By Mike Royko [Detroit Free Press, The Feature Page; MONDAY, DEC. 10, 1973]
IF YOU spend any time in this corner, you have noticed lately that I have been writing a lot about food, restaurants and eating. It always happens when I go on a strict diet. I satisfy my hungers by writing about food. A shrink could have a field day in my fat-choked noggin about this, and other things, no doubt, but who really cares, right? If it works, then I say write on, baby! The diet is working. I started at 245 a week ago this past Thursday and am right at 230 after a weekend of 1,200-calorie days. But to keep the ol’ write-and-lose therapy going, let me pass on some info about two rather novel cookbooks that have come to my attention.
First, there’s Gloria Pitzer’s handmade (her five kids in Algonac even helped hand-color the cover) delight called, “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook.” Gloria is a delightful newspaper columnist and she notes in the front of her book: “If the Good Lord had intended for me to cook, why wasn’t I born with aluminum hands?”
Another sparkling observation: “Cookbooks do not tell you, for instance, such vital items as the Impossibility of Using Up Easter Eggs!” I really groove on the little asides she tucks between the over 200 sensible recipes. Like this one: “Frankly, I never met a melon squeezer I really liked. They always make me feel so insecure, the way they hold the melon to their eye and thump it like they are expecting a heartbeat.” …It’s a buck and a half and a belly-laugh a page…
HOPELESS TWINKLES – an Imitation of Hostess Twinkies
By Gloria Pitzer (Feb. 1976, among Gloria’s “Original 200” recipes)
¼ pound (1/2 cup) butter or margarine,
½ cup Crisco or homogenized solid shortening,
1 cup granulated sugar,
¾ cup Pet or Carnation evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for 5 minutes on medium speed. Add Crisco a little at a time. Cream another 3 or 4 minutes. Add sugar a little at a time while continuing to beat. Then add the milk (mixed, first, with the vanilla), beating and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. The longer you beat this, the better it becomes – but food processor preparations are also possible – timing depends on manufacturer’s directions for “creaming”. Mixture will “grow” in the bowl. Keeps refrigerated in covered container up to a month. Use as directed below with the cake “strips” for TWINKLES. Should fill about 2 dozen.
THE YELLOW-SPONGE-LIKE CAKE that I use is the same recipe that I suggest using for imitating at home the cake product from the company ‘nobody doesn’t like’ – who shall remain nameless – YOU can say it out loud… but I can’t!
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 cup whole milk
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
As listed, beat the ingredients in large mixing bowl on medium speed, beating 1 minute with each addition. Pour batter into 2 square, 8-inch, greased cake pans or Pyrex baking dishes (or a 13 x 9 x 2” pan.) Bake in preheated, 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes – for the 2 square pans – both pans in the oven at same time. For the oblong pan, bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack. Best to use the cake when it is slightly frozen – about 30 minutes in the freezer. Cut cake into bars – 1.5 x 3.5”. Put bottom-side of each bar facing up on waxed paper. Spread bottom halves with the Twinkle Filling and put together with an un-frosted bar – sandwich style. Wrap in small plastic sandwich bags or snack-size bags. Seal and date. Freeze up to one year – or refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Makes about 24 cream-filled cakes.
Happy Monday AND happy “Please Take My Children to Work Day”! Yes, Virginia! There is such a thing!
Before my mom was the Recipe DetectiveTM, before she authored all those newsletters and cookbooks, Mom penned and syndicated various “hot topic” and “homemaker” satirical-styled editorials/columns, as well as a series of cartoon panels! One of her later series of columns was called “No Laughing Matter” (aka: “No Laugh ‘N Matter”), which she continued doing for a while, even after the rise of her Secret RecipesTM business took off in the 1970s.
Mom would have had a field day writing a column about this national “Please Take My Children to Work Day” – I can’t believe there really is such a thing! Apparently, it’s been celebrated yearly on the last Monday of June for 16 years (since 2003). This year, that happens to be today! Who knew? I could have used that when my kids were young – NOT! I can just hear my mom laughing and saying the same thing, too!
We got our “me times” the old fashioned way… when the kids were involved in school, sports, play groups, Scouts, city activities… the list goes on, including hiring a sitter for a day every now and then – or exchanging sitting favors with another mom! Sorry – but, really people – you don’t need a national holiday to devise a one-day break from parenting responsibilities! It’s a lifelong commitment. Besides, there’s already a yearly national “Take Your Child to Work Day” on the last Thursday in April!
For more information on what the “Please Take My Children to Work Day” holiday is really all about, you can check out these three websites, on which I found some interesting information; or do a search of your own, but here are some starting points:
In one of Mom’s “No Laughing Matter” columns from the 1970s (not sure what date it was actually published in the papers wherever it was syndicated), Where Have All Our Homemakers Gone?, Mom wrote: “The full-time homemaker is, unfortunately, being short-changed by today’s ‘paycheck-oriented’ society and, if Women’s Lib have their own way, ‘homemaker’ will be a 4-letter word… the women who either by choice or by circumstance makes a career out of making a home.”
Here it is about 40 years later and not much has changed. I constantly recognize the timelessness in a lot of the issues about which Mom once wrote. I guess it’s true – the more things change, the more they also stay the same!
In another “No Laughing Matter” article (circa 1970s), Just a Housewife and a Pro!, Mom wrote: “As a ‘suburban housewife’, I fail to see how anyone could classify my routine as ‘dull’! For one thing, everyone knows that the mother of an active family has no routine! We’re lucky if we can get our slippers on the right feet first thing in the morning. In fact, we’re lucky if we can even find those slippers, having to, first, plow through an undergrowth of Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs on the way to the kitchen, where we must witness testy debates over who gets the [prize] in the box of [cereal] and why a 40-year-old man refuses to take the Donald Duck thermos in his lunch…
What’s wrong with a quest for a roll of Scotch tape that’s your very own or having the phone ring and the call is for you instead of your teenager? [Margaret Mead’s] working definition [of a ‘first-class’ woman, not being a housewife or homemaker,] is a ‘trained, competent, professional woman’. Now, I’d be the last one to contradict an expert, but in defense of women who become wives and mothers… we have had training (although much of it’s on the job), are extremely competent and are professional [according to Webster’s dictionary] in that we have ‘a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or skill’…
If you don’t think it takes learning or skill to varnish a complex-of-disorder with enough love and efficiency that husbands and children grow up with security and comfort, drop around my kitchen some Sunday night… no matter what they tell us [working-outside-the-home homemakers] about turning our kids over to a day care center, there’s nothing like coming home from school to know that Mom’s in the kitchen, whipping up a pitcher of Tang and a plate of Twinkies.” [NOTE: See Mom’s recipe for homemade Twinkies at the end of this blog.]
Mom often referred to our family as being the total opposites of the Brady family on TV! Here’s a take, from the early years of the Recipe DetectiveTM, when Dan Martin of Newsday Wire Features wanted to come to our house in Pearl Beach to interview Mom about her bi-centennial cookbook that he had seen at The Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield Village… To hear Mom tell the story, it was just another day in the life of the “happy homemaker” – the kind of “stuff” from which country songs (or reality TV shows) are made!
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
When he knocked on the door that day, it was like inviting him into a Jean Kerr production of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”. There were a dozen baskets of ironing here and there in the large dining room, each tagged with the [customer’s] name, phone number and date… Two long tables, under the windows [along the east wall], were covered with freshly mimeographed 4×6 cards of recipes, spread out for the ink to dry. Several times a week, I printed up about 200 recipes, at 50 copies each. At that time, we sold these through our newsletter for 5-for-a-dollar or 25-cents each. We did very well with them too!
In the living room, Debbie’s friends had gathered with their driver’s training manuals to quiz each other for the big day coming up – when those six teenagers would be taking their driving tests. In the kitchen, Cheryl and Lorie were working on Girl Scout badge projects with some of their friends. It was a mad house!
Mr. Pipersack was shuffling in and out of the side porch door [off of the utility room], trying to unplug the bathroom pipes and clean out the septic tank for us. In the back room, where the prehistoric furnace was located in the 80-year-old house, a man from the gas company was arguing with a man from [the electric] company about what was wrong with our furnace and why it wouldn’t work [and recommending that I hide Paul’s wrench!]…
Our oldest son, Bill, was hunting through the kitchen drawers for some tools… so he could get under the hood of his [car] out in the driveway and, then, let Mr. Pipersack pull his truck into the yard. Mike, our next oldest, was on the phone trying to convince a girl that the things she had heard about him weren’t true and, if he could get his dad’s car on Saturday, would she go to the movies with him…
[Furthermore,] the cat was having a litter of kittens under the sewing table and our police dog, Suzie, was about to have a litter of pups and was moping about, looking for comfort…
Had our life been made into a TV series, it probably would’ve been called ‘The Pitzer Pack Rats’! …Based purely on the unfounded talents of our five kids to keep our house looking like it was just about to be condemned by HUD! I pretend not to care for ‘The Brady Bunch’, because I envied their lovely lifestyle, where problems were solved without so much as a hair out of place or a tear shed in despair…
My husband… loved the way the Brady’s bathroom mirror never got steamed up from somebody’s shower and how Mr. Brady never had to threaten a child… for catapulting a meatball off of their fork and into [his] coffee cup the way our kids would! I liked the way their stairway was always free of common household litter and their door wall never had fingerprints on it.
Their house plants flourished and when their phone would ring, it was always somebody… who had something pertinent to contribute to the entire 30-minute story… When [the phone] rings in this house, it’s usually a lady calling long-distance, from Toledo, to tell me about an exciting new offer on my favorite… magazines at drastically reduced rates, or… my Avon lady…
Mrs. Brady lived the kind of saccharine existence all mothers of my day dreamed of, for she never had to explain why they had Coca-Cola stains on the ceiling or how she blew the food budget on a pot roast for Sunday’s dinner, or why she had to take down phone messages in the dust on the end table because she could never locate a pencil and paper when she needed it, like I did!
Her kids did not spend hours on the phone with a friend just listening to each other breathe, nor did they waste their allowances on a record album with a 3-aspirin rating! And, I noticed, the Brady kids never used a windowsill for a foot-rest, a lampshade for a coat rack or a younger brother for a punching bag.
Mr. and Mrs. Brady never argued with each other over his bowling night and her Bridge Club. Have you ever noticed how their oldest boy never stood around, cracking his knuckles when he was bored? Ours did. Everything that happened to them was an object lesson with a happy conclusion where the parents always come out on top, knowing what was best for the youngsters and proving it, too!
We always felt lucky, on the other hand, if Paul and I could only get the cherries out of the fruit cocktail before the kids did! And, while all of the Brady kids uttered adorable little sayings… our teenaged son explained how he had just initiated his new chemistry set by concocting Nitro-glycerin in the utility room.
The Brady Bunch may have lived in a Walt Disney [style] happily-ever-after world, but I did really like them… because [the story] didn’t tell it like it WAS, but how it COULD be! – Gloria Pitzer, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 27-29)
Friday marked the first day of summer! On the first day of spring I adopted the low-carb lifestyle (like Atkins). It has been 97 days of no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar – you know, all the good stuff! After starting out at a 20-gram-carb-limit for a few weeks, I raised my carb-limit to 25 grams a day and have kept it there so far.
I’ve recently started using almond flour to make some Keto recipes. I LOVE the 90-Second Microwave English Muffin! I turned my slices into a Monte Cristo sandwich one morning and, OMG, I was in heaven (and stuffed) for a maximum 9-grams of carbs! I’ve also discovered that some heavy whipping cream and sugar-free, flavored gelatin make awesome “carb-free” desserts!
As of today, I’ve lost about 30 pounds! My goal is to lose another 10 pounds, at least; maybe 15 pounds at most. However, my “exercise regimen” is not steady, to say the least, and I still need to change that! I don’t spend near enough time weeding my garden or going for brisk walks.