1997 – Gloria Pitzer Presents Restaurant Recipe Secrets

1997 Jan – Gloria Pitzer Presents Restaurant Recipe Secrets

1997 – Gloria Pitzer Presents Restaurant Recipe Secrets was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook, having 60 pages and an 8.5” x 11” format, includes “Our Story” & information about our family, The Donahue Show phenomena (pgs. 16-17)… plus, imitations of products and dishes from Kraft, LA Choy, Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans and Ponderosa…ingredient substitutions as well.

In the old days, chefs were flattered when asked to share a recipe. But, now, they can’t afford to give out the secrets that make their dishes special and unique. That’s where Gloria comes in, as she attempts to figure it out, following her hunches on which ingredients will probably produce an identical flavor or similar texture to the famous product or dish.

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “And Other Classified Information for Imitating Famous Food at Home!” and “Recipes Inspired by Restaurant Specialties”
  • Printings: 7+
  • Years: Jun 1996 – May 2001+
  • Recipes: 268 listed in the 3rd printing (Jan 1997)
  • Pages: 60
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11″
  • Original Price: $8.75, sold for $9.75 in Nov 2000
  • Used copies on eBay: $11
  • Used copies on Amazon: $16.61
  • ISBN: 1-8861-38-09-5
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

Comments:

4 out of 5 stars – Gloria Pitzer, The Recipe Detective – September 22, 2009 – By Dolores H Evans
I’ve collected many of Gloria Pitzer recipe books and bulletins since 1977. She is great and right on in duplicating many recipes. I loaned out “Sugar Free Recipes” (1987-88) book and am searching for a replacement as it is out of print. I was happy to find many of her books on the Internet. I’ll keep searching.

“Gloria Pitzer, The Recipe Detective” – Written by John Thorne, 1986

Sometime in the mid-1970s, Gloria Pitzer [quit] her job as food editor at a local paper because she insisted on giving readers the recipes they wanted, not the recipes her editor felt they ought to want. Still convinced that she was right, she took in ironing until she had scraped up enough to purchase a mimeograph machine, and started sending out a food letter, The Secret Recipe Report. (Now called Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Quarterly, it may well be the longest-lived food letter ever.) Ten years later she was making regular appearances on radio cooking talk shows all around the country and selling hundreds of thousands of copies of the cookbooks into which she was periodically gathering these “secret recipes,” most famously her Better Cookery Cookbook: Secret Recipes for Famous Foods from Famous Places.

This triumph was built on the brilliant intuition that a lot of home cooks were tired of the recipes offered in most cookbooks and newspaper food pages. These, usually, break down into two general categories: dishes that, on the one hand, require the cook to tackle new methods and new ingredients for ends that may or may not prove worth the effort and, on the other, the all-too-familiar round of penny-scraping, time-cheating, fat-wary throw-togethers.

What Pitzer understood was that while this was what her readers may have said they wanted, it was secretly what they yearned to escape. Although they might be afraid to admit this, even to themselves, what would most excite them would be to learn how to make the food they most loved to eat: the fast food they bought at McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken and the brand-name treats they brought home from the supermarket, stuff like Oreo cookies and Hostess Snowballs.

So, Gloria Pitzer assumed both the title and role of the “Recipe Detective” and set out to decode these foods — at least to the point where she could replicate them in her own home kitchen. And she succeeded at this beyond her wildest dreams — sometimes to corporate fury and sometimes to its amused acquiescence.

It quickly became apparent that she had touched a public nerve. Her radio appearances — helped by her perky, unpretentious personality and unabashed enthusiasm — brought her thousands of letters. When she went on national television to teach Phil Donahue how to make Twinkies, she received over a million pieces of mail…an event that so traumatized her that she subsequently refused to appear on Good Morning America or in People Magazine. (Nor did she return to the Phil Donahue show for another twelve years. But, when she did in 1993, there were over five hundred thousand requests for a transcript — more than any other in the history of the show.)

Cookbooks offering homemade versions of popular restaurant and brand-name foods are nothing new. What made Gloria Pitzer different was both what she chose to replicate and how she chose to do it. For instance, Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie, in their award-winning Better than Store Bought, eschewed brand-name replication entirely, teaching their readers instead to make corn chips or tomato catsup in a healthier and more economical fashion. These authors shrink from any association with the shameful thrill of a mouthful of Pringles or raspberry-flavored marshmallow fluff.

In complete contrariety, Gloria Pitzer actively promotes what is vulgarly excessive about such things, instinctively grasping that it was the way junk food breaches culinary decorum that makes it so desirable in the first place. Consequently, her versions are often worse for us than the originals and, sometimes even more expensive to make.

You would search in vain in Better than Store Bought for a recipe for Cheez Whiz; Gloria Pitzer gives us two. She also explains what we surely would always have wanted to know if we ever believed anyone would tell us: how to make Lipton’s instant cream of tomato soup, Eagle Brand condensed milk, General Foods “Suisse Mocha” instant coffee…and a host of other such familiars. Only Dream Whip has so far managed to stymie her, and that probably not for long.

How does the Recipe Detective go about deducing the secrets of these patent formulas? By trying, tasting, and — when these are available — perhaps casting a very casual glance at the ingredient list. Indeed, what to my mind makes Pitzer a true artist is her lack of interest in with what exactly a particular product is made. As she puts if forthrightly: “I do not know, nor do I WANT to know what these companies put into their recipes.” What she wants to replicate is less it than the experience of eating it.

So, to copy a forty-eight-ounce jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, she blends the expected ingredients — oil, eggs, lemon juice, vinegar, salt — with some that you might not expect — three-quarters of a cup each of sugar and evaporated milk and two sticks of margarine. Then, to offset the incredible greasy richness that this produces (did I mention the six egg yolks?), she ups the lemon juice and vinegar to a third of a cup each and the salt to four teaspoons.

A spoonful of this mixture explodes in the mouth like a culinary hand grenade. Salt! Sweet! Sour! Fat! — all hit the taste buds simultaneously and with overwhelming intensity. This is cooking as an act of sensual violence. And while not all her recipes are like this, many are. Some go further.

Taken as a whole, this cooking is to ordinary fare as scarlet-covered romances are to ordinary life…normal caution cast aside for the pleasure of total surrender to the charming — and surely not totally unscrupulous — ravisher. Such food doesn’t ask to be tasted; it compels the mouth to submit. The message: when pleasure forces itself on you, there’s no blame in yielding. Relax and enjoy it.

Certainly, Gloria Pitzer herself treats the sweet-talking blandishments of her seducers as gospel truth. She writes with a straight face that the beef from which White Castle makes its hamburgers is “of such a high quality we can’t possibly equal it with what we buy in our supermarkets….” She spends months decoding Arthur Treacher’s “secret” fish fry batter and the Colonel’s “secret” eleven herbs and spices.

It isn’t, of course, that I don’t think such secrets exist. I’m sure they do. I just don’t think they have all that much influence on anyone’s decision to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken. This may be why, when Pitzer and Colonel Sanders chatted together once on a radio program, he genially hinted that she look around the grocery store for a packaged mix that might contain eleven secret herbs and spices. Pitzer diligently did just that-to discover that the secret behind that finger lickin’ flavor was Good Seasons brand Italian salad dressing mix.

Another cook might have been dismayed — some secret! — but Pitzer was thrilled. Here, suddenly, reality was replicating fantasy, her fantasy. Her final recipe — for three pounds of fryer parts — mixes two packets of the salad seasoning into a blend of butter, corn oil, Crisco, milk, lemon juice, and sage-and-paprika-seasoned pancake mix.

Because it bombards us with pleasurable and un-resistible stimuli, junk food offers an immediate comfort that ordinary food cannot… a comfort that few of us can resist all the time. But as it coddles, it also betrays, for like many seducers it is not what it pretends to be. We know this, and we don’t care. There is eating where the mouth is inquisitive, aggressive, alert, and appreciative because it genuinely wants to get to know what it is devouring. Then, like an encounter between two strangers in pick-up bar, both looking for an easy one-night stand, there is eating that knows it had best not look too closely and just take it as it comes.

Such encounters have their flavor, but that comes from a willed confusion of fantasy and reality, of appearance and substance, reinforced by the ambience of the bar and smooth talk that is at once sincere and empty. In the world of food, these things arise from the aura that is woven around the brand name, associations that persistent advertising persuades us to equate with our own sense of pleasure. This is why economy-minded mothers serve cheaper, frozen fried chicken to their family in a carefully preserved Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket — it’s the bucket, not the chicken (even less the herbs and spices), that provides the savor of this kind of eating.

The sobriquet “recipe detective” might at first acquaintance sound like an attempt to become fast-food’s Philip Marlowe — a solitary seeker of truth stalking the mean streets of the Miracle Mile. In Pitzer’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. The persona she projects in her writing is not that of detective-avenger but of willing victim, the romantic heroine who refuses to let go the illusions that lead, over and over again, to the threat of seduction and betrayal.

Food writing as Harlequin romance — it is in such terms, I think, that we should read her indiscriminate eagerness to justify fast food, her hymns of praise to those who make it, and, especially, her vilification of the writers who attempt to undermine its emotional solace. We should take it, that is, as defending not a belief so much as a dream.

If you go by the commercials, the Big Mac, the Diet Pepsi, the Lay’s potato chip are all you need to transform a family meal or a gathering of friends into a joyous event; they are sold, that is, as Energizer batteries for human beings. Food, perhaps, should not be put to this purpose. But it is, and it works — at least for a time. Better Cookery Cookbook — the title is without irony, since it is merely mimicking the Betty Crocker Cookbook (in case you don’t get it, she adds on the next page, “General Thrills Foods”) — because of its self-illusions, is a compelling, even touching, portrait of the author’s, and by extension, many another’s, struggles with the junk-food dream.

That unselfconscious honesty is what distances Pitzer from the more publicized mainstream writers on the pleasures of this world. The latter approach it as curious tourists in the land of Big Boys and Chicken in the Rough, tourists who keep their culinary passports in order so that they can get out at the drop of a hat. Gloria Pitzer actually lives there…and that makes all the difference.

Dream Whip has so far managed to stymie her, but that probably won’t for long.

by John Thorne, 1986

NOTE: Thorne lived in Boston for a number of years, where he self-published a number of culinary pamphlets reviewed at the time by The New York Times, which in 1983 grew into his ongoing newsletter, “Simple Cooking”. In the middle 1980s, Thorne moved to coastal Maine to devote himself exclusively to food writing, and where he became associated with Matt Lewis, who later shared a byline for a number of his books and his newsletter. Thorne’s newsletter has consisted of essays on food preparation and appreciation blended with snatches of autobiography…as well as frequent cookbook reviews. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Thorne_(writer)

Recess Peanut Butter Cups, a Make-Alike Version of Reeses

Recess Peanut Butter Cups

By Gloria Pitzer, from Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1982)

The development of this recipe grew from a request made by a local group of parents whose children followed the Feingold diet to arrest hyperactivity. It became one of my most popular recipes across the country – and when I heard from the people at Hershey’s, in Pennsylvania, they were quite upset with my having such a recipe. I assured them that the name ‘Recess’ was drawn from the dictionary definition of the word, meaning ‘a hidden or secret place’ – quite in keeping with the theme of my series. And, because Hershey’s makes the famous product by a similar name (of which there are many in various industries, such as Goodyear and Goodrich both making tires), naturally, I recommended using Hershey’s chocolate in this recipe. I have had recipes sent to me by those who also try to imitate the famous product, but they each contained powdered sugar and were more like a cookie than a candy. I detected no powder sugar in my samplings of the famous product – so I didn’t include it in my imitation.

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-oz Hershey’s milk chocolate candy bar
  • 3/4 C peanut butter
  • 4 TB butter or margarine (or 6 tablespoons melted paraffin – optional – but I use it, adding it to the chocolate when I melt it with the peanut butter. It’s up to you!)
  • 3/4 C additional peanut butter

Instructions:

  1. In top of double boiler, over HOT but not boiling, water, melt together the 1st three ingredients, stirring well.
  2. Put ¾ cup additional peanut butter in top of another double boiler over simmering water – or in a heat-proof bowl in a shallow pan of simmering water. Let peanut butter melt just to a pouring consistency.
  3. Have 24 miniature paper liners placed inside cupcake or muffin tin wells. You can place them side-by-side on a cookie sheet, but I like the support that the cupcake tin wells give the papers while the candy is “setting”.
  4. Next, divide HALF of the chocolate mixture, equally between each of the paper liners.
  5. Then, divide ALL the melted peanut butter between each of them, spooning it over the top of the chocolate.
  6. Finally, divide the remaining chocolate over the top of the peanut butter.
  7. Let it stand, at room temperature for 2 hours to “set”. Keep them refrigerated in a covered container up to a week. They’ll keep frozen for months – if they even last that long!
  8. NOTE: if you don’t want to bother with the cups, grease a 9-inch square pan, spreading half of the chocolate mixture evenly over the bottom and then the peanut butter over that and finely the remaining chocolate mixture over the peanut butter layer. Let it set until firm to the touch and cut into neat little squares. Makes about 36 pieces, depending on the size of your squares.
SPECIAL NOTE: The “Recess Peanut Butter Cups” imitation has had a few revisions over the years since Gloria first printed her make-alike version in her cookbook, The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (Nat’l Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977, p. 32); when it originally called for Nestle’s milk chocolate candy bars and noted “do no substitute”. After a few discussions with the Hershey’s company, maker of the original product she was duplicating, Gloria offered to only use, and recommend, Hershey’s chocolate instead.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Best Things in Life

What’s “best” to me may not be the same as what’s “best” to you or to anyone else. But, from all the comments I’ve read on the subject, a LOT of people seem to feel that the best things in life really are the “free stuff”.

As far back as I can remember, my mom taught me that the best things in life aren’t necessarily tangible things! Mom – as do I – always treasured things like feelings, thoughts and expressions of caring. A smile or a hug or a strong, loving, family bond (be it by blood or by choice) have always been very important “best things” too.

May 2017 – Myself, my grandson, my oldest daughter and my mom – 4 generations of family!

All of these kind of things are given and received freely…at no monetary costs. I’ve tried to teach these “values” to my kids also – as my mom taught me and her mom taught her – now my daughter teaches these values to her son. Chivalry, courtesy and civility are not dead – nor can it hibernate, as long as we continue to teach it to each new generation!

Mom once wrote: “We must…remove price tags from people. Everyone has worth; the excitement lies in the discovery of their value!…Wealth does not equal worth and so the amount of money we could have earned, but turned down instead, as a result of keeping our publications at home, is not as important as the work itself.” – as found in her self-published book, ‘My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop’, 1st Edition, December 1989; p. 106

In the Fall season of 1981, after the over-whelming response to her 1st appearance on the Phil Donahue Show – Mom was repeatedly laying her head on her desk, “in tears of anguish and fatigue”, as the family-operated, dining-room-table business went from “rags-to-riches”, in terms of public response to her creations. But, fame was not all it was jacked-up to be; and, it was taking its toll on everyone! The cookbooks couldn’t be printed fast enough, to fill all the orders that were continually coming in; some customers were upset that they hadn’t received their orders, due to all sorts of confusing reasons; and the family was stressed-out and crumbling apart from all the related fall-out of “fame”. Hence, I left home early (just before my 17th birthday), running away with a boy of whom my parents disapproved.

Mom and Dad thought that, by moving to the Los Angeles area with my younger sister (near one of my older brothers, Mike, and Mom’s oldest sister, Hazel, and her family), they could all have a new beginning and leave all their problems behind, in St. Clair. As I did, in moving to the Houston area with my boyfriend. All of us soon realized we were mistaken – about what we thought we wanted/needed and how to go about getting it.

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

Pitzer’s St. Clair House, 1978

In California, it wasn’t long before Mom and Dad started missing the things about St. Clair that originally attracted them to move there from Algonac, in the first place…the friendliness of the town, the security of walking the streets without fearing harm, the simplicity of her small-town life. As much as they loved being near their family members, out there, that they rarely got to see, Mom couldn’t work or create in California! The peace and contentment she sought, but couldn’t find there, made her suddenly re-appreciate the freedom she had of living in a small, mid-west town, and she was eager to go “home”. She went back to what she loved best – writing and radio “visits” that kept her connected with her “readers” and “listeners”.

Remembering – Recollections of how we developed our Secret Recipes and the unique circumstances under which this dining room table operation has endured… will surely never make the best sellers list, and perhaps not even interest most critics, let alone the skeptics. They predicted that the public’s interest in my kind of cookery would not last long. It continues because it has merit! – (by Gloria Pitzer; from ‘The Original 200 Plus – Secret Recipes Book’, 1st Printing, June 1997; p. 2)

During that same time period, while I was on my own journey in the Houston area with my boyfriend, I also found that to be so true. It wasn’t long before I realized that being in a new place with my boyfriend was not making either of us happy. After 5 months in the Houston area, my boyfriend and I, along with another couple, moved back to our hometown area in Michigan. But, things still weren’t good/better for either of us. I was looking through rose-colored glasses at something that was just not meant to be.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Mom found out, through friends of mine, where I was living and how I was struggling. She started sending me little, anonymous, “angel” cards with a $20 bill – no return address or any writing other than my name and address on the envelope. I knew it was from her, even though the writing was “disguised”. Angels were our “connection”. While the money did help – that I cannot deny – it was the “anonymous” angel cards, themselves, that meant the most to me. She was reaching out, without any pressure or judgement. After my boyfriend and I split up, circumstances led me back to a loving and forgiving relationship with my parents.

Mom said, of that whole experience, ‘Sometimes we need to have something, lose it and get it back again, before we can really appreciate what we have.’

Back to the best things in life – as I said in the beginning – things like feelings, thoughts and expressions of caring. A smile or a hug or a strong, loving, family bond (be it by blood or by choice) have always been very important “best things”! They are the things that truly make me happy…given and received freely…at no monetary costs.

Before Mom hung up her hat and magnifying glass to fully retire, (in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope) she was graciously giving away “free” sheets of 12-20 of her “best”, most popularly requested, recipes and information on what publications she had in print and how to get them. All her recipes are copyrighted; and one thing she always asked for, when she gave permission to copy, was to give her the proper credit for it. I am going to share one of those recipes with you each week, here in my blog, as they also appear in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

In last week’s blog, “More than 15 Minutes of Fame”, I shared her “Big Bucket In the Sky Chicken” recipe, which was also on the “free sheet”. This week, as “Pumpkin Season” begins, I’d like to share Mom’s favorite butter pie crust recipe from that “free sheet”, which is also found in her last book (cited above) on page 243.

BUTTER CRUST (My Most Dependable & Very Favorite Recipe!)

[Like Baker’s Square’s product!]

Melt ¼ pound butter – NOT margarine – in a small sauce pan on medium heat until it’s frothy, but don’t let it change color or become the least-bit brown. (I like to put the stick of butter into my heat-proof, 1 ½-quart, glass mixing bowl, placing it in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on “Defrost”.)

As soon as the butter is melted, and while it’s still hot, dump in the remaining ingredients:  1 tablespoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup all-purpose flour.

Turn your electric mixer on high and beat mixture in a bowl for about 30 seconds or until it comes away from the center and hits the sides of the bowl. Quickly gather it into a ball and pat it out to cover the bottom and sides of a Pam-sprayed, 10-inch, Pyrex pie plate. (Pyrex plates work best with this very rich recipe.) If you don’t have Pam, grease the pan in Crisco only! It might stick otherwise!

Bake crust at 375°F for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Fill as desired. Makes one 10-inch pie crust. Note: Do not double this recipe. The dough becomes difficult to work with as it cools and, then, it crumbles and breaks apart. Make one single recipe at a time.

   To make top crust: Pat out a single recipe, as given above, on a Pam-sprayed and waxed-paper-lined dinner plate. Invert crust over filling spread in crust-lined pan, per recipe of your choice. Lift off plate and peel back waxed paper. Make slits for steam to escape. Gently press crust to rim of pie pan with a floured fork (or a fork dipped in ice water.) Use an egg-wash if you wish (one egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water and brushed lightly – lapping it, rather than pressing it, over top of crust), but the butter in this crust should allow it to brown beautifully without the wash. Bake per filling recipe directions. Generally, the best temperature is at 375°F for 25 to 28 minutes or until filling begins to bubble up through the slits in the top crust in the crust is golden brown.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – More than 15 Minutes of Fame!

Hi, again, to everyone!

If you’re new to here – I am Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. I started this blog series to carry on her legacy, which is why I titled my first blog in this series “A Legacy of Love” (9/17/2018), as that is what “Secret Recipes” always was to her and what it became to me over the last few years of her life while I re-wrote her favorite cookbook for her; to be published, again, for a new generation! I ended that 1st blog with a promised continuation of the story of her experience with being on The Phil Donahue Show, and here it is!

“…it was her first appearance on ‘The Phil Donahue Show’ that created the most overwhelming response to her talents than she could have ever expected’ – from Mondays & Memories of My Mom Blog Post, 9/17/2018 (http://therecipedetective.com/category/blog/)

It was July 7, 1981 when Mom FIRST appeared on The Phil Donahue Show. She appeared, again, almost 12 years later, on April 16, 1993. The response to her 1st appearance was over-whelming, to say the least – not only to her, but to our whole family; and even to our local Post Office and the community! During her 2nd appearance, The Phil Donahue Show was not allowed to give out her contact information. The request for transcripts for that episode broke the show’s record! A rough recording of that episode can be found on YouTube, in 5 parts.

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

Here is Mom’s own account of her 1st experience, as it appears in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing, p. 298-299) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]:

It was 1977, and we were considering a move from Pearl Beach to St. Clair, since our 80-year old house was already packed, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, with recipe books and newsletter inventory. Just about the time we planned our move, the Phil Donahue show called and invited us to Dayton, Ohio to appear on their program there. I had to decline. We already had more work than we could handle, and I had found that television appearances were merely food demonstrations that I did not enjoy experiencing. I enjoyed my radio work more, and the number of stations on which I had become a regular participant had grown to include over 100 across the country and in Canada.

We were settling down in our new house in St. Clair, with our office in the basement. We outgrew that arrangement in a short time and rented a larger office uptown. But the books became more successful than we anticipated, and the newsletter circulation was growing to over 10,000. Soon, I found that we had to put the business back into our home. I couldn’t depend on being in a writing mood between our regular “office” business hours of 8 AM to 5 PM. Some of the radio shows that I took part in were on-the-air at midnight, especially my favorite visits with KMOX in St. Louis and WGY in Schenectady. With my files and reference materials at the office and me, at home on the telephone with the radio shows, the arrangement was not satisfactory. So, Paul and our 2 sons remodeled our two-car garage, attached to the kitchen, and we moved the operation back there; where, for the next 4 years, the business ran quite smoothly.

We were receiving about 1,000 letters a day from the radio shows that I took part in and the newspaper stories that I was more-or-less an acting consultant on subjects related to “fast food”. In the spring of 1981, our old friend, Carol Haddix, ran a story about our new book of “Homemade Groceries” in the Chicago Tribune, where she had just been assigned the food department. The Donahue Show people called once more and requested our appearance. We had just done a PM Magazine show with Detroit and had declined an invitation to appear in New York on Good Morning America, as well as declining an opportunity to have People Magazine interview us – and I still wonder why in the world I said I would do the Donahue show! I think it was because I had just tangled with Grit, the weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania, over giving credit to the Food editor’s teenage daughter for having developed a fish batter like Arthur Treacher’s, using club soda and pancake mix – and received an apology on the back page of one of their issues, placing the item between an ad for corn and callous remover and waste cinchers. I was also tangling with Jove Publications, who were pressing hard to sell their “Junk Food Cookbook”, using my recipes, word-for-word, with credit going to somebody else. I wanted to establish the fact that I was very much in business and willing to protect my copyrighted property with the same enthusiasm and sincerity as the major food companies had exhibited in protecting theirs from my imitations. (And believe me, we’ve heard from all the big ones!)

So, on July 6, Paul and I flew to Chicago, staying at the Hyatt O’Hare, and did the Donahue show live – for an entire hour – on July 7, flying back that same afternoon. The next day, 15,000 letters waited for us at the St. Clair post office. And every day for 4 months, we picked up thousands of letters – having received by Christmas, well over 1 million letters, requesting information on how to acquire our books, which were still available only by mail from our address. We were bogged down with an unexpected response. It was an experience of mixed blessings!

If you’ve ever seen 1 million letters, you know how we felt when we tried to handle the overwhelming response! It was exhausting! Our home, which was both our office and our sanctuary, became like a factory, with people helping us to process the mail, eventually having to return thousands of the orders to the customers with our deepest regrets that we could not, in all fairness to them, delay their order. The onslaught of mail had forced us to do this. We were all working from 7 AM until 1 or 2 AM the next morning just to open and read the mail.

Our phone bill had been buried in some of that mail and in a month’s time, being something like 23 to 24 days behind in opening the mail, our phone was shut off for non-payment of our bill. As soon as we realized what the mail was doing to us, we tried to get Donahue’s people to stop the continued scheduled showings of our appearance. But that show remained on their repeat schedule for almost a year, playing in the Panama Canal zone, Greenland, Iceland, Australia and on hundreds of small town stations.

Most of the letters requested a sheet of ‘free’ recipes that were included with the order blank for a self-addressed stamped envelope to us. The offer would have been good for us, if it had only been shown that one time – the day on which we appeared on the show – but for nearly a year afterward, the requests still came, as did the complaints and the threats to report us to postal authorities for not having sent those ‘free’ recipes, tore us apart emotionally and physically! Some people did not include their self-addressed-stamped envelope. Some envelopes were addressed to themselves, such as Joe Smith, but in care of OUR address instead of THEIR address. It was a confusing mess! Some people wrote threatening letters that they hadn’t received their orders and were turning us over to the postmaster general as frauds! I laid my head on my desk many a time, in tears of anguish and fatigue. The family was falling apart. We couldn’t print our books fast enough, to fill all the orders! Then the post office, in delivering the thousands of books that we DID mail out, lost some, destroyed some, and delayed and even miss-directed other orders…

I remembered what Dick Syatt, one of our radio friends, had told me about finally getting everything you ever wanted, when he said, ‘Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.’ Sometimes we need to have something, lose it and get it back again, before we can really appreciate what we have. I had that chance and I am so glad for it. It was a time to learn and to grow.

To Mom, the “Donahue Show” appearance always remained the single, most important part of her “Secret Recipes” growing experience. It opened many doors that would have otherwise been closed in her field, allowing her to let her light shine; and inspiring her light to keep shining. Here is Mom’s favorite recipe experience from that show, as it appears in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing, p. 89) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]:

THIS RECIPE was created on-the-spot when I discovered that my usual ingredients and…most familiar utensils were not ready…to use on The Donahue Show (… July 7, 1981) …I had to adlib the experience, calling upon every possible thing I could remember about good cooking. It was luck! And luck – of course – is when preparation and experience meet opportunity!

There was a toaster oven on the table the staff had set up for me to use during the live–telecast of the show. At 8 o’clock in the morning, the producer of the show was driving around Chicago, trying to find a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that was open, so that the audience could later compare what I had prepared to what the restaurant prepared. So, I looked at the ingredients I had on hand and tried to improvise with what was there. The on-the-spot recipe was every bit as good as what Paul & I had been publishing and was so much easier, that again we could prove that there will always be more than one way to arrive at a given result!

OVEN-FRIED KENTUCKY-STYLE CHICKEN

In doubled plastic food bags, combine well: 3 cups self-rising flour, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 envelopes Lipton Tomato Cup-a-Soup powder (see Index for my “Cup-of-Thoup” recipe), 2 packages Good Seasons’ Italian dressing mix powder and 1 teaspoon season salt. Twist the end of the bags tightly, creating an inflated balloon affect. Then shake the mixture well to combine.

Spray a jellyroll pan (10 x 15 x 3/4-inch) with Pam or wipe it well with oil. Run a cut-up chicken fryer under cold water and let excess water drip off, putting all the pieces into a colander to drain a few minutes. Dredge pieces one at a time in the flour mixture, by placing each piece in the bag of seasoned flour and shaking to coat. Arrange the coated pieces, skin-side up on prepared pan. Melt ¼ pound margarine or butter and, using a 1-inch-wide, soft-bristled, pastry brush (or one from a paint store with soft hair bristles – NOT plastic bristles,) dab the melted butter or margarine over the floured surface (skin-side only) of each chicken piece. When all the melted butter or margarine has been divided between the pieces, bake it in a 350°F oven, uncovered, for 1 hour or until golden brown and tender.

FOR CRISPY COATING: After applying melted butter or margarine, dust pieces with a few additional tablespoons of seasoned flour and drizzle with more melted butter or margarine before baking. Serves 4 to 6.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Labor of Love

I was going to continue from the end of last week’s blog, regarding Mom’s experiences from being on the Phil Donahue Show. Then, I decided I needed to write more about Mom’s back story first – who she was before becoming that “Secret Recipes” “trail blazer in the 70’s.”

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…” [from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/the-best-laid-plans-of-mice-and-men-often-go-awry]

Mom used to tell me, “life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.” In other words, while we’re busy making plans for how we’d like our lives to be, life changes and all we can do is hop on the wave and go with the flow…”re-calculating” as we go.

Mom’s first love was writing. As a girl, she dreamed of writing a great American novel one day. She loved to write short stories and poetry. In high school, she pestered her school’s newspaper “sponsor”, Mr. Rosen, to let her be on the staff. She told me that he had no hope for her as a reporter, but she set out to prove him wrong anyway. From her love for writing, she also became Secretary of her January 1954 Senior class at Royal Oak High School in Michigan. Sharing that love of writing with Mom was Judy Guest (who became the author of “Ordinary People” about 20 years later.) Mom said Judy had also worked on the Royal Oak High School paper and everyone knew that she was destined to be a great author – it was in her genes. Judy, like Mom, was also Secretary of her Senior class (June 1954 – 6 months after Mom’s class.)

However, Mom’s own dream of writing “a great American novel” never came to fruition, as “life” took her in a slightly different direction. Every successful accomplishment that Mom had with her writing efforts in and after high school and college involved cooking and recipes in some manner. In the 50’s and 60’s, she won multiple contests on radio shows and in magazines for recipes; as well as for food-related stories, articles and essays that she wrote and entered. With the prize money from one contest in 1963, she bought her first typewriter, as she had always borrowed one before then.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973 (her family)

As a wife and mother, Mom found her ‘family life’ to be the best subject about which to write. She was very creative and funny. She designed a few columns for weekly papers on that new typewriter, mailing out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, she was writing two different columns (“No Laugh’N Matter” and “Minding the Hearth”) for 60 regular papers. She even created her own cartoons (similar to “Family Circle”), which she called “Full House – as Kept by Gloria Pitzer”. They depicted her life as a wife and mother of 5 in the mid-60’s to mid-70’s. Yet, Mom still did not see recipes as a “calling” – to her, it was merely an interest that kept her writing and making a living from it.

Then, when she was writing a regular food column, syndicated through Columbia Features, she realized there was a niche – no cookbooks on the market took the monotony out of meal time for her. There wasn’t even a single recipe in the newspaper’s food section that didn’t come off, to her, as “down-home dullness.” She approached the editors with an idea to change things up from the usual meatloaf and chocolate brownies recipes. They told her to write the recipes that she thought would excite the readers, and so she did! The readers loved it! However, the food industry advertisers of the paper were not so happy with her inventive ways to make family-favorite, “fast-food” meals like you were “eating out at home.”

So, the editors asked her to go back to the monotonous meatloaf and chocolate brownies recipes or “pick up her check.” But, it was too late…the bug had bitten her, and she realized this was her calling. She told them to mail her the check, and she went home to start her own paper! She knew someone needed to give homemakers, like herself, something more. The food industry was so much bigger than what was being offered in the colored, glossy magazines and the cookbooks of those days. Fast food recipes weren’t found in any cookbooks back then – and these were the types of restaurants that struggling, middle class families would frequent when they wanted an affordable meal out. What were they to do when they couldn’t afford to take their family out for such a treat? Mom knew! Make it at home! And she couldn’t wait to investigate all the possibilities there were to offer from this new platform!

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Legacy of Love

To blog or not to blog? That is the question…and I’ve been asking myself that for a while now… as well as, about what should I blog?

Hi! I’m Laura Emerich, and Gloria Pitzer is my mom!

Gloria Pitzer

I’ve always loved to write, draw and craft things since I was very young. The arts (on so many different levels) seemed to run in my blood. If there’s an artistic gene, our family seemed to be blessed with it… and it was something my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles would always encourage and nurture further in us whenever we created something.

Over the years, my mom has personally inspired me in so many ways…as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, mother, teacher, aide, etc. How she managed to juggle all of these same hats with a husband and 5 kids for which to take care always amazed me (except for a few of my teen years, when I thought I knew better than she.) When I became a mother, myself, (and got a little older and wiser) it all made so much more sense – about why she did things the way she did. However, I had only 3 kids and a husband to contend with while doing that hat juggling act; so, I was still amazed at all of her accomplishments. I was always asking her for advice and I loved to learn from her. To me, she was just Mom; but, to the world, she was Gloria Pitzer, “The Secret Recipe Detective”.

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

She was very gifted in her own right as a writer, publisher, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook and so on. Her taste buds and culinary skills, combined with her creative writing skills and sarcastic sense of humor, developed into their own super power. In a time, not unlike what we are in now – with political upheaval, low wages and high costs of living – she found a niche that people wanted – “eating out at home”, she called it – and she set to work, discovering how to mimic fast food & restaurant dishes at home; as well as, shelf-stable grocery items. If it saved her household money, she wanted to share it with others to help them save money too.

She was a trail-blazer in the 70’s – writing her own recipes and marketing her talents through newspapers, magazines, local television talk shows…but, especially through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years she was a regular on a few local radio talk shows such as “Ask Your Neighbor”, hosted by Bob Allison on WWJ-Radio, which still airs out of the Detroit area today and “Listen to the Mrs.”, which is still hosted by Art Lewis on WSGW-Radio in Saginaw, MI. Mom said Warren Pierce of “The Warren Pierce Show” put her “in touch with some of the most responsive and enthusiastic listening audiences.” That show also still airs out of the Detroit area on WJR-Radio. Mom did radio shows all over the country – mostly by phone, from the comfort of home.

In the early years of her “Secret Recipes” business, Mom sold recipes for a quarter each, printed on 3”x5” index cards from a mimeograph she had in the laundry room. She started with an index of about 200 recipes. She promoted these mostly through radio programs. But, newspapers and magazines also picked up on it quickly, as she blazed that trail of uniqueness among all the ‘Betty Crockers’ and ‘Julia Childs’ of that time, and they wrote articles about her, as well. It didn’t seem to take long before her recipe library grew through requests from fans of her writing. She went from index cards to newsletters and multiple cookbooks in the blink of an eye. Soon, she was getting national, as well as international, recognition. Mom only did a few TV appearances – the first was on “Kelly & Company” in the mid-70’s – a local talk show on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. Later, in the early 80’s, “PM Magazine” created new interests in Mom’s recipes, sending their Detroit television crew to our house (then, in St. Clair, MI) to film Mom doing what she does best…creating “art” in the kitchen! However, it was her first appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” that created the most overwhelming response to her talents than she could have ever expected… More to come on that next week!