Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Fortunate

#TGIM! Happy Monday AND happy June to one and all! As always, I look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances per year, in which I have to share Memories of My Mom!

Last week, I shared Mom’s experiences and memories from the first time she appeared on the Phil Donahue Show, in July 1981. The whole year, following that appearance was, probably, the most chaotic time in the 40-year history of Mom’s family-run, dining room table, cottage-style operation. We were definitely not set up for that massive response!

Secret RecipesTM was JUST A FAMILY AFFAIR! Other than one full-time Administrative Assistant, who was also a family friend, it was just my parents, taking care of the day-to-day operations of their mail-order business, with a little help, now and then, from me and my siblings. That is, until that summer of 1981! Then my parents needed to bring in a lot of extra help. Even some of my high school friends were asked to help out, temporarily, with all of the extra mailings we had.

We sent out hundreds of thousands of Mom’s “free recipes and product-ordering information” sheets, in exchange for the self-addressed stamped envelopes that came in, per the offer that aired on that Donahue episode. We were also sending out thousands more newsletter issues than previously, from all of the extra subscription orders that came back from those “free sheet” mailings. But even with the extra help, we just never seemed to get totally caught up, as every day the hundreds of trays of mail kept piling up!

However, as frenzied as it was, in the end, it really did open a lot of doors for Mom that might never have happened otherwise; bringing Mom’s unique style of “copycat cookery” to the attention of MILLIONS of new eyes. The 1981 episode reran for about six months or so, after the initial airing on July 7th, appearing on television screens, WORLD-WIDE!

There’s no denying that Mom pioneered a ‘movement’, so-to-speak; carving out a NEW niche in the cookbooks and food industries! There was nothing else like it, on the market, at that time. But, soon enough, many “copycats” certainly followed, copying Mom’s focus on imitating the “junk food”, fast food and restaurant industries’ products that so many people craved – some followers even copied Mom’s work, to the point of straight-up plagiarism!

Amazingly, when the Phil Donahue Show people called again, 12 years later, in 1993, Mom agreed to return for another episode; but only with the stipulation that they not give out any contact information for Secret RecipesTM or our family. That stipulation inadvertently resulted in a record-breaking event! It turned out to be the show’s most requested transcript of all time, shattering the last record into tiny bits! The Donahue Show sent Mom a congratulatory letter and plaque to commemorate the historic event. It’s unfortunate that the show ended it’s 29-year stretch (1967-1996) a few years later.

There are recordings of that 1993, hour-long episode on YouTube, in a series of 5 “staticky” segments. In fact, I have my own “staticky” VHS tape of it, as well! Though, I did get it copied to a DVD, a couple of years ago, before it was no longer playable. Nonetheless, I wish I knew where I could find a recording or transcript from Mom’s July 7th, 1981 appearance. If anyone reading this knows, PLEASE, send me an email at: therecipedetective@outlook.com – and thank you, in advance!

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 68)

BIG SHOWS & INTERVIEWS

AFTER DONAHUE, PM Magazine, The Home Show, even being mentioned on Jeopardy and complementary reviews in Catholic Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, Campus Life, Mother Jones, National Observer, as well as The National Enquirer (absolutely accurate, too, I swear!) Plus, a write up in Playboy Magazine [and] Home Cooking. We said no to People magazine. We did not want another 1 million letters [like we received after the Donahue show] and surely that would be inevitable, considering their circulation.

On a side note: Michael Neill, a writer at People Magazine, was persistent about wanting to interview Mom and she eventually gave in. His story, ‘For Gloria Pitzer, Unlocking the Secrets of Fast-Food Recipes is Easy: Just Fake and Bake’, appeared in People Weekly’s May 7, 1990 issue, on pages 81-82; including a couple of Mom’s recipes and the two photos of Mom, below, by Susan L. Tusa, but not Secret RecipesTM exact contact information.

Still, the article contained enough information, that a large amount of mail and orders arrived anyway for Mom and Dad at the St. Clair Post Office, during that spring/summer season; just not quite as massive an amount as the bombardment that followed after the first Donahue episode.

Photograph by Susan L. Tusa, for People Weekly (5-7-1990)

[BIG SHOWS & INTERVIEWS – Cont’d]

We knew that making a lot of money in a big hurry was not what we wanted, even though it might have been what others thought we should have done. We were afraid, then, that our cup would REALLY have run over. We also declined an invitation to be on Good Morning America the week after we were on ‘Donahue’.

And just as recently, we declined to appear on the Will Shriner Show… Also, I never did the ‘Kelly and Company‘ show at channel 7 in Detroit, even though they had invited me to be on with them several times. Jack McCarthy’s TV interview with us on Christmas Eve [1976]… for [‘Friday Feast’ on] Channel 7, in Detroit, was one of the highlights of our experiences.

And a few months ago, [I had] an even more enjoyable experience with Erik Smith, doing a segment in our kitchen for their ‘Friday Feast’, during which we prepared the hot fudge [sauce] like Sanders’ and the ‘McFabulous Biscuits’, from our information sheet of sample recipes.

Of all the wire services and all of the hundreds of newspaper stories about us across the country in the past 14 years [1975-1989], since our fast food recipes have become popular, I can still honestly say that I prefer radio to it all.

On another side note: Eventually, as with the Phil Donahue Show and People Magazine, persistence paid off, again; because John Kelly and Marilyn Turner, the husband-and-wife hosts of “Kelly & Company”, eventually interviewed Mom – and, yet again, not just once but twice!

Mom insisted that she would never do another NATIONAL television show, after the fallout from her Donahue experience. But, when her good friend, Carol Duvall, called to ask Mom to give ABC’s “Home” show (aka: “The Home Show”) a try, Mom couldn’t say no to her friend. It was a new show in which Carol, herself, had come to be involved. It turned out to be a really rewarding experience for Mom; especially when she was surprised by Wally Amos, being there, in person, to taste her imitation of one of his “Famous” cookies.

ABC’s “Home” show began as a half-hour program in mid-January 1988. Mom was a guest in February 1988. Following a 60-minute trial run in September 1988, “Home” expanded permanently to an hour-long series in January 1989. After the show ended in 1994, host, Rob Weller formed a production company with someone else and, together, they developed “The Carol Duvall Show” which aired on HGTV from 1994 until 2005, when it moved to the DIY Network in 2005 and ran for another 4 years.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 68)

THE HOME SHOW & WALLY AMOS

The Home Show, however, in February 1988, were wonderful to us [Paul and me]. They flew us to Los Angeles, and we appeared with Rob Weller and Sandy Hill in a one-hour segment that re-created some of our recipes. They were very specific that I do our ‘Famous Nameless Cookies’ and I could not see the reason they absolutely insisted on that recipe. I had trouble finding the right ingredients an hour before airtime, but we made compromises there and came up with an even BETTER version than before.

What had happened, without my knowing it, was Wally Amos, himself [was there]. They flew him in from Hawaii to taste-test my version of HIS product. What a delightful man! What a warm and generous soul. He brought me a tin of an assortment of his favorite cookies and, after tasting my version of his product, made me promise that I would never go into the cookie business! Meeting Wally Amos was one of those cherished memories that I will always look back on warmly.

AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 86)

FORTUNATE

I LOOK BACK NOW… and realize how FORTUNATE I was to have had my life touched by so many helpful people – so many famous people! It’s almost incredible that what started out to be merely the frosting on the cake, of my monthly newsletter, soon became the whole cake!

While duplicating the secrets of the [fast] food and restaurant industry was only going to be a part of the publications I was writing, it was a surprise to me that the interest and the response from the public led to my specializing in the fast food division entirely!

http://therecipedetective.com/2019/01/24/1985-gloria-pitzers-secret-fast-food-recipes/

I thought my first book was going to be my ‘only’ book on that subject, but – six books later – I was still seriously, but lovingly, engaged in the pursuit of new information and challenging recipe imitations. I’ve been asked by restaurants to give them permission to use my recipes and say so on their menus. I’ve been asked by ‘People Magazine’, at least once a month for six months – even before the Donahue show appearance – to grant them an interview.

The fact that I had declined the invitation because I couldn’t handle any additional mail, made the columns of the Detroit Free Press, when their ‘Tip-Off’ columnist said it was ‘classy’ to turn down People Magazine – refusing publicity in a national magazine because I did not want to ‘get big’!

[NOTE: As mentioned previously, Michael Neill’s story, ‘For Gloria Pitzer, Unlocking the Secrets of Fast-Food Recipes is Easy: Just Fake and Bake’, appeared in the May 7, 1990 issue of People Weekly, on pages 81-82.]

In Mom’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; 1982), [which is the book I helped her to rewrite and republish (with Balboa Press), now called Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018)] she wrote about some of the unhappy experiences she had with various companies and their legal advisers.

Their threats of lawsuits had Mom and Dad quite frightened at one time or another for attempting to duplicate their secrets in her own kitchen. But, truth is, Mom didn’t know their actual secrets unless they shared them with her. She could only make educated guesses and experiment with different combinations of ingredients until she came up with a good imitation.

However, others like Wally Amos (the former “Famous” Amos), Harland Sanders (the original “Colonel” of KFC fame), Jack Sanders (famous Michigan chocolatier), Arthur Treacher (actor turned restaurateur), the people of White Castle, General Foods, Hershey’s, and McDonald’s own Paul Duncan appreciated Mom’s flattery attempts to compliment them through her personal imitations of their products, even to the delightful caricature names that she gave her own creations. Those are the ones that made what she did all worthwhile!

In honor of June being National Country Cooking Month, here are TWO of Mom’s copycat recipes – one for Betsy Ross’ Custardy Cornbread! [As seen in Mom’s cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 7)] AND a repeat of Mom’s Kentucky Biscuits imitation, which she prepared on ABC’s “Home” show in February 1988!

#CountryCookingMonth

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

#ThankGodItsMonday

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…22 down, 30 to go!

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – In the Beginning…

Happy Monday everyone! Thank you for stopping in…

Since I started this blog series over a year ago, I have found so much joy in re-reading all of my copies of Mom’s old “No Laughing Matter” columns, books and newsletter issues. As I mentioned last week, they are my go-to-material for inspiration in the kitchen, as well as in my writing of these blog entries. Technically, even before that – I was re-inspired by Mom’s writing when I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd printing). We were hoping it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age” – and it has!

Shortly before Mom passed away, in January 2018, she was so pleased to hear that her “new” book went to print; being published by Balboa Press. The title had to be adjusted to Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, but most of the rest, inside the book, remained close to the same as the original 1983 edition. Unfortunately, Mom never got to see the first printed copy… Then again, she probably saw it, “hot-off-the-press”, before anyone else, from her new vantage point.

[Note: To get your own hard copy and/or eBook editions of Mom’s last book, here are the links at Balboa Press. By the way, they’ll make great Christmas gifts too! Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253]

Mom was so creative, in so many ways, and had all sorts of talents; but, writing was probably at the top of the list. She had a way with words that made me smile and laugh, as well as make me think, “Hmmm?!” Her newsletters and cookbooks were full of food-for-thought columns, comedic quips, food-for-the-soul meditation and inspiration, historic information and so much more than just recipes.

Mom often said that her books were just as comfortable on the coffee table, for reading, as they were on the kitchen counter, for cooking. In addition, Mom wrote her recipes in an easy-to-understand manner – without any glossy, color photos – just describing it like she was right there, in the kitchen talking to you about it every step of the way. She felt that, since they were products we already know, photos weren’t really necessary; which I, now, find ironic because Mom was the “shutter-bug” in our family – always taking pictures at every gathering.

All of those extra components that Mom put into her works created such a unique combination that it set her products apart from all the rest on the market, at that time, bringing her more media attention than she ever expected. Even without the internet, in the mid-1970s era, word got around fast about the small town housewife that discovered how to make fast food and junk food imitations at home!

The crafty format for Mom’s newsletters and cookbooks was largely influenced by her favorite crafter, Carol Duvall; who, in the 1970s, had a “Craft Letter” (as she called it) and a 5 minute crafting segment on WDIV-TV (Channel 4 in Detroit), called “Here’s Carol Duvall”. Mom followed her craft show religiously and subscribed to her Craft Letter too. That was decades before Carol moved to ABC’s “Home” (1988-1994) and before she began hosting “The Carol Duvall Show” on HGTV (1994-2005), which then moved to DIY (2005-2009).

Mom and Carol became fast friends and, when Carol retired her “Craft Letter”, she offered her subscribers the option of switching to Mom’s newsletter for the same price. She was always a wonderful lady. I found a delightful video clip of Carol Duvall’s 1000th (HGTV) episode celebration on YouTube and pinned it to Mom’s Yarn & Sewing Crafts board on her Pinterest page, which you can follow at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective/.

In the beginning… Mom promoted her creations through radio programs, magazine ads and newspaper food columnists’ reviews that focused on the homemaker. Within the first year of Mom’s newsletter start-up, local television show hosts started hearing about this exceptional lady with a unique, new twist on cooking! Word spread rapidly through the newswire service and national, as well as international (Canada), television shows started requesting interviews with Mom and demonstrations of her distinct recipes.

While Mom always felt most at home on the radio shows in which she participated, there’s no denying that she probably had her greatest (or largest) “claim-to-fame” from television exposure. I’ve put together a rough timeline of Mom’s local and national television appearances over the decades, of which I can remember and find reference to in her writings.

Mom’s first on-television interview was 45 years ago, on my 10th birthday (Nov. 14, 1974). The whole family was invited to the studio, where Mom appeared on “AM Detroit” with host, Dennis Wholley. The show aired locally on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in the Detroit-Metro area. Below is a copy of Mom’s story about it.

As a result of that local exposure, Mom was invited to appear on another local, but international, television program. It was on New Year’s Day 1975, across the river from Detroit, in Canada, with host, Bob Hines. The show he hosted aired movies with Bob doing commentary and “intermission interviews”. The show aired locally on CKLW-TV, Channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario­. That was when Mom met Lynn Redgrave, whom Bob was interviewing about her role as the “Happy Hooker”. Mom introduced herself to the actress as the “Happy Cooker”.

That’s about when Mom’s collection of “Secret Recipes” had grown to more than 200 different recipes. She had been printing them all on index cards from her mimeograph machine in our laundry room and selling them for $0.25 each or 5 for a dollar. It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders. All of us kids and Dad helped Mom on a daily/nightly basis.

Seeing which recipe cards sold the most and getting more requests from her fans for fast food and junk food imitations than any other type of recipe, Mom decided to put all of her popular recipes like those into a cookbook. She thought it was going to be her “only” book on the subject of fast food and junk food, since even the critics thought it was a fad that wouldn’t last long – that was in August 1976 and it was called The Fast Food Cookbook; which Mom revised the following year as The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book [aka: Book 1].

As it turned out, that was only the first in a whole series of books that Mom wrote on the subject. It wasn’t long before Mom retired the recipe cards and started writing and self-publishing more cookbooks, showing people how to make their favorite foods at home. For 30 years, from the launch of her first newsletter in 1974 to her last self-published cookbook in 2004, Mom continued to write and self-publish about 40 cookbooks and 219 issues of the newsletter; covering popular restaurant dishes from across the country, homemade grocery products, fast foods and so-called “junk” foods!

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

Mom carved a new niche in the food industry that caught the media’s attention by storm. On Christmas Eve 1976, Jack McCarthy of WXYZ-TV’s “Action News” team (seen locally on Channel 7 in Detroit) came out to our house in Algonac to do an at-home-interview with Mom. Below is a copy of one of Mom’s memories about Jack, by whom she was quite impressed.

In the winter of 1980-1981 (not sure of the exact date), Mom did an at-home-interview with the Detroit TV crew of a national show called “PM Magazine”. They came out to St. Clair and filmed Mom making a few of her popular imitations in her own kitchen. That same winter, Mom also had a brief appearance on our local “Noon News” show on WDIV-TV (seen on Channel 4 in the Detroit area).

On a side note, regarding the last statement in the picture (above), Mom did eventually grant “People Magazine” an interview in 1990. However, back to Mom’s television exposure – on July 7, 1981, Mom and Dad flew to Chicago for her FIRST appearance on the “Phil Donahue Show”; demonstrating, again, some of her quick and popular fast food and junk food imitations for the entire hour. Over the following year, that episode re-ran world-wide! As I said in the beginning… Mom “probably had her greatest (or largest) ‘claim-to-fame’ from television exposure”. If you’ve ever wished to be famous – all I can say, from our experience, is “be careful about what you wish!”

Donahue 1981 promo

The fallout from that 1981 “Phil Donahue Show”, which I’ve discussed in other blog entries; left Mom (and Dad) reluctant to do any more television appearances for the next 7 years – that is, until Mom’s friend, Carol Duvall, set her up to appear on a TV show that she was, then, involved with out in California (ABC’s “Home Show”). Wish I could find copies of those episodes on which Mom appeared.

“Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.” – Dick Syatt

It was February 1988, when Mom and Dad flew out to California for Mom’s FIRST appearance on ABC’s “Home Show” with Rob Weller, then host. That was when Mom first met Wally Amos in person! It was one of Mom’s most favorite experiences and memories. Even when she got dementia after her stroke in 2015, Mom always remembered how wonderful and friendly Wally Amos was to her.

 

A couple of years later, on Memorial Day 1990, Mom did an at-home-interview with CNN Cable News. They even came back the next day to film more, while Mom was on the phone, doing a radio show. Their production consequently sparked the interest of a weekly, local paper called “The Voice” and a columnist named Pat Heck, who wrote a very complimentary article about Mom; which she mentions in the clip below!

That fall, in October of 1990, Mom made her first appearance on a local talk show, called “Kelly & Company”; which aired on WXYZ-TV (channel 7 in Detroit) with hosts, John Kelly & his wife, Marilyn Turner. Mom’s interview went so well, they invited her back the following spring. She did the show on May 8, 1991. Mom wrote all about the great experience on the front page of her July-August 1991 newsletter (Issue #151) and she also included three pages of all the recipes she demonstrated on the show. I’ll be adding those to my list of recipes that I want to share with all of you in my blog entries and in the “Recipes” tab on this website. There was also this little clip (below) on page 9 of that issue.

In between the two “Kelly & Company” appearances, on March 19, 1991, Mom had her second appearance on ABC’s “Home” show in Los Angeles. I don’t know what really happened that time around that Mom felt she was “ganged-up-on”, as she mentions in the clip pictured above; but, when Mom came home, she was feeling very disappointed by the whole experience and her own reaction to it. Again, she didn’t want to appear on television anymore.

However, a couple of years later (April 16, 1993), Mom appeared for a SECOND time on “The Phil Donahue Show”. Again, it was for the entire hour; however, this time, the show was not allowed to give out Mom’s contact information – only copies of the recipes she demonstrated on the show. As a result, requests for transcripts of that episode, shattered the show’s record and they sent Mom a letter and a special plaque to commemorate the event. That turned out to be the real FINAL time Mom appeared on TV.

I should mention, though, in the summer of 1993, Mom went back out to California to make an infomercial with the Guthy-Renker Corporation, called “Ask Mike”. It was produced & directed by Positive Response Television for a new way to promote Mom’s Recipe DetectiveTM image and her Secret RecipesTM enterprise. The infomercial was set up similar to Mom’s “Phil Donahue Show” appearance, with cooking demonstrations of some of her most famous imitations, except there were “on-the-street-interviews” of people taste-testing Mom’s imitations and giving their opinions (as Phil Donahue did with his in-studio audience). Unfortunately, the infomercial never aired on TV. But, our family received our own copies of it, at least. Mom was so thrilled that Wally Amos was also involved in the infomercial production, as he was with her first “Home Show” experience in 1988. Wally Amos was the “on-the-street-interviewer”.

IN CLOSING…