Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Interesting Challenges

Greetings to all and, as always, welcome to my blog – Mondays & Memories of My Mom!

In case you’re new to here, let me introduce myself – I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is the famously renowned “Recipe Detective”TM, Gloria Pitzer. After Mom passed away last year, I decided to start this weekly blog to pay homage to the huge legacy she left behind – from her well-known, writing career to her personal loves of life, family and faith.

The “Recipe Detective”TM, Gloria Pitzer

As I wrote about in my last blog, “Famous Foods from Famous Places”,  Mom was a trailblazer! In the early 1970s, she took on an interesting “challenge”, infiltrating the “secrets” of the retail food industry. While carving out a unique niche, Mom developed recipes to imitate famous foods from famous places right at home and for less cost than going out! As a wife and mother of five, herself, she saw a need in the market for the family unit to afford dining out, and she came up with the concept of “eating out at home!”

Mom had a special talent for determining the sources of flavors in a restaurant dish or, even, in a supermarket product. Some of her recipes used unlikely ingredient combinations that were unheard of at that time, like cake mix and mayonnaise, to achieve a certain flavor, color or texture. She also had a special talent to promote herself and her unique creations. Right from the start, “radio” and Mom formed a seemingly natural friendship/partnership. She knew who her target audience was and where to find them!

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

The public loved the “new idea” of making fast food right at home, easily and at less cost. Times were tough. In her last cookbook,  Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing – pp. 6-7), Mom wrote about the challenge of quitting her job at the newspaper in the early 1970s to start her own newsletter, as it was…

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

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

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

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There was speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy “eating out”, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants… [I think a lot of that “anti” attitude was driven by those big-name-companies, as they were the paying advertisers in the papers and magazines for whom the critics worked or with whom they syndicated.]

Still shot from Mom’s 2nd Phil Donahue Show appearance, April 16, 1993

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

“A cookbook should be as exciting as a good mystery!” – Gloria Pitzer

… making the reader feel as if you’re right there, in the kitchen with them, peeling, cutting, chopping, stirring, sifting and all the other interesting things one does when preparing food. It is my intention in this book… [and every book] …to make you feel at home in my kitchen, just as if we’re preparing the dishes together…to later enjoy with those who share our tables with us.

Mom often received “fan mail” and requests for specific dishes or products. Some sought out Mom’s talents through her many radio show interviews around the world, asking her to discover how to make their favorite restaurant dishes. Others, who relocated across country or overseas, made requests for Mom’s “Recipe Detective”TM talents to come up with copycat versions of certain grocery products they couldn’t get anymore. There was always a new and interesting challenge for Mom to conquer. She was a pioneer of the “secret restaurant recipes” and “copycat” movement, inspiring so many followers and other copycats! Nothing empowers better success than good, old fashion hard work and, simply, showing others how much you care.

She never knew the companies’ actual formulations or processes unless they willingly shared that information with her – and, while most didn’t, there were a few that did (or, at least, gave her hints to point her in the right direction) because they were impressed by her and liked what she was doing! Call it flattery or call it free publicity, those companies – White Castle, the original “Colonel Sanders” (after he sold his franchise) and the Sanders Candy Company, to name a few – saw it as a win-win!

Mom wrote of her great experience with the White Castle people in the following excerpt from page 13 of her book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing):

A letter of appreciation from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle Systems in their Columbus, Ohio headquarters reflected the feelings not often expressed by the major food companies, whose products I attempt to imitate with “make at home” recipes. “On behalf of White Castle System,” the letter said, “We are honored that you deemed the White Castle Hamburger worthy of an attempt at replication of the early days of White Castle and Billy Ingram…” And she enclosed a check to cover the cost of purchasing 15 copies of my first Secret Recipes Book to distribute to their Regional Managers. A far cry from the reaction I received from Orange Julius and Stouffer’s, who threatened legal action against me.

collage for Mom’s imitation inspirations

She also wrote of her positive encounter with the original “Col. Sanders” during a radio show out of Ohio (after he sold his entire franchise and was suing the new owners for changing his recipe) in the following excerpt from page 86 of the same book (cited above): “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!”

Continuing on with Mom’s encouraging experiences, not only with radio, but also with imitating the great Sanders Candy Company and their response to her copycat versions of their products, here are more passages from page 254 of Mom’s book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing) [Note: I discussed part of these excerpts in an earlier blog, “Made With Love” (10/15/2018).]:

THE TASTE OF THE TOWN!

WARREN PIERCE OF WJR – Radio, Detroit, was one of my first radio friends with whom I would visit on the air regularly, giving out recipe secrets from the food industry. When Warren had an evening show, we found that the listeners’ responses to the famous “make-at-home” recipes prompted some very interesting challenges… Each time I offered Warren’s listeners one of the Detroit recipes, along would come requests for even more that I had not yet investigated. So, I would check out the new eating place, taste the house specialty and return to Warren’s show with the previously requested recipe. [Much like Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” show.] This is how most of the recipes in my collection were originally discovered.

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

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

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

MY VISITS ON THE RADIO WITH WARREN PIERCE are still my favorite experiences in my recipe investigations. I would rather do a radio show with Warren, in fact, than television with anyone else. The audience is responsive and the feeling of having really shared something the listeners enjoy having is very rewarding…

On the other side of that imitation or plagiarism coin, there were also (and still are) those who’d replicate what mom was doing in the “copycat” and “secret recipes” field – after all, as I’ve said many times before, she was a trailblazer and an inspiration! Followers were to be expected, as the field proved to be very popular and have endless sources of inspiration from restaurants to grocery products to celebrities’ favorite dishes and so on. Often, other imitators would properly credit Mom for inspiring their own work, which was similar but not exactly the same; as Mom often encouraged her readers to adapt their own tastes and styles to her recipes and to feel creative in the kitchen, changing them up a bit! But, then, there were others who blatantly copied Mom’s work and presented it as their own; some even flagrantly copied her recipes word-for-word without crediting the source.

Mom had many thousands of fans, all around North America and across the pond, who often told her about such plagiaristic cases as they came across them in their areas; and, of course, she would always, rightfully, pursue them. Before home-computers and the World Wide Web, “word” didn’t get around as quickly as it does now – especially since the influx of social media! However, make no mistake about it, “word” DID get around! This new, fast, digital age is a triple-edged sword, though; as it makes plagiarism easier and quicker to accomplish, likewise, it’s also easier and quicker to discover such illegal acts – and, yet, it’s an instantaneous, endless source of inspiration and information at your fingertips!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog. Please join me again, next Monday, when I write about my mom’s and my own experiences in dieting – “How to not Lose it, While You’re Trying to Lose It!” In closing, I usually share one of Mom’s recipes from her “free recipes and ordering information” sheets. In keeping with the upcoming “Fat Tuesday” celebration, I’d like to share this hot fudge sauce with you. This is actually a different version of the one in her “free recipes” offer, which I shared in an earlier blog on Oct. 15, 2018. Mom could often find various ways to create the same dish or product. Her hot fudge sauce is just one such example. This “Recipe #2” version of Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce can be found in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, January 2018, 1st Printing; p. 255), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

HOT FUDGE SAUCELike Sanders

Recipe Number 2

13-ounce can Pet evaporated milk

1-pound Kraft light and dark caramels

½ pound (2 sticks) butter or margarine

12 ounces Nestlé’s milk chocolate [candy bars or chips] – Do not substitute on the brand!

In top of double boiler, over simmering water, combine all ingredients as listed, stirring about 15 minutes until smooth and melted. Cover and continue cooking for at least 30 more minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes. Cool and put through your blender in small portions, using on/off agitation on high speed until mixture is satiny-smooth. Makes 1 quart. Keeps refrigerated up to a month – reheat in top of double boiler over simmering water. Freezes well up to 6 months.

 

2018 – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best of the Recipe Detective

2018 Jan – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective

2018 – Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best of the Recipe Detective is a re-write of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook by her daughter, Laura Emerich (published by Balboa Press, Jan. 2018). This cookbook has 318 pages filled with over 500 of Gloria’s best recipes, Food-for-Thought, inspirational stories, household and cooking tips and tricks, witty jokes, illustrations and historical information on some of the companies whose dishes and products she mimicked at home!

*SPECIAL NOTE: This cookbook was Gloria’s personal favorite of all the ones she’s written. It was recently re-written by Gloria and her daughter, Laura (Pitzer) Emerich. It is currently (as of Jan 2018) published by Balboa Press and available for sale at $20.99 each (also, available as an eBook for $3.99 each)…see: https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252

Fun Facts:

Comments (as seen on Amazon):

5 out of 5 stars from the Secret Recipe Detective – Lynne – July 20, 2018 – Format: Paperback

“Gloria Pitzer was famous for her copycat recipes and their clever sound-alike names. She experimented in her kitchen to recreate popular foods. The first was McDonald’s secret sauce, way back in 1968. At that time, it was an 80-mile round trip from her home to the nearest McDonald’s. Any of her cookbooks is worth owning. They can be hard to find, so buy them when you see them.

Gloria Pitzer died earlier this year. The best tribute I can include is her version of Open Pit BBQ sauce — which will give you the flavour (yep, pun intended) of her style and creativity. She called it (what else?) Open Pitzer BBQ Sauce – Combine 1 cup bottled apple butter, 1 cup ketchup, and 1 cup Catalina Dressing. Mix well. Store in covered container in the refrigerator.”

1998-2004 – Secret Recipes Bulletin, a series by Gloria Pitzer

1998-2004 – Secret Recipes Bulletin series by Gloria Pitzer

1998-2004 – Secret Recipes Bulletin was a series written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, Marysville, MI). There were 7 “Bulletins” in all – most were double-sided, 8½” x 11”, full-page collections of recipes inspired by specific restaurants or “name brands”, plus tips and historic information – that sold for $1 each and are NO LONGER IN PRINT.

1998-2002:

Bulletin #101 – Imitations of Old Country Buffet or Hometown Buffet Specialties – 18 recipes

Bulletin #102 – Imitations of Boston Market Dishes – 17 recipes

Bulletin #103 – Imitations of Bob Evans Restaurant Favorites – 17 recipes

Bulletin #104 – 20 Different Cookies from One Recipe! – Based on a basic recipe for a Mrs. Field’s-Style cookie, which Gloria called “Mrs. Meadows’ Soft Cookies”; plus, 20 options to go with it! This bulletin had a one-page, 8½” x 14”, legal-size format.

2003-2004:

Bulletin #105 – Imitations of Fred Sanders Favorites – 14 recipes

Bulletin #106 – Imitations of Bill Knapp Favorites – 11 recipes

Bulletin #107 – Imitations of J. L. Hudson Favorites – 11 recipes

1990 – THE BEST OF Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook

1990 Feb – The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook

1990 – THE BEST OF Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook is an updated & revised version of the original, 1982-1988 editions of The Better Cookery Cookbook.

Shown above, this revised edition says it’s the “11th printing”; however, technically, the “11th Printing” is actually the “1st Printing” of THE BEST OF Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook, which is a revised collection of the most popular and most favorite recipes from the original collection, condensed into a 120-page, 5.5” x 8.5” format from the original, larger and more detailed book from the 80’s format.

Fun Facts:

  • Printings: 5
  • Years: February 1990 – 1994
  • Recipes: 472
  • Pages: 120
  • Sizes: 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Price: $7
  • Used copies on eBay: $45
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Made With Love

My mom, Gloria Pitzer, loved many things and many people and many animals; but, Mom’s greatest love (next to my dad, of course) was her writing. She put so much love and passion into the recipes she developed and wrote, testing them over and over again (which was a labor of love all its own) until she felt they were good enough to share. Her Food-for-Thought editorials were written with a great love and passion for helping and informing her readers – whether it was requested by them or something she came upon and thought it might be interesting to them. Her cartoons were drawn with loving satirical humor, meant to entertain her readers and bring a little smile to their day. Mom combined them all, for decades, into monthly/bi-monthly newsletters, as well as the many dozens of books that she wrote and self-published.

Mom once wrote: “The divine principle of good cooking is not a secret! It is taking pleasure in the activity; in the information previously retained and called upon through the facilities of memory. The spirit of good cooking is individualistic. It is not shrouded in mystery – but in love, for what you are doing and for whom you are doing it!” [as it appeared on the front page of her 128th issue of Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Sep-Oct 1987].

Everything Mom made was done so out of love and with love. Since I was very small, I remember Mom hand-making my sisters and I beautiful rag dolls with an array of fashion to go with each. To this day, that’s still my favorite Christmas present from her. She also created a lot of our Barbies’ furniture, clothes and linens. She often made our own clothes, as well as blankets/afghans for us. Her attention to details showed all the thought and love that she put into making everything.

Family meal-time was even an event! Not like when my brother, Mike, was caught hiding his peas in a napkin under the edge of his plate, because he couldn’t leave the table until his plate was cleared – after all, there were children in Ethiopia starving – and, no, Mike couldn’t send them his peas! But, meal-time was always a family-together-time event, where we all sat at the table, sharing feelings & stories of our day (while the siblings might elbow or kick each other under the table, if those stories turned into tattles.) But, family meal-time was especially fun if we were testing some of Mom’s famous make-alike dishes – like the KFC-style chicken I shared with you a couple of weeks ago in my blog, “More than 15 Minutes of Fame!”. Even the “duds”, as we lovingly referred to those samplings that weren’t quite right enough to make it into her newsletter, were still made with just as much love as the final products that did…and they all tasted wonderfully delicious!

Just a few weeks ago, our local historical museum did a tribute to 10 residents; people (no longer with us) who contributed greatly to our community of St. Clair, Michigan. It’s a yearly tribute called “The Next 10”. This year’s presentation included my mom as one of the 10 special people. I was so honored when a few different people, working on this project, contacted me for any information, stories, photos and other materials that I could contribute.

The St. Clair Historical Museum put on a beautiful picture slideshow-like presentation for each honoree; and each had a different speaker, presenting the family’s and community’s memories of them. Family members and friends of some of those honored were present. To feel the love in the room, coming from all those other loved ones, was tremendous. I was very honored to be among them. I was especially honored that during the social, following the presentation, they served ice cream with a batch of Mom’s Sanders-Style Hot Fudge Sauce that someone had lovingly made for the event! This week, I will share that recipe with you, as it was on her “free sheet” of recipes and ordering information and, also, on page 255 of 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.  You can also find it on this website under the ‘Recipes’ tab.

Michiganders (especially southeastern ones) know all about the mouth-watering, luscious, milk chocolate delights put out by Sanders’ Chocolatiers ! As their company slogan once said, “When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat.” I have a lot of great family-time memories of when Mom made this special treat for all of us – and it was especially fun to help her make it too! I mean, who wouldn’t LOVE to lick that spoon when done? I remember, as well, when I made it for my own kids while they were little – and it was a big treat for all of us! Here is what Mom had to say in her original book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (self-published by Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, May 1983, 3rd Printing) about the Sanders Company; plus, her favorite make-alike version of their hot fudge sauce:

   SANDERS’ HOT FUDGE was one of the nicest experiences I had in working with imitations of the famous recipes, for John (Jack) Sanders, the grandson and president of the company founded by his grandfather, Fred, was one of the sponsors of Warren Pierce’s radio show [found on WJR – Detroit]. Imagine my reluctance to share with his listeners my version of Sander’s hot fudge. I had previously had so many threatening letters from food company lawyers that I didn’t know what to expect if I heard from the Sanders people! To my amazement, the letter we anticipated did arrive only 2 days after I gave my version of the hot fudge recipe to Warren’s listeners. The letter, however, said – if it wouldn’t ruin my fun in trying to duplicate these famous dishes, would Paul and I and all the kids kindly accept an invitation from Jack Sanders to tour their Oakman Boulevard Bakery and Confection plant and meet their Head Chef, Edy Mader. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, between my Secret Recipes and Fred Sander’s products and, I learned, encouraged many out-of-state orders for their products whenever I talked about them during my frequent radio visits around the country. As the slogan for Sanders’ Restaurants, Bakery and Candy company said, “When it’s from Sanders, even a little is a big, big treat…”

HOT FUDGE SAUCELike Sanders

14-ounce can Eagle Brand milk

14 ounces light corn syrup (use EB milk can to measure)

¼ pound butter* (*per the “free sheet” directions; the book – as written in 1983 – calls for ½ pound)

12 ounces Nestlé’s milk chocolate candy bars – Do not substitute on brand of candy!

a few drops vanilla extract

In top of double boiler, over simmering water, combine all ingredients as listed, stirring about 15 minutes until smooth and melted. Cover and continue cooking for at least 30 more minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes. Cool and put through your blender in small portions, using on/off agitation on high speed until mixture is satiny-smooth. Makes 1 quart. Keeps refrigerated up to a month – reheat in top of double boiler over simmering water. Freezes well up to 6 months.

Sanders-style Hot Fudge Sauce

 

Sanders-style Hot Fudge Sauce

Here’s Gloria Pitzer’s amazing make-a-like recipe for “Sanders-style Hot Fudge Sauce”.  It is truly decadent and delicious!

  • 14 oz. Eagle Brand Milk (can)
  • 14 oz. Karo Syrup (light)
  • 12 oz. Nestles Chocolate Chips (not the semisweets)
  • 1/4 lbs. Butter
  1. Combine ingredients in top of double boiler over simmering water and stir until chocolate melts.

  2. Continue to cook and stir a few times for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, then beat with a mixer until smooth.

  3. Cool, pour into jar, then tightly cap. Refrigerate.

  4. Serves 32

About Sanders Candy Co.®

Sanders first opened in Downtown Detroit in 1875. Over the years, they expanded to over 57 stores covering the Detroit area. These stores not only sold candy, fudge toppings, and baked goods, but also had fountain counters serving light lunches, as well as an assortment of desserts including the popular Ice Cream Sodas, Sundaes and Hot Fudge Cream Puffs.

Sanders soon became the leading purveyor of candies in the Greater Detroit area and began to sell directly to national supermarket chains and other retailers in the area. Many of the national stores were outfitted with Sanders in-store bakery stations for cake decorating and more, while others featured the full line of Sanders products in their bakery departments.

Sanders still uses the finest quality ingredients in all of their chocolates, candies and fudge toppings following strict formulas created by Fred Sanders over 100 years ago.

For more information, check out www.SandersCandy.com It has a variety of features including information on parlor locations, career opportunities, and an online store so you can order these truly amazing products if you can’t find them in your area of the country.