience of cooking when we really didn’t feel like doing it, Then, even our tried-and-true recipes are apt to be disappointing [and] lifeless. Something just isn’t there.

What’s missing is the spirit of the cook. For food is more than a physical substance. It has an intangible quality that nourishes our spirits. A good dish, lovingly prepared, at some point in the process of tasting and blending, becomes more than the sum of its ingredients. Its flavor [and] its uniqueness are created by the cook.

YOU WILL FIND PLEASURE AND EXCITEMENT IN COOKING, IF YOU PUT THEM INTO IT…

There’s no limit to the satisfaction you can gain. Taste as you go. Experiment with a little with seasonings. Try new foods and new combinations [of food]. The results will have ‘you’ in them. You will face the job with a feeling of freedom, with a feeling of creativeness; and, both, you and your family will be constantly increasing the enjoyment of living.

When you cook this way, with warmth and active pleasure, your meals will be more than just food. Your zest and your spirit will be in them – and some of the radiance of Life, itself.

‘[At a potluck,] the best way to tell how successful a dish will be is to look for the first one to disappear. Find the cook & get the recipe!’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair MI; Sep-Oct 1990)

Mom would always describe her newsletter issues as being “like getting together…for coffee with friends.” Writing was Mom’s “happy place”. She often said, of her newsletters, “it’s like getting together…for coffee with friends.”

I can certainly relate to that now. I love writing these weekly blog entries about my memories of Mom and how she’s impacted my life, as well as so many others’ lives. As I said above, I love hearing from others about their memories in the kitchen with their moms, creating special dishes or treats from my mom’s recipes.

Please continue to send me your memories and stories of how Mom touched your lives at therecipedetective@outlook.com – I look forward to hearing from you!

IN CLOSING…

When I think of November, feel-good, warm-up-the-innards kind of meals, I often think of hearty soups. The following is Mom’s copycat imitation for a cheesy potato soup like the one she enjoyed at a local Bob Evans restaurant. Mom called her imitation “Bob Oven’s Potato & Cheese Soup”.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Chocolate Almond Bark, like Sanders!

Sanders Candy logo

CHOCOLATE ALMOND BARK – Like Sanders!

By Gloria Pitzer, part of her original 200 recipes collection, developed in the early-to-mid 1970s.

[As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 233).]

When you look at all the marvelous candies that Sanders offers, be sure to look for their almond bark. If you are not in an area where Sanders products are available, you can try my “poor man’s” version; which, while I was living in California, and couldn’t find Sanders products, was sufficient to remind me of the days when I had a Sanders right around the corner – and loved it!

Ingredients:

12-ounce package Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips [Note: for a white chocolate bark, use the Nestle’s brand of white chocolate chips]

14-ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk

1 cup chopped almonds

Instructions:

In top of double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate and stir in the milk. When piping hot, smooth and completely melted, keep water in lower pan turned to lowest possible heat point and allow chocolate mixture to cook that way for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and scraping down sides of pan often. Then remove from the heat and add almonds. Spread over bottom of greased jellyroll pan, 10 x 15.5 x 1”, to a very thin layer. Allow to harden at room temperature. Break into pieces and store in covered container away from warm places or humidity. Makes oodles!

Beginagain’s Awesome Potato Cheese Soup

Beginagain’s Awesome Potato Cheese Soup

By Gloria Pitzer,  as seen on her Fall Media Free Offer sheet (2002-2004)

Ingredients:

14-oz. can drained, whole potatoes (cut up)

2 cans (10-oz. each) Campbell’s Chicken Broth

10-oz. can cream of chicken soup

12-oz. tub whipped cream cheese (original)

1 TB dry minced onion

16 square saltine crackers, blender-ground to fine powder

season salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In medium sauce pan, on medium heat, combine all but the cracker crumbs, stirring until cheese melts. Bring to serving temperature, then stir in cracker powder and heat for 3 minutes or so to let crumbs dissolve to thicken the soup. Add season salt and pepper, to taste. Divide between 6 soup bowls and garnish the top of each with 1 TB Hormel’s Real Bacon Pieces, scissor-snipped green onions and 1 TB shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Mrs. Meadow’s Chocolate Chip Cookies [*with options]

Mrs. Meadow’s Chocolate Chip Cookies [*with options]

By Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Fast Food Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; March 1985, p. 86)

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter (1/2 lb.)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

3 cups self-rising flour

12-oz. bag chocolate chips

Instructions:

Cream together the butter, sugars and eggs. Add flour a little bit at a time. Work in chips. Drop by tablespoonful onto a Pam-sprayed baking sheet (wiping off any excess spray first). Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until golden blonde. Cool on baking sheet a few minutes, then transfer onto paper towels to finish cooling.

*Option 1: Turtle Sundae Cookies – [to the recipe above] when you add the chocolate chips, also add a 10-oz. bag English toffee bits and 1 cup chopped pecans. Continue as the recipe directs.

*Option 2: Peanut Butter Cookies – [to the initial recipe, above] with the flour, also add 1 1/2 cups blender-chopped peanuts and 12-oz bag peanut butter morsels (in place of the chocolate chips). Continue as the recipe directs. Makes about 5-dozen cookies.

 

No Egg Pudding Cake

No Egg Pudding Cake

By Gloria Pitzer, “Cookbook Corner” (Happy Newspaper Features, Algonac, MI; 1973)

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup sugar

2 TB unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup milk

2 TB oil

1 cup broken walnuts

1 cup brown sugar, combined with 1/2 cup additional unsweetened cocoa

1 3/4 cup hot tap water

shredded coconut or chopped walnuts, to garnish

Instructions:

In a roomy bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients, as listed. Pour mixture into an 8-inch buttered pan. Sprinkle batter with the sugar-cocoa mixture. Carefully pour the hot tap water over this and DO NOT STIR! Slide it, undisturbed, into a 350°F oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Invert it onto a platter, scraping down excess topping. Sprinkle top with shredded coconut or chopped walnuts, to garnish. Best served while warm.

Pepper Casserole

 

Pepper Casserole

By Gloria Pitzer, “Cookbook Corner” (Happy Newspaper Features, Algonac, MI; 1973)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. hamburger

1 pkg. dry onion soup mix

4 green peppers [halved, with seeds & ribs removed]

2 lbs. canned stewed tomatoes

1 cup celery, sliced thin

2 vegetable bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1 C. boiling water

2 TB Worcestershire

Parsley flakes for garnish

Instructions:

Mix the hamburger and soup mix together. Fill the 8 pepper halves with the meat mixture and place in an accommodating Dutch oven, with lid. Cover stuffed peppers with the rest of the ingredients, as listed. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and bake at 400°F, for 50 minutes. Sufficiently serves 6.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Great Recipes Need to be Shared!

Happy Monday and, of course, happy National Chocolate Day!

#NationalChocolateDay

According to NationalDayCalendar.com, today is National Chocolate Day and was created by the National Confectioners Association. There are other chocolate celebrations throughout the year – just five weeks ago, I discussed the celebration of National White Chocolate Day.

As I mentioned in that blog entry, “Let us Celebrate Chocolate” (Sep. 23, 2019), Mom LOVED chocolate! And who doesn’t? I love chocolate, myself; but, it doesn’t bode well with my limited, daily, carbohydrate allowance. However, like Mom, I investigated ways I could imitate one of my favorite chocolate treats, no-bake cookies, with limited amounts of carbs.

I remember when I was just a little kid, maybe 4 or 5 years old, I liked to call them “mud puddle cookies”! Now, I can enjoy these treats once again – in moderation, of course, at 3 grams of carbs per 1/8-cup-sized cookie. I call my recipe “Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes” and I’ll share it with you at the end of this blog; as this website is sub-titled and as Mom liked to say, “Because great recipes need to be shared!”

One name in chocolate that Michiganders know well is Sanders Candy. The official Sanders story can be found at https://www.sanderscandy.com/about-us. When Mom developed her copycat version of Sanders’ Hot Fudge Sauce, one of her original 200 copycat recipes (from the 1970s) that launched her career as the Recipe DetectiveTM, a secret she discovered was that Nestle brand milk chocolate was the key ingredient in replicating it’s creaminess and flavor, as no other brand brought the same flavor and texture that she was trying to achieve. I’ve shared a couple of her Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce imitations in the “Recipes” tab on this website. It was always one of our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s copycat creations!

Sanders Candy logo

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 192)

ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS BAKERIES of our time is, of course, the Fred Sanders’ Company. What they’ve created for Detroiters, in the decades of their thriving popularity, have made lasting-memories. Each time I visit with a radio station, anywhere around the country, a displaced Detroiter will certainly always request a recipe that would be for one of the Sanders’ products that they can’t find in their new area. It is, indeed, a complement to a company that they’ve remained a popular favorite over many years.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 252-254)

When memories visit you, years from now, you will probably recall among the famous ice cream places were Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins, Howard Johnson’s, Sanders and Friendly’s restaurants – as well as the famous specialties like Sander’s hot fudge topping, Eskimo pies, Spumoni (with chunks of cherries, almonds and pistachios included) – [plus], creamy, thick malts and milk shakes. These will remain favorites of an adoring public of loyal fans, despite the critics and experts who would have us replace all these with bean sprouts, alfalfa and carob products…

SANDERS’ HOT FUDGE [SAUCE] was one of the nicest experiences I had in working with imitations of the famous recipes, for John (Jack) Sanders, the grandson and president of the company founded by his grandfather, Fred, was one of the sponsors of Warren Pierce’s [Detroit area] radio show. Imagine my reluctance to share, with his listeners, my version of Sander’s hot fudge.

I had previously had so many threatening letters from food company lawyers that I didn’t know what to expect if I heard from the Sanders people! To my amazement, the letter we anticipated did arrive only 2 days after I gave my version of their hot fudge [sauce] to Warren’s listeners. The letter, however, said – if it wouldn’t ruin my fun in trying to duplicate these famous dishes, would Paul and I and all the kids kindly accept an invitation from Jack Sanders to tour their Oakman Boulevard Bakery and Confection plant and meet their Head Chef, Edy Mader.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 256)

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sanders’ products and, I learned, encouraged many out-of-state orders for their products whenever I talked about them during my frequent radio visits around the country.

‘When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…’ – historical slogan for Sanders’ restaurant, bakery and candy company

Another delicious, chocolate creation from Mom’s original 200 recipes (again, from the 1970s), which started her Recipe DetectiveTM career, was that for an imitation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Mom called her copycat version “Recess Peanut Butter Cups”. As I’ve mentioned before, some food companies, like Sanders, were honored by Mom’s efforts of flattery through imitating their products; while most others threatened her with lawsuits!

The Hershey corporation happened to be a slight mixture of both, threatening and flattered. At first, Hershey’s attorneys wrote to Mom to cease and desist the use of her recipe title, “Recess Peanut Butter Cups” because it too closely resembled their trademark name, “Reese’s”, as to cause confusion between the products; inferring lawsuits would follow if she didn’t cooperate. But, instead, Mom explained to them the meaning behind her title, using the word recess (as in a retreat); she also offered to only use (and promote) Hershey’s brand chocolate in the recipe. The Hershey corporation was agreeable to, both, Mom’s explanation and her offer.

I’ve previously shared Mom’s copycat versions of these yummy chocolate delights (mentioned above) in my blogs and you can also find them in the “Recipes” tab on this website. When it comes to chocolate treats like Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce and Recess Peanut Butter Cups, both were always among our family’s top 10 favorites of Mom’s original copycat creations – and they were also top favorites among Mom’s many fans and followers! So, here they are for you again (see below)!

SO, IN CLOSING…

P.S. MORE ON…

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

Almost 32 weeks ago, on the first day of spring, I adopted a low-carb lifestyle based on the “Atkins Diet”. Having hypoglycemia and being at least 55 pounds overweight, I felt 20 years older than I should have felt. I had a lot of joint pain, sciatica and arthritis problems. Thus, I decided to make a life-style change, like I did when I quit smoking cigarettes over 13 years ago. I chose to commit to living without most carbs – like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and sugar – you know, all the good stuff!

I looked at the Keto diet, but it was too high in fat for me, as I don’t have a gall bladder anymore to filter such things. Those types of carbs that I mentioned above messed with my blood sugar levels, even when I switched to whole grains (though not as much then). In addition, because of my metabolism, it messed with my weight and overall health, as well! I realized that I was only cheating myself whenever I made bad choices on what I ate for meals and snacks. So, I came to terms with the release of most carbs in my life in the same way as I released tobacco from my life-style.

I had to mentally accept that this is a permanent change for me – not just until I reach my goal because, if I go back to my old life-style, then I also go back to my obese weight. I’m done with that! Now, I just continue to make wiser choices regarding what I consume; as well as how much because even if something is “carb-free”, it’s not necessarily free of calories or other content. I find that “everything in moderation” is the best rule by which to live. Below are some comparative pictures of me from last year and today.

After starting out at a 20-gram-carb-limit per day, for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit to 25 grams a day and have kept it there, for the most part, ever since. So far, for me, that seems to be the magic number at which I feel my best and not regain any of the weight that I’ve lost. However, I know, with a regular exercise routine, I would be even healthier; but, I have yet to make the mental commitment to it. I need to go through the same mental process for exercising that I did for the other healthier life-changes I’ve made – I need to mentally see it as a priority in my life. But, honestly, for now, it is just another goal for which I need to commit and set my “start date” to just do it!

I miss Sanders chocolate, on this low-carb lifestyle. By the way, sugar-free chocolate is not the same as real chocolate! Though, while I miss chocolate (and other carbs), I don’t miss the 50 pounds that I’ve lost so far! I also don’t miss the back pains and joint pains in my hips, knees and feet – all the parts that had to carry all of my extra weight.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I created a low-carb, no-bake cookie that I can enjoy as much as I did my favorite high-carb version that was, my friend, Karen’s recipe. I don’t know from where Karen originally got her recipe, but they were sinfully good! Unfortunately, my friend Karen passed away from cancer over four years ago. I miss her dearly and I cherish the wonderful, sweet recipes that she shared with me before she left this earth. But, now, I have to revise them to fit my new low-carb life-style.

Karen Leverich Ladd (1964-2015)

My next challenge is Karen’s recipe for homemade Peanut Brittle. Again, I don’t know if she developed it herself or got it from another source, but it’s another incredible recipe that I want to enjoy again, especially during the coming holidays! First, I need to come up with a low carb version of corn syrup. That’s where my mom’s talents come in handy, as she has a lot of recipes that she developed for imitating grocery products at home, including a homemade version of Karo’s light syrup product. I will have to experiment with it to create a sugar-free/low-carb version that will be able to be substituted for the real thing and still create the same or similar result in the final product.

For the time being, I was determined to make a copycat version of Karen’s no-bake cookies that was low enough in carbs for me to enjoy again – in moderation, of course. I call my version (below) “Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes”…and, as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it…

Heavenly Low-Carb No-Bakes by Laura (Pitzer) Emerich

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

October is still, among other things, National Book Month & National Reading Group Month & National Cookbook Month!

#NationalBookMonth #NationalReadingGroupMonth #NationalCookbookMonth

‘A cookbook should be as exciting as a good mystery!’ – Gloria Pitzer

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Cup Runneth Over

Happy Monday and happy National Food Day!

#NationalFoodDay

As I said at the end of last week’s blog, today is National Food Day; plus, it’s also Pumpkin Cheesecake Day! See the end of this blog for a copy of Mom’s sugar-free recipe for the latter. Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis by making some of her own groceries, including special sweets and treats like Sarah Lee’s cheesecake, Hostess cake products and Famous Amos’ cookies to name a few.

Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom, first, developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts!

There were never any cookbooks out, prior to Mom’s first collection (in the mid-to-late 1970s), that offered copycat recipes for creating imitations of fast food and junk food favorites (without the junk in them), grocery products and famous dishes from famous restaurants.

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

At the time, in the early-1970s, Mom was writing and syndicating columns, focused on homemakers like her. They went out to multiple newspapers and magazines across the states. After a short syndication term with Columbia Features, Mom started syndicating her own columns. She often received requests from her readers whose families couldn’t afford to eat out, wanting to know how to make something at home and save on their food budget. She, too, felt a need or want for the same thing.

When Mom first began what was, later, to become her Secret RecipesTM legacy, and from which she also came to earn her title as the Recipe DetectiveTM; she had invented a copycat version of McDonald’s “Secret Sauce” and another for a cheesecake like Sarah Lee’s; requests for which she had received from her readers. Once Mom figured out one imitation and printed it, one request after another would come in for Mom to answer. I printed these recipes in two previous blog entries, but here they are again for your enjoyment…

Mom loved all the new challenges that came in for her to research and develop. At first, the publishers were all in favor of Mom writing what she thought her audience wanted in her column. However, when their advertisers put up a fuss about Mom’s imitations, the publishers told her to stop doing the copycat recipes or they’d have to let her go.

Realizing that this was an unexplored area of the food industry and that there were wants/needs, as she read in her readers’ letters, for making favorite food products at home; Mom left to start her own publication, telling the publishers to mail her last check to her. During the previous twenty years, working many different positions in the newspaper industry, Mom had picked up a lot of knowledge about how to put out a paper.

#NationalNewspaperWeek

[By the way, National Newspaper Week began on the 1st Sunday of October, thus it ran from the 6th to the 12th.]

Mom reached out to her friends, family, neighbors and newspaper contacts and, in January 1974, she put out her first newsletter issue to a couple hundred subscribers. Initially, Mom was influenced by such talented women as Carol Duvall, Erma Bombeck and Elsie Masterton; designing her own publication to be a patch-work-quilt full of humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table…the kinds of things women would likely discuss while sitting around the kitchen table, visiting and having coffee.

Mom called it a family, cottage-style operation. In order to balance all of her responsibilities, she involved all of the family…testing recipes, doing artwork, promoting and other such things. Aside from the newsletter, Mom sold her recipes, printed on index cards, for a quarter each or 5 for a dollar. When her recipe collection grew into the hundreds, Mom started developing and publishing her own cookbooks in the same manner as her newsletter issues, including all of the humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table.

Mom’s following grew quickly, once word got out across the wire service that a small-town Michigan housewife was developing make-alike recipes for recreating famous food products at home, and the response had a snowball effect. There were many interviews by radio talk show hosts, as well as newspaper and magazine columnists; plus, some television appearances (first, locally and then nationally.)

#TVTalkShowHostDay

Wednesday, the 23rd, is National TV Talk Show Host Day (and, the late, Johnny Carson’s birthday.) A couple of national TV talk shows that Mom appeared on were the Phil Donahue Show (twice – 1981 and 1993) & the Home Show (1984?), where she met Wally Amos of the Famous Amos brand sweets.

Mom was also invited to appear on the Tonight Show; but had been so over-whelmed by her other TV appearances and the audiences’ responses and orders that our family just couldn’t keep up. Not wanting to get so big that she may lose her enjoyment in what she does, Mom, regretfully, had to decline. However, she did get to know Ed McMahan and his wife, Pam, since they were originally from Michigan. Michiganders are kindred spirits!

Thanks from Ed & Pam McMahon

As I wrote about in a February blog entry, people loved Mom’s fresh, new ideas on how to make fast food, junk food, grocery products and famous restaurant dishes right at home, easily and at less cost. Times were financially tough back then – there was a recession going on, as well as a food crisis.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing – pp. 6-7)

…[it was] amid an economic recession with the highest rate of unemployment I had ever experienced, but it was worth the risk. I was a dedicated writer that new someone had to give homemakers something more than what they were being given in the colored glossy magazines…There had to be more to mealtime… The food industry gave us more appealing products than did the cookbooks we trusted.

THEY LAUGHED! THEY DOUBTED! They even tried to take me to court when some famous food companies insisted that I stop giving away their secrets. They couldn’t believe me when I said that I did NOT know, nor did I want to know, what they put in their so-called secret recipes. I did know that there were very few recipes that couldn’t be duplicated or imitated at home… for much less than purchasing the original product…

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery. – Charles Caleb Colton

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950’s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There was speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy ‘eating out’, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants…

Who would want to imitate ‘fast food’ at home? I found that over a million people who saw me demonstrate replicating some famous fast food products on The Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981) DID – and their letters poured in at a rate of over 15,000 a day for months on end! While I have investigated the recipes, dishes and cooking techniques of ‘fine’ dining rooms around the world, I received more requests from people who wanted to know how to make things like McDonald’s Special Sauce or General Foods Shake-N-Bake coating mix or White Castle’s hamburgers than I received for those things like Club 21’s Coq Au Vin.

IN CLOSING…

Since today is, among other things, National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day

#PumpkinCheesecakeDay

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

October is also, among other things, National Book Month & National Reading Group Month & National Cookbook Month!

#NationalBookMonth #NationalReadingGroupMonth #NationalCookbookMonth

‘A cookbook should be as exciting as a good mystery!’ – Gloria Pitzer

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253