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

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happy Love People Day

As always, happy Monday! According to NationalDays.com, today is National Love People Day and recommends us to, “…offer kindness and care to the people in your community.”

#NationalLovePeopleDay

While love doesn’t really make the world go ‘round (that’s a gravitational thing), it does make the ride more enjoyable! National Love People Day, according to NationalDays.com, was started by Life Line Church (Chicago) a couple of years ago. So, it’s a fairly new “National Day” promotion of celebration; yet “loving your neighbor” has always been around! NationalDays.com says, among other things, that today is a day “to lift others up”. I think we should lift others up EVERYDAY!

Mom always tried “to lift others up” in everything she wrote – starting with her multiple columns that were syndicated to multiple magazines and newspapers across the country to her hundreds of self-published newsletter issues (January 1974 through December 2000) and 40+ cookbooks (from her first one in 1973 to her last one, just before she passed away, in January 2018).

Mom loved to combine recipes (or food-for-the-table) with household hints, food-for-thought and food-for-the-soul – that’s what made her books stand out from all the rest; that and her being the first to start the copycat recipes movement in the food industry…particularly in the fast food and junk food categories, considered “taboo” foods by the critics. Nonetheless, people wanted to know how to make these things at home and, as the Recipe DetectiveTM, Mom figured it out and lovingly shared her secrets with the world.

‘Friends are a treasure and when we count our blessings we count our friends twice! It’s not possible to have a full and happy life without others to share with, to help when help is needed, to be helped when help is offered.’ – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 100)

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 43)

YOU’VE MADE A FRIEND

A SMILE IS the universal, unspoken language between us. Some people smile more easily than others, but a smile is as good as a hug. I just LOVE people who smile a lot! Even when I’m shopping or [when Paul and I are] walking around the campgrounds on one of our abbreviated ‘get-aways’ with our motorhome, I find myself smiling at people I have never seen before, and they smile back. It’s contagious!

Mom & Dad’s first camper

People don’t smile as much as they should! I’ve noticed lately how seldom strangers smile at each other in shopping centers and restaurants and other places where average folks mingle or pass. It occurred to me that there was nothing to lose by smiling and nodding at people as I shopped or glanced across a restaurant to other tables.

A surprising thing happened! Grim looking faces spontaneously responded with smiles and nods, as if they were trying to place me or recall where we might have met before. It was just wonderful!

I remember Mom telling me stories about how, when I was just a couple of years old, no matter where she took me – on a ride in the car or shopping in a store, to name a couple – I always waved and smiled and said “hi” to everyone!

I once thought it was just natural for all people to do that but, in my younger adult years, I found that to be a false belief; as I couldn’t (not wouldn’t) smile when I was going through severe depression. As well, my youngest child has Asperger and it was always very difficult for her to smile, let alone look at people. She consciously works to try to overcome that in herself. Mom used to bribe her for smiles and kisses by bringing her cookies! (See Mom’s recipe for “Mrs. Meadow’s Crisp Buttery Cookies” at the end of this blog entry.)

LOVE ENTERTAINING GUESTS

With October knocking at our doors, are you ready for the coming fall holidays, football parties and general entertaining on the spot? There’s a lot to be said about entertaining company, planned or not. My mom influenced me greatly when it comes to this subject, as her mom did for her.

However, I usually tend to go overboard when I’m making appetizers (or meals) for guests. I don’t want anyone to walk away hungry so I, habitually, offer too many choices; always trying to please all and clean out my pantry at the same time! Thereby, I tend to seclude myself in the kitchen, away from the guests that my husband is left to amuse, himself (at which, by the way, he is very good), in another room, as our kitchen is too small for entertaining.

However, whenever someone comes into the kitchen, offering me their help, I usually decline; as I’m always in my own OCD “timing-mode”, with three different timers set to three or more different dishes that I’m shuffling in pans on the stovetop burners and in-and-out of the oven and onto trivets around the countertops. I like to have everything intermingling and coming together like the interwoven fingers of hands folded in prayer.

Besides which, I have a kind of small kitchen area in which to preform my shuffling “magic”. Speaking of which, National Magic Day is coming up on October 31st and did you know that October, itself, is also National Kitchen & Bath Month? I just thought I would throw that out there – a little food-for-thought to entertain your imagination! In fact, check out this link at Furniture.com about how to decorate a kitchen: https://www.furniture.com/tips-and-trends/how-to-decorate-a-kitchen.

#HowToDecorateAKitchen

There’s a lot of great, timeless, “how to” advice on entertaining in 9 Holiday Hosting Mistakes You Might Not Even Know You’re Making by Nancy Mitchell at https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/8-party-hosting-mistakes-you-might-not-even-know-youre-making-213600 [Published: Dec. 2, 2014] – and it doesn’t have to be for just the holidays.

I discovered that I make a lot of the mistakes that Nancy mentions in her article, and I love her solutions for them! Now, to consciously put them into practice – as old habits die hard! We’ll see how it goes at the next football party that my husband and I host for our friends.

I also learned from Nancy’s article that you don’t really need a lot of elaborate food when you’re entertaining on the spot – save that for a fancy, planned, dinner party. Most of the time, simple works best – like serving easy, throw-together, finger snacks such as little pizzas or some small, slider-style hamburgers (like Mom’s recipes – pictured below and further down).

In addition, having only a few simple foods to choose from is also much less stressful and disrupting from the event. Similar to my mom, I love to cook, and I tend to over-do it because I don’t like anyone to go away hungry (especially when they are here for a while and alcohol is usually consumed.)

Making enjoyable food for people is very rewarding to me. Both of my parents were quite the tag team when it came to entertaining company – whether it was a planned, holiday event for family or an impromptu gathering of friends…

MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 277)

ENTERTAINING…

FOODS PREPARED for entertaining have always put me in a positive mood… Positive that, if the food is too good, everybody will keep wanting to come to our house and I’ll never be asked to theirs! On the other hand, if the food is not as good as it should be and I fall short of the best cook in our bunch, somebody will be in my kitchen; checking my stove for the training wheels they think it should have, considering the results of my cooking skills. So, food for entertaining must be fast, festive and flavorful…

When folks drop in… sometimes without notice… I like to be prepared. While there is absolutely nothing I can do to rid the lamp shades of the cobwebs that suddenly show up in the light, I can at least be glad something in the living room matches. With any luck if it is mentioned, I’ll exclaim promptly: ‘Oh, don’t touch that! That’s our daughter’s science project. We’re observing the mating habits of the harmless house spider!’

Illustration by Gloria Pitzer

At this point, I can whisk everyone into the kitchen where, somehow, Coke splatters on the ceiling seem to go undetected if we turn [down] the overhead lights and put out some pretty candles. In 2 or 3 minutes, I can be spooning shredded cheddar cheese onto Triscuits, adding a slice of pepperoni and having it all under the broiler while Paul (on cue) delights them with another of his golfing jokes.

His old stand-by is the story of his 2 friends on the golf course, noting 2 women on the green ahead of them, playing very slowly. One of the men asked the other if they shouldn’t go up to the gals and ask if they minded if the men played through… Or chances were they’d never get off the course. So, one of the men went running up to the ladies and got almost to the green when he darted quickly back. His friend asked what happened and why he hadn’t asked about playing through. ‘I can’t do that,’ the man said. ‘One is my wife and the other is my girlfriend!’ So, the other man offered to go up and ask. He got within a few yards of the ladies and he, also, darted back breathlessly, confessing to his friend… ‘Small world, isn’t it?’

By the time they stopped chuckling, the cheese snacks were ready, and the eggnog was out of the ‘icebox’ and into the punch cups, diluted with [Vernor’s] Ginger-Ale (soda) and, depending upon the folks we were entertaining, perhaps a shot of Grandpa’s favorite rum in each cupful! Two or three of these drinks and either Paul’s jokes got funnier – or we forgot how many times he told them…

The following is a picture of a “quickie”, pizza appetizer (from Mom’s free recipe offerings) – great for entertaining on the spot! Since you can substitute just about any ingredient, from the bread to the toppings, it’s almost impossible not to please everyone with this great snack idea! By the way, do you see the similarities between the “Broiler Pizzas” in the picture, below, and the little rye pizza snacks that Mom describes herself preparing in the story, above? That’s just how easy it is to modify the idea of mini “finger-pizzas” to what you have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator.

#NationalPizzaMonth

Because of my low-carb lifestyle, to make my own little pizza, I would have to use one of the 90-second microwave Keto bread/English muffin recipes that I have pinned to my Pinterest board, “Low Carb Diet Plans, Recipes & Exercises”.

I like the English muffin that’s made with almond flour the best – simply because there are less carbs in the almond flour recipe than in the coconut flour option. The bread/muffins can be made ahead of time and frozen in individual packages for easy thawing and toasting when needed. However, 90 seconds – even 2 minutes if you add in the mixing of the few ingredients involved – isn’t a long time, to begin with, if you prefer fresh-made bread. By the way, according to NationalDayCalendar.com, October happens to be, among many other things, National Pizza Month!

IN CLOSING…

#NationalCookieMonth & #HomemadeCookiesDay

In honor of tomorrow being the beginning of October and its celebration of National Cookie MONTH (plus, National Homemade Cookies DAY is also tomorrow), here is another one of Mom’s copycat recipes (from one of her “free recipes” offerings) for crisp, buttery cookies inspired by the Mrs. Field’s product found in most grocery stores; but, Mom named her imitation “Mrs. Meadow’s”.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

White Tassel Hamburgers (like White Castle’s)

White Tassel Hamburgers

By Gloria Pitzer, Secret Restaurant Recipes (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Apr. 1978, 6th Printing, p. 10)

Ingredients:

  • 4 TB Minced Onion
  • 1/4 cup Hot Water
  • 2 lbs. Ground Sirloin
  • 3 oz. Baby food Strained Beef (jar)
  • 2/3 cup Clear Beef Broth (or prepared Bouillon)

Instructions:

  1. Soak minced onion in hot water until soft. Mix ground sirloin & baby food strained beef with beef broth or prepared bouillon.
  2. Make patties uniform in size, flattening 3-4 ounces of meat mixture to 1/4 ” thick. Fry each patty quickly in 1 TB oil on a hot griddle. Make 3 or 4 small holes in the patties, with the tip of a knife or skewer, during frying to ensure even doneness. Cut hot dog buns in half and cut away the rounded ends. [Not available in 1981, companies now market “slider” buns!]
  3. Fry 1 tsp. of softened onions under each patty when turning to fry the other side. Slip patties into buns and serve with pickles, mustard & ketchup. Add chips on the side.
  4. The number of servings is questionable, depending on how many Sliders™ you can eat! Freeze whatever patties are not fried right away.NOTE:  This recipe did not appear in the 1st printing of the Secret Restaurant Recipes cookbook…but, I don’t know if it was in any other printings between the 1st and 6th ones.

About White Castle®

Founded Billy Ingram and cook Walter Anderson, White Castle is the oldest American hamburger fast food restaurant chain with its first locations openning in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. It is known for square burgers, sometimes referred to as “sliders” (officially spelled and trademarked as “Slyders”) that were priced at five cents until the 1940s, and remained at ten cents for years thereafter.

Besides a being a great concept, with a killer little burger, White Castle aslo set some amazing records. First fast-food hamburger chain ever. First industrial-strength spatula. First mass-produced paper hat. First to sell a million hamburgers. First to sell a billion hamburgers. First frozen fast food for sale.

And something for all of the guys to remember, every year on February 14, White Castle offers to reserve a candlelit table for two, complete with a server for Valentine’s Day.

For more information, check out www.whitecastle.com It has a ton of information including nutrition, White Castle history and terminolgy, locations, what’s new and some great promotions.

Source: whitecastle.com & wikipedia.com