Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began, Part 3

Hi everybody and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! This is a special blog I started last year to carry on my mom’s legacy. I’m Laura Emerich and my mom is Gloria Pitzer; also known as (aka) the one-and-only, ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”! That’s the name or title bestowed on Mom in the 1970’s era by her many radio talk-show friends and fans, because she could sleuth out the secrets of the food and restaurant industries like Sherlock Holmes (who happened to be one of Mom’s favorite, fictional book characters), determining how their dishes could be made at home with a minimum amount of cost, effort and ingredients.

This week, I am continuing with “Part 3” of my 4-part, special series, “Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began”, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of how she came to be “The Secret Recipe Detective”, her trademarked name. This particular series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, in her own words, as seen on pages 292-297 in her last cookbook, 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 her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).

Resuming the story, “…How Secret Recipes Began”, here is “Part 3” in Mom’s words:

THE FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE

IT WAS THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME to launch a new business. The unemployment rate was terribly high. There was a newsprint paper shortage. There was a gasoline shortage. But, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to have my own publication. It was something I had always wanted to do. I couldn’t tell Paul. I knew that! He would have been far too practical to have approved of my starting my own paper, so I enlisted the help of our children.

I was taking in ironing at the time [1973-ish], at $5 a basket, and sometimes earned as much as $50 a week. The money was supposed to supplement Paul’s paycheck, which – as soon as we found could make ends meet – we discovered somebody had moved the ends. So, I took what money I could from the ironing earnings and bought a mimeograph.

Gloria Pitzer – 1974

I kept it in a big box in the utility room under my sewing table. Paul would hardly pay attention to what I wanted him to think was only sewing paraphernalia. For 9 months [1974], I mimeographed, assembled and mailed out about 100 copies a month of my “newsletter”. Bill and Mike helped assemble it and Debbie help me test the recipes and address the copies. I don’t know how we ever kept it from Paul for that long, but I couldn’t tell him what I was doing until I could assure him that I could make a profit. All I was doing was breaking even.

Mom had a lot of creative gifts and writing was probably on 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 books were full of “Food for Thought”, jokes, meditation, inspiration, historic information and so much more than just recipes. It certainly set her products apart from all the rest on the market at that time. She was largely influenced by Carol Duvall and her crafting newsletter, as well as, by Elsie Masterson and her “Blueberry Hill Cookbook” (1959).

Mom always described her own newsletters as being like “getting together for coffee…with friends.” I would describe it, simply, as Mom’s “happy place”. Anyway, back to her story…

Then, Dennis Wholley, at Channel 7 in Detroit, called and said somebody had sent him a copy of my newsletter. He was tickled with the crazy names I gave the recipes and the home-spun format. He wanted the entire family to be his guests on his ‘A.M. Detroit’ show on November 14th – which was also our Laura’s birthday. I couldn’t keep it from Paul any longer, because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to promote the paper on a popular local television show.

He took it quite well, considering the state of shock he must have been in at my announcement. But, we took all 5 of the kids with us across town, in a blizzard yet, with Laura having a bout of car-sickness during the hour’s drive there. And, during that experience, we met Coleman Young, the recently elected mayor of Detroit, who was also a guest on the show. All of Pearl Beach must have been tuned into ‘A.M. Detroit’ that morning, with half of the population gathered at the Pearl Beach post office, watching the portable set there.

1974 – Paul & Gloria Pitzer going over orders at their dining room table in Algonac.

It brought us many new orders for our newsletter, and it wasn’t long before CKLW’s Bob Heinz asked us to appear on his show on New Year’s Day. We, again, took the family over to Windsor, Ontario – across the Detroit River – for another exciting experience and hundreds of letters that followed, wanting to subscribe to the newsletter. By that time, Paul was giving me every evening of his time when he came home from his own job at the sign company, plus all the weekends just to fill the orders.

Stay tuned, next week, for the final part of this 4-part series about Mom’s story – how she became the famous “Secret Recipe Detective” – in her own words, as she describes how Dad retired early, from the sign company, to help Mom full-time; and about her Arthur Treacher Fish challenge! I can say this, as one of the official taste-testers in the challenges that she endeavored from her radio listeners, “BEST job ever!” Even the “duds” (the ones that didn’t quite imitate the taste she was trying to achieve) were great!

The best way to tell how successful a dish will be is to look for the first one to disappear. Find the cook & get the recipe! [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 146, Sep-Oct 1907; pg. 1, w/in “Dear Friends” editorial]

In closing, as I’ve been doing each week, I want to conclude this blog with one of Mom’s famous imitation recipes (pictured below), Applebee’s-Style Oriental Dressing, that appeared on one of her “Free Recipes/Information” sheets (2000) – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:

Note: this particular dressing recipe was not included in Mom’s last cookbook, “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 her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, many other wonderful salads and dressings dishes, as well as wonderful morsels of “Food for Thought”, preparation tips and humorous antidotes can be found in the “Salads & Salad Dressings” chapter or section of this book on pages 26-48. Enjoy!

“Gloria Pitzer, The Recipe Detective” – Written by John Thorne, 1986

Sometime in the mid-1970s, Gloria Pitzer [quit] her job as food editor at a local paper because she insisted on giving readers the recipes they wanted, not the recipes her editor felt they ought to want. Still convinced that she was right, she took in ironing until she had scraped up enough to purchase a mimeograph machine, and started sending out a food letter, The Secret Recipe Report. (Now called Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Quarterly, it may well be the longest-lived food letter ever.) Ten years later she was making regular appearances on radio cooking talk shows all around the country and selling hundreds of thousands of copies of the cookbooks into which she was periodically gathering these “secret recipes,” most famously her Better Cookery Cookbook: Secret Recipes for Famous Foods from Famous Places.

This triumph was built on the brilliant intuition that a lot of home cooks were tired of the recipes offered in most cookbooks and newspaper food pages. These, usually, break down into two general categories: dishes that, on the one hand, require the cook to tackle new methods and new ingredients for ends that may or may not prove worth the effort and, on the other, the all-too-familiar round of penny-scraping, time-cheating, fat-wary throw-togethers.

What Pitzer understood was that while this was what her readers may have said they wanted, it was secretly what they yearned to escape. Although they might be afraid to admit this, even to themselves, what would most excite them would be to learn how to make the food they most loved to eat: the fast food they bought at McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken and the brand-name treats they brought home from the supermarket, stuff like Oreo cookies and Hostess Snowballs.

So, Gloria Pitzer assumed both the title and role of the “Recipe Detective” and set out to decode these foods — at least to the point where she could replicate them in her own home kitchen. And she succeeded at this beyond her wildest dreams — sometimes to corporate fury and sometimes to its amused acquiescence.

It quickly became apparent that she had touched a public nerve. Her radio appearances — helped by her perky, unpretentious personality and unabashed enthusiasm — brought her thousands of letters. When she went on national television to teach Phil Donahue how to make Twinkies, she received over a million pieces of mail…an event that so traumatized her that she subsequently refused to appear on Good Morning America or in People Magazine. (Nor did she return to the Phil Donahue show for another twelve years. But, when she did in 1993, there were over five hundred thousand requests for a transcript — more than any other in the history of the show.)

Cookbooks offering homemade versions of popular restaurant and brand-name foods are nothing new. What made Gloria Pitzer different was both what she chose to replicate and how she chose to do it. For instance, Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie, in their award-winning Better than Store Bought, eschewed brand-name replication entirely, teaching their readers instead to make corn chips or tomato catsup in a healthier and more economical fashion. These authors shrink from any association with the shameful thrill of a mouthful of Pringles or raspberry-flavored marshmallow fluff.

In complete contrariety, Gloria Pitzer actively promotes what is vulgarly excessive about such things, instinctively grasping that it was the way junk food breaches culinary decorum that makes it so desirable in the first place. Consequently, her versions are often worse for us than the originals and, sometimes even more expensive to make.

You would search in vain in Better than Store Bought for a recipe for Cheez Whiz; Gloria Pitzer gives us two. She also explains what we surely would always have wanted to know if we ever believed anyone would tell us: how to make Lipton’s instant cream of tomato soup, Eagle Brand condensed milk, General Foods “Suisse Mocha” instant coffee…and a host of other such familiars. Only Dream Whip has so far managed to stymie her, and that probably not for long.

How does the Recipe Detective go about deducing the secrets of these patent formulas? By trying, tasting, and — when these are available — perhaps casting a very casual glance at the ingredient list. Indeed, what to my mind makes Pitzer a true artist is her lack of interest in with what exactly a particular product is made. As she puts if forthrightly: “I do not know, nor do I WANT to know what these companies put into their recipes.” What she wants to replicate is less it than the experience of eating it.

So, to copy a forty-eight-ounce jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, she blends the expected ingredients — oil, eggs, lemon juice, vinegar, salt — with some that you might not expect — three-quarters of a cup each of sugar and evaporated milk and two sticks of margarine. Then, to offset the incredible greasy richness that this produces (did I mention the six egg yolks?), she ups the lemon juice and vinegar to a third of a cup each and the salt to four teaspoons.

A spoonful of this mixture explodes in the mouth like a culinary hand grenade. Salt! Sweet! Sour! Fat! — all hit the taste buds simultaneously and with overwhelming intensity. This is cooking as an act of sensual violence. And while not all her recipes are like this, many are. Some go further.

Taken as a whole, this cooking is to ordinary fare as scarlet-covered romances are to ordinary life…normal caution cast aside for the pleasure of total surrender to the charming — and surely not totally unscrupulous — ravisher. Such food doesn’t ask to be tasted; it compels the mouth to submit. The message: when pleasure forces itself on you, there’s no blame in yielding. Relax and enjoy it.

Certainly, Gloria Pitzer herself treats the sweet-talking blandishments of her seducers as gospel truth. She writes with a straight face that the beef from which White Castle makes its hamburgers is “of such a high quality we can’t possibly equal it with what we buy in our supermarkets….” She spends months decoding Arthur Treacher’s “secret” fish fry batter and the Colonel’s “secret” eleven herbs and spices.

It isn’t, of course, that I don’t think such secrets exist. I’m sure they do. I just don’t think they have all that much influence on anyone’s decision to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken. This may be why, when Pitzer and Colonel Sanders chatted together once on a radio program, he genially hinted that she look around the grocery store for a packaged mix that might contain eleven secret herbs and spices. Pitzer diligently did just that-to discover that the secret behind that finger lickin’ flavor was Good Seasons brand Italian salad dressing mix.

Another cook might have been dismayed — some secret! — but Pitzer was thrilled. Here, suddenly, reality was replicating fantasy, her fantasy. Her final recipe — for three pounds of fryer parts — mixes two packets of the salad seasoning into a blend of butter, corn oil, Crisco, milk, lemon juice, and sage-and-paprika-seasoned pancake mix.

Because it bombards us with pleasurable and un-resistible stimuli, junk food offers an immediate comfort that ordinary food cannot… a comfort that few of us can resist all the time. But as it coddles, it also betrays, for like many seducers it is not what it pretends to be. We know this, and we don’t care. There is eating where the mouth is inquisitive, aggressive, alert, and appreciative because it genuinely wants to get to know what it is devouring. Then, like an encounter between two strangers in pick-up bar, both looking for an easy one-night stand, there is eating that knows it had best not look too closely and just take it as it comes.

Such encounters have their flavor, but that comes from a willed confusion of fantasy and reality, of appearance and substance, reinforced by the ambience of the bar and smooth talk that is at once sincere and empty. In the world of food, these things arise from the aura that is woven around the brand name, associations that persistent advertising persuades us to equate with our own sense of pleasure. This is why economy-minded mothers serve cheaper, frozen fried chicken to their family in a carefully preserved Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket — it’s the bucket, not the chicken (even less the herbs and spices), that provides the savor of this kind of eating.

The sobriquet “recipe detective” might at first acquaintance sound like an attempt to become fast-food’s Philip Marlowe — a solitary seeker of truth stalking the mean streets of the Miracle Mile. In Pitzer’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. The persona she projects in her writing is not that of detective-avenger but of willing victim, the romantic heroine who refuses to let go the illusions that lead, over and over again, to the threat of seduction and betrayal.

Food writing as Harlequin romance — it is in such terms, I think, that we should read her indiscriminate eagerness to justify fast food, her hymns of praise to those who make it, and, especially, her vilification of the writers who attempt to undermine its emotional solace. We should take it, that is, as defending not a belief so much as a dream.

If you go by the commercials, the Big Mac, the Diet Pepsi, the Lay’s potato chip are all you need to transform a family meal or a gathering of friends into a joyous event; they are sold, that is, as Energizer batteries for human beings. Food, perhaps, should not be put to this purpose. But it is, and it works — at least for a time. Better Cookery Cookbook — the title is without irony, since it is merely mimicking the Betty Crocker Cookbook (in case you don’t get it, she adds on the next page, “General Thrills Foods”) — because of its self-illusions, is a compelling, even touching, portrait of the author’s, and by extension, many another’s, struggles with the junk-food dream.

That unselfconscious honesty is what distances Pitzer from the more publicized mainstream writers on the pleasures of this world. The latter approach it as curious tourists in the land of Big Boys and Chicken in the Rough, tourists who keep their culinary passports in order so that they can get out at the drop of a hat. Gloria Pitzer actually lives there…and that makes all the difference.

Dream Whip has so far managed to stymie her, but that probably won’t for long.

by John Thorne, 1986

NOTE: Thorne lived in Boston for a number of years, where he self-published a number of culinary pamphlets reviewed at the time by The New York Times, which in 1983 grew into his ongoing newsletter, “Simple Cooking”. In the middle 1980s, Thorne moved to coastal Maine to devote himself exclusively to food writing, and where he became associated with Matt Lewis, who later shared a byline for a number of his books and his newsletter. Thorne’s newsletter has consisted of essays on food preparation and appreciation blended with snatches of autobiography…as well as frequent cookbook reviews. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Thorne_(writer)

1994 – The Best of the First 20 Years by Gloria Pitzer

1994 Apr – The Best of the First 20 Years by Gloria Pitzer

1994 – The Best of the First 20 Years was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook is a special, limited edition, anniversary issue of select recipes from the first 20 years of Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, 1974-1994; having a 60-page, 8.5” x 11” format full of 376 select recipes, family stories and pictures, editorials on The Newsletter’s history, food tips, tricks & techniques and information on Gloria’s regular radio visits. It sold for $10 per book.

“The Secret Recipe Detective” is the name or title given to Mom by her many radio talk show friends and fans, because she could sleuth out the secrets of the food and restaurant industries, determining how their dishes could be made at home with a minimum amount of effort and ingredients.

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “Anniversary Issue”, “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter”, “Special Limited Edition”, “First of a Series”
  • Printings: 1
  • Years: Apr 1994
  • Recipes: 376 listed
  • Pages: 60
  • Size: 8.5”x11”
  • Price: $10
  • Used copies on eBay: unknown
  • Used copies on Amazon: unknown
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

1990 – Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes of Famous Favorites

1990 Nov – Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes of Famous Favorites

1990 – Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes of Famous Favorites was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook has a 120-page, 5.5” x 8.5” format filled with over 400 recipes from the original “Books 1-5” series, established in 1976-1982. However, this collection was not reprinted in any of the other books Gloria has written since that 5-book series. Included in this collection, you’ll find everything from “After Dinner Mints” to “Zucchini Bread”. Famous make-alike versions of “Arby’s-Style Cheesecake”, “Buddy’s-Style Pizza”, “Frankenmuth Gingerbread”, “Paul Newman-Style Dressing”, “Stuckey’s-Style Pecan Brownies” and even a recipe from the White House; given to Gloria from Betty Ford, herself!

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: The Best of the Best; Books 1 through 5 Revisited
  • Printings: 2
  • Years: November 1990 & April 1991
  • Recipes: 445 listed
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″
  • Price: originally $7, then $7.50 in 1993 (until it sold out within a year)
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began, Part 2

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! My name is Laura Emerich and I started this blog series last year to share remembrances of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, because she made such a big impact on, not only our own family, but also on people we never met, all around the world. Mom passed away just over a year ago and I started this blog series to carry on her torch – her “legacy of love“ – “Secret Recipes”.

My mom was such a huge influence on who I’ve grown to be that I felt compelled to keep her torch lit and to keep it shining bright! To me, her love of writing and cooking and inspiring others in the same was one of the biggest parts of her legacy – especially since I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook; which was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI – 1982), so it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age”! Shortly before Mom passed away, it went to print, being published by Balboa Press, with the title re-adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective. Ordering information is near the end of this blog.

This week, I want to continue my special series, “Mom’s Story – How Secret Recipes Began”, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of how she came to be “The Recipe Detective”, her trademarked name. This series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, in her own words, as seen on pages 292-297 in her last cookbook, 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 her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (May 1983, 3rd Printing):

THE DIRECTION WAS ALREADY DETERMINED FOR ME!

WHEN I LOOK BACK now, I realize that I was so busy trying to prove that others were wrong about me, I couldn’t see how events were taking place that would sooner or later put me where I had always wanted to be – [Mom would call each of these “events” a “meant-to-be”] writing for a worthwhile living, while making living worthwhile!

In high school, I pestered the school newspaper sponsor, Mr. Rosen, to let me be on the staff. He had no hope for me at all as a reporter! I was secretary of the Senior Class, January 1954, and Judy Guest was secretary of the June 1954 Senior Class. Judy was on the staff of the paper; but, even then, it was well-known that she hoped to write “the Great American novel”– and that she did, 20 years later, with Academy Award-winning “Ordinary People”! Judy’s great-uncle was Edgar A. Guest and Bud Guest, a famous radio commentator, was her uncle. It was only natural that writing would run in her family.

We were friends because we liked each other and were both involved with the same school activities. I was always glad that we continued to keep in touch, if only at Christmas, for nobody appreciated Judy’s eventual success with “Ordinary People” as I probably did, knowing how long she had wanted to accomplish that work. Somehow, despite my personal objections to the direction in which I appeared to be going, it was just as likely that I would accomplish a properly-written cookbook. Even in high school I was put on 2-weeks’ probation with the cooking class instructor, for having disregarded the recipe for a pie crust we were assigned to prepare in class. Mine was a recipe that I still use – and have published in this book – for the “No Rolling Pin” crust. Apparently, it’s true, that “Life” is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.

DIVIDENDS

Every successful accomplishment with my writing, after high school and the one year in college, was involved with recipes and cookbooks and restaurants. But I couldn’t see that it was a kind of calling. I saw it only as an interest that temporarily kept me writing and making a worthwhile living at it.

WDEE-Radio, in Detroit, gave me a portable radio or a recipe that took 1st place in a contest they conducted – and in 1962, it was WBRB, in Mt. Clemens, that gave me a check for 1st place in their recipe contest. Soon after that, Better Homes & Gardens sent me a check for a recipe in a contest they had conducted. WJ BK-Radio gave me a maple stereo and radio set for their most unusual experience while listening to the radio, in 1964, when I wrote them about our “Picnicking in the Snow”. Again, the story was food related, including recipes for having a cook-out on the beach at Metropolitan Park in the middle of winter, with the radio going to keep us in the proper mood. It was all leading to my eventual work in the food industry – but, I couldn’t see that at the time I could only see that I had to write and with any luck at all, luck would be when preparation and experience met opportunity. The opportunity was close at hand.

The source of this photo is unknown. I found the clipping in one of Mom’s old scrap books. The date would obviously be when Mom worked as a cartoonist for a local newspaper, The Review. I think that this was from the early 70’s, shortly before she started her “Secret Recipes” business.

Speaking of competitions, I remember when one of my grade school teachers, at an Algonac Schools’ Parent-Teacher Conference, made a special point of telling Mom that I wasn’t very competitive, and it bothered her, as she was extremely competitive, herself. Mom thought that was an important drawback in my life, because she was a competitive-type also; and thus, she felt that I lacked the determination to do as well as, if not better than, others in my class or in sports. She later thought that I had found my competitive drive and learned from it such things as “teamwork” and “self-worth”.

I actually never learned to be competitive – I have always favored being the cheerleader or fan that applauds the competitors, rather than being the player! I’ve always rejoiced in others’ glories and never craved my own. Which is ironic since my name, Laura, which comes from Latin, meaning or referring to the Laurel tree or sweet bay tree (symbols of honor and victory).

The fact is, I did learned teamwork in school; but, on things like class projects that involved group participation assignments – and I learned self-worth from always trying to do my best in everything I attempted. My rewards were the grades and compliments I received from my teachers, peers and family. I wasn’t driven to be #1 – I was driven to just do things to the best of my ability. Anyway, enough of that little memory detour – back to Mom’s story…

A MEAL BY ANY OTHER NAME

FAST FOOD RECIPES were not published in the best-sellers – and these were the restaurants where families were apt to frequent if they wanted a meal that was affordable! Paul and I could take all 5 of the children to Capri’s, an Italian restaurant down the road from us in Pearl Beach, and we could feed the whole family for less than $10, providing we ordered the large pizza with only pepperoni and cheese on it and one soft drink for each of us.

It was not for substance that we ate out. It was for entertainment. We could take the kids to McDonald’s and it did the same thing for us that going to the movies did for our parents. It was an affordable pleasure. It was a diversion from meatloaf and pot roast and peas and carrots. It was a treat. We looked forward to it. We felt good about the experience and even better after it was over. It carried us through a long week of paying the utilities, insurance, house payments and car payments and grocery expenses. When we had to have our 10-year-old station wagon repaired, we had to skip eating out that week. If one of us had to see the dentist, it might be 2 or 3 weeks before we could afford to eat out again. We made do with what we had…

In the 50s, 60s and early 70s, this was the way parents raised their families, budgeted their earnings and allowed for their pleasures [because their parents grew up in The Great Depression Era]. Things changed, as well they should. Women went out to work. If they weren’t working to supplement the family income, they went to work for their own satisfaction. Whatever the reasons, families changed. Eating at home became less and less appealing – and less and less convenient. Homes were built with smaller kitchens and bigger bathrooms. Microwave ovens were more affordable – and “defrost and heat” became more popular.

Photo by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973 (her family)

WE WANTED OUR CAKE AND WE WANTED TO EAT IT, TOO!

We wanted to eat out at a price we could afford; and, when we couldn’t afford to eat out, we wanted to dine-in as if we were eating out! At the time, there were few recipes for this kind of cooking. We wanted to spend less time preparing the foods and less money on the ingredients and still serve a dish to those who shared our table…that would be equal to – if not better than – anything we could buy in a restaurant or from a supermarket. For all of these reasons, I have pursued the investigations of the food industry with the greatest joy and the utmost care, translating into recipes, those secrets that I have been able to decipher.

Stay tuned, next week, for part 3 of this series about Mom’s story, in her own words, as she describes her very first television appearance in Detroit, November 1974, and a few other appearances after that; as well as in 1976, when the Henry Ford Library at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan ordered copies of one of her very first cookbooks, designed to celebrate the American bi-centennial in food and history, to place in their bi-centennial collection!

Super Bowl Sunday is Feb 3rd!

In the mean time, in honor of my dad’s memory, I want to say that it’s only 6 more days until the big Super Bowl event, happening in Atlanta, GA! The NFC’s New England Patriots face off against the AFC’s Los Angeles Rams. Parties have been planned, squares have been bought, bets have been placed and all the hype about the half-time show and ads have begun!

WEBSITE  UPDATE for TheRecipeDetective.com

I’ve recently started putting together a “Time Line”, of sorts, about all the different publications that Mom has written, illustrated and self-published over the past 4½ decades (around 1973-2018). There’s a few books listed that I don’t have, myself; so, I may have to search the Amazon and Ebay websites for them since they’re out-of-print books. I’ve been to many used book fairs over the years and have never seen any of my mom’s old books – never seen them in any garage sales either, but I have come across many editions of Betty Crocker’s & Julia Child’s cookbooks (to name a few) at these types of venues. Soon, you’ll see updates to this website regarding the 2 current “Cookbooks” tabs being merged together with updated information on each of the books; plus, links to some of her famous “free recipes”, which I’m also still working on, uploading more to that tab as well. Speaking of which…

As I do each week, I will end this blog with one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on one of her “Free Recipes/Information” sheets. In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, whether you’re hosting a party or taking a dish-to-pass for someone else’s party, this is a picture of her easy and awesome, make-alike version of Coney Sauce from her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (1985) to go great on hot dogs or your favorite tortilla chips – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Another version of this recipe (along with a related recipe for making your own dry, starter mix) can be found on page 61 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 her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]; which can be purchased from Balboa Press at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252 for $20.99, or in eBook form for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253 – as Mom would always say, “Happy sleuthing in the kitchen!” …until next week!

1995 – Gloria Pitzer Presents The Best of the Better Cookery Cookbook

1995 Nov – The Best of the Better Cookery Cookbook

1995 – Gloria Pitzer Presents The Best of the Better Cookery Cookbook was revised again. It’s called the “16th printing”; but is, actually the first printing titled this way, which could also be considered the 6th printing of “The Best of” version. This limited edition cookbook used the 8.5” x 11” format – with the 120 pages of the smaller format laid out sideways on 60 larger pages, showing 2 pages of the old layout on each page, with more than 400 recipes still listed, including some new additions. Copies sold for $7.50 each.

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Titles: “New improved better than before” and “This is a very special edition based on the original text.”
  • Printings*: 1+
  • Years*: November 1995+
  • Recipes: 481
  • Pages: 120
  • Size: 8.5″ x 11″
  • Price: $7.50
  • Used copies on eBay: none found
  • Used copies on Amazon: none found
  • ISBN: 1-886138-05-2
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT

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

1982 – Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook

1982 May – Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook

1982 – Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook – was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook, having a 6” x 9” format with 400 pages, is a unique assembly of nearly 1,000 make-at-home, make-alike recipes of Gloria’s famous fast foods, restaurant dishes and grocery products collection. In addition, Gloria includes various historical information, illustrations and photographs along with her usual wit, food-for-thought and humorous stories.

This book was actually inspired from a much needed vacation that Gloria and Paul took from their business in 1979, after completing and publishing Book 5, taking their 2 minor daughters, Laura and Cheryl, with them. They stayed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island where they just so happened to be filming “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer. The Pitzers were lucky enough to meet the three movie stars at breakfast one morning; and, while Gloria was smitten with Christopher Plummer, in the back of her mind she was already taking notes for what would become a special section of this cookbook – about the elegant dishes served at the Grand Hotel.

However, in 2015-2017, it was re-written by Gloria and her daughter, Laura Emerich, to bring it to a new generation. In January 2018, a few days before Gloria passed away, it was re-published under the name, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, which is available, for sale, at $20.99 each through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252

Fun Facts:

  • Sub-Title: “The Best of The Recipe Detective” and “Famous Foods from Famous Places”
  • Printings: 10
  • Years: May 1982 – December 1988
  • Recipes: over 700 listed in the index
  • Pages: 400
  • Sizes: 6″ x 9″
  • Price*: $15
  • Used copies on eBay: $35.95
  • Used copies on Amazon: $34.77
  • ISBN: unknown
  • NO LONGER IN PRINT – 1982-1988 versions
  • However, it was re-published in January 2018 under the name, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective; and is available, for sale at $20.99 per book, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252

Comments (as seen on Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/GLORIA-PITZERS-BETTER-COOKERY-COOKBOOK/dp/B002PPULKC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1548119009&sr=8-2&keywords=gloria+pitzer+better+cookery+cookbook#customerReviews

5 out of 5 stars – Better Cookery Cookbook – Bonnie Case – December 25, 2012 – “Bought this book 25 years ago, loved it so much when I spotted it on Amazon I bought one for my daughter and daughter in law. Favorite is Bob Evans Gravy. Now have another new daughter in law – would order again.”

1976 – Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook

1976 (July) – Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook

1976 – Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook was a bi-centennial edition written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI), having a 5.5” x 8.5” format of 46 printed pages with 200 index listings. NO LONGER IN PRINT – this Limited Edition cookbook boasts a collection of 200 years of recipes, humor, history and hints selected from each of the 50 states of the U.S. and sold for $2 each.

We’d love to hear from anyone who still has old copies of Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook! Please write to us at: therecipedetective@outlook.com

Fun Facts:

    • Sub-Title: “Random Notes”, “Economical Receipts from Colonial Times to Present”, Native Cooking from the Heart of America”
    • Printings: 1 (Limited Edition)
    • Years: 1976 (July)
    • Recipes: 200 index listings
    • Pages: 46
    • Size: 5.5” x 8.5”
    • Cover: Paperback
    • Price: $2
    • Used copies on eBay: not found
    • Used copies on Amazon: not found
    • ISBN: unknown
    • NO LONGER IN PRINT

THE HISTORY OF “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter”

1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter – written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI) – started as “a monthly compendium of fact and fancies”, as Gloria referred to it, adding that it was “the almost-magazine…not quite a newspaper…that can build into a book.” NO LONGER IN PRINT – this was, originally, a small, 3-ring binder-style publication, printed in a 5.5” x 8.5” format with 12 back-to-back pages packed full of “food for the table and food for thought”, household tips, humorous quips and cartoons; plus, a “Readers Swap Shop”. The newsletter originally sold for $0.50 per issue, as well as $2.75 for a 6-month subscription or $5 for a 1-year subscription.

Over the decades, the newsletter evolved with the changing times – the name slightly changed a few times, as well as the size and number of issues printed in a year; plus, of course, the cost grew with inflation too. By 1976, it was being published monthly in an 8.5” x 11”, 10-page format and sold for $0.50 per copy or $6 for a 1-year subscription. By 1978 the name slightly changed to Gloria Pitzer’s National Home News Magazine, though the format remained the same; and it sold for $7 per 1-year subscription.

In 1980, Gloria Pitzer revised the newsletter again, getting right to the heart of cooking – reducing the number of ingredients to comply with your time and, most of all, your budget. While the format size remained the same, the name was changed to “Gloria Pitzer’s Monthly Cookbook of Secret Recipes”. Each copy contained about 100 recipes and sold for $1 per issue, or you could subscribe for a full year.

Starting with the Summer issue of 1984 (Jul-Aug-Sep), the newsletter was published quarterly under the name Gloria Pitzer’s Cook’s Quarterly, still in an 8.5” x 11” format with up to 20 pages full of “Food for Thought” & “Thoughts on Food”; plus, household hints, short cut cooking tips and recipes for imitating favorite restaurant dishes and grocery products at home. It sold for $10 per 1-year (4 issues) subscription or $2.50 for a single issue.

By 1986, the newsletter was being published every 2 months under the name Secret Recipes Newsletter. Still in the 8.5” x 11” format, the 12-page publication boasted at least 50 recipes per issue along with humorous stories, “Food for Thought” and news on nutrition, restaurants and product reviews. It continued to sell for $10 for a 1-year subscription of 6 issues (or $2 per single copy) until 1989, when the price was raised to $12.50 for a 1-year subscription (or $2.50 per single copy). Then, in 1991, the price went down to $12 per year and $2.50 for single copies. The bi-monthly newsletter was temporarily retired after the March-April 1994 issue.

However, in 1995, the publication was back by popular demand under the name Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Quarterly for $16 per year (4 issues) with 20 pages per issue; each issue featured at least 75 recipes for imitating famous restaurant dishes and grocery products at home; plus, more “Food for Thought”, household hints and cooking tips. But, by 1997, the publication went back to the bi-monthly, 12-page format under the old name, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter and sold for $16 per 1-year subscription (6 issues) or $2.75 per single copy.

In January 1998, the newsletter went back to being a monthly publication with the name shortened to Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes. The 8.5” x 11”, 8-page format was still full of “Food for Thought”, household hints and tips, famous restaurant recipes and grocery products you can make at home. During its last year of publication, it sold for $18 per 1-year subscription or $2 per single copy. It was permanently retired, after 27 years, with the December 2000 issue.

“Every issue is like getting together for coffee with friends!” SM – Gloria Pitzer

We’d love to hear from anyone who still has old copies of her original newsletters! Please write to us at: therecipedetective@outlook.com