Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Make the most of Summer

As always, happy Monday to everybody! Today is also National Penuche Fudge Day – so, happy Penuche Fudge Day and, if you can, enjoy a luscious piece somewhere; then, hashtag it on social media!

#NationalPenucheFudgeDay

According to Merriam-Webster.com, penuche is a fudge usually made of brown sugar, butter, cream or milk, and nuts. There’s also a great sounding recipe for a traditional penuche on a 2014 blog entry from Jennifer Buggica, “The Foodie Patootie”, at https://thefoodiepatootie.com/national-penuche-fudge-day/. I wish I could eat it – but, unfortunately it’s too sweet for my hypoglycemic system. I’ll have to work on a sugar-free, low-carb version, even if it won’t be a traditional penuche.

In the summer of 1976, Mom self-published a little cookbook, called The American Cookery Cookbook, of which the Henry Ford Museum bought some copies to put in its bi-centennial collection. That was the only cookbook, of Mom’s, in which I could find a copy of a traditional-style penuche recipe. Mom called her recipe ‘San Diego Penuche’.

However, Mom’s 1997 recipe for fudge like Disney World’s (see that recipe near the end of this blog) is very similar to a traditional penuche. About a month ago, I had shared with you a different recipe version, from Mom, for fudge like Disney World’s.

No matter where you go across North America – from a little German town in Michigan, called Frankenmuth, to See’s Candy shops in California to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL to the Maple Leaf Village in Niagara Falls, Ontario – fudge is a tourism staple and the making of fudge, before our very eyes, has become an art form, as well as a form of entertainment for millions of North American tourists every year.

I can’t have fudge anymore because of my low-carb lifestyle AND hypoglycemia. I miss my carbs so much! Some sugar-free and low-carb versions of anything may still taste okay, but they’re just not the same, nor really as good! However, I can still reminisce about the real tastes as I watch the fudge-makers perform their magic shows through the big picture windows of all the little fudge shops in all the tourist areas I visit!

It’s still fun to watch them, live, transforming their thick, molten liquid creations – like the river flowing through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – by pouring the confections out of big vats and onto large, cold, marble slabs. Then, the fudge-makers fold the gooey mixture over and over again, cooling it and thickening it through the process, until they’ve formed long loaves of thick, sweet goodness to be sliced like bread. It doesn’t cost me any carbs to stand there and smell the sweet, sugary aromas – and reminisce about the flavors I remember from my childhood!

1970, Pitzer Vacation at Mackinac Island, MI

I have so many wonderful, childhood memories of family, summertime trips to popular tourist spots like Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH), Disneyland (Los Angeles, CA), Toronto and Niagara Falls (both, in Ontario, Canada). In addition, are our own beautiful “up north” Michigan destinations like Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island and Tahquamenon Falls. Everywhere we visited, there was usually a fudge shop at which to stop and see a fudge-making performance, as well as to buy some of their tasty treats.

An interesting story on the history of fudge and how it came to be a tourism staple, in the first place, can be found at https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/205844/how-did-fudge-become-a-staple-of-tourist-towns/. Another great article to check out, on the subjects of fudge and tourism, is called “Why does every Tourist Attraction sell Fudge?”, by Kat Eschner (Smithsonian.com; May 12, 2017), at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-does-every-tourist-attraction-sell-fudge-180963152/.

1979, Pitzer Vacation at Niagara Falls, Ontario

Going through Mom’s old photo albums brings up so many more memories of our family, summertime vacations. Mom, almost always, was the one to photograph all those special moments; although, Dad would take a picture every now and then, so Mom could be in some shots as well. Back then, there weren’t “selfies” or digital cameras with the capabilities of capturing thousands of pictures!

Years ago, every shot needed to count because your roll of film was limited to a certain number of photos, and you didn’t know if any of them would come out right until you had the film printed – there was no instant viewing and deleting, like we can do now. Photo technology has come such a long, long way over the last 50 years.

I remember when Polaroid cameras and disposable cameras were the new, cutting-edge technology! Now your cell phone is an all-in-one-personal-assistant with a built-in camera to capture every “Kodak moment” as it happens! AND, not only that, but, now, you can also skip the whole printing process and still share your photos through the internet via emails and social media sites or, more privately, through text messages!

Mackinac Island Memories – Somewhere In Time

I would have to say, the Mackinac Island fudge shops are probably my favorite ones of all! And the summer vacations we spent on Mackinac Island were always the most memorable! Except for the smell of horse dung, baking in the summer heat, the island is actually full of many heavenly scents from the sugary confections being made in the fudge and candy shops to the wonderful aromas seeping from the island’s restaurants and bakeries to the heavenly scents surrounding all the beautiful gardens that are everywhere. Mackinac is a very nostalgic place – no cars are allowed on the island, so getting around it is usually done by foot, bicycle or horse in some manner.

Whether we stayed in Mackinaw City and visited the island all day or we stayed at the Grand Hotel, right on the island; it was always a magical trip back in time… especially the summer when the movie, Somewhere in Time, was being filmed there! What a special treat for all of us to experience! [NOTE: long before that, another movie was also filmed at the Grand Hotel. In 1947, Ethel Merman swam in the kidney-shaped pool of the Grand Hotel during the filming of This Time for Keeps. Thus, the pool was named after her.]

Photo of Gloria Pitzer, on the porch of The Grand Hotel, taken by Laura Pitzer, 1979

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

SOMEWHERE IN TIME – MACKINAC ISLAND [MI]

Our reservations were made in February, that year, to spend the Fourth of July week at The Grand Hotel on historic Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. We had heard, when we arrived, that Universal Pictures was filming a movie with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and that our 2-day stay at the hotel might be disrupted from the usual routine we were used to when we stayed there. The place was booked, and we were lucky to have those 2 days because other customers had canceled. The scene when we arrived was one of spectators and glamorous Hollywood activity in the lobby and on the grounds.

Paul was just teeing off at the green next to the golf pro shop, the next morning, when we heard a sympathetic moan from the beautiful leading man, himself, as he locked up his bike and headed across the street to the filming activity. I know I should have run after Christopher Reeve for his autograph, but I was in shock!

Later, in the hotel lobby, we watched the scene when Christopher Reeve checks into The Grand and, later, when he and Jane Seymour take a buggy ride away from the entrance of the hotel with Christopher Plummer looking on. Take the time to enjoy seeing the movie they were filming – we’ve seen it 4 times and can’t wait to see it again! It’s for everyone who has ever been in love – or who has ever visited lovely Mackinac Island, as we do every summer.

In one scene of the movie you’ll notice, on the main street of the village, a sign over a shop that reads ‘Murdick’s Fudge’, a recipe which I have coveted for years. Finally, after dozens of tests, I came up with the secret for purporting this product at home… It whips up in 5 minutes and, a week later, it’s still smooth and creamy. – Gloria Pitzer [from Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 235)]

After Mom and Dad became empty-nesters, they bought a camper and traveled even more – being that it was much more affordable with only the two of them! Joining the Good Sam club was always one of their most favorite experiences. Mom had many scrap books full of photos and special keepsakes from all of their trips with the Michigan and Ohio chapters. Mom also wrote about her and Dad’s trips in most of her summer newsletter issues, especially about all the great new friendships they made everywhere they went. They always looked forward to the Good Sam “Jamborees”!

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

GOOD SAM – CARING AND CAMPING

Needless to say, I can’t wait until we can begin our ‘motor-home camping’ again with our Good Sam friends. It’s our weekend vacation pleasure, May through October. Becoming part of the Good Sam organization is the best thing that has ever happened to us, where we could both enjoy mutual friendships and activities. Wonderful, caring people, who constantly remind us that ‘there are no strangers in Good Sam – only friends we haven’t met, yet!’ – Gloria Pitzer [from Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-June 1987, 126th issue, p. 3)]

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

On the first day of spring, I started a low-carb lifestyle (like the Atkins Diet). Thus far, it has been 124 days of no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar, most fruits – you know, all the good stuff… and, boy, do I ever miss the good stuff! It feels just like when I quit smoking cigarettes over 13 years ago. Absence does make the heart grow fonder – at least for a while! I must admit, I’m a carbohydrate addict!

In fact, I never realized how much I ate (and how little my husband ate) until I started this low-carb lifestyle/diet. I HATE waste and throwing out food! But, after I started my new lifestyle, I realized that I was the only one who had been eating up the left-overs, so food wouldn’t go to waste. It’s been difficult, learning to cook two, small, single meals at a time. I’ve been so used to cooking large portions for so long.

After starting this new lifestyle out at a daily carbohydrate limit of 20 grams, for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit up to 25 grams a day and have kept it there so far. It seems to work for me. But, whenever I don’t keep track of my carb-intake, I go over my limit. I can feel its effects the next day, and it doesn’t feel good (such as an upset stomach and the shakes from a drop in my blood sugar level); plus, I re-gain a pound or two.

I mentioned in my last “Diet Update” that I had recently started using almond flour to make some Keto recipes. I still LOVE the 90-Second Microwave English Muffin! I like to turn my “slices” into a Monte Cristo sandwich for breakfast. It’s a little piece of heaven for about 9-grams of carbs!

I’ve also been experimenting with some of my favorite cookies and dessert recipes, using sugar-free and low-carb ingredient substitutions. I have developed a no-bake cookie concoction that can be panned up and cubed like fudge. I also like to use a no-flour, 3-ingredient, peanut butter cookie recipe that’s been around for years, substituting my own low-carb ingredients!

As of today, I’ve lost about 37 pounds! However, my “exercise regimen” is STILL not steady, to say the least! Nevertheless, I need to change that because I continue to not spend near enough time weeding my gardens or going for brisk walks. Thus, I won’t stop trying to make those things part of my already irregular, daily routine. My goal is to lose another 8-13 pounds, but I don’t have a deadline set. I’ll get there when I get there, but I WILL get there!

IN CLOSING…

Last month, I shared a version of Mom’s Disney World-Style Fudge from one of her free recipe and information sheets… Below is a different version of that recipe, as seen in Mom’s cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 9) – and its ingredients are more similar to those of a traditional penuche. Again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

 

Seize Fudge, Like See’s Candy of California

 

Seize Fudge, Like See’s Candy

By Gloria Pitzer, Secret Fast Food Recipes (Secret Recipes, Marysville, MI; “21st printing” – Dec. 1999, p. 48)

In California, the only word in candy is the famous See’s Candy. If you like their fudge, then you’ll love this make-alike version!

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs (well beaten)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  1. In top of double-boiler, over gently simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in eggs with portable electric mixer on high speed. Beat in powdered sugar a little at a time, until smooth, then add vanilla. Pour into greased 9-inch square pan. Chill a few hours until firm enough to cut into 36 squares.
NOTE: This recipe may have appeared in an earlier printing of this cookbook, but it wasn’t in the first printing from March 1985.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Recording Memories

Hi, again, everyone! First of all, happy Chanukah/Hanukkah to all of those celebrating this wonderful 8-day, traditional Jewish “festival of lights”! Whether you say “Shalom” or “Noel” – both words mean “Peace”. It is the season of love, hope and understanding! We are all different, yet so alike, and that’s okay. Cheerish it! Embrace it! Own it! Celebrate it! “Let there be peace on Earth…” and let it begin with each and every one of us!

“Every year at this time, we put our very best wishes together with some warm & worthy thoughts, and send them off to you, wrapped in sincere affection and the dearest hopes that this coming year gives you all you expect and derive from it.” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes [TM] Quarterly, Winter 94/95.

As I make out this year’s Christmas cards from my husband and I to all of our friends and family, I can’t help but reminisce over the past year. Last Christmas was a rough one, as Mom’s health seemed to deteriorate in December. I didn’t do the yearly card tradition for my husband and I; as, instead, I helped Mom to write and send out her own Christmas cards – not knowing it was for the last time. It was such a rollercoaster ride that month and the next, as she seemed to get better and worse and better again (which, I understand, is usually what happens at “the end”) until she passed away peacefully on January 21st, of this year, lovingly surrounded by family and care-givers and friends.

Mom and Santa 2016

One “hidden blessing” in Dementia is the ability to recall old memories with clarity, like they happened recently. Mom often reminisced with me and my kids and grandson on our visits with her, about stories of some of our relatives, whom were long gone, from her chilhood memories. She couldn’t understand how she could remember such things, like they happened yesterday, but couldn’t remember who she actually saw or spoke to that previous day. It was also very hard for her to look in the mirror, as she didn’t really recognize the face staring back at her because her mind was often in the past, including how she looked then and not currently. As discussed in Scrapbook Photo Albums are Therapeutic for Alzheimer’s Patients by Mark B. Mizen, Ph.D., Director of Technology at Creative Memories; Saint Cloud, MN, photographs and scrapbooks and journals are such important “tools” for those who suffer from Dimentia and Alzheimer, as well as for their families, friends and care-takers.

If only hindsight was forsight! I wish now, that I had written more of her stories down or, better yet, recorded the conversations. We always tend to think there’s time for that later…but then, in the blink of an eye, that time is gone. Over 26 years ago, Mom wrote in one of her newsletters about her and my dad’s plans for a Christmas present to me and my siblings, of a cassette recording of the two of them talking about their life together and their most dearly remembered and cherished moments; plus, memories of their grandparents, whom we (my siblings and I) never got the chance to know; as well as other stories about the family that we could pass on to future generations. I so wish they had followed through with that gift. It would’ve been priceless to me and my own children, as well as to my grandson.

I’ve always loved Mom’s artistic way with words. Her love for writing and journaling helped her, somewhat, to deal with the Dimentia from which she suffered after a double stroke and “grand mal seizure” in 2015. The writing was as much a form of therapy for her as it was just a natural reflex. Mom penned her feelings and memories in journals for most of her life. My younger sister has all the journals that still exist. Some were lost or destroyed over the years. But, Mom also recorded some of her feelings and memories in every one of her publications too. I really do enjoy re-reading all of her “Food for Thought” memories that are in her old books and newsletters of which I still have copies. A lot of what she wrote about was regarding finding the blessings in any given moment – good and bad, alike – for that was how she was raised. Being grateful everyday for what she confronted and overcame was a big part of Mom’s journaling.

In later years, Mom was largely influenced in this effect by Maya Angelou, who told of her experience with “the yellow pad” in an interview with David Holstrom of “The Christian Science Monitor” (1993) – Maya said she went to her voice teacher in mental turmoil over having to leave her child in Europe when she returned to the States. Frightened for her sanity, she told her teacher that she thought she was going mad. He gave her a yellow pad and told her to write down her blessings. She said she didn’t even want to hear that, but he insisted that she start with the fact that she could hear him, that she could see the page, that she could hold the pen. “Before I reached the end of the page,” she [Maya] said, “I was transformed. So, everything I have written, every book, every stage play, every screenplay, was written on a yellow pad. As soon as I pick it up, I am reminded of my blessings.”

“The celebration of the moments worth remembering continues to have its place. ” – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes [TM] Quarterly, Wnter 94/95.

As with my prervious blogs, I’d like to end by sharing one of Mom’s recipes with you that appeared on her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. This picture contains a copy of Mom’s 1985 make-alike version of California’s famous See’s Candy fudge (an easy, favorite treat she liked to make at Christmas time):

This recipe, unlike most of the others I’ve shared here, does not 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 by me, Laura Emerich, of Mom’s famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], an 8.25×11-inch, “Perfect Bound Softcover”, 322-page cookbook (also available as an eBook) published in January 2018 and available for purchase (ISBN: 9781504391214.) However, you will find, in this book, Mom’s make-alike recipes for Niagara Falls Fudge as offered at the Maple Leaf Village in Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada); as well as her “Somewhere In Time Chocolate Fudge”, like “Murdick’s Fudge”, Mackinaw Island, MI referenced in a scene in the movie, after which she named her version.