Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Recipes and Radio

Happy Monday, Everyone! According to the Foodie Holiday Calendar at OCFoodies.com, today, which is November 19th, is “Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day”! Being a Michigander, I grew up on some wonderful, Michigan-made, carbonated beverage products like Vernors Ginger Ale and Faygo Pop. We (Michiganders) call it “pop”; while, it seems, everyone else calls it “soda”. No matter what you call it, add a few scoops of ice cream to it and you have a delicious concoction that some call a “cooler”; while, others call it a “float”.

For those who don’t know me yet, I am Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”. I remember Mom running test after test, for weeks on end, trying to develop her own homemade version of cola because of requests from her “listeners” (the radio audiences, listening to her many different radio talk-show “appearances” across the country). She was often asked by the listeners, who called into the studios of the shows on which she was interviewed, what products or dishes there were that she couldn’t replicate. She often answered, “Cool Whip and Coca-Cola”. I always thought, myself, that it was not that she couldn’t replicate them, but that she hadn’t…yet!

Most of the thousands of make-alike recipes that Mom developed were inspired by “listener” requests. Sometimes she could develop a close make-alike version simply by taste tests. Other times, all she had to go on was a description of the product or dish from the requester. Sometimes Mom could develop a make-alike version of some product or dish in a matter of minutes or hours; sometimes, it took a few days or weeks. Sometimes, if it was an extra-challenging recipe, she’d even “shelve” it for a little while and come back to it with a fresh, new perspective; but Mom never gave up on a challenge! In fact, Mom decided she was going to face “the Coke challenge”, so to speak, and discover a homemade version of cola. The challenge was on and Mom loved a great challenge! She persistently tested different combinations of ingredients to develop a syrup she could add to Club Soda for homemade soda pop. Making over 100 tests in about a six-week period, Mom finally developed a syrup for a close make-alike version of Coke-a-Cola, which she called “Close-a-Cola”. She also developed a syrup for a make-alike version of Vernors Gingerale (or ginger soda), a Michigan-made product, which she called “Veneers Gingerale”. In fact, in the early 70’s, it was through radio and the “listeners” that Mom was initially called the “Recipe Detective” and she further developed that into her “Secret Recipe Detective” identity.

Mom wrote the following editorial [found on pages 54-55 of “My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989] about her relationship with radio and recipe requests:

Radio and Bob Allison’s ‘Ask Your Neighbors!’

RADIO turned out to be the most appropriate way by which we made people aware of what we were doing…my involvement with the wonderful world of radio actually came about without any specific intention of becoming a regular part of the broadcasting field… I didn’t know I had what is considered “a radio voice”. Heaven knows our five kids will, to this day, even in their adulthood, testify to the fact that, on occasion, during their up-bringing, I had been known to discover conditions that would prompt me to accelerate, vocally, in a pitch that only dogs in the next county could here!

My introduction to radio began with Bob Allison and [the] “Ask Your Neighbor” show. I was folding diapers at the kitchen table, waiting for my favorite daily segment of “My True Story” to come on the air when, instead, WWJ [a Detroit area radio station] announced that it had been replaced with a n-e-w show. This new show turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me…almost every Monday morning I [would] visit with Bob Allison and his neighbors… [NOTE: now heard Monday through Friday from 9AM to 11AM EST on WNZK 690AM, Detroit. A live stream can also be found on the show’s website at http://www.askyourneighbor.com/index.htm]

Neighbors

When “My True Story” was replaced by Bob Allison and his “Ask Your Neighbor” show was replaced by Bob Allison and his “Ask Your Neighbor” show… I was, at first, very disappointed. Household hints and problems around the house that you cannot solve yourself seemed like just too much homemaking information to please me. I soon, however, became ‘hooked’ on the show, as almost everybody does, to the point that, on Fridays, when Bob would sign off and say he would talk to us again on Monday, I was spending the weekends just looking forward to the show on Monday.

I called the show about 2 or 3 times a month for the first year or two, to ask questions of Bob’s “neighbors” that my newspaper column readers were asking me. When I couldn’t find the answer from consulting other sources, I knew I could rely on Bob Allison’s “neighbors” to come up with the right answers for me. In return, I would often…phone in an answer that I occasionally had in reply to one of their questions or recipe requests. Bob did not recognize my voice as a regular caller until I had initiated the newsletter, however. He asked me where the [hamburger sauce] recipe came from that I was giving, in reply to one of his listener’s requests, which is how his program has always worked…In mentioning that the hamburger sauce recipe would appear in the next issue of my monthly newsletter, which I had given in response to one of his listeners’ previous requests, Bob reacted with great interest and curiosity.

“You have a newsletter, do you?” He asked. “Well, tell us about it and how much it is and where our neighbors can get it.”

That was all it took to get us well-acquainted with Bob’s “neighbors” and, in no time at all, our subscription orders went from a few to many. Sight-unseen was hardly appropriate to ask people to buy a publication that they could not first examine. So, I spent all of one day and most of the next, thinking about and trying out a single page description with a few sample recipes from the publication that I could send out to interested and prospective subscribers…

Mom used the same procedure for advertising or “getting the word out” about her “secret” make-alike recipes and publications until she, finally, fully retired and it always worked very well for her business, offering 15-20 sample recipes along with information for ordering her current, self-published cookbooks and newsletter subscription in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Those are the recipes from which I’ve been choosing to work in with my “…Memories of Mom” and to “re-share” with you.

On page 264 of Mom’s last book – “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s 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 – is this 1983, make-alike version of Orange Julius or, as Mom comically called it, “Orange Brutus”:

Blend together until smooth, 3 c. orange juice with 1 envelope “Dream Whip” powder, ½ teaspoon vanilla and 3 small boxes (¾-ounce each) instant vanilla pudding powder. Pour into ½-gallon pitcher and stir in 3 more cups orange juice. Makes 6 lovely drinks when served over cracked ice!

The 8.25×11-inch, “Perfect Bound Softcover”, 322-page cookbook (also available as an eBook at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253) was published in January 2018 and can be purchased here: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 (ISBN: 9781504391214.)

This photo is of Mom’s updated Orange Julius make-alike version, using club soda for carbonation and with the name altered to “Orange Judas”, as seen on her “free recipes and information” sheet (2000):

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. 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

 

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. 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 and fully retired, (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!)

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.