Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Cookbooks I Collected were Collecting Dust!

I can’t find it in me, today, to say, “Happy Monday!” as I usually do in my blog openings. Today is Memorial Day – a solace day, not a happy one. I do hope that families are getting to spend the extra long holiday weekend together though! But, before I get into my blog subject, I want to address the very special meaning of today, as it tends to get lost among the “almost summer” celebrations and activities…

The Real Meaning of Today, Memorial Day

Memorial Day (aka: Decoration Day) was established as a U.S. federal holiday in May of 1971, to remember and honor all those who’ve died, serving in our Armed Forces. However, it unofficially originated, in the spring following the end of the Civil War. That’s when people began noticeably honoring the war’s fallen soldiers by decorating their graves; usually with fresh, spring flowers. There’s a lot of great information (brain food) to be found about Memorial Day at History.com!

From 50 years ago! Illustration by Gloria Pitzer, May 28, 1969

Another website that inspired me with Memorial Day food for thought is Thanksgiving.com, where I found some great ideas and traditions to incorporate into our current commercialized celebrations that Memorial Day has come to encompass; as many Americans, myself included, have regarded this day to be the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.

Commercialism has disguised the holiday! Nowadays, parades and picnics are abound! Nonetheless, pre-summer vacations, backyard barbecues and other outdoor gatherings are among the “new” customary activities that families usually enjoy this holiday weekend. As such, the real reason we observe this holiday and the old traditions that were once practiced in honor of it have become lost.

This holiday weekend generates a burst of patriotic colors, as everything gets decorated in red, white and blue, from sea to shining sea, now through Independence Day! However, that’s not why Memorial Day is also known as “Decoration Day”.

We may celebrate our freedoms but let us never forget by what cost! So, I want to share 7 thoughts on old traditions I learned from Thanksgiving.com, to impart to the new generations…and to always remember! Any one of these things or all of these things – there’s something that each of us could/should put into practice for why we really observe Memorial Day in the first place:

Background from 47th Bomb Wing Assoc., Ltd. An invitation for the B-45 Tornado Dedication

Now, onto The Cookbooks I Collected were Collecting Dust!

I’ve written many times about my mom’s inherited love affair with writing and the unexpected journey on which it took her, starting in high school – from working for “small town”, local newspapers (doing almost every conceivable job) to syndicating her own “hot topic-style” columns and cartoon panels to writing and publishing her own newsletters and cookbooks – when her original, girlhood dream was to write “the great American novel”. But, every success Mom had in writing usually had something to do with food and home, rather than dramatic sagas and love stories.

So many of Mom’s self-publishing talents stemmed from all of her ‘small town’ newspaper experiences.

As a swimmer, growing up in our beautiful “Great Lakes” state of Michigan, Mom knew she couldn’t successfully swim against the current; so, she learned to swim with it. Likewise, rather than fight against Fate’s “meant-to-be” moments, Mom put her faith in “Fate” and went where “It” led. As a result, came the birth of the famous Recipe DetectiveTM and, almost simultaneously, all of her children – the recipes, newsletters and cookbooks!

Similarly, the “meant-to-be” powers of Fate have taken me (and my own inherited love for writing) on this unexpected and incredible journey of “blogging” to honor Mom’s legacy. As I mentioned in my very first blog, I had pondered many times in the previous few years, “to blog, or not to blog”; wondering if I could make a living from home at it, as my mom did with her Secret RecipesTM business.

Creative writing has always made me feel so much closer to Mom, as she was always my biggest fan and encouraged it in me for most of my life. Call me a nerd, but English was one of my favorite subjects in school and I always LOVED the essay assignments best! I used to write poetry when I was younger. I included one, dedicated to my mom, in one of my blogs from a few weeks ago. I have enough poems to fill two or three nice size books. But, I’ve never done anything with them – as far as publishing or marketing them. Mom tried to inspire me, but I just didn’t have the self-confidence to promote myself or my talents like her.

In as much as I love to write, I hadn’t done much creative writing for a couple decades. Therefore, when I started helping Mom rewrite her favorite cookbook a few years ago (so it could be republished by Balboa Press for a new digital generation), it rekindled that flame in me. Now, this blogging venture has kind of fallen into my lap and steered me in this direction… However, I’m not making a living at it… Not yet!

Those who aren’t familiar with any of Mom’s cookbooks would probably be wondering, here – how is a cookbook creative writing? That’s because Mom’s cookbooks were not your ordinary counter-top collection of recipes. My mom’s hunger for more than just the ordinary recipe collections that were being offered to people, led to her own personal, but seldom used, collection of “humdrum” cookbooks collecting dust…they just weren’t inspiring her enough.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

So, Mom decided to write her own cookbooks…and, when the publishers rejected her creations because they weren’t the picturesque, routine and monotonous cookbooks they thought the public wanted; Mom was only more determined to publish it, herself! After all, she was part of the public too! Plus, she thought, if she wanted more and her recipe column readers wanted more and her increasing, radio fan base wanted more; then maybe she should just create it and publish it herself!

Hence, in each cookbook, between the hundreds of recipes that Mom developed to imitate fast foods, junk foods, restaurant dishes and grocery products; she also tucked in bits of wisdom, inspiration, humor, helpful household hints, kitchen tips and tricks, food-for-thought editorials and even some entertaining and interesting background/historic information on some of the companies/people whose products and dishes she imitated. Thereby, Mom’s cookbooks stood out from all the rest (offered at that time) – no others were like them (unless they copied her; and some did) – because they were just as much coffee table or bedside table reads as they were assemblages of recipes.

1973 – Promotional ad Mom developed and sent to various newspapers and magazines for syndication, marketing her own talents.

My inspiration for this week’s blog (titled after one of Mom’s old syndicated columns) came from an email solicitation I recently received, to pay this company to market Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018), which is mine now.

Basically, the email tried to point out that writing and publishing are only minor steps in the whole “book process” compared to marketing; which, it proclaimed, is an author’s biggest challenge because it involves so much more personal time and effort. Thereby, I suppose, justifying how much it will cost me to pay them, the professionals, to do it for me; thus, saving me from the challenge and all of the time and effort that it costs!

Granted – paying them would save me from all that stuff! But, when you don’t have a lot of money to spend on that kind of stuff, like me; sometimes, you just have to suck-it-up and learn how to do it yourself. Nowadays, you can find YouTube videos on how to do just about anything! Mom didn’t have YouTube to guide her… So, she succeeded on her past experiences in the newspaper business and her own basic instincts.

WSGW-790, Saginaw MI

While marketing may be a challenge for me, I don’t think it was for Mom. I think she really enjoyed the promotional schedules of radio talk shows after each of her cookbooks (and newsletter issues) “premiered”. To Mom, her radio “visits” across the country, even internationally, probably felt more like having an “after party”, over and over again! Like any proud mom, she loved to talk about her babies (the recipes, newsletters and cookbooks)!

Mom briefly ventured into television talk shows for some of her cookbook promotions – as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs – most renowned were the 2 times she was on the Phil Donahue Show (in 1981 and 1993). However, Mom always felt more at home on the radio. I guess that’s because she usually was at home, doing most of her radio roundtables by phone. Although, when my parents used to travel (especially with their “Good Sam” friends), Mom would sometimes find a way to fit in a “live, in studio” radio visit whenever she could.

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

Mom was a natural at marketing herself, her talents and her products. I may have inherited her loves for writing, art and creativity in general; but I think I’m lacking in her many marketing talents! I get anxiety just from the idea of interviews!

Regarding: blessed with enthusiasm

I think I’m more fluent at writing than speaking, because I have more time to think about what I want to say and how I want to say it. Then, factor in that I’m OCD – so that, alone, at least doubles the time it takes me to write (and rewrite and rewrite again) my thoughts and ideas, trying to put them in a “CDO order” – as my kids and husband would always tease me about being OCD, because I like things in alphabetical (and numerical) order. One of my “dream jobs” as an adolescent was to be a Librarian – call me a nerd, but I’ve always thought the Dewey Decimal System is fascinating!

I know, from my own personal experience, that writing can be a long and, sometimes, personally draining process; as much so as marketing! In addition, I grew up with Mom’s authored and self-published creations and accomplishments. Each one became like one of her own children through the whole birthing process!

Similar to the development of life, creating and producing something can be a stressful AND beautiful AND rewarding time – all rolled into one! I felt that more than ever, when I collaborated with Mom to rewrite her favorite cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983), which consumed a couple years of my own life; let alone, the couple of years it took Mom to write the original version. Now that Mom’s last cookbook’s royalties are mine, I need to learn how to promote it, myself, (since I’m not rich enough to pay someone else to do it, as in the solicitation I received in my email). Either that or let it gather dust!

To order a copy of Mom’s last cookbook:

MILD SALSA, INSPIRED BY CHI CHI’S

MILD SALSA, INSPIRED BY CHI CHI’S

– By Gloria Pitzer, The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Feb. 1990, p. 45)

Ingredients:

4 medium tomatoes, unpeeled & chopped

3 medium onions, chopped fine

2 fresh banana peppers, chopped

2 TB oil

½ cup lime juice

½ cup V-8 juice

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate in a tightly covered container for at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to blend, before serving with corn [or tortilla] chips or as a sauce for tacos or burritos. Serve hot or cold. Makes about one quart. [You can also spice this up with your favorite hot sauce!]

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Food for Thought

Happy Monday everyone! Welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom by Laura (Pitzer) Emerich.

This is a weekly blog series that I began 8 months ago to honor the legacy of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, aka: the famous Recipe DetectiveTM and founder of Secret RecipesTM. My mom investigated the alleged mysteries and furtive formulas of the food industry, and discovered how to imitate their famous, popular products and dishes at home!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Beginning in the mid-1970s, Mom was becoming known, world-wide, for busting the mysteries behind making fast food and junk food fare at home! She reasoned that she could take the junk out of junk food if she controlled the ingredients that went into the cuisine in the first place. Mom developed thousands of recipes, imitating the trendy menu choices from many popular chain and fine-dining restaurants, in addition to well-liked, shelf-stable grocery products!

All of these recipes she put into over 35 of her self-published cookbooks and her hundreds of newsletter issues; sandwiching in snippets of satirical humor and caricature illustrations, household hints, “food for the heart and soul” commentaries, her timeless Food for Thought and No Laughing Matter editorials and background/historical information on various companies, chefs, products or dishes as well.

Those are the kinds of things that made Mom’s cookbooks stand out from all the rest, back then; besides being the first to pioneer the copycat recipes movement and carve out such a unique niche, as to capture the public, the critics and the food industry by storm! Each of Mom’s cookbooks and newsletters were designed to be just as much of a coffee table or bedside table read as it was a collection of recipes for the kitchen!

Food for Thought and No Laughing Matter were the titles of two of the news columns that Mom wrote in the late 1960s through the late 1970s, for local newspapers and syndications across the country. Other columns Mom wrote included Pitzer’s Patter and Cookbook Corner. As I’ve mentioned previously, there was also a series of humorous and satirical cartoon panels that Mom drew for The Richmond Review (Richmond, MI) in the late 1960s and early 1970s called Full House as kept by Gloria Pitzer. I’ve been including pictures of some of the panels (as well as Mom’s other illustrations) in many of my blogs.

Photo by Laura Emerich

It seems that Mom’s cartoon panels, either, inspired or were inspired by the various subject matters of her columns. Like the chicken and the egg analogy – I’m not sure which came first (as some are not dated but matched in subject matter). Food for Thought is also part of the title of one of Mom’s few self-published books that were not cookbooks. In fact, Mom called it This is not a Cookbook – It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986)!

Mom was always keenly aware that sustenance for our brains (aka: brain food, information, food for the mind or Food for Thought) is just as important for our well-being as are food for the soul and food for the body – as each of us are the sum of mind, body and soul! But, there was not a single cookbook on the market that could give all of that to the readers…not until Mom’s cookbooks came along, that is!

According to UrbanDictionary.com, Food for Thought means: “Learning new information that you never thought was important to think about. It enables you to have a greater intelligence in every aspect of life while feeding your mind.”

Similarly, Merriam-Webster.com says Food for Thought is “something that should be thought about or considered carefully.” Likewise, Dictionary.com declares, besides being “an idea or issue to ponder”, Food for Thought is also a “…metaphoric phrase, transferring the idea of digestion from the stomach to mulling something over in the mind…”; adding that it “dates from the late 1800s, although the idea was also expressed somewhat differently at least three centuries earlier.”

That last little tidbit of information was news to me! Is it to you? Anyway, the moral is that we should follow a well-balanced diet of brain food, as well as soul and body foods, on a daily basis, in order to be truly (and literally) fit from head to toe!

#OneSizeDoesNotFitAll

Speaking of “diet”, earlier in March, I wrote two blogs about dieting, food-choices, lifestyle changes and losing weight. Since then, I’ve been saving bits and pieces of ideas, or Food for Thought, on dieting about which I wanted to write further in a future blog. Now, it’s time to revisit the subject, answering the questions – “What diet will work for me?” and “What is BMI?”

As for “What diet will work for me?” There are so many diets out there, and all are as individual as are we! Thus, everyone considering dieting should do their research and feed their brain with information first; but, beware – not all of them are legitimate or safe! Nor, are they all a “one-size-fits-all” approach, from which to simply pick one and run with it! So, first, be informed; but, also, do so by reliable sources!

The U.S. News recently identified 41 of the best and most popular diets, assessing their target audiences as well. You can find a lot of brain food (aka: information) about the different diets on these two links: https://health.usnews.com/best-diet and https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall. In addition, before starting any such endeavor, consult your doctor for recommendations also!

As for “What is BMI?” AND why we should know more about it or should we even be concerned with it at all? Just the other day, I saw a report on my local news show’s health segment about this very thing! Hence, I wanted to include this link at http://www.fox2detroit.com/health/stepping-on-the-scale-can-be-scary-but-we-can-t-ignore-the-number-it-shows for you, as the report contained a full course meal of great information to consume without the worry of counting its calorie, fat or carbohydrate contents!

We all have certain numbers that the health experts say we should know. One such number is called BMI (Body Mass Index), which is generally calculated (using the metric system) by dividing a person’s weight by the square of their height. Most medical professionals will tell you that a generally calculated BMI below 18.5 can indicate conditions of being underweight, signaling that you could be malnourished or have some other underlying medical condition.

On the other hand, if the BMI is in the range of 25-29.9, it indicates being overweight; while any score of 30 or more is considered to be obese. BMI numbers in the higher ranges are indicative of being at risk for possible, future metabolic diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease – even type 2 diabetes is within the realm of indicators. BMI is considered the most common measurement for identifying the obesity level.

Believers in the BMI formula feel it is important because of its widely accepted indicators for one’s chances, of having a longer and healthier life, being more favorable if the number is in the so-called “healthy range” of 18.5-24.9. A large body of research supports the idea that people with higher BMIs are more prone to a number of health-related complications. Additionally, experts found that being overweight or obese at middle-age (about 40) is associated with a significantly increased risk of dying prematurely.

Regardless, critics of the BMI formula claim that the formula doesn’t paint an accurate picture because it doesn’t consider other variables of our body make-up such as our activity level, gender, age and race. In addition, it does not distinguish between weight attributed by muscle mass and that which comes from fat, as the latter is lighter than the former. Consequently, someone with more muscle mass than fat mass will have a deceptively higher BMI number.

Additionally, BMI is not always accurate in the elderly either, because these people often have LESS muscle and bone mass than do younger subjects. So, the build and activity level of a woman age 55-60 years old and in menopause, for example, does not (and cannot) compare to the build and activity level of a woman who is 25-30 years old, let alone to men in the same age brackets. Plus, there are inherited biological differences among the various races that can also impact the BMI method!

MY “DIET” UPDATE:

This is Day 62 of my new low-carb (Atkins-like) life-style that I started on the first day of spring. I changed my eating habits and choices and aimed to keep my carbohydrate intake within a 20- to 25-gram target area. I stay completely away from certain carbohydrate sources, such as potatoes, legumes, rice, pasta, breads and sweets…as well as anything else made with flour/sugar. Having hypoglycemia (but not diabetes), this low-carb life-style is good for me, anyway; since my body doesn’t process those types of carbs properly, causing sudden drops in my blood-sugar levels.

So far, I’ve lost about 22 pounds! I had been losing about 3 pounds per week, on average! But, for the last week or two, I seem to have hit a “plateau”. Admittedly, I have yet to add any REGULAR exercise regimen into my already busy days – maybe, because I hate to exercise! Thus, I’ve procrastinated at re-prioritizing things that take up my time in order to make room for exercise, by mis-associating being busy with being active and thinking it can wait. But, sitting and typing at my computer (when I’m not earning a part-time paycheck) are not big calorie burning activities – not even close!

Healthfully.com claims that a 185-pound person will burn about 61 calories sitting at a computer and typing for 30 minutes. Using their calculations, I found that I burn about 130 calories per hour when I’m working on my blogs and this website, even when I’m pinning on Pinterest or posting on my various social media accounts.

However, there’s also a great calorie-burning chart at NutriStrategy.com, where I found that weeding and cultivating my garden this weekend burned about 393 calories per hour for someone my size – and I spent three hours in my vegetable garden getting most of my transplanting completed before it began to rain and storm!

About the only other kind of exercise regimen that I don’t mind doing, besides gardening, is walking! It’s about 1.7 miles around my “block” and it takes me about 30 minutes to walk it at a brisk, 3.5 MPH stride. My 30-minute “brisk” walks burn about 166 calories, given my size, according to NutriStrategy’s chart. I just don’t do it regularly or often enough. Below is a picture I made of information, or Food for Thought,  I assembled about what to do if you’re on a weight loss plateau.

#NationalBurgerMonth, #NationalSalsaMonth and #NationalSaladMonth

In closing, for all of you food-lovers out there, I’d like to add that May is host to many food celebrations, including National Hamburger Month, National Salsa Month and National Salad Month – 3 celebrations that, together, make up a great food-for-the-body taco salad! Even though the National Hamburger Month celebration is focused on the sandwich-style “burger”. I would just grind up my seasoned, grilled “burger”, since I can’t have bread/buns anyway, and toss it together with some homemade salsa (see Mom’s recipe below) and shredded lettuce; topping it with some grated cheddar-jack cheese, sliced black olives, and a sprinkling of finely chopped tomatoes, bell peppers and onions to create a marvelous, low-carb taco salad that can also be served on/in a low-carb tortilla.

The following is a picture of Mom’s mild salsa imitation, inspired by Chi Chi’s. This recipe title was one of the original “free” recipes offered on this website before my brother passed the website on to me to cultivate for our Mom’s legacy. However, I don’t know if this was the same version offered then as the recipes didn’t transfer to my site host. The version below is not in her last cookbook, as it was not in Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (1983 edition), from which that one was rewritten. But, I did find this version (below) in The Best of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Feb. 1990, p. 45)… as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it!

Orange Brutus

Orange Brutus

By Gloria Pitzer – part of her “Original 200” recipes collection.

This particular version can be seen in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018)…as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it!

Remember, Brutus is the fella who ‘did in’ Julius! The 3 original versions of this frozen orange concoction were first printed on page 52 of Gloria’s Secret Fast-Food Recipes (1977) cookbook. This is the way it used to taste, like an orange Creamsicle, when it was first introduced in the 1920s. Today it’s a little different, and easier to recreate at home!

Ingredients:

3 cups orange juice

1 envelope Dream Whip powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

3 1/2-oz box instant vanilla pudding powder

3 additional cups of orange juice

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour into a pitcher and add 3 more cups of orange juice. Serve over cracked ice for 6 lovely drinks!

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – A Rose by Another Name

Happy Monday to all and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom! I hope all the moms out there had a wonderful, memory-making Mother’s Day yesterday!

I’m Laura (Pitzer) Emerich and I started these blogs last September to channel the memories I have of my mom and how she impacted my life – as well as the lives of so many others the world over. I’m one of five children of the trailblazing pioneer who originated the copycat recipe movement, as my mom is Gloria Pitzer; aka: the famous Recipe DetectiveTM, investigator of Secret RecipesTM. As such, my inherited love for writing, which came from my mom’s genes, took me on this incredible journey, down a new and diverse path of blogging to honor her legacy.

In the back, left to right, is Cheryl, Debbie, me & our dad…In front, left to right, is Lady (under the table), Bill and Mike. Pitzer family photographed by Gloria Pitzer, March 1973

TheRecipeDetective.com website was originated by my brother, Mike, years ago to help bring our parents’ Secret RecipesTM business into the digital age, on the internet. I remember when Mom got her first computer…she tried to learn how to operate it, even just to get into her email; but, she was too frustrated by the new technology and ended up giving the computer to one of her grandkids, who new what to do with it. Mike managed the website and email until he passed it on to me last summer, because I wanted to start these blogs about our mom, in tribute to her legacy!

Mom passed away over a year ago – in January of 2018. Shortly before her passing, Mom’s last cookbook was published by Balboa Press. I worked, together, with Mom for over two years to write it. It’s actually a rewrite of Mom’s favorite self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (May 1983, 3rd Printing), freshly formatted and somewhat updated for a new, digital generation. The writing/rewriting collaboration put our mother-daughter relationship on a whole new level.

In the process of publishing the new/old cookbook through Balboa Press, they REQUIRED us to change the book’s title (or they wouldn’t publish it) because it too closely resembled the title of another cookbook by the famous Betty Crocker! It was supposed to! Regardless, I failed to get through to the publishers that the whole premise of the entire cookbook was a parody of IMITATIONS, from the title of the book, Better Cookery Cookbook v. Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, to the recipes, themselves – Hopeless Twinkles, for example, is similar to Hostess Twinkies; and Wednesday’s Chili sounds similar to Wendy’s, the fast food chain.

Balboa suggested calling the new book Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook, but that wasn’t good enough for Mom and I. Thus, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook, with the secondary title of “Famous Foods from Famous Places – the Best of the Recipe Detective”, grudgingly became Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – the Best of the Recipe Detective, with the secondary title of “Famous Foods from Famous Places” remaining. I suppose, contrary to Charles Colton’s famous quote, imitation isn’t always considered flattering!

As a matter of fact, there were a lot of food companies that were totally offended by a small-town homemaker, not only imitating their products in her own kitchen, but also naming her recipes to sound like theirs! As well as, sharing her recipes with the public, so they could also “eat out, at home!” Many companies complained of copyright infringements and threatened her with lawsuits, but none of them actually took her to court. One company, however, started an ad campaign, using a 1970s, stereotype housewife with a claim that even she can’t make their product at home!

Stouffers’ and Orange Julius’ attorneys were among the worst of the top 10 complainers in that offended category. Continuously, the Orange Julius people threatened Mom with lawsuits regarding one of her “Original 200” make-alike recipes, “Orange Judas”, as found (in 3 versions) on page 6 of her self-published cookbook, The Secret Restaurants Recipes Book (Jan. 1977). In fact, neither company liked it when Mom AND the media referred to her recipes’ finished products as being like their products, nor did they want her recipes’ names to sound anything like their own products’ names.

Mom renamed her “Orange Judas” recipe a number of times, and still couldn’t appease that company! Regardless of their lawsuit threats, she finally settled on “Orange Brutus” for the recipe’s name. In a way, Mom turned that “lemon into lemonade”, so to speak; since, as she promoted it, “Brutus was the one who ‘did in’ Julius!” [See Mom’s recipe at the end of this blog.]

All the fights between the companies saying she infringed on their copyrights and Mom wanting to pursue her right to create her own homemade versions and promote them, just spurred her on all the more! She felt that, if all of these companies’ attorneys were persistently huffing and puffing to blow her house down, she must be on the right path and she must have gotten pretty close with her imitations too!

On the other hand, some food companies, such as White Castle and Sanders Chocolates, were honored by Mom’s efforts at flattery by imitating their products… In fact, the Hershey and General Foods corporations happened to be a slight mixture of both. At first, their attorneys wrote to Mom to cease and desist the use of her recipe titles, “Recess Peanut Butter Cups” and “Shape & Bake”, for they too closely resembled their trademark names, “Reese’s” and “Shake & Bake”, as to cause confusion between the products; inferring lawsuits would follow if she didn’t cooperate.

To the Hershey corporation, Mom explained the meaning behind her title, using the word recess (as in a retreat); she also offered to only use (and promote) Hershey’s chocolate in the recipe. In the original version of this recipe, Mom used Nestle’s brand and noted not to substitute on the brand. The Hershey corporation was agreeable to, both, Mom’s explanation and offer.

Mom also worked with the General Foods corporation, changing the title of her coating mix to “Shook & Cook”, with which General Foods was, likewise, pleased. Mom had sent General Foods a copy of an editorial page from her newest cookbook (at that time), The Joy of NOT Cooking…Anymore than You have To (1983). In the editorial, Simple Reproductions, Mom wrote about her recipe imitations and their effect on certain “big” companies, comparing her opposite encounters with General Foods’ attorneys and Stouffers’ attorneys.

Gloria Pitzer, the Recipe DetectiveTM

General Foods was pleased with Mom’s editorial compliments on their helpful approach and even offered Mom complete cooperation at any time with any of their products that she used as ingredients in her recipes. As Mom said in the editorial, “now that’s a BIG company – big in spirit and in customer relations. I purchase all of their products as often as I possibly can to show my approval of their efforts not to alienate a customer.” Unlike Stouffer’s hammer approach, General Foods took a scalpel approach to reach a remedy that could benefit, both, them and Mom.1 There was no problem with the recipe Mom presented as an imitation of their product, they just wanted a different title for it to protect their trademarks and copyrights.

As I wrote about in an earlier blog, ImitationMerriam-Webster.com says that imitation means “something produced as a copy; resembling something else…” and Dictionary.com says, “to imitate someone is to pay the person a genuine compliment…” Thus, Mom often referred to herself as “the Rich Little of recipes”. Rich Little was a famous, stand-up comedian and extremely good imitator of celebrity voices; while Mom was a comedic writer and cartoonist, as well as an imitator of “famous foods from famous places”!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

I found it ironic – and still do – that over the years, since Mom officially started her Secret RecipesTM enterprise in 1973, so many people have imitated her, the ORIGINAL famous foods imitator. It’s a niche Mom originally carved out in the early 1970s. But, not all of those who have followed since have given Mom the appropriate credit due her for being the original sleuth to uncover the supposed secrets of the food industry, imitating the “famous foods from famous places” at home! Kudos to those who have given Mom the proper credit, though!

In other news…

#Women’sCheckupDay

According to NationalDayCalendar.com, among some of the national celebrations taking place right now, today is National Women’s Checkup Day! According to the website, there are five healthy habits “they” recommend women do to improve their well-being… (1) maintain regular checkups, (2) be physically active, (3) stick to a healthy diet, (4) don’t smoke and (5) follow general safety rules. Use #Women’sCheckupDay to post your tribute to women’s health on social media.

#NationalStrawberryMonth

In addition, for foodies and gardeners, alike, NationalDayCalendar.com says that May is also National Strawberry Month! The website suggests that, to observe the holiday, you could visit a “pick-your-own” strawberry farm (or go to your local farmers’ market), plant a few strawberry plants of your own (or in a community garden) and/or prepare a recipe that uses strawberries. The website also gives a few links to some good strawberry recipes.

However, I have a great recipe for you, here, with a strawberry alternative! As discussed above, this famous frozen drink imitation has been in Mom’s repertoire since the beginning of her self-publishing business in 1973, as it’s one of her “Original 200” recipes. It has appeared in several of her cookbooks, in a few different versions and under a few different names; but, all of which Mom personally created. This form (pictured below) can currently be found in Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018)…as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it!

NOTE: Mom’s strawberry version of this Brutus drink appeared in her cookbook, The Three-In-One Book of Less Fat and Sugar & Best Bread Recipes (Secret Recipes, Marysville, MI; Jan. 1977, p. 11), which is no longer in print, but used copies may be found on Amazon or eBay. This strawberry version calls for 7-Up or Faygo Red Pop and a strawberry Kool-Aid type of drink powder instead of the orange juice or Tang ingredients that some of her other versions include. I posted one of those other versions in a previous blog, Recipes and Radio, back in November of last year.

The cookbook also offers a version of just the “powdered mix” to jar up and mix, by tablespoonful, with individual glasses of your own chosen liquid. Mom’s recipes were often quite flexible in this way, as she recognized (having 5 children and a husband to feed) that a lot of peoples’ tastes vary, and good recipes should be able to accommodate such taste variances.

1 References to scalpel and hammer are from a former television show, Person of Interest (Season 3, episode 12), when Shaw says, “There’s a time for a scalpel and a time for a hammer. It’s hammer time!”

2 The earliest written form I can find of this proverb is a reference by William Shakespeare, in his 1600 play, As You Like It, when Rosalind asks, “Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?”

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mother, May I?

Happy Monday, to all, and welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom!

I’m Laura Emerich and this collection of blogs is dedicated to the legacy of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, whom the world knows as the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM – pioneer and innovator, carving out the original niche for the ‘copycat recipes movement’. However, Mom has rarely ever received credit for its inception – other than a mention of it in the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records for being the first to recreate “fast foods” at home! When I searched for the term, ‘copycat recipes movement’, on Bing, I received 1,360,000 results – and Google brought me about 1,520,000 results! If that’s not a movement, what is?

Another search on Bing, for “Gloria Pitzer”, brought me about 92,300 results – seems there’s an attorney by the same name! When I searched for Mom’s name, on Google, there was an amazing 247,000 results! Regardless of what Todd Wilbur would have you think; long story, short… he actually got his start in the copycat recipes movement by ordering a copy of my mom’s cookbook, Secret Fast Food Recipes, in April 1989 and, then, proceeding to copy and even plagiarize my mom’s recipes; basically, passing her story off as his own!

Eventually, Wilbur may have developed some of his own copycat recipes that were different from my mom’s – unless he was also plagiarizing other people’s work as well! Check out this great 2002 article about Mom, including the updated end response from a reader, about Todd Wilbur stealing from Mom, at https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2002/aug/15/how-can-i-enjoy-big-mac-without-actually-leaving-h/#

#GloriaPitzer, #SecretRecipes, #RecipeDetective

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

The title to this week’s post, Mother, May I?, just kind of came to me as I sat down at my keyboard. In part, because it’s May; but, also, because Mother’s Day is coming up in less than a week. So, I wanted to write a special tribute for my mom, as well as for all mothers, since they are our first and most influential impression – nurturing us, teaching us and molding who we become as adults, ourselves.

Out of curiosity, I searched Bing for “What can be learned from ‘Mother May I’?” I know it develops interpersonal skills, as well as enforces good manners, but what else… Ironically, I found an interesting article called What We Can Learn From The Game ‘Mother May I’ [Margaret’s Message For May] by Gerry Gavin (May 05, 2016). The website describes the author thusly…

Gerry Gavin is the Author of ‘If You Could Talk to an Angel‘ and ‘Messages from Margaret.‘ He hosts a weekly radio show on Hay House Radio, where he channels the angel Margaret, bringing down-to-earth angelic advice to the world. Here is this month’s life changing advice for the readers of HealYourLife.com.

Given my mom’s faith in God, she would call this happenstance a “meant to be”, as Hay House also happens to be the parent company of Balboa Press, the publishers of Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Jan. 2018). That book is, basically, a re-write (by me, for Mom) of her favorite, self-published cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; 1982).

Mom and I collaborated on the new edition for over 2 years – such as what to keep and what to leave out, since some information was obsolete for the new digital generation that was going to be able to enjoy it as an eBook 35 years later, as well as for those who still like the traditional, hard-copy book. The collaboration lead me and my mom to see each other in a new and even more creative way than ever before. Anyway, out of that rabbit hole…

Mother’s Day is May 12th!

Our last Mother’s Day with Mom, at Cheryl’s place in 2017. Left-to-right: my mom (Gloria Pitzer), my sister (Cheryl), our oldest daughter (Tara), her son (Gage), me, my husband (Dave) and our youngest daughter (Patti). The photo was taken by our oldest son (Paul).

Please allow me to repeat myself as I boasted previously, in my first blog, A Legacy of Love, about Mom…

Over the years, [she] personally inspired me in so many ways…as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, mother, teacher… How she managed to juggle all of these same hats with a husband and 5 kids, for which to take care, always amazed me…

[Mom’s] taste buds and culinary skills, combined with her creative writing skills and sarcastic sense of humor, developed into their own super power… she found a niche that people wanted – “eating out at home”, she called it – and she set to work, discovering how to mimic fast food & restaurant dishes at home; as well as, shelf-stable grocery items. If it saved her household money, she wanted to share it with others to help them save money too…

                                                                                  

She was a trailblazer… writing her own [copycat] recipes and marketing her talents through newspapers, magazines, local television talk shows…but, especially through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years she was a regular on a few local [Southeastern Michigan] radio talk shows such as ‘Ask Your Neighbor’, hosted by Bob Allison on WWJ-Radio, which still airs out of the Detroit area today and ‘Listen to the Mrs.’, which is still hosted by Art Lewis on WSGW-Radio in Saginaw, MI… Mom did radio shows all over the country – mostly by phone, from the comfort of home.

I wish I had half of my mom’s talents in marketing! However, I do have her drive to learn! I also share her passion for writing, although I’ve never kept daily journals like Mom. I love her so much and I’m eternally grateful for all she has taught me and given me throughout my life (along with my dad, but his day comes next month!) Furthermore, Mom continues to teach and give to me, even from beyond – not only through my memories of her, which writing these weekly blogs strongly inspires, but also through all of her self-published and marketed writings, artwork and recipes – about which I’ve been writing for almost 8 months, now, and will continue to do so for as long as I’m able!

This may not make sense to someone who hasn’t lost their mother, but I feel that the more I read and re-read her work, the more I feel like I’m “with her” again. I know Mom’s always with me…but, I don’t feel like I’m always with her until I delve into all of her works…the way I felt even closer to her when I was working on the re-write of her Better Cookery Cookbook.

The best I can do, to pay tribute to my mom…and the best way any one can pay tribute to their mom, as well, is to pay it forward – all that she’s sacrificed, given and taught – passing it on to the next generation and hoping they do the same is the best any of us can do! Nowadays, like Mom did in her writings, I want to bring “my readers” a smile and a laugh, as well as bits of knowledge (Mom always said I should “learn something new everyday!”). Also, I want to pass on all the memories, traditions and teachings that my mom gave me, hoping it benefits someone in some way as much as it has me, even if it’s only an added smile to their day!

I, too, would like to know why pickles (and so many other odd things) are honored for a whole week, while mothers (our givers-of-life) only get one day to be honored! Mothers, all around us, are the most influential and compelling people, the world over – not only in how they impact our own personal lives, but also in how they diligently apply themselves to positively impact the world!

#NationalMothersMonth

We should all honor our mothers and fathers regardless of the day…always! However, this Sunday, go over and above that to honor your mother most importantly! This should be National Mother’s Month! We should start a campaign… #NationalMothersMonth! According to the United Nations Foundation, they “know how important mothers are in promoting prosperity, success, and growth in communities around the world.” They also give us 5 important things to remember on Mother’s Day – check it out on the blog at unfoundation.org!

A 4-generation photo from my mom’s last Mother’s Day celebration (2017) at the Community Wesleyan Church in Marysville, MI.

In wrapping up, since May is also National Stroke Awareness Month, I‘d like to re-mention that Mom’s love for writing and journaling helped her, to some degree, in dealing with the dementia, from which she suffered, following a double stroke and grand mal seizure in 2015. The love she held for writing was as much a form of therapy for Mom’s memories as it was just a natural reflex for her to relax, reflect and meditate. A lot of what Mom wrote about was regarding finding the blessings in any given day or moment; good and bad, alike. That’s just how she was raised, being grateful everyday – not just for Life’s gifts, but also for Life’s challenges that she confronted and overcame, empowering her to do more rather than discouraging her to fail. Failure was never an option her faith would allow in!

#StrokeAwarenessDay

Mom penned her feelings and memories in journals for most of her life. My younger sister, Cheryl, has all of Mom’s journals that still exist. Some were lost or destroyed over the years. But, Mom also recorded a lot of her feelings and memories in all of her publications too. Over the past year, since Mom went to her heavenly realm, I have really enjoyed re-reading all of her “Food for Thought” memories that are sprinkled throughout her cookbooks and newsletters, of the copies I have. I still use all my books of Mom’s – all the time!

Shortly after starting these blogs, I decided to include one of Mom’s “free” recipes with each one. During Mom’s over-40-year era as the Recipe DetectiveTM, she promoted her business by offering (in exchange for a SASE) a sheet of free sample recipes, along with information on how to order her currently available (at that time) products…cookbooks, newsletters, bulletins and more! The sheets changed every so often over the years; as the product offerings changed so did some of the free sample recipes.

I thought I had recently exhausted all the “free” recipes from Mom’s information sheets, of which I have copies; but, I found more!!! I still continue to work on updating the Recipes tab on this website with all the recipes that used to be on here before my brother transferred it to me last year. Plus, I’m adding all of these “free sample recipes”, which I’ve been posting in my blogs, from Mom’s ordering information sheets over the years.

In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, here is a photocopy of one of Mom’s favorite recipes; her famous “Little Seizure Pizza”, which can be found in many of her cookbooks, including on page 79 of her last one, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, which available for sale through the publisher, Balboa Press at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252, as well as in eBook form at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.

This pizza imitation has been in Mom’s repertoire since the inception of her Secret RecipesTM business in 1972-1973. It’s one of the “Original 200” recipes that Mom created to imitate the highly sought-after fast-food and junk-food products, launching her famous career as the Recipe DetectiveTM. This version was found in a media promotion that Mom sent out in 1983…as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it!

 

 

 

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Repurpose, Reuse & Recycle

Happy Easter Monday, everyone, and happy Earth Day too! Welcome to Mondays & Memories of My Mom.

I’m Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to my mom, Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM, and her tremendous legacy – from her famous writing career, spanning over 5 DECADES, to her more personal loves of life, family and faith. As the Recipe DetectiveTM, Mom often referred to herself as the “Rich Little” of the food industry because she could imitate their famous dishes and food products, in her own kitchen, similarly to how Rich Little could imitate the voices of famous people.

My mom frequently exuded a satirical wit in her writings and cartoon illustrations also. Below is a photo copy of Mom’s cover page for her cartoon panel-series titled, Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer. They were printed in The Richmond Review (Richmond, MI) for a few years, starting around early 1969; and, since they’re humor was timeless, Mom reused them in some of the newsletters and cookbooks that she, later, went on to write.

Throughout her newsletters and cookbooks, Mom never claimed to know exactly what the famous food industry companies actually used in their own “secret” recipes; however, she did claim to know that she could come up with some pretty good imitations based on some basic cooking principles and what she could see, taste and smell. Some of Mom’s recipes that were imitations of certain brands, she realized, could be repurposed, reused and recycled into imitations of other companies’ products.

As I mentioned in another blog recently, Hostess Twinkies have the very same cake ingredients prepared in the “Flaming Cherries Supreme” from the Waldorf Astoria kitchens. All Mom did to imitate the Hostess product was to shape the cake different and add a little more body to the cream; which was put INSIDE the cake, as a filling, rather than on top like Waldorf’s!

Mom started a movement, imitating fast food and junk food at home (as well as other food industry dishes and products), for which she is rarely given credit. However, in the early 1970s, it was my mom who pioneered and trail-blazed the homemade, copycat crusade! Media quickly pounced on the news, as word got around quickly (without the aid of social media and internet, by the way), of a small town “housewife” who was imitating these famous food products at home and sharing her recipes across the radio air waves and through her self-published newsletters and cookbooks!

Mom and Phil Donahue, 1993

Mom had set out and succeeded in imitating hundreds of name brand products such as Famous Amos, Sara Lee and Hostess treats; as well as fast food and restaurant chains’ burgers and other specialty, signature dishes. While most of her interviews were over the radio air waves all around North America, Mom did do some TV appearances as well. She was on the Phil Donahue twice! The episodes were replayed around the world, bringing her vast amounts more recognition.

Today, because it’s Earth Day, the subject my blog is focused on the motto to “repurpose, reuse and recycle” (regardless of whichever order you put them in). Additionally, three other “r” terms are often used in conjunction with these three: (1) to “reduce”, as in your carbon footprint; (2) to “repair”, as in try to fix, mend or restore something before readily throwing it out; and (3) to “refuse”, as in objecting to buying into wasteful marketing stuff in the first place. Such wasteful marketing products include wraps and packaging fillers like Styrofoam, plastic and foil that end up in our land, oceans and waterways and are, literally, choking our environment!

Mom & I, repurposing her old purse as my new art kit!

Mom was always very crafty at repurposing, reusing and recycling items to keep them out of the garbage and, thereby, not having to unnecessarily pay for things that could be easily made out of something else. The terms repurposing, reusing and recycling refer to SO MANY things! For example… as in the picture above, Mom often turned her old purses, with their many pockets and compartments, into cases for organizing things like art supplies or activity books or Barbie’s clothes and accessories – the ideas are endless.

Mom often made clothes and linen for my sisters’ and my BarbieTM dolls out of scraps of material from our own worn-out clothes and old linens (which were also used for quilting and other sewing projects). She also made furniture for our dolls, using cardboard food boxes covered in paper or material scraps. As a child, my favorite Christmas gift from my mom was a beautiful rag doll she made from old clothes scraps, with yarn for her hair and facial details, plus buttons for her nose and eyes.

As for food waste… Do you have leftovers from your Easter celebration yesterday? Soups, casseroles and pot pies are wonderful ways to repurpose, reuse and recycle those leftovers that are sitting in the refrigerator. However, when leftovers get past the point of safe consumption, but are not yet to the point of “penicillin science project”, then composting is another form of repurposing, reusing and recycling those leftovers for your garden – except for meat and dairy products, which aren’t so good for plants, but can make great chicken feed!

Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer (Richmond Review, Richmond, MI; 1971)

The U.S. is the second highest food-wasting country in the world, second to Australia; but leaps and bounds beyond Turkey, which is in third place, according to Statista.com.  The U.S. FAO website says that this worldwide waste of food causes an excessive spending of resources, such as water, land, energy, labor and capital; needlessly producing greenhouse gas emissions, while contributing to global warming and climate change.

Yesterday morning, I saw a clip on my local news about what to compost and a demonstration using a countertop composter! What a great idea, if you can afford one! I saw one, like the one shown in the news clip, online for more than a few hundred dollars. I love it and I want one, but I can’t afford the luxury…so, like my mom did years ago for her garden and potted tomatoes, I just keep saving my coffee grounds and eggshells (and the occasional banana peels) in an old coffee container on my kitchen counter. When it’s full, I take it out back to my large compost pile for the vegetable garden; but, you can also put it directly around the base of your plants – my roses love it! Then, when the rose heads are ready to cut, I hang them upside down by their stems until they’re fully dried to repurpose, reuse and recycle them into potpourri!

Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed almost 50 years ago as a direct result of the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970? It actually started as more of a teaching/learning event than a celebration; nonetheless, its popularity caught on quickly and is now celebrated (on different dates) worldwide.

Simple suggestions for participating in Earth Day activities include donating gently used items to non-profit resale shops (many churches have them now) or having your own yard/garage sale with them – yard/garage sale season has just started around here. Another way to participate is by cleaning up litter around your yard, as well as in your community. Additionally, hiking or walking through a park or enjoying nature through ORGANIC gardening or planting trees are other ways to partake in the occasion today (or any day for that matter). Speaking of planting trees, this Friday (April 26th) will be Arbor Day! Furthermore, the whole month of April also happens to be National Gardening Month!

#RepurposeReuseRecycle

Repurposing, reusing and recycling is not just a great way to conserve energy and natural resources, but also an effective means to saving money. A reduce and reuse lifestyle can also preserve natural resources and reduce waste, but there are additional benefits to such a lifestyle as well. So many plastic wraps and containers that people typically throw away – such as deli and dairy containers, plastic grocery bags, old toothbrushes, etc. – can be repurposed, reused and recycled in hundreds of ways; which, in turn, can eliminate tons of garbage from our landfills and, consequently, reduce how much of our plastic refuse (which doesn’t decompose) finds its way into our land, oceans and waterways.

The older I get, the more I want to get rid of junk; but, I still feel an immense impulse to save things that I might use in some other way – someday. I guess it’s the “green” in me, with which I grew up, that’s shining through – before I can throw anything away, first, I ask myself: can it be repurposed, reused or recycled in any way? Today’s Earth Day is a great time to focus on how much you and your family throw away; therefore, I challenge you to save something from being trashed and, find a new purpose for which to reuse it… Then post and tag it on social media with #RepurposeReuseRecycle!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Earth Day blog and will return again next week when I discuss more about gardening, as it will be the end of National Gardening Month! In closing, as I do each week, I’d like to leave you with one of the recipes that Mom developed and gave out for free on her product information and ordering sheets in exchange for a SASE.

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken, like Kenny Rogers

Mom used the following barbeque crockpot chicken recipe (which serves 6) pictured below, an imitation of a Kenny Rogers’ dish, whenever she wanted to make an easy sweet barbeque chicken that she didn’t have to fuss over. She first printed it in her cookbook, That’s the Flavor (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1998, p. 25), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Correction:
Mondays & Memories of My Mom – “Famous Foods from Famous Places”
[posted: 02/18/19]
My banana bread recipe, like Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel served, was originally printed in Mom’s cookbook, Eating out at Home (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sept 1978, p. 34); before it appeared in her cookbook, The Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1982). Therefore, it must have been developed on our vacation there the previous summer, and not the same one as when Somewhere in Time was filmed.

Archer Teacher Fish & Chips, plus Onion Rings option

Archer Teacher Fish & Chips, plus Onion Rings option

By Gloria Pitzer, first published in The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemaker’s Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977, p. 1)

Arthur Treacher was once Merv Griffin’s right-hand-man. A dignified and accomplished actor that we best remember from the 1930s & 1940s.

Ingredients:

3 cups boxed pancake mix

3-4 cups club soda

0.4-oz. pkg. ranch dressing mix powder

2-3 lbs. fish fillets (any good frying-type)

Instructions:

With wire whisk, combine the pancake mix and enough of the club soda so that the batter is the consistency of buttermilk – pourable! Whisk in the ranch dressing mix.

Dip the fillets into just enough plain, all-purpose flour to coat them lightly but evenly. Let coated fillets dry a few minutes on wax paper. Dip coated fillets into wet batter to coat lightly but evenly, letting excess batter drip back into bowl.

Using a heavy sauce pan or electric fryer, fry a few pieces at a time in 3-inch deep oil heated to 385F degrees. Turn the pieces once to brown each side (at about 2-3 minutes per side).

Remove from hot oil, using the tip of a sharp knife. Do NOT use tongs as it may cause coating to break and fall off. Keep pieces warm on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan in a warm oven until all pieces have been fried. Serves 4-6.

ONION RINGS OPTION: (what to do with extra, left-over batter, as it does not keep well…)

Cut 3 firm white onions, each about the size of an orange., into 1/4-inch thick slices and separate into rings. Run these under cold tap water in a colander and let excess water drain off.

As with the fish (above), dip the rings into just enough plain, all-purpose flour to coat them lightly but evenly and let them dry for a few minutes on wax paper. One at a time, dip coated rings into the wet fish batter (above) to coat lightly but evenly, letting excess batter drip back into bowl. Then, drop each ring into 2-inch deep oil heated to 385F degrees. Turn the pieces once to brown each side (at about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy).

Remove from hot oil, using the tip of a sharp knife. Do NOT use tongs as it may cause the coating to break and fall off. Drain rings on paper towels and keep warm on a cookie sheet in the oven, on low, until all rings have been fried. Serves 4 nicely.

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.

 

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!