Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Where Did All The Good Noshes Go? – Part III

Once again, happy Monday to all and #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

http://therecipedetective.com/category/blog/

#NationalAmericanaMonth

September is National Americana Month – a time to reflect on and reminisce about the “Norman Rockwell basics” of life in America; those simple things that have uniquely woven us together as Americans! When I think of Americana, in terms of food-related, I think of the nostalgic icons of fast-food chains, state fairs, carnivals, and drive-ins. Even department store restaurants and cafeterias make the reminiscing list for me (and I’ll be writing more about them next week)!

Fast-food is a multi-billion dollar industry. If you like hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, French fries, onion rings, tacos, burritos, pizza, fried chicken, and deep-fried fish – even breakfast foods – they are all among the most popular “fast-food” menu offerings, as well as the most popular consumer choices around America. The fast-food industry has been evolving for over 100 years – the prime of which is considered to have been during the 1960s and 1970s; as so many franchises launched across the country, it was like a “baby boom” in the food industry. Soon after, American fast-food franchising grew globally, as well.

The more critics argued about how bad fast food and junk food was for our health and well-being, the more people wanted to covet it. Mom always contended that “fast food” was food that was prepared quickly and that was done at fine restaurants such as Devon Gables’ Tea Room, as well as fast-food chains like McDonald’s. Mom would also maintain that “junk food” was merely food that was poorly prepared.

Additionally, as Mom said in her last cookbook, “…fast food has carried a reputation, by default, of containing ingredients that are harmful to us. Yet, they contain the same ingredients as those foods served in the ‘finer’ restaurants with wine stewards, linen tablecloths, candlelight, coat-check attendants, and parking valets; which separate the plastic palaces of fast food from the expensive dining establishments. One ‘eats’ at McDonald’s, but ‘dines’ at The Four Seasons. Steak and potato or hamburger and French fries – the ingredients are practically the same. How they are prepared [and presented] makes the difference!” – [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 6).]

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, pp. 70 & 71)

SMORGASBORD – FREEDOM OF CHOICE

It’s a mistake to think of the fast food industry as being confined to hamburgers and fries and buckets of chicken or fish. It is really a more versatile banquet of menu selections than the critics give us time to consider. The public is fickle and very easily swayed by the aggressive opinions of self-styled experts who preach the evils of fast food with all the charisma of a revival tent evangelism; and we, the believing public, will go in whatever direction the wind blows the strongest!

Nobody dreamed that the step-child of the food industry would ever have endured this long – for, to everybody’s surprise, fast food has, indeed, become the ‘Liza Doolittle’ of the restaurant industry. The humble streetcar diner of the 1950s and 1960s has blossomed into the Cinderella of the commercial dining division of the food industry. It has soared in sales while all other major enterprises have suffered set-backs in the shadow of the recent economic gloom! [NOTE: That was originally written in 1982, showing that history surely does repeat itself.]

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

The reason the fast food industry has become a virtual smorgasbord of appealing menu selections is that it is affordable! People who work hard for their money and have little of it left after essentials have been paid for, look for leisure and escape hatches by which they can derive a little pleasure for the money they have left to spend on such luxuries.

Fast food chains cater to crowds with very little fuss, but surroundings that reflect informality. The costs of eating out, however, have increased along with everything else. Now it’s becoming less and less appealing to spend the same money on one fast food meal that would also buy a bag of groceries that could make several meals at home!

So, we can have our cake and eat it too! We can dine in as if we’re eating out – whether we choose to be catered to by wine stewards and parking valets or whether we wish to impersonate the plastic palaces of the fast food kingdom – eating out at home can be a pleasant experience.

SECOND THOUGHTS

FAST FOODS HAVE ARRIVED IN OUR CULTURE at a point in our growth as a society, when ‘time’ is of the essence… held cheaply, spent foolishly, and made to be one of the most aggressive influences in our lives.

The calendar and the clock have given a sense of order to civilization. Our lives are, both, governed by and regulated by the limitations of these two man-made inventions. In a world created and perpetuated by an infinite Spirit, man has adjusted to the divisions of time. The records of one’s birth and death are accounted for by date and moment; and all the time in between is categorized by years, months, weeks, days, hours, moments—even seconds. We are hardly conscious of the limitations to which we submit ourselves by confining our lives to the measurements of calendar and clock divisions.

Without even realizing it, we are constantly meeting deadlines in our lives. We catch a bus, a train, a plane in accordance with the hour and minute scheduled. We compete in and watch sports that honor seconds by which winning and losing, and records are determined.

It is, with some frustration, that man attempts to occasionally free himself of the obligation to live within the framework of the deadline. Our work is subject to how much we can accomplish within a repeating allotment of time. Our leisure is limited by the number of hours and minutes that remain.

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

Even the successful results of the foods we prepare is completely dependent on the timing we employ. From this, we have derived ‘instant coffee’, ‘the 3-minute egg’, ‘day-old bread’, ‘Minute Rice’, ‘Hour-by-Hour’ deodorant soap, ‘the 5-minute phone call’, ‘the 12 Days of Christmas’, and on and on. We can have a ‘good time’, a ‘great time’, a ‘bad time’. About the only thing not governed by, nor subject to, time is love.

So, ‘Fast Foods’ arrived when it could be most appreciated and most recognized. ‘Fast’ indicates – or, at least, implies – that there will be time left over one would not ordinarily have with food that was NOT ‘fast’. Most food preparations require a lot of time.

But ‘Fast Food’ was capitalized on by the promotional people as being something the on-the-go generation could enjoy and would buy, because they had better things to do than sit around restaurants waiting to be waited on; when, instead, they could run in and out with a meal and be on their way to the fun things in life – or on the way to the more time-consuming things in their life, such as work or business of one kind or another.

With the extensive research into the effects of stress, pressure put upon many people from having too little ‘time’ to be relaxed, to enjoy leisure, freedom from worries, there has been a turn-around in the fast food promotional field. Now they are gradually – without you hardly even being aware of it – changing to a ‘family’ restaurant theme. They want to bring back the old-fashioned, close-knit, solid family unit. Back and forth, like the pendulum of a clock, the gimmicks are given a new face and flavor. The public will eventually become conditioned to the new theme and ‘fast food’ will take on a cosmetic change that we will hardly even notice.

Continuing on with my depiction of 30 of the oldest fast food chains and restaurant franchises in America, which I started a couple of weeks ago; the following 11 chains emerged between 1953 and 1969, many from whom Mom imitated several of their popular menu offerings.

I’ve  shared some of those recipes in previous blog posts so I’m re-sharing them, here, again. A few of the other recipes pictured below came from Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, which is a rewrite I helped her do of her favorite self-published cookbook from 1982, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook. A total of 12 of Mom’s related copycat recipes are pictured below. Enjoy!

[NOTE: For a little piece of Americana, hard copies of Mom’s last cookbook are available, for sale, at $20.99 each through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253.]

#BetterBreakfastMonth

#BetterBreakfastMonth

Italian-American cuisine was one of many of Mom’s favorite food areas to investigate. She “covered” many “hits” from the older, popular chains such as Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s; as well as newer chains, like Olive Garden, for an example.

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 72)

PIZZA AND PASTA DISHES

ITALIAN CUISINE has been a part of our American restaurant industry since the early days of its discovery – if you recall – by an Italian, Columbus! If Christopher Columbus had never tasted pizza or spaghetti with meatballs, then he surely didn’t know what he was missing! But the influence of good Italian cooking in our American ‘Melting-Pot’ cuisine has had a long life of appealing dishes that have influenced, still, other food creations.

The pizza, as we know it in this country, was the creation of an Italian baker in New York’s East side during the late 1800’s. Dock-workers and sailors frequented the bakery for their lunch food, requesting a slice of cheese with their bread and glass of ‘Vino’. The enterprising baker dreamed up what was probably the very first delicatessen in the restaurant industry.

WHEN THE CUSTOMERS REQUESTED bread and cheese, he also added some spicy tomato sauce to it, like an open-face sandwich; and, as the popularity of the dish grew, he topped it off with sausage and other condiments until someone asked him what he called his dish. He thought a moment and replied, ‘Pizza!’

It came from the same word as the musical term, pizzicato, to pinch or pluck a stringed instrument, such as a violin or guitar. Thus, pizza may have been so-named from the fact that the dough, being rounded at first, is pinched and plucked outward until circular and flat.

For whatever reasons, the Italian baker went without recognition for his creation until we were informed by a woman, in her 80’s, that her father and his before him worked the docks in New York where the legend of the beginning of the pizza was a well-known story, handed down from generation to generation, that the dish was, indeed, created in this country and preserved with Italian traditions for all of us to enjoy.

The pasta dishes of our American restaurant cuisine have been expanded to include some very interesting creations, employing imagination when combining compatible ingredients. Although there are probably as many recipes for good sauces as there are cooks to prepare them and restaurants to serve them, I chose only a few for this book that would offer a good, basic dish.

#BiscuitAndGravyWeek

In Mom’s 1998 reprint of her self-published cookbook, Secret Fast Food Recipes (aka: “Book 6”, in a series), she published her delicious imitation of TGI Friday’s Crazy Layer Cake; which I will share with you at a later date.

When it came to deep-fried, battered fish, Arthur Treacher’s establishments did it best and they were always our family’s favorite! Mom’s version, called Archer Teacher’s Fish & Chips, was among her “Original 200” collection.

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

#GoodNeighborDay

Mark your calendar! September 28th, 2020 will be National Good Neighbor Day!

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

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

…37 down, 15 to go!

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

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Where Did All The Good Noshes Go? – Part II

I hope everyone had a happy Monday, yesterday; enjoying a safe and memory-making Labor Day weekend. This is a belated #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!

Over 125 years ago, Labor Day became an official, national holiday. It is celebrated yearly, on the first Monday in September. Just as Memorial Day has become the unofficial start to summer, Labor Day has, likewise, become the unofficial end to summer.

While there doesn’t seem to be many traditional customs for observing it, there are various kinds of individual community celebrations, including picnics, parades, outdoor concerts, festivals, fireworks and even shopping events; as retailers always offer huge Labor Day weekend deals and discounts to move out the rest of their summer stock. Moreover, many families like to take advantage of the extra-long weekend to go on one, last, summer vacation before the kids go back to school.

However, this is 2020 and what’s “normal” has been put on hold (temporarily – we hope)! This year, family camping has become even more popular than ever, as families can travel safely (for the most part) with their own food, shelter, and personal belongings. There’s a funny statement that I’ve seen on social media, from time-to-time, in a few different forms that basically says, “only Americans will spend thousands of dollars a year on STUFF just to live like hobos.”

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective

#NationalILoveFoodDay

Coming up, on Wednesday, September 9th, is the national celebration of “I Love Food Day”. What a fabulous thing to celebrate! As I wrote about in many previous blog posts, Mom was a pioneer and trailblazer in the food industry – creating a new niche in the fast food and franchise restaurants’ field! In the early 1970s, Mom took on an “interesting challenge” to infiltrate and investigate the alleged secrets of the retail food industry.

In the mid-1970s, Mom was nicknamed the “Recipe Detective” by the radio listeners of Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” call-in program, because she could decipher what combinations of ingredients and techniques could be used at home to imitate many favorite restaurant dishes and fast food items; as well as packaged “junk foods” and other supermarket products, for which people were searching to replicate.

Mom developed hundreds (and eventually THOUSANDS) of recipes; imitating “famous foods from famous places” right at home and for less cost than going out! During the 1970s, Mom trademarked the nickname, as it became her signature format.

Fast food and junk food products were the most requested recipes for which Mom was asked to decode and devise a copycat version. Those types of recipes weren’t found in cookbooks or any other source being published at that time. People were clamoring to find out how to make their favorites at home. After all, fast foods epitomized the very restaurants where most American families, like ourselves, were apt to patron if they wanted an affordable meal!

As a wife and mother of five, herself, in a struggling economy, Mom personally saw a necessity for the family unit to be able to afford dining out. That’s how and why she came up with the concept of “eating out at home”; though, she didn’t mean “grilling in the backyard”!

Mom had always seemed to possess a special talent for determining the origins of flavors in dishes – even in many supermarket products. Some of her recipes used unlikely ingredient combinations that were unheard of at that time, to achieve a certain flavor, color and/or texture. She also had a special talent for promoting 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!

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

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

The public loved the “new idea” of making the taboo fast food and junk food products, which critics claimed were so bad for us, right at home, where the cook controls the ingredients that went into it – taking the junk out of junk food. Mom proved that it could be done easily at home and at less of a cost, as times were tough, and money was tight – especially for the average American family.

People know what they like, and Mom found a way to help them “have their cake and eat it too!” Mom claimed to be able to take the junk out of junk food by making it at home, where you can control the ingredients. It was a break through that had many companies up in arms – that someone could possibly duplicate their product at home and then share it with the public! However, Mom never knew what the companies’ actual “secret recipes” were for their scrumptious products, as she wrote about in the following passages.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Eating Out at Home (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 2-3)

You don’t have to know exactly how the original dish was prepared by the commercial food chains. All you need is a basic recipe to which you will add that ‘special seasoning’ or that ‘secret method of preparation’ that sets one famous secret recipe apart from those similar to it…

When I work to duplicate a recipe so that the finished product is as good as (if not better than) a famous restaurant dish, I begin by asking myself a series of questions: I want to know what color the finished dish has…[and] was it achieved by baking, frying or refrigeration?…What specific flavors can I identify?… and about how much of each may have been used…

Similar tests are used in chemistry…[to]…break down the components of an unknown substance and try to rebuild it. So the cook must work like a chemist (and not like a gourmet; who, most of the time, never uses a recipe – but, rather, creates one.)

The most remarkable part of the duplication of famous recipes is that you can accept the challenge to ‘try’ to match their [dish or product]. Sometimes, you will be successful. Sometimes you will fail in the attempt. But, at least, it can be done [‘practice makes perfect’], and it certainly takes the monotony out of mealtime when, for reasons of financial inadequacy, we can’t always eat out…even if we could afford to eat at all or most of our meals away from home, wouldn’t that become monotonous in time?

STOP CHEATING YOURSELF of the pleasure of good food. Eat what you enjoy, but DON’T OVER eat…This is what really causes the problems of obesity and bad health – rather than believing the propaganda of the experts that ‘fast food’ is ‘junk food’…It is not! Poorly prepared food, whether it is from a fast-service restaurant or a [$20-plate in a] gourmet dining room, is ‘junk’, no matter how you look at it…if it is not properly prepared.

TO DEBUNK THE JUNK…don’t think of Hostess Twinkies as junk dessert but, rather, the very same cake ingredients prepared in the Waldorf Astoria kitchens as the basis for their “Flaming Cherries Supreme”. All we did [to imitate the product] was shape the cake differently, adding a little body to the filling and putting it INSIDE the cake, rather than on top as the Waldorf did!

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

Gloria Pitzer, 2013

Mom has always tried to encourage the inner cook in all of us, through her love of food. Even if you didn’t think you could cook at all, Mom could make you feel like a gourmet, making your own creations and bringing joy back into eating at home. Her recipes are always fun and easy to follow. She also made them simple to “customize”, to suit your own diet needs.

‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ ― Theodore Roosevelt

Mom’s original concepts of “eating out at home” and “taking the junk out of junk food” has brought so much joy to so many people who couldn’t afford such “luxuries” as eating out or buying certain grocery items. Mom gained a lot of followers in the copycat movement (also some plagiarists), having started this concept in the early 1970s.

Still shot from mom’s Phil Donahue appearance 4-16-93

Last week, I started a list of 30 of the oldest fast food franchises and family restaurant chains that have developed since the early 1900s. Most of those in the list are among the “famous places” where Mom investigated and imitated “famous foods”. The first one, pictured below, should have been included among last week’s list.

Continuing on, here are some more chains that developed between 1940 and 1954…

Mom imitated many different donuts from many different chains. As for Dunkin’, Mom imitated their potato doughnut, printing it in her cookbook, Eating Out At Home (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; 1978, p. 36). In the late 1930s, Vernon Rudolph started selling a potato doughnut, under the name Krispy Kreme.

That I know of… Mom made an imitation of their Ranchero Sandwich, which appeared in her cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Al A Carte, (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; 1979, p.41). She also imitated their hamburgers, which was printed in her cookbook, My Personal Favorites (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; 2000, p. 25)

Mom made dozens of imitations of the KFC menu offerings, changing the titles of her products’ recipes from “KFC” to “Big Bucket In The Sky!” Many were among her “Original 200” collection. She also wrote about the “Colonel” and his original franchise concept in most of her books.

Denny’s is another full-service, family restaurant that Mom enjoyed frequenting to taste and develop her own versions of their dishes, such as their chicken-fried steaks and English Breakfast. Mom also imitated their famous Honey-Mustard and Marinara sauces.

Burger King’s ORIGINAL, “real” onion rings are not the same as the “minced” ones they serve now. Mom imitated many other of their “original” offerings, such as their onion rings, steak sandwiches and chocolate milkshakes.

The more I looked back on the different “famous places” for noshing during my childhood, the more I found that triggered those melancholy memories. Thus, the list goes on! Therefor, next week, I’ll share some more family-friendly franchises that have launched since 1955.

In honor of Big Boy’s recent 84th birthday/anniversary, here is another one of Mom’s copycat recipe for their famous Big Boy Hamburger sauce…

As seen in Mom’s self-published cookbook…

The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 7)

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

September 28th, 2020 will be National #GoodNeighborDay

#WHBY

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

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

…36 down, 16 to go!

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

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Where Did All The Good Noshes Go? – Part 1

Happy Monday to one and all! And, as usual, #TGIM – because I always look forward to Mondays, for they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share my memories of Mom!

Just last week, I saw a commercial announcing the 84th birthday (1936 – the same year that Mom was born) of the “Big Boy” restaurants chain and their signature, self-titled, double-decker, cheese burger. The “Big Boy” was introduced to the public long before Ray Kroc started the McDonald’s fast food chain, offering the same double-decker, cheese burger – slightly changing the name to “Big Mac”!

Funny note: In the mid-1970s, the McDonald’s Corporation was very upset, to say the least, when Mom started imitating their signature offerings and, likewise, slightly changing the name of her products to “Big Match”! The only difference was that Mom was selling the recipes, not the final products, so people could make their favorite products, at home, themselves (and at less of a cost than eating out).

I compared the “Big Boy” to the “Big Mac” – both offer 2 beef patties with a “special” sauce (resembling 1000 Island dressing), lettuce, pickles, onions, and cheese on a 3-piece, sesame seed bun. I found that the “Big Boy” is (normally*) “plated” and “presented” to you, in an eye-pleasing, palatable way, at your table, by a waiter/waitress (*except right now, during Covid-19 restrictions, as you can only get it as take-out/delivery in many areas).

Conversely, the “Big Mac” is assembled quickly, (some might say it’s “thrown” together) without regard for eye-pleasing palatability, and it’s served to you in a disposable, cardboard box at the cashier’s counter/drive-thru window. Additionally, you first have to pay for it, sight-unseen; then you can take your food to a table, yourself, to sit and eat; or you can leave with it, to eat elsewhere.

That’s basically what separates a restaurant chain apart from a fast food or “cafeteria-style” chain – how it’s ordered, along with being paid for first, and then how it’s received (in disposable packaging). I was inspired to look into what else classifies fast food chains from restaurant chains and which ones were the oldest in the U.S.

Although a wide variety of different foods, in either establishment, can be made FAST, the term, “fast food,  is a commercial term limited to food sold in a restaurant (or “store”) with frozen, preheated and/or precooked ingredients. In the restaurant realm, food that is made fast is called “short order”. 

I found that a restaurant chain is a set of “related” eateries  in different locations that are either under a shared corporate ownership or a franchising agreement. What depicts a restaurant/eatery (from the fast food establishments) is the majority of its food sales are in-store, with sit-down service, where the food is served in washable dishes and/or baskets for consumption on the premises.

[Of course, Covid-19 restrictions have affected that explanation, as most restaurants are, for now, limited to only take-out, curbside services and deliveries.]

Did you know that, fast-food and restaurant chains have been around for over a century? I formed a list of 30 of the oldest restaurant and fast food chains I could think of, but as I wrote a small paragraph about each one, it ended up being too long for one blog post. So, I’ve cut my list to give to you over the next few weeks’ blog entries. I stooped at 1940 for today’s blog entry and I will continue with the nostalgic list over the next week or two, as well.

Some information I learned from these three, wonderful articles: https://www.oldest.org/food/fast-food-chains/ and https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/the-countrys-oldest-chain-restaurants/ and https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Media/Slideshow/2017/01/13/26-Oldest-Restaurant-Chains-America?page=25 – along with material I gathered from Mom’s 40+, self-published cookbooks and hundreds of newsletter issues, as she has written about and made many imitations of the famous foods from almost all of the following chains. I’ll also re-share, with you, some of Mom’s recipes for these famous chains that I’ve shared in previous posts.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 7)

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES

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 are very few recipes that can’t be duplicated or imitated at home. And we could do them for much less than purchasing the original product. I proved…it can be and should be done!

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950’s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There is 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. To each, his own!

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! And 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.

Nathan’s Famous is the oldest restaurant chain I could find. It first opened as in 1916 on Coney Island (NY); founded by, husband and wife, Nathan and Ida Handwerker! They built a reputation on and are most famous for their all-beef franks and signature-spiced Coney sauce, which are also marketed in grocery stores in all 50 states. There are more than 300 Nathan’s Famous restaurants. The original one still stands at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, in Coney Island, New York. Mom developed several of her own copycat versions of “Coney Sauce” over the decades, but never accredited any as being like that served by Nathan’s Famous restaurants.

A&W is the next oldest chain I could find. Originally, it started as a drink stand, founded by Roy W. Allen in California in 1919. Allen’s employee Frank Wright partnered with him in 1922 and they founded their first restaurant in Sacramento, CA, in 1923. A&W developed the first “drive-in” carhop option to “casual dining”. However, It didn’t franchise until 1925. Thanks to A&W, by the WWII era, carhop services for drive-up establishments, serving burgers and other “fast food” choices, became common place. A&W’s signature Root Beer Float was always a family favorite treat for us. Mom developed several imitations of A&W’s menu offerings, including their Coney sauce!

White Castle was the next fast food chain establishment to open in 1921. It was founded, initially, by Billy Ingram, in Wichita, KS. The small, square hamburger (called a “Slider”), for which they are most famous, was declared the most influential burger ever, by Time® Magazine, in 2014! White Castle was one of the few fast food chains that were actually FLATTERED by Mom’s imitations of their products, sending her a very complimentary letter and a check to purchase a bunch of her cookbooks for all of their company’s executives.

Howard Johnson’s was founded in 1925, by Howard Deering Johnson; starting as an ice cream/soda fountain shop, near Boston, that was very popular. It later grew into a full-service, family restaurant in 1929, in Cape Cod.

Most famous for its signature orange roof and cupola, the Simple Simon and the Pie Man plaques, and its limited-menu food items – including it’s most famous 28 flavors of creamy, “homemade” ice cream, GRILLED hot dogs, and fried clam strips – it officially became a chain in 1935, when the first “link” opened in a “hot spot” in the Orleans district of Cape Cod, where Routes 28 and 6A meet. Howard Johnson’s continued to grow, becoming one of the biggest restaurant chains in the country. It evolved even more, in 1954, by becoming a chain of motels, as well.

Mom developed her own versions of their ice creams, sherbets, Boston Brown Bread, and Clam Chowder – just to name a few!

The Krystal restaurant first opened in 1932, in Chattanooga, TN. It was founded by Rody Davenport Jr. and J. Glenn Sherrill, who were “inspired” by the White Castle they visited in Chicago. Like the McDonald’s-Big Boy copycat story (above), they also offered their customers small, square hamburgers called “Sliders”.

In 1936, in California, Bob Wian founded the first restaurant in the soon-to-be-famous Big Boy® chain of family restaurants. The Big Boy® restaurants went under slightly different owners’ names per region/franchise – but always with “Big Boy” in the title. Bob’s Big Boy® is in California. Frisch’s Big Boy® is in Ohio. Big Boy® Restaurants (formerly Elias Brothers’…) are in Michigan and Shoney’s are in Tennessee.

Big Boy® was always one of our family’s favorite restaurant chains! Mom loved to imitate their dishes at home when we couldn’t afford to go out; and she replicated just about every item their menus featured! I’m working on a “Master Index List” of all the recipes from all of Mom’s works. So far, there are 35 recipes listed that Mom developed to imitate her favorite Big Boy® offerings at home – most of which appeared in her first 4 cookbooks, and many of those were among her “Original 200” recipe cards, on which Mom had built her Recipe DetectiveTM legacy.

Also, finding its start in 1936, was Chicken in the Rough; which was founded by Beverly and Rubye Osborne, in Oklahoma City.

Only two other cities, besides Oklahoma City, still serve “Chicken in the Rough” today – Port Huron, MI (just north of where we live, in St. Clair) and in Sarnia, Ontario (Canada), just east of Port Huron, across the southern base of Lake Huron, where it meets the north end of the St. Clair River.

Although most people would assume McDonald’s was the first fast-food chain, it actually didn’t start until after many others of their famous competitors. In fact, it was decades after the launches of A&W and White Castle, in 1954, when Ray Kroc purchased the McDonald’s fast food chain from the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac.

Mom absolutely loved McDonald’s! She imitated many of their menu offerings. In fact, it was her imitations of McDonald’s “Special Sauce” and the “Big Mac” that began her “Original 200” recipes collection, on which she built her Secret RecipesTM and Recipe DetectiveTM legacy!

The soft-serve ice cream formula was first developed in 1938 by John Fremont “J.F.” “Grandpa” McCullough and his son Alex. They convinced, friend and loyal customer, Sherb Noble to offer the product in his ice cream store. In 1940, the soft-serve ice cream chain, called Dairy Queen, was launched in Joliet, IL and operated by Sherb Noble. In 2001, the “Grill and Chill” eatery concept was added to some of their ice cream shops. Mom imitated several of their sweet treat offerings – but just going there was always a fun treat in itself!

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

IN CLOSING…

Next week, I’ll cover the launching of other fast food fare chains from 1941 through 1960!

#NationalTrailMixDay

In honor of today, being #NationalTrailMixDay, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Snacker Crackers”, as seen in her self-published cookbook, Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; April 1986, p. 104). Add your favorite nuts, dried fruit, and/or chocolate chips/candies. Enjoy!

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

#WHBY

My next visit on the “Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, is TODAY around 11am (CDST)/12noon (EDST)!

https://www.whby.com/goodneighbor/

#CelebrateEveryDay

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

…35 down, 17 to go!

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