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
By Gloria Pitzer
In doubled plastic food bags, combine well: 3 cups self-rising flour, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 envelopes Lipton Tomato Cup-a-Soup powder (or see Recipe tab for my homemade “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.
Happy Monday and happy July to one and all! I hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July celebration yesterday! This is the first Monday of the second half of 2021 but I always look forward to all Mondays because they’re my 52 Chances each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!
This coming Wednesday is, among other things, the 40th anniversary of Mom’s FIRST appearance on the Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981). That was undoubtedly the biggest milestone event in our family-run, dining-room-table, cottage operation, which had started 8 years before that! It was even an historic event for our small hometown, to say the least!
St. Clair’s little post office (which was serving, at that time, less than 5,000 citizens) was inundated with about a million letters, throughout the summer and fall; just from that episode airing and re-airing around the world for about a year, following the initial taping! It was truly an overwhelming response that none of us ever expected. More about that story appears in one of my early blogs, More than 15 Minutes of Fame.
Secret RecipesTM was just a family affair (other than an Administrative Assistant, who was also a family friend) until that summer, when my parents had to pay some summer temp-workers, who were actually my friends, to come in and help with all the extra mail. None of us had any idea of what the impact of such a popular, internationally syndicated show would be.
We were sending out hundreds of thousands of Mom’s sheets of “free recipes and product-ordering information” in all the SASEs (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelopes) that came in; as Mom offered during the show. There were also a lot of newsletter subscription orders that generated from those “free sheet” mailings, so once a month (for a while) the family also needed extra help just in putting address labels on the newsletter issues that were mailed out.
Mom’s copycat recipes revolution took the nation by storm and washed over the world – thanks to the Phil Donahue Show – like a tidal wave! Ever since her early cookbooks on the subject were first released in the mid-1970s, Mom referred to her copycat imitations as her solutions to “eating out – at home”, and that, she’d add, no longer meant hot dogs on the grill, in the backyard!
Word spread like a wildfire in the 1970s that a small town, Michigan housewife was duplicating famous foods from famous places and sharing her secrets in her self-published newsletter and cookbooks! Radio stations, newspapers, magazines and television – they all picked up on the story through the wire service (pre home computers and internet) and it snowballed from there. Here are a few of Mom’s stories about that first appearance on the Phil Donahue Show.
Additionally, tomorrow, July 6th, is National Fried Chicken Day! As such, here are a few more re-shares of Mom’s stories about imitating famous chicken dishes from places like KFC and Chicken-In-The-Ruff; each followed by re-shares of her copycat recipes for them, as well!
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, pages 87-88)
[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)]
FRIED CHICKEN has always been a basic American favorite, even before it was a restaurant offering. It was ‘down-home’ and wholesome and has never lost its popularity. When Colonel Harland Sanders, in his retirement years, took a can of his favorite secret spices & herbs and his precious fryer and traveled across the country demonstrating his technique for preparing chicken. No one dreamed it would someday become one of the most successful corporations of the American restaurant industry, much less of the American free enterprise system, itself!
There are names that will be identified with fried chicken for a long time to come that include Church’s Fried Chicken, Brown’s, Popeye’s, Original Recipe, Banquet Fried Chicken, Pioneer Fried Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken and, of course, the leader of the industry, Kentucky Fried Chicken, which will be familiar to us with an affectionate regard, as we recall the big bucket at the top of the pole revolving above the Colonel’s restaurants across the country – and now across the world!
There are very minute differences between these popular restaurants in the way that their individual recipes are prepared. At home, when you want definite inspiration in preparing your own fried chicken, I have given you only a few of the great versions. There are many more, but the side dishes that accompanied the chicken in these various restaurants deserve some attention as well. I have included some of these in this section.
My own favorite is still the original recipe that we sampled when we were traveling in Ontario many, many years ago, and stopped at the White Horse Inn, where the Colonel, himself, was preparing his chicken and passing samples around to the customers. If the owners of the restaurant liked the response, Harland Sanders would provide them with the spices and the technique for preparing it under his name, which he eventually did – growing to the largest in the business.
THE SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE – WITH THE COLONEL’S HELP
I look back now to 1976 and 1977 and realize how fortunate I was to have had my life touched by so many helpful people – so many famous people! It’s almost incredible that what started out to be merely the frosting on the cake, of my monthly newsletter, soon became the whole cake!
While duplicating the secrets of the food and restaurant industry was only going to be a part of the publication I was writing, it was a surprise to me that the interest and the response from the public led to my specializing in the fast food division entirely! I thought my first book was going to be my ‘only’ book on that subject, but – six books later – I was still seriously, but lovingly, engaged in the pursuit of new information and challenging recipe imitations.
I’ve been asked by restaurants to give them permission to use my recipes and say so on their menus. I’ve been asked by ‘People’ magazine, at least once a month for six months – even before the Donahue show appearance – to grant them an interview. The fact that I had declined the invitation because I couldn’t handle any additional mail, made the columns of the Detroit Free Press, when their ‘Tip-Off’ columnist said it was ‘classy’ to turn down People Magazine – refusing publicity in a national magazine because I did not want to ‘get big’!
[NOTE: As I mentioned in previous blog posts, Mom did eventually grant “People” magazine an interview, which appeared in the issue dated May 7th, 1990.]
It was just good business sense to me. For like Maurice and Dick McDonald, I like what I’m doing and having somebody else do it for me, as Ray Kroc did it for the two brothers, would be like Liberace having somebody play the piano for him.
However, one of the most important turning points in the events of my recipe work was the influence that Col. Harland Sanders had over me and his direct suggestions on how to make my fried chicken recipe more like the one he originally developed!
With the tests for COUNTERFEITING FRIED CHICKEN AT HOME that was as good as what you could buy out – but for less – I felt I HAD to have a pressure fryer. This meant I had to have a place to also put it in my kitchen, which was already bursting at the seams with appliances and gadgets and utensils I really didn’t get enough use from, as it was.
Then one summer, while visiting relatives in West Virginia, we sampled some pan-fried home-style chicken that was every bit as good as the chicken produced in a pressure fryer. Paul’s 82-year-old-and blamed why the chicken always came out just right every time she made it, which was religiously every Sunday! It was the pan!
She used an 80-year-old wrought iron skillet that had never been washed in soap and water. She ‘seasoned’ it was shortening – lard, mostly. She kept it in the oven of her wood-burning, porcelain enamel dough, where it was always warm.
The fried chicken recipe that first called attention to my recipes nationally – through the ‘National Enquirer’, ‘Money Magazine’, ‘Catholic Digest’, ‘The Christian Science Monitor’, ‘Campus Life Magazine’ and, yes, even ‘Playboy Magazine’ – was this following combination of ingredients.
The method is quite unorthodox and the original idea for developing it in this manner, came from a conversation I had with ‘Col. Sanders’ over the air with radio station WFAA in Dallas when I was a regular guest on a talk show with them for several months. We discussed the secrets of the food industry with listeners by phone from our homes.
The Colonel was fascinated by the publicity I had received for my “Big Bucket in the Sky” fried chicken recipe and agreed that I was on the right track if I’d add more pepper. He loved pepper! He also suggested browning the chicken in a skillet and then oven-baking it until tender to achieve a likeness more to the original recipe he had created in 1964. He told me to look around the grocery store for 1 packaged product to replace the 11 spices – which I did diligently – and discovered that powdered Italian salad dressing mix was the secret!
So, I set to work to revamp the recipe. My original recipe was quite close to the famous Colonel’s product, but the coating kept falling off – because, as he explained, I couldn’t get the oil hot enough. He liked peanut oil, himself, but suggested that I could achieve a similar result by using corn or Crisco oil – with 1 cup solid Crisco for every 4 cups of oil. He talked about the quality in his product changing after turning the business over to new owners.
When Heublein Conglomerate bought out the franchise, they paid a few million dollars for ‘The Colonel’s’ recipe and technique. It seemed unlikely that a home-kitchen-rendition of such a famous product could be had for the price of my book. But the letters came in – ‘best chicken we ever had’; ‘LOVED that fried chicken recipe’; ‘our favorite chicken recipe… and ‘maybe the Colonel should have YOUR recipe!’
In honor of TODAY, being National Graham Cracker Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipes for “Chocolate-Covered Graham Crackers” & “Chocolate Coating For Graham Crackers”, like Keebler’s; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 228) [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].
Happy Monday, happy July, and happy National Fried Chicken Day! As always, #TGIM – I continually look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom!
I can’t believe it’s July already! I hope everyone enjoyed the nice, long Independence Day weekend in some way, safely. A lot of people around us, were having their own backyard celebrations all weekend.
As I mentioned above, today is National Fried Chicken Day – which makes it a finger licking good day in my book – and tomorrow will actually be the 39th anniversary of when Mom FIRST appeared on the Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981); demonstrating, among other things, how she imitatedfried chicken like the Colonel’s right at home!
As I’ve written about previously, that show was definitely a milestone event, to say the least – for our family as well as our community! Because of Mom’s appearance, our small post office in St. Clair was swamped with about a million letters, throughout that summer and fall. The requests and orders generated from that show, as it aired and re-aired around the world for about a year, just kept pouring in! It was truly an overwhelming response that none of us ever expected.
Mom has written many stories about her experiences, on TV and radio shows, related to her KFC-style chicken imitation, which she called “Big Bucket In The Sky! Chicken”. Below is just one of those stories, from her book, My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop, and a copy of that recipe.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 71-72)
HISTORY BOOKS have said little of the one person who really put the state of Kentucky on the map, namely the gentleman whom will always be associated with ‘finger-lickin’-good’ fried chicken, Harland Sanders. He was born in Henryville, Indiana in 1890, and died in late 1980.
Harland was one of the food industry’s most successful men. In 1956, Harland Sanders was an out-of-work 66-year-old [man]. When he died, he left a multi-million-dollar food empire. One survey said that, next to Santa Claus, he was the world’s most recognized personality.
When he founded KFC, he had taken his Social Security check, a pressure-Fryer, a can of spices and herbs and set out across the country to show a few restaurant owners how to fry chicken the ‘right’ way! If they liked it, he promised to supply them with the secret coding.
He was a born salesman! And successfully so, considering the number of jobs he held in a lifetime. Once, over WFAA-Radio, in Dallas, I had the pleasure of speaking with the Colonel and it was that conversation, set up by the host of the show I worked with every Thursday, that gave me the clue on how to season flower at home so that it would taste like the Colonel’s coating on his Kentucky fried chicken.
He had just sold that business to the Heublein liquor and food conglomerate, for around $2 million and it was (quote) ‘the dumbest thing I ever did do!’ He complained that the gravy tasted like ‘wallpaper paste’ and the chicken was ‘dry as cardboard’ and that his recipe and technique had been so terribly altered that he was sick about it.
But he was also being taken to court by the company to which he sold KFC. To prove his point, he told me, in court, he prepared his chicken the right way and passed it out to the jury, the judge and the court along with the bucket of chicken purchased down the street from a KFC unit. The court ruled in his favor.
He told me he had read about our recipes in the Corbin, Kentucky newspaper and that he was flattered with my version of his product, but that I didn’t have to go to all of the trouble of imitating 11 herbs and spices.
He said he wanted to see just what kind of a detective I REALLY was, so he told me to go to the supermarket and find one product in a (quote) ‘package’ that would do the same job as those 11 herbs and spices. And I was to report back to him on the radio show the following Thursday. We tested a dozen or more products during the next six days. And finally I found Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix! It was wonderful!
‘You really are a detective after all,’ Colonel Sanders told me on the air that next week, by telephone from his home in Kentucky. I was on the phone from our home in St. Clair. So it was, indeed, the Colonel himself who put me on the right track with this recipe, and with thousands of people listening in the Dallas area. I am so grateful for this wonderful experience. My cup runneth over!
It was also in the conversation with the Colonel that I was urged not to sell my business as long, he told me, as I had the energy and the aptitude to run it myself. At the conclusion of the lawsuit, I was pleased to see that the company was moved to improve the product and give it back its original goodness. Harland remained as a public relations representative for them until the time he passed away.
Most interesting about his background was that he was eight years old when he was turning out entire menus of American delicacies for his widowed mother, while he took care of the house and did the cooking so that she could work.
He said he went on to become a streetcar conductor, a farmhand, (to Cuba as) a soldier, a railroad fireman, section hand, insurance agent, a steamboat promoter, gaslight manufacturer, tire salesman and, finally, as a service station operator in Corbin, Kentucky.
When they could, Harland and his wife, Claudia, enjoy dining at the Elmwood Inn, in Berryville (KY), where as you might expect, his favorite dish was chicken! Given the honorary title of ‘Colonel’ by the state of Kentucky, for his contributions to its cuisine, he remains one of the most respected and recognized figures in the food industry.
I also tell you in detail, in that book, about our visit to The Donahue Show when I was asked to prepare the famous chicken on camera for millions of viewers and, instead of a deep fryer, the staff provided me, by mistake, with a toaster oven.
The recipe had to be revamped right then and there on camera. It worked out so well that we have, since that experience, included the ‘oven-fried’ version on our sheet of sample recipes, which we have probably sent without charge, just for a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to over a few million people!
Here is a copy of that “Big Bucket In The Sky! Chicken”recipe, as I’ve given out in a previous blog post and, also, posted under the “Recipes” tab, on this website:
July happens to be National Picnic Month, among other things. When I pack up a summer picnic for me and my husband, I like to use the same classics that Mom used to always make. I can’t eat them now, but I always loved her homemade fudge brownies, chocolate chip cookies, coleslaw, potato salad and, of course, fried chicken (which is always great, hot or cold)! My husband still enjoys them, on my behalf, while I now make low-carb dishes for myself. Our favorite picnic standards are very similar to those listed on HowStuffWorks.com, in Sara Elliott’s informative article, Top 10 Picnic Foods.
At our house ‘eating out’ meant roasting hot dogs in the front yard. But then, we didn’t know of many restaurants where 5 children, who hated green vegetables and spilled catsup on the tablecloths, were welcomed. I had to learn to cook by default…the way I saw it, as long as my husband could get marvelous fried chicken at home, why should he take me to Colonel Sanders’? – Gloria Pitzer [“No Laughing Matter”, This Cook is Rated X (or) Yes, Gloria! There Really is a Colonel Sanders (no date available – circa 1970s)]
Frankenmuth, Michigan is a city that has been world-famous, for many decades, for their family-style, sit-down, fried chicken dinners. This wonderful little town is not too far from us, near Saginaw, MI – from where one of Mom’s favorite radio shows still airs, “Listen to the Mrs.”, co-hosted by Art Lewis and Ann Williams on WSGW-Radio. Not now because of the pandemic, but normally tourists flock to this little German-style town from all around the world and will stand in line for hours to get their world-famous chicken dinners at one of the two largest establishments in town.
The two major restaurants in Frankenmuth that serve the famous family-style chicken dinners are Zehnders and the BavarianInn. The town’s German heritage exudes from its many restaurants, hotels, breweries and quaint little shops that line the mile-plus length of the main street through town – from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland (which is all Christmas, all year) to the Frankenmuth Brewery!
Mom and Dad loved to take road trips to Frankenmuth, as do my husband and me. Although we can’t right now because of Covid-19 restrictions – we’re looking forward to a great day trip there in the future. I miss all the German culture experience that this small tourist town has to offer! Over the 40 years that Mom investigated different restaurant dishes as “The Recipe DetectiveTM”, she came up with many imitations from Frankenmuth of some of the famous dishes available at the two major restaurants mentioned above; plus, some bread and confection imitations from the local bakeries and fudge shops, as well.
Since I started this blog series over a year ago, I have found so much joy in re-reading all of my copies of Mom’s old “No Laughing Matter” columns, books and newsletter issues. As I mentioned last week, they are my go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my writing of these blog entries. Technically, even before that – I was re-inspired by Mom’s writing when I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing). We were hoping it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age” – and it has!
Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, she was so pleased to hear that her “new” book went to print; being published by Balboa Press. The title had to be adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, but most of the rest, inside the book, remained close to the same as the original 1983 edition. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the first printed copy… Then again, she probably saw it, “hot-off-the-press”, before anyone else, from her new vantage point.
Mom was so creative, in so many ways, and had all sorts of talents; but, writing was probably at the top of the list. She had a way with words that made me smile and laugh, as well as make me think, “Hmmm?!” Her newsletters and cookbooks were full of food-for-thought columns, comedic quips, food-for-the-soul meditation and inspiration, historic information and so much more than just recipes.
Mom often said that her books were just as comfortable on the coffee table, for reading, as they were on the kitchen counter, for cooking. In addition, Mom wrote her recipes in an easy-to-understand manner – without any glossy, color photos – just describing it like she was right there, in the kitchen talking to you about it every step of the way. She felt that, since they were products we already know, photos weren’t really necessary; which I, now, find ironic because Mom was the “shutter-bug” in our family – always taking pictures at every gathering.
All of those extra components that Mom put into her works created such a unique combination that it set her products apart from all the rest on the market, at that time, bringing her more media attention than she ever expected. Even without the internet, in the mid-1970s era, word got around fast about the small town housewife that discovered how to make fast food and junk food imitations at home!
The crafty format for Mom’s newsletters and cookbooks was largely influenced by her favorite crafter, Carol Duvall; who, in the 1970s, had a “Craft Letter” (as she called it) and a 5 minute crafting segment on WDIV-TV (Channel 4 in Detroit), called “Here’s Carol Duvall”. Mom followed her craft show religiously and subscribed to her Craft Letter too. That was decades before Carol moved to ABC’s “Home” (1988-1994) and before she began hosting “The Carol Duvall Show” on HGTV (1994-2005), which then moved to DIY (2005-2009).
In the beginning… Mom promoted her creations through radio programs, magazine ads and newspaper food columnists’ reviews that focused on the homemaker. Within the first year of Mom’s newsletter start-up, local television show hosts started hearing about this exceptional lady with a unique, new twist on cooking! Word spread rapidly through the newswire service and national, as well as international (Canada), television shows started requesting interviews with Mom and demonstrations of her distinct recipes.
While Mom always felt most at home on the radio shows in which she participated, there’s no denying that she probably had her greatest (or largest) “claim-to-fame” from television exposure. I’ve put together a rough timeline of Mom’s local and national television appearances over the decades, of which I can remember and find reference to in her writings.
Mom’s first on-television interview was 45 years ago, on my 10th birthday (Nov. 14, 1974). The whole family was invited to the studio, where Mom appeared on “AM Detroit” with host, Dennis Wholley. The show aired locally on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in the Detroit-Metro area. Below is a copy of Mom’s story about it.
As a result of that local exposure, Mom was invited to appear on another local, but international, television program. It was on New Year’s Day 1975, across the river from Detroit, in Canada, with host, Bob Hines. The show he hosted aired movies with Bob doing commentary and “intermission interviews”. The show aired locally on CKLW-TV, Channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario. That was when Mom met Lynn Redgrave, whom Bob was interviewing about her role as the “Happy Hooker”. Mom introduced herself to the actress as the “Happy Cooker”.
That’s about when Mom’s collection of “Secret Recipes” had grown to more than 200 different recipes. She had been printing them all on index cards from her mimeograph machine in our laundry room and selling them for $0.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders. All of us kids and Dad helped Mom on a daily/nightly basis.
Seeing which recipe cards sold the most and getting more requests from her fans for fast food and junk food imitations than any other type of recipe, Mom decided to put all of her popular recipes like those into a cookbook. She thought it was going to be her “only” book on the subject of fast food and junk food, since even the critics thought it was a fad that wouldn’t last long – that was in August 1976 and it was called The Fast Food Cookbook; which Mom revised the following year as The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book [aka: Book 1].
As it turned out, that was only the first in a whole series of books that Mom wrote on the subject. It wasn’t long before Mom retired the recipe cards and started writing and self-publishing more cookbooks, showing people how to make their favorite foods at home. For 30 years, from the launch of her first newsletter in 1974 to her last self-published cookbook in 2004, Mom continued to write and self-publish about 40 cookbooks and 219 issues of the newsletter; covering popular restaurant dishes from across the country, homemade grocery products, fast foods and so-called “junk” foods!
Mom carved a new niche in the food industry that caught the media’s attention by storm. On Christmas Eve 1976, Jack McCarthy of WXYZ-TV’s “Action News” team (seen locally on Channel 7 in Detroit) came out to our house in Algonac to do an at-home-interview with Mom. Below is a copy of one of Mom’s memories about Jack, by whom she was quite impressed.
In the winter of 1980-1981 (not sure of the exact date), Mom did an at-home-interview with the Detroit TV crew of a national show called “PM Magazine”. They came out to St. Clair and filmed Mom making a few of her popular imitations in her own kitchen. That same winter, Mom also had a brief appearance on our local “Noon News” show on WDIV-TV (seen on Channel 4 in the Detroit area).
On a side note, regarding the last statement in the picture (above), Mom did eventually grant “People Magazine” an interview in 1990. However, back to Mom’s television exposure – on July 7, 1981, Mom and Dad flew to Chicago for her FIRST appearance on the “Phil Donahue Show”; demonstrating, again, some of her quick and popular fast food and junk food imitations for the entire hour. Over the following year, that episode re-ran world-wide! As I said in the beginning… Mom “probably had her greatest (or largest) ‘claim-to-fame’ from television exposure”. If you’ve ever wished to be famous – all I can say, from our experience, is “be careful about what you wish!”
The fallout from that 1981 “Phil Donahue Show”, which I’ve discussed in other blog entries; left Mom (and Dad) reluctant to do any more television appearances for the next 7 years – that is, until Mom’s friend, Carol Duvall, set her up to appear on a TV show that she was, then, involved with out in California (ABC’s “Home Show”). Wish I could find copies of those episodes on which Mom appeared.
“Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.” – Dick Syatt
It was February 1988, when Mom and Dad flew out to California for Mom’s FIRST appearance on ABC’s “Home Show” with Rob Weller, then host. That was when Mom first met Wally Amos in person! It was one of Mom’s most favorite experiences and memories. Even when she got dementia after her stroke in 2015, Mom always remembered how wonderful and friendly Wally Amos was to her.
A couple of years later, on Memorial Day 1990, Mom did an at-home-interview with CNN Cable News. They even came back the next day to film more, while Mom was on the phone, doing a radio show. Their production consequently sparked the interest of a weekly, local paper called “The Voice” and a columnist named Pat Heck, who wrote a very complimentary article about Mom; which she mentions in the clip below!
That fall, in October of 1990, Mom made her first appearance on a local talk show, called “Kelly & Company”; which aired on WXYZ-TV (channel 7 in Detroit) with hosts, John Kelly & his wife, Marilyn Turner. Mom’s interview went so well, they invited her back the following spring. She did the show on May 8, 1991. Mom wrote all about the great experience on the front page of her July-August 1991 newsletter (Issue #151) and she also included three pages of all the recipes she demonstrated on the show. I’ll be adding those to my list of recipes that I want to share with all of you in my blog entries and in the “Recipes” tab on this website. There was also this little clip (below) on page 9 of that issue.
In between the two “Kelly & Company” appearances, on March 19, 1991, Mom had her second appearance on ABC’s “Home” show in Los Angeles. I don’t know what really happened that time around that Mom felt she was “ganged-up-on”, as she mentions in the clip pictured above; but, when Mom came home, she was feeling very disappointed by the whole experience and her own reaction to it. Again, she didn’t want to appear on television anymore.
However, a couple of years later (April 16, 1993), Mom appeared for a SECOND time on “The Phil Donahue Show”. Again, it was for the entire hour; however, this time, the show was not allowed to give out Mom’s contact information – only copies of the recipes she demonstrated on the show. As a result, requests for transcripts of that episode, shattered the show’s record and they sent Mom a letter and a special plaque to commemorate the event. That turned out to be the real FINAL time Mom appeared on TV.
I should mention, though, in the summer of 1993, Mom went back out to California to make an infomercial with the Guthy-Renker Corporation, called “Ask Mike”. It was produced & directed by Positive Response Television for a new way to promote Mom’s Recipe DetectiveTM image and her Secret RecipesTM enterprise. The infomercial was set up similar to Mom’s “Phil Donahue Show” appearance, with cooking demonstrations of some of her most famous imitations, except there were “on-the-street-interviews” of people taste-testing Mom’s imitations and giving their opinions (as Phil Donahue did with his in-studio audience). Unfortunately, the infomercial never aired on TV. But, our family received our own copies of it, at least. Mom was so thrilled that Wally Amos was also involved in the infomercial production, as he was with her first “Home Show” experience in 1988. Wally Amos was the “on-the-street-interviewer”.
Happy Monday! I hope everybody is having an awe-inspiring, magnificently marvelous Monday!
As defined by Wikipedia, copycatrefers 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 email@example.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 copycatcooking – 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?
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!
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 copycatcookery. 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!
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.
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)
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
12-oz beer (or Club Soda)
2 TB oil
2 ½ cups self-rising flour
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.