Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Copycat!

Happy Monday! I hope everybody is having an awe-inspiring, magnificently marvelous Monday!

As defined by Wikipedia, copycat refers to someone “who adopts, copies, imitates, mimics, or follows the same thing as someone” else. In fact, one of the lines of Wikipedia’s various examples of copycat says, “…reference to a recipe that tastes like a restaurant recipe or famous product purchased in a store”, just as Mom had started developing in the early 1970s. If anyone knows of another copycat, who started imitating famous restaurant and grocery products before my mom, please contact me! [https://www.facebook.com/TheRecipeDetective/ OR therecipedetective@outlook.com]

In one of my earlier blogs, Imitation, I reminisced about how Mom had always referred to herself as “the Rich Little of the food industry”, because she could imitate their famous dishes and products like Rich Little could imitate famous voices.

Additionally, according to Wiktionary, to imitate is to follow a model or pattern; or to make a copy, counterpart or semblance of something… OR, as it also mentions… to plagiarize, which is, basically, stealing someone else’s work and passing it off as one’s own.

I’ve previously discussed this subject in a couple of my other blog entries as well. Mom never knew what the companies actually used in their recipes, but she could create her own semblance of their products – that’s not plagiarism! However, there have been instances, over the years, of others blatantly stealing Mom’s work (sometimes word-for-word and sometimes changing a few words or exchanging ingredients, like flour, salt and baking powder instead of self-rising flour) and, then, passing it off as their own work!

I find it astounding, the number of “foodie” copycats who (since Mom introduced her first “copycat” cookbook, called Secret Restaurant Recipes, in 1976) have copied the ORIGINAL COPYCAT and all the subsequent copycats that have followed henceforth. Yet, I can’t find any type of written history on the subject of the “copycat recipes movement” – nor, in any other similar terms – yet, there’s no denying that the movement exists and, I think, it’s becoming a billion dollar industry!

I’m feeling inspired and frightened, all at the same time, to take up that challenge, myself – to write the history of copycat cooking – it’s like my mom is on my shoulder telling me, optimistically, to “go for it – it’s a ‘meant-to-be’!” Simply because, a couple of weeks ago, a friend randomly showed me a book, while we were sitting together at a backyard barbeque.

The book is called Ottissippi and it’s written by a local woman, Cheryl Morgan; who discovered there was an untold story of the history of the Anishinabe people in our Southeastern Michigan area. Thus, she decided to be the one to pull together all the bits and pieces of factual information she could find throughout our Great Lakes region and turn it into a beautifully told history. I was very impressed by her story.

But, that’s the kind of thing Mom would’ve called a “meant-to-be” event… it seems random at the time, but soon after you see the reasoning behind why that happened… as everything happens for a reason! I’ve been searching for a history on the “copycat recipes movement”, using various different terms and search engines; but, I have yet to find anything! Shouldn’t there be a written history on that subject – or is it just me, who feels that way?

 

Paul & Gloria Pitzer, Algonac, MI

When I was doing a search on the term “copycat recipes movement”, both, Bing and Google brought me SO MANY results on copycat recipes! Nevertheless, there were no articles or books on the subject of the “movement”. I am amazed that Mom’s name didn’t even come up on any of the first pages of results!

One of the rabbit holes I followed on Bing’s search results, led me to a “copycat recipes” term-search on Amazon.com. Out of 116 results (sorted by “Featured”), not one of Mom’s cookbooks came up until #46; which was her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018). Mom wrote and self-published a cookbook called, The Copycat Cookbook, in April 1988, which didn’t even come up in any of the first few pages of results! Likewise, when I changed the searched term to “secret recipes”, Mom’s last cookbook didn’t come up until #58 of more than 7,000 results (again, sorted by “Featured”).

Additionally, when I searched a similar term like “secret restaurant recipes” – which is the title of Mom’s self-published cookbook from 1976 (first edition, also known as “Book 1” in a series of 6) that I believe really kick-started the “movement”, in the first place; following Mom’s initial publishings of copycat recipes from famous restaurant dishes to fast food, junk food and grocery products – Mom’s cookbook didn’t come up until #183 of more than 1,000 results (once again, sorted by “Featured”).

The recipes in Mom’s “Book 1” had originated from her self-published newsletter, the National Homemakers Newsletter; which began in January of 1974, AFTER Mom had started developing a following of readers, in the early 1970s, from her syndicated newspaper columns, in which she first developed and printed some of her ORIGINAL copycat, make-at-home recipes for things like McDonald’s “Special Sauce” and Sara Lee’s Cheesecake.

Long story, short… newspaper advertisers kicked up a fuss… editor “strongly suggested” Mom go back to hum-drum brownie recipes… Mom quit and started her own publication, giving the public what they wanted; as she discovered from their requests, because there wasn’t any other source (at that time) from which to feed the ever-growing hunger for recipe secrets to imitate famous restaurant dishes, fast food, junk food and grocery products at home.

Mom has written her story, about being the Recipe DetectiveTM and how it all began, in many of her self-published books. It has also been told repeatedly by many reporters and talk show hosts over the decades, after she first fired up a lot of national attention, in the mid-1970s. It all began from requests by her readers, in the early 1970s; people who wanted to know how to IMITATE famous food products at home! However, following Mom’s first appearance on The Phil Donahue Show in July of 1981, the nation was more than just fired up – it exploded with the copycat recipes phenomenon!

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

Copycat recipe authors, whose names popped up on Amazon.com when I searched for the term “copycat recipes” (again, sorted by “Featured”), before my mom’s name ever appeared, included Lina Chang, JR Stevens, Todd Wilbur, Becky Bopp, Olivia Howard, John Andrews, Alexander Moretti, Bonnie Akins, Ron Douglas, Stephanie Manley, JP Brown, Samantha Schwartz, Nathan Isaac and David Pietras; plus, company names such as Six Sisters’ Stuff, Taste of Home, Prime Publishing and Publications International Ltd.

However, I have yet to find any “copycat foodie” who was published before my mom; nor any, since, who’ve given any kind of inspirational reference to her for having carved out this particular niche in the realm of recipes and copycat cookery. Mom was the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM, the trailblazing pioneer who began the “copycat recipes movement” in the first place. I may be biased, but I feel like, since it has become more than a movement (it’s a huge “industry”, now), some kind of recognition is due Mom for having carved out this niche in the first place – and it makes me, all the more, want to shout Mom’s story from the roof tops!

1985 Gloria Pitzer

Thus, I’m still feeling inspired to take up the challenge to write Mom’s biography, including a history of the “copycat recipes movement”. That’s kind of why I started this blog series, Mondays & Memories of My Mom, in the first place; to carry the torch for Mom’s legacy and to keep telling her story – to those who remember Mom as the Recipe DetectiveTM, to those who won’t admit to it because they’ve copied (sometimes plagiarized) the ORIGINAL copycat and to the newer, digital generation who probably doesn’t even know that there is a history behind the “copycat recipes movement” and it began with Gloria Pitzer!

Not too long ago, I was asked, by one of the talk show hosts Mom used to work with, why people like Todd Wilbur and Ron Douglas can get away with blatantly copying Mom’s work. The only answer I could find to that a few years ago, when Mom wanted to re-pursue Wilbur for plagiarism, was an online article called, “Recipes, Copyright and Plagiarism” by Jonathan Bailey (published March 24, 2015).

I thought the author gave a wonderful, easy-to-understand explanation of plagiarism – specifically among recipe writers – and how difficult it is to prove, let alone prosecute, the theft of someone else’s original work, especially in recipes, that’s being passed off as one’s own work. Such as Todd Wilbur did to Mom in the late 1980s; and which I discussed in an earlier blog, Mother, May I?

It’s not fair that people like that can get away with what I (and many others) would consider plagiarism, even if it is just borderline, by simply changing a few words or ingredients or measurements (like 2 TB, instead of 1/8 cup)… and seeking their own fame and fortune from it as well! Even Mom often stated, in her own cookbooks, that she could frequently come up with the same result by using different ingredients; as she often revamped her make-alike recipes to compensate for such things as ingredients that were no longer available, which prompted Mom’s homemade grocery recipes and subsequent cookbook.

Mom wrote in her book, My Cup Runneth Over and I can’t Find My Mop, about how her mom taught her certain cooking techniques; but, it was my Grandma Pitzer who, first, taught Mom how to make certain grocery products at home to save money (after she had married my dad and they were living with Dad’s parents for a short time).

Additionally, Mom, who was always a big fan of saving time and exertion, would often “revamp” her recipes to include “ingredient short cuts” (like using Mayonnaise in place of oil and egg or boxed cake mix in place of some flour and sugar ingredients). That’s how Mom came to develop her cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986), which she reprinted in June 2002 because of the popularity that shortcut cooking had gained. That cookbook was my latest source for many of the newest “thank you” notes I added to the “Media” tab, yesterday, on this website.

#MediaFriends

1986 Apr – Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

“COPYCAT COOKERY doesn’t limit you to traditional ingredients or old fashioned methods for recreating your favorite dishes at home and you’ll find, in my recipes, that I often use pantry-shelf products to replace several other ingredients… SIMPLE INGREDIENTS, but marvelous results, with a smidgeon of the effort that more complicated from-scratch recipes offer!” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986, pp. 41 & 65)

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer, 1986

Today, July 15th, is National Give Something Away Day!

SO, IN CLOSING…

This easy pizza crust recipe is from one of Mom’s “free recipes and ordering information” sheets, given out in the late 1980s, and has only 3 ingredients – just stir & spread! A similar version to it can be found on page 54 of Mom’s self-published cookbook, The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Feb. 1990)… again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. Thanks!

PAN PIZZA CRUST

By Gloria Pitzer

Ingredients:

12-oz beer (or Club Soda)

2 TB oil

2 ½ cups self-rising flour

Instructions:

Stir beer (or Club Soda) and oil together with a sturdy mixing spoon in a large bowl. Add flour and beat vigorously until smooth and moist. Dump dough into middle of Pam-sprayed, 12- or 13-inch, round pizza pan. Spread dough evenly with back of a large, wet spoon. (Note: Dipping spoon into cold water keeps the dough from sticking.) Use the spoon to patch any holes in the dough.

Bake the crust, empty, for 10 minutes at 400°-F; then, remove and, immediately, add your favorite sauce while it’s warm. Top with cheese and other favorite garnishments. Return to oven to bake for another 20-30 minutes or until toppings are bubbly, the cheese is melted, and the crust appears golden brown around its rim.

Cut to serve 4 – or one teenager!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Hi, Neighbor!

Radio was a solid cornerstone in the building of the success of Mom’s Secret RecipesTM business. Many of the people Mom worked with in that industry said she had a great “radio voice”. While, Mom had appeared on some pretty famous television talk shows, over the years, to discuss and demonstrate her fantastic make-alike recipes for fast food, junk food, fine-dining dishes and grocery products – shows such as PM Magazine, The Phil Donahue Show (twice) and The Home Show; plus, some local (Detroit) talk shows – she really felt more “at home” when she was being interviewed on radio talk shows across the country and internationally. Mom found the audiences of the radio talk shows that she was on to be the most receptive audiences.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES: …Recipe DetectiveTM is the name that was given to me by my radio friends, years ago, because I was able to investigate the secrets of the food industry and come up with workable recipes for imitating their special dishes and grocery products. For nearly 20 years [at that time, 1970-1989], I’ve been writing about these recipe secrets and sharing them with the readers of our cookbooks and newsletter and thousands of radio listeners, across the country; sometimes… the world! – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 23)]

RADIO has become one of the biggest blessings in our work – and my ‘recipe visits’ came about as a result of my initial work with Bob Allison and his ‘Ask Your Neighbor’ show…

I found [radio’s] family of listeners [to be] just like neighbors on our street, friendly and receptive! – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 58 & 59)]

On one of the very first pages of Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018), which I helped her to rewrite for the new digital generation from her favorite, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983), is a “thank you list”, dedicated to some of the stations, talk shows and their hosts, spanning across the country from sea to shining sea; as they had, probably, contributed the most positive ripples to the growing success of Mom’s Secret RecipesTM, up to that time (1972-1982).

However, Mom’s relationships with radio talk shows and their hosts went on for more than 32 additional years, when she was forced to give it up for health reasons. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to extend Mom’s “thank you” notes to include some other radio stations, talk shows and hosts with whom she came to know and be friends, following this first list (below); which was originally printed in 1982.

The experiences we have encountered in building this family enterprise of ours, this cottage industry…has occurred while distributing recipe secrets through radio [and television] broadcasting and newspaper exposure…

I have met some of the nicest people in the world, some of the most generous people who want to share their good ideas with me as much as I want to share mine with them. Of these good people, I will speak often and lovingly. – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 2)]

Mom always wrote about her radio visits in all of her publishings – even including her up-coming radio schedules in her newsletter issues, so that her readers in those areas could tune in. Nowadays, you can “tune in” to just about any show, from anywhere, via the internet! Thus, wherever possible, I am including links to the stations and/or hosts, if I can find them. Sad to say, like Mom, many of the hosts, for whom I’ve searched, are no longer with us.

Since I began these blogs to honor Mom’s legacy, I’ve been hearing more and more from people, through social media and emails, who remember her – expressing their own fond memories of Mom. That, in itself, makes what I’m doing with my blogs all worthwhile!I’d like to personally thank everyone (as well as on behalf of Mom), for being such great friends, fans and supporters!

The following “thank you” notes are from page 4 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018), with additional excerpts found, mostly, in My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989); as well as some other publishings, where Mom has mentioned these stations, shows and hosts as well.

Sad to say, as I searched for links to some of the names below, I found that many of them, like Mom, have passed on as well. Our condolences go out to all their surviving friends and families – and may they all be resting in peace.

It is as much a thrill for me, today, to hear somebody… request that ‘Gloria, The Secret Recipe Detective’ try to duplicate a recipe, as it was for me a decade ago when it all began. – Gloria Pitzer (May 1982) [*NOTE: That thrill continued to remain with Mom, for many more decades, until she passed away in January 2018.]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

THANK YOU, AGAIN, TO…

…Bob Allison & his “Ask Your Neighbor” radio program, formerly on WWJ-Radio (Detroit, MI) and WEXL-Radio (Royal Oak, MI; 1340 AM). Now, you’ll find Bob on WNZK-Radio (960 AM; Detroit, MI) with his son, Rob Allison. The “Ask Your Neighbor” show has been broadcasting since 1962!

[Thank you] for your moral support and interest in my research and development of recipes that imitate restaurant and commercial food products. You’ve been a great friend over the years! – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

“ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR!” – I called [Bob] frequently with answers to his other listeners’ recipe questions, until I became ‘a regular’ on the show. With Bob’s generous help in mentioning my monthly newsletter, my subscriptions began to climb… I was finally showing a profit! That gave my husband, Paul, some relief from his skepticism that I would eventually outgrow my obsession with writing… From Bob Allison’s listeners alone, Paul and I had received over 1,000 letters in one day! [Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 9)]

Art Lewis and his “Listen to the Mrs.” program [and cohost, Sue Smith,] on WSGW-Radio in Saginaw, MI – which has been on the air since 1952…; and also to Fred Krell [RIP], program director at WSGW-Radio, who had originated the early “call-in” talk shows, “Listen to the Mrs.” and “What’s Your Opinion?”

[Thank you, all, for being great friends over the years! – Gloria Pitzer]

Mom with Sue Smith at WSGW-790, Saginaw MI

…Warren Pierce of WJR-Radio (Detroit, MI) and “The Warren Pierce Show”, which has been on the air since 1976! Also…Bob Hynes and Jack Mindy, each, of WJR-Radio fame (Detroit, MI).

Warren Pierce…was one of my first radio friends with whom I would visit on the air regularly, giving out recipe secrets from the food industry…we found that the listeners’ responses to the famous “make-at-home” recipes prompted some very interesting challenges…my visits, on the radio, with Warren Pierce are still among my favorite experiences in my recipe investigations. I would rather do a radio show with Warren, in fact, than television with anyone else. [Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 254)]

[Thank you] for putting me in touch with some of the most responsive and enthusiastic listening audiences. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

…Jim White [RIP], Ann Keefe [RIP] & Art Fleming [RIP] of KMOX-Radio, St. Louis, MO –

[Thank you] for all the great years we visited on the air, sharing secrets of some giants in the food industry with your nationwide audience. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

 …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. [Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 54)]

Gloria Pitzer 1985

Bob Cudmore of WGY-Radio, Schenectady, NY [1980 to 1993 night time talk show host for “Contact”… and to his predecessor Bill Miller!]

…for whose listeners have become good friends over the many years of our radio visits with your wonderful audience…[Thank you!] – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

ONE OF MY FAVORITE radio visits, on a monthly basis (and sometimes more often than that) was with a Schenectady station [WGY]. Originally, I worked with Bill Miller, whose…show [called ‘Contact’] drew a good following. It was because of Bill’s interest in the nuns of St. Claire, an order in New York state, who baked a delicious cheesecake and sold it to raise money for the poor, that I was first asked to duplicate the recipe…It was a real challenge. Eventually, however, we did come up with our own version and it was a divine experience, which I called ‘Blessed Cheesecake’.

Bill Miller left WGY and was soon replaced by Bob Cudmore, who had [previously] worked with me… at a Pittsfield, MA station. I continued on with ‘Contact’ for a long while, until…around Christmas of 1988. [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 60)]

Ralph Story [RIP fellow Michigander] of KNX-Radio (1070 AM), Los Angeles, CA. AlsoJackie Olden, Mel Baldwin and Melinda Lee on KNX’s “Food News Hour” [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 58)]

[Thank you] for introducing me to your west coast audience, which offered me many new restaurants to investigate. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

…Bob Barry of WEMP-Radio, Milwaukee, WI (1976-1979) –

…whose newsletter to…radio personalities included notes of my progress and opened many doors for me…[Thank you!] – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

Gloria Pitzer (1979-ish)

Paul Harvey, broadcaster for the ABC Radio Networks –

[Thank you] for [your] kind words about my work. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

…Michigan’s [Nat’l] Federation of Press Women –

[Thank you] for MANY years of meaningful membership. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

Marian Burros, author of Pure and Simple

[Thank you] for your encouragement and enthusiastic endorsement as Food Editor of ‘The Washington Post’, making my research of the food industry’s secrets an exciting and interesting labor of love. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

Ed (& Sydney) Busch of WFAA-Radio, Dallas, TX (1976-1982, hosts of “America Over the Weekend”) –

[Thank you for your priceless contacts and wonderful audience! – Gloria Pitzer]

KSL-News Radio, Salt Lake City, UT –

Toby Gold of WSAY-Radio, Rochester, NY –

…Toni [Antoinette T.] Harblin of WTNY, Watertown, NY

…Bunny Morse of WCMY-Radio, Ottawa, IL (“The Morning Mix”, currently hosted by Maggie Frost)

Pat Rogers of WOAI-Radio, San Antonio, TX – host of the show, “Cover Story”

[Thank you, all, for all of your past support! – Gloria Pitzer]

Eddie Schwartz of WGN-Radio, Chicago, IL – founder of the Good Neighbor Food Drive that continues on today.

Bob Sweeney of WHIO-Radio, Dayton, OH [FYI: Dayton is where Phil Donahue’s show originated.] AlsoLou Emm [RIP]  of WHIO-Radio

PM Magazine and their television crew in Detroit (at WJBK-Detroit as “PM Magazine Detroit” and “PM Detroit”) –

[Thank you] for having created new interests in my recipes. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

The Phil Donahue Show and its amazing television audience…

Carol Haddix (Food Writer at the Detroit Free Press, 1971-1977 & Food Editor at the Chicago Tribune, 1977-2011)

[Thank you] for an over-whelming response to my ‘Eating Out at Home’ ideas. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)

There are still more thanks to be made, however, they’ll have to wait for my next blog. But, before I go, I want to thank Rosanne Robinson, who found my tribute page for Mom (@TheRecipeDetective) and recently began contacting me through Facebook. She said, in part, that Mom was a regular guest on her radio show at WMB-Radio, adding, “she was my favorite guest and a guarantee my mom would listen too!”

Thank you, Rosanne, for your messages and memories of my mom! Keep in touch! And, to anyone else reading this, please contact me at therecipedetective@outlook.com or on Facebook (@TheRecipeDetective) with your memories of my mom! I’d love to hear from you as well!

In closing…

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Cookbooks I Collected were Collecting Dust!

I can’t find it in me, today, to say, “Happy Monday!” as I usually do in my blog openings. Today is Memorial Day – a solace day, not a happy one. I do hope that families are getting to spend the extra long holiday weekend together though! But, before I get into my blog subject, I want to address the very special meaning of today, as it tends to get lost among the “almost summer” celebrations and activities…

The Real Meaning of Today, Memorial Day

Memorial Day (aka: Decoration Day) was established as a U.S. federal holiday in May of 1971, to remember and honor all those who’ve died, serving in our Armed Forces. However, it unofficially originated, in the spring following the end of the Civil War. That’s when people began noticeably honoring the war’s fallen soldiers by decorating their graves; usually with fresh, spring flowers. There’s a lot of great information (brain food) to be found about Memorial Day at History.com!

From 50 years ago! Illustration by Gloria Pitzer, May 28, 1969

Another website that inspired me with Memorial Day food for thought is Thanksgiving.com, where I found some great ideas and traditions to incorporate into our current commercialized celebrations that Memorial Day has come to encompass; as many Americans, myself included, have regarded this day to be the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.

Commercialism has disguised the holiday! Nowadays, parades and picnics are abound! Nonetheless, pre-summer vacations, backyard barbecues and other outdoor gatherings are among the “new” customary activities that families usually enjoy this holiday weekend. As such, the real reason we observe this holiday and the old traditions that were once practiced in honor of it have become lost.

This holiday weekend generates a burst of patriotic colors, as everything gets decorated in red, white and blue, from sea to shining sea, now through Independence Day! However, that’s not why Memorial Day is also known as “Decoration Day”.

We may celebrate our freedoms but let us never forget by what cost! So, I want to share 7 thoughts on old traditions I learned from Thanksgiving.com, to impart to the new generations…and to always remember! Any one of these things or all of these things – there’s something that each of us could/should put into practice for why we really observe Memorial Day in the first place:

Background from 47th Bomb Wing Assoc., Ltd. An invitation for the B-45 Tornado Dedication

Now, onto The Cookbooks I Collected were Collecting Dust!

I’ve written many times about my mom’s inherited love affair with writing and the unexpected journey on which it took her, starting in high school – from working for “small town”, local newspapers (doing almost every conceivable job) to syndicating her own “hot topic-style” columns and cartoon panels to writing and publishing her own newsletters and cookbooks – when her original, girlhood dream was to write “the great American novel”. But, every success Mom had in writing usually had something to do with food and home, rather than dramatic sagas and love stories.

So many of Mom’s self-publishing talents stemmed from all of her ‘small town’ newspaper experiences.

As a swimmer, growing up in our beautiful “Great Lakes” state of Michigan, Mom knew she couldn’t successfully swim against the current; so, she learned to swim with it. Likewise, rather than fight against Fate’s “meant-to-be” moments, Mom put her faith in “Fate” and went where “It” led. As a result, came the birth of the famous Recipe DetectiveTM and, almost simultaneously, all of her children – the recipes, newsletters and cookbooks!

Similarly, the “meant-to-be” powers of Fate have taken me (and my own inherited love for writing) on this unexpected and incredible journey of “blogging” to honor Mom’s legacy. As I mentioned in my very first blog, I had pondered many times in the previous few years, “to blog, or not to blog”; wondering if I could make a living from home at it, as my mom did with her Secret RecipesTM business.

Creative writing has always made me feel so much closer to Mom, as she was always my biggest fan and encouraged it in me for most of my life. Call me a nerd, but English was one of my favorite subjects in school and I always LOVED the essay assignments best! I used to write poetry when I was younger. I included one, dedicated to my mom, in one of my blogs from a few weeks ago. I have enough poems to fill two or three nice size books. But, I’ve never done anything with them – as far as publishing or marketing them. Mom tried to inspire me, but I just didn’t have the self-confidence to promote myself or my talents like her.

In as much as I love to write, I hadn’t done much creative writing for a couple decades. Therefore, when I started helping Mom rewrite her favorite cookbook a few years ago (so it could be republished by Balboa Press for a new digital generation), it rekindled that flame in me. Now, this blogging venture has kind of fallen into my lap and steered me in this direction… However, I’m not making a living at it… Not yet!

Those who aren’t familiar with any of Mom’s cookbooks would probably be wondering, here – how is a cookbook creative writing? That’s because Mom’s cookbooks were not your ordinary counter-top collection of recipes. My mom’s hunger for more than just the ordinary recipe collections that were being offered to people, led to her own personal, but seldom used, collection of “humdrum” cookbooks collecting dust…they just weren’t inspiring her enough.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

So, Mom decided to write her own cookbooks…and, when the publishers rejected her creations because they weren’t the picturesque, routine and monotonous cookbooks they thought the public wanted; Mom was only more determined to publish it, herself! After all, she was part of the public too! Plus, she thought, if she wanted more and her recipe column readers wanted more and her increasing, radio fan base wanted more; then maybe she should just create it and publish it herself!

Hence, in each cookbook, between the hundreds of recipes that Mom developed to imitate fast foods, junk foods, restaurant dishes and grocery products; she also tucked in bits of wisdom, inspiration, humor, helpful household hints, kitchen tips and tricks, food-for-thought editorials and even some entertaining and interesting background/historic information on some of the companies/people whose products and dishes she imitated. Thereby, Mom’s cookbooks stood out from all the rest (offered at that time) – no others were like them (unless they copied her; and some did) – because they were just as much coffee table or bedside table reads as they were assemblages of recipes.

1973 – Promotional ad Mom developed and sent to various newspapers and magazines for syndication, marketing her own talents.

My inspiration for this week’s blog (titled after one of Mom’s old syndicated columns) came from an email solicitation I recently received, to pay this company to market Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018), which is mine now.

Basically, the email tried to point out that writing and publishing are only minor steps in the whole “book process” compared to marketing; which, it proclaimed, is an author’s biggest challenge because it involves so much more personal time and effort. Thereby, I suppose, justifying how much it will cost me to pay them, the professionals, to do it for me; thus, saving me from the challenge and all of the time and effort that it costs!

Granted – paying them would save me from all that stuff! But, when you don’t have a lot of money to spend on that kind of stuff, like me; sometimes, you just have to suck-it-up and learn how to do it yourself. Nowadays, you can find YouTube videos on how to do just about anything! Mom didn’t have YouTube to guide her… So, she succeeded on her past experiences in the newspaper business and her own basic instincts.

WSGW-790, Saginaw MI

While marketing may be a challenge for me, I don’t think it was for Mom. I think she really enjoyed the promotional schedules of radio talk shows after each of her cookbooks (and newsletter issues) “premiered”. To Mom, her radio “visits” across the country, even internationally, probably felt more like having an “after party”, over and over again! Like any proud mom, she loved to talk about her babies (the recipes, newsletters and cookbooks)!

Mom briefly ventured into television talk shows for some of her cookbook promotions – as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs – most renowned were the 2 times she was on the Phil Donahue Show (in 1981 and 1993). However, Mom always felt more at home on the radio. I guess that’s because she usually was at home, doing most of her radio roundtables by phone. Although, when my parents used to travel (especially with their “Good Sam” friends), Mom would sometimes find a way to fit in a “live, in studio” radio visit whenever she could.

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

Mom was a natural at marketing herself, her talents and her products. I may have inherited her loves for writing, art and creativity in general; but I think I’m lacking in her many marketing talents! I get anxiety just from the idea of interviews!

Regarding: blessed with enthusiasm

I think I’m more fluent at writing than speaking, because I have more time to think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. Then, factor in that I’m OCD – so that, alone, at least doubles the time it takes me to write (and rewrite and rewrite again) my thoughts and ideas, trying to put them in a “CDO order” – as my kids and husband would always tease me about being OCD, because I like things in alphabetical (and numerical) order. One of my “dream jobs” as an adolescent was to be a Librarian – call me a nerd, but I’ve always thought the Dewey Decimal System is fascinating!

I know, from my own personal experience, that writing can be a long and, sometimes, personally draining process; as much so as marketing! In addition, I grew up with Mom’s authored and self-published creations and accomplishments. Each one became like one of her own children through the whole birthing process!

Similar to the development of life, creating and producing something can be a stressful AND beautiful AND rewarding time – all rolled into one! I felt that more than ever, when I collaborated with Mom to rewrite her favorite cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983), which consumed a couple years of my own life; let alone, the couple of years it took Mom to write the original version. Now that Mom’s last cookbook’s royalties are mine, I need to learn how to promote it, myself, (since I’m not rich enough to pay someone else to do it, as in the solicitation I received in my email). Either that or let it gather dust!

To order a copy of Mom’s last cookbook:

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!