Happy Monday once again! If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you probably already know that I always look forward to Mondays because they are my 52 Chances each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!
First of all, I want to wish a very happy 100th birthday to White Castle! They’re one of a handful of companies that were actually happy with and flattered by Mom’s imitations of some of their menu items. A few years ago, I found an old letter among some of Mom’s things that I got after her passing; from Gail Turley, who was at that time, the Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle (Columbus, Ohio).
Gail was very flattered with Mom’s imitation of their slider and dually impressed with her clever use of baby food to enhance the flavor of the beef. She even bought 15 copies of Mom’s cookbook (which contained the White Castle Hamburger knockoff) to share with some of her colleagues!
Mom’s original editorial on the company, along with other information and her make-alike recipe, can be found on pages 12-13 of Mom’s last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing) – which is a re-write of her famous book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing).
This coming Wednesday is, among other things, National Junk Food Day! Beginning in the mid-1970s, my mom quickly became well-known locally, nationally and internationally (as Canada is just across the river from us), for busting the mysteries behind making restaurant dishes, fast food items, and junk food fare at home!
Mom reasoned that she could take the junk out of junk food if she controlled the ingredients that went into the products and cuisine, in the first place. Throughout the first two decades of her family-operated business, she demonstrated her talents for imitating our favorite foods from our favorite places on TV shows like the Phil Donahue Show and ABC’s Home show. She also visited hundreds of radio shows, nationally and internationally, for over four decades!
Mom developed THOUSANDS of “secret recipes” over the years, imitating trendy menu choices from many popular chain and fine-dining restaurants; in addition to well-liked, shelf-stable grocery products! Most of Mom’s cookbooks focused on imitating grocery products, junk food, fast food and other restaurant dishes at home.
She was known as the Secret Recipes Detective – the pioneer who first forged the copycat cookery concept, writing and self-publishing more than 30 cookbooks in a 30-year span, from 1973 through 2002; as well as hundreds of newsletters from January 1974 through December 2000! You can find more information on most of her publishings by clicking on the “Cookbooks” and “Other Publications” tabs on this website.
Mom’s definition for ‘junk food’ was always “poorly prepared food”, but she found a way to “have the cake and eat it too!” Junk is in the eye of the beholder. Mom claimed to be able to take the junk out of junk food, by imitating the taboo products at home, where she could control the ingredients. It was a food industry break through that had many companies up in arms, like Sarah Lee and Hostess, to name a couple!
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Eating Out at Home (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; September 1978, pp. 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 cannot always eat out…
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!
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, even fast food, or buying junk food; either for monetary or health reasons. Mom gained a lot of followers in the copycat movement (also some plagiarists) since she started the concept in the early 1970s.
If it saved her household money, my mom wanted to share it with the world to help others save money also. Mom was a trail-blazer when it comes to copycat cuisine, as nobody else was imitating the fast food dishes and junk food products that people craved, and which the critics constantly warned the public were unhealthy!
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018; p. 6)
[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)]
FAST FOODS & JUNK FOODS
THE CRITICS WHO CONTEND that ‘fast foods’ are ‘junk foods’ and not good for us, have probably never prepared these foods themselves. Certainly, they have no access to the closely guarded recipes from the food companies that created these dishes, as there are only a few people in each operation that are permitted the privilege of such information! So, 99% of the critics’ speculations are based on their own opinions…
‘Fast foods’ are not ‘junk foods’ unless they’re not properly prepared. Any food that is poorly prepared (and just as badly presented) is junk!
Unfortunately, ‘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 ‘fine’ restaurants with wine stewards, linen table cloths, 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 makes the difference!…
James Dewar started out driving a horse-drawn wagon in Chicago and, by 1930, was manager of the Continental Baking Company’s Chicago establishment. He invented “The Twinkie”, a sponge-type cake with creamy vanilla-flavored filling [in the early 30s.] It has been called the “Grand-daddy” of modern snack foods.
Today, the finger-sized cream-filled cake is as big a confectionery sensation as they were when Dewar first introduced his creation to American cuisine. The company that put out the Twinkie was originally called the Continental Baking Company and later became the Hostess company.
At the time, he wanted to give the public something reasonably priced, for the Great Depression of the 30s brought grave times to this country. Treats like the cream-filled Twinkies, would be a luxury to people who couldn’t afford otherwise.
For decades, the appealing factor about the Twinkies national popularity has been that it is affordable! Dewar put 2 cakes in each package, selling them for $.05 a pair. For the price of a nickel, it was quite a bargain. Dewar remembered how the Continental Baking Company was selling small finger-sized shortcakes for strawberry season in the 1930s.
The pans they used to bake them in were not being used except for the spring promotion to produce the shortcakes. He, therefore, came up with the idea of preparing the same shortcake in those pans, but filling each cake with an injection of vanilla cream.
The Twinkies became an immediate success! The idea for the name, on the other hand, came while he was on a business trip to St. Louis and saw a billboard advertising “Twinkle Toes Shoes”, which was, then, a terrific sales pitch. The name “Twinkies” was a spinoff of that shoe advertisement.
From then on, the cakes took off. When Dewar retired from Continental in 1968, he boasted often to the press that he ate scores of Twinkies every day. That’s not a bad endorsement for the critics who claim junk food will shorten your life span.
For some of us, every day is “Junk Food Day” but for the rest of us National Junk Food Day is a special opportunity to eat our favorite junk foods – supposedly without the guilt. Speaking for myself, as a “junk food junkie”, they’re ALL my favorites and it’s very hard to choose!
DISCLAIMER NOTE: Junk food may be hazardous to your health! Thus, indulge at your own risk! To me, that’s like telling a former smoker or compulsive gambler or an alcoholic to “indulge responsibly” in whatever their “crutch” may be – after all, it’s just for a day… But for some there’s the afterparty… And the after-the-afterparty-party…
According to TimeAndDate.com, “Studies have shown that consuming junk food ONCE-IN-A-WHILE does not have a negative effect on health – it is only when one eats junk food for a majority of their meals that their diet can be considered unhealthy. Consuming large amounts of foods considered to be “junk”, can lead to several health problems, including a high risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart issues.”
On a side note, regarding junk food, I’d like to add that You Tube has a really good video called “Junk Food Junkie”, by Larry Groce (1976) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLiVeRJTtqo. I also found a lot of information and ideas for celebrating this awesome event at Chiff.com.
In honor of Wednesday, being National Hot Dog Day (which is always the third Wednesday of July) – and July is also National Hot Dog Month – here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “O’Nasty Coney Sauce”; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 66)
[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Some of July’s observances include: World Watercolor Month, National Baked Bean Month, National Culinary Arts Month, National Grilling Month, National Horseradish Month, National Ice Cream Month, Independent Retailer Month, National Blueberry Month, National Picnic Month, and National Peach Month!
Other celebrations happening this week include:
Yesterday (Sunday, the 18th) began the third week of July; which is, among other things, Everybody Deserves a Massage Week, National Zoo Keeper Week, and National Parenting Gifted Children Week! Additionally…
Wednesday, July 21st is also… National Be Someone Day!
Sunday is… National Hot Fudge Sundae Day! In honor, here’s a re-share of Mom’s imitation for a BIG Michigander favorite – Sanders Hot Fudge Sauce!
…29 down and 23 to go!