It’s still National Inventor’s Month! So, this week, I want to tell you more about Mom being the ORIGINAL Secret RecipesTM Detective, INVENTOR of the copycat cookery concept for imitating junk foods, convenience foods, fast foods, and other restaurant dishes at home!
Last week, I wrote about Mom’s first 20+ years (1973-1993) as the Secret RecipesTM Detective – from the inception of her copycat cookery business and the 1973 release of her first self-published cookbook, to her SECOND appearance on the “Phil Donahue Show”, in 1993.
This week, as I did in my blog post from the week before last, I want to write more about Mom’s last 20+ years (1994-2014) as the Secret RecipesTM Detective…
THE LAST 20 YEARS
AFTER DONAHUE – THE SECOND TIME…
Mom wrote the quote above about her first appearance on Phil’s show in 1981, as it was written before she ever agreed to do it all over again, in 1993! Mom and Dad thought that if the show left out their contact information the second time around, it wouldn’t be as overwhelming as the first time. However, people found a way to find them! That show even shattered the record for most requested transcripts ever!
As I’ve mentioned the past couple weeks, following the second Donahue appearance, in 1993, Mom and Dad were persuaded to take a new route, in marketing their books, by doing an infomercial with Guthie-Renker Corporation. It was produced and directed by Positive Response Television and Mom was sent her own VHS copies, but in the end the project was “canned” and never aired.
The infomercial’s presentation was to appear as a talk show called “Ask Mike”, looking very similar to Mom’s last appearance on the Phil Donahue Show, including cooking demonstrations of some of her popular imitations. The “commercial breaks” were to promote several of Mom’s books, of which the production team totally changed the looks.
Furthermore, “Mike” acted like a dramatic caricature of Phil, always saying “Yep! That’s the flavor!” whenever he sampled Mom’s imitations. In fact, Mom titled her 1988 book, Yup! That’s The Flavor!, because that was Phil’s repeated reaction to all of her imitations on his show!
Additionally, Wally Amos (whom Mom met during her 1988 appearance on ABC’s Home show) cameoed as a street interviewer, offering “blind”, taste-test challenges to “random people on the street” with samples of Mom’s imitations versus the originals!
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Eating Out at Home (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; September 1978, p. 2)
ON DUPLICATING FAMOUS RECIPES…
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 [as practice makes perfect], and it certainly takes the monotony out of mealtime when, for reasons of financial inadequacy, we cannot always eat out…even if we could afford to eat all or most of our meals away from home, wouldn’t that become monotonous in time?
Mom found out later, when she and Dad didn’t have five kids in tow (plus, being able to afford it better, from the success of their Secret RecipesTM business) that eating out all the time really did not get as monotonous as she thought it might! For MANY decades, she and Dad enjoyed eating breakfast out almost every day!
Mom and Dad had their favorite spots, but they also enjoyed exploring new places, too. They always made friends with the staff and other patrons everywhere they went! Breakfast can be the most important meal of the day in more ways than one!
Not wanting to ever be on television again, Mom went back to her roots – being a regular guest on many of her beloved, radio talk shows, all around the country, and coaching people on how to be copycat cooks with her new short-cut methods! In 1994, she wrote and published a “Best of…” cookbook, covering her favorite, copycat cookery highlights from the first 20 years of her newsletter!
During the next two years, Mom and Dad resurrected three of her popular, out-of-print cookbooks: Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes, The Best of The Better Cookery Cookbook, and The Copycat Cookbook; basically changing each from a 5½ x 8½-inch format to an 8½ x 11-inch format.
In 1997, Mom released four more new books. One focused on low fat and sugar recipes, plus breads, and was so named. Two others featured more short-cut recipes for on-the-go cooks like herself, which she called Restaurant Recipe Secrets and Secret Knock-Off Recipes.
The fourth publication was The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes, a collection of Mom’s first 200+ recipes that she sold in the early and mid-1970s, printed on index cards ready for filing. And because that wasn’t quite enough for the year, Mom also put together a simple, 4-page folder with a small collection of recipes for “Chicken Soup And Other Comfort Foods”.
In 1998, Mom revised and reprinted a few more of her cookbooks – Yup! That’s The Flavor! (1988), re-naming it as Secret That’s The Flavor Recipes; as well as Secret Fast Food Recipes (1985) and Secret Make Alike Recipes (1991), changing both of the latter from 5½ x 8½-inch formats to 8½ x 11-inch formats.
From 1998 through 2004, Mom also put together seven, two-page recipe bulletins, focusing on different restaurants or subjects, covering imitations for Old Country Buffet, Boston Market, Bob Evans, Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Fred Sanders Company, Bill Knapp, and J.L. Hudson.
Over the next three years after that, Mom wrote three more new copycat cookbooks that she and Dad published. The Great Imitator’s Cookbook came out in 1999, followed by Mom’s “go-to” collection, My Personal Favorites, in 2000; as she was preparing to permanently retire her newsletter in December of that year. Plus, in 2001, she wrote Gloriously Simple! Recipes, another collection for her ever popular short-cut cooking concept.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Eating Out at Home Cookbook (Nat’l Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 1)
A whole approach to life, can be expressed in… cooking… an art we all can learn. As with the other arts, practicing it competently requires care, patience and the skill that comes with experience. But, above all else, to be a good cook, you must WANT to [cook].
At one time or another, most of us have had the experience of cooking when we really didn’t feel like doing it, Then, even our tried-and-true recipes are apt to be disappointing [and] lifeless. Something just isn’t there.
What’s missing is the spirit of the cook. For food is more than a physical substance. It has an intangible quality that nourishes our spirits. A good dish, lovingly prepared, at some point in the process of tasting and blending, becomes more than the sum of its ingredients. Its flavor [and] its uniqueness are created by the cook.
YOU WILL FIND PLEASURE AND EXCITEMENT IN COOKING, IF YOU PUT THEM INTO IT.
There’s no limit to the satisfaction you can gain. Taste as you go. Experiment a little with seasonings. Try new foods and new combinations [of food]. The results will have ‘you’ in them. You will face the job with a feeling of freedom, with a feeling of creativeness; and both, you and your family, will be constantly increasing the enjoyment of living.
When you cook this way, with warmth and active pleasure, your meals will be more than just food. Your zest and your spirit will be in them – and some of the radiance of Life, itself.
Mom always made my experiences with food (and in learning to cook) exciting and gratifying! I rarely ever cook the same dish exactly the same way, twice. I love to experiment with different seasoning combinations; and have yet to hear a complaint from my family that something hasn’t tasted good. I’m so proud to have learned from the best! I love you, Mom!
In 2002, as short-cut cooking continued to be the popular thing for busy homemakers, Mom and Dad decided to reprint her 1986 hit, Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes. That was the last book that they published themselves. They continued to promote that cookbook and Mom’s seven bulletins into 2014, until they both started having some significant health issues and Dad suddenly passed away that fall.
Life is short and fragile. All it takes is a simple moment to change everything you take for granted. So focus on the simple things that surround you and be grateful for each moment you have to leave an imprint on someone or enjoy the one left for you!
[Our next visit is scheduled in TWO weeks – Monday, May 24th!]
In honor of this also being National Egg Month, here is Mom’s “secret recipe” for Gypsy 48-Egg Torte, like that from the Dodge Estate; as seen in… The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; June 1997, p. 13)!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
May is still celebrating, among other things… National American Cheese Month, National Better Speech and Language Month, National Asparagus Month, National Barbecue Month, National Get Caught Reading Month, National Hamburger Month, National Photography Month, National Preservation Month, National Recommitment Month, National Salad Month, National Salsa Month, National Strawberry Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
This second full week in May (9th-15th of 2021) celebrates, among other things… National Salvation Army Week and American Craft Beer Week, as well as National Etiquette Week, which runs Monday through Friday of the 2nd full week in May (10th-14th of 2021)!
Other celebrations for this week include:
Sunday, May 16th, is… National Barbecue Day, National Do Something Good for Your Neighbor Day, National Love a Tree Day, National Mimosa Day, and National Biographer’s Day! Sunday is also the start of Bike to Work Week [16th-22nd of 2021], which is always the week of National Bike to Work Day (the 3rd Friday in May)!
…19 down and 33 to go!