We’re quickly approaching March, which observes and celebrates, among other things, National Women’s History Month. It was created in 1987 to honor women and their endeavors to make the world a better place for all other women – regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or religion.
Additionally, next Sunday (March 5th) is the start of International Women’s Week. Plus, next Wednesday, the 8th, is also International Women’s Day. Consequently, what better time is there, for me to re-tell Mom’s story, of being a pioneer in the food industry?
She started the copycat cookery concept in the early 1970s, imitating the “secret recipes” of “famous foods from famous places”, right at home! Mom always felt that we, all, could and should make the world a better place. She liked to do it through her food-for-thought articles, food-for-the-soul advice, and food-for-the-table recipes.
To promote her new recipes business, in the Detroit area, in the mid-1970s, Mom became a regular “guest” on Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” radio program. His audience quickly dubbed her “The Recipe Detective”, as she could decipher different combinations of ingredients and techniques, to use at home, imitating our favorite restaurant dishes and fast food items, as well as packaged “junk foods” and other supermarket products.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 55)
RADIO AND BOB ALLISON’s “ASK YOUR NEIGHBORS!”
RADIO TURNED OUT TO BE the most appropriate way by which we made people aware of what we were doing. Again, my involvement with the wonderful world of radio actually came about without any specific intention of becoming a regular part of the broadcasting field.
For one thing, I didn’t know I had what is considered a ‘radio voice’. I had never heard my own voice, at least, recorded. Heaven knows, our five kids will, to this day, even in their adulthood, testify to the fact that, on occasion, during their upbringing, I have been known to discover conditions that would prompt me to accelerate vocally in a pitch that only dogs in the next county could hear!
My introduction to radio began with Bob Allison and [his] nearly 30-year-running [at that time] ‘Ask Your Neighbor’ show. I was folding diapers at the kitchen table, waiting for my favorite, daily segment of ‘My True Story’ to come on the air, when, instead, WWJ announced that it had been replaced with a NEW show.
This new show turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. To this day [December 1989], almost every Monday morning I visit with Bob Allison and his neighbors, now [in 1989] heard weekdays at 10 AM (EST) over WEXL-radio (Royal Oak/Detroit, Michigan), 1340 on your AM dial.
When ‘My True Story’ was replaced by Bob Allison and his ‘Ask Your Neighbor’ show, weekday mornings, I was, at first, very disappointed. [Recipes,] household hints and problems around the house that you cannot solve yourself, seem like just too much homemaking information to please me.
I soon, however, became ‘hooked’ on the show; as almost everybody does, to the point that, on Fridays, when Bob would sign off and say he would talk to us again on Monday, I was spending the weekends, just looking forward to the show on Monday.
I called the show about two or three times a month for the first year or two to ask questions of Bob’s ‘neighbors’ that my newspaper column readers were asking me. When I could not find the answers from consulting other sources, I knew I could rely on Bob Allison’s ‘neighbors’ to come up with the right answers for me.
In return, I would often than phone and an answer that I occasionally had in reply to one of their questions or recipe requests. Bob did not recognize my voice as a regular collar until I had initiated the newsletter, however.
He asked me where the recipe came from that I was giving in reply to one of his listeners requests, which is how his program has always worked. Nobody simply calls in a recipe because they like it. They must, first, be replying to a request made by another caller and, secondly, must have personally tried the recipe.
On rare occasions, Bob will accept a recipe that is NOT tried by the caller, providing it comes from a truly reliable source or has been asked for and not answered for a long time. They also cover services that people are looking for or products that they cannot locate.
This is what has always made Bob Allison’s format so unique, when compared to others like it on the air. In mentioning that the hamburger sauce recipe would appear in the next issue of my monthly newsletter, which I had given in response to one of his listeners previous requests, Bob reacted with great interest and curiosity.
‘You have a newsletter, do you?’ He asked. ‘Well, tell us about it and how much it is and where our neighbors can get it.’
That was all it took to get us well-acquainted with Bob’s ‘neighbors’ and, in no time at all, our subscription orders went from a few too many. Sight-unseen was hardly appropriate to ask people to buy a publication that they could not first examine.
So I spent all of one day and most of the next, thinking about and trying out a single page description with a few sample recipes from the publication that I could send out to interested in perspective subscribers. To this day, we still use the same procedure, and it has worked very well. We offer, for a self-addressed stamped envelope, 15 sample recipes and, on the other side of the page, all the [ordering] information on our books and newsletter.
In the early 1970s, Mom discovered that people were searching to replicate these things but there wasn’t a source around to tell them how – so she created one. Later, Mom trademarked the nickname, “The Recipe Detective”, and it became her signature format.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p.293) [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].
IN THE BEGINNING OF “SECRET RECIPES”
I WAS A REGULAR PARTICIPANT on Bob Allison’s ‘Ask Your Neighbor’ radio show that aired 5 days a week for 2 hours in the morning. I used Bob’s program for asking for food information that I needed for my weekly columns. Bob’s audience was very helpful in supplying me with answers. To reciprocate, I would reply to some of the requests made by his audience when they called into Bob’s show.
It was a unique format in that one could not simply call in a recipe or information simply because they wanted to share it with others. The information or the recipe had to, first, be requested by a previous caller. Many of my first ‘Secret Recipes’ were developed because of requests made by Bob’s callers for such dishes as The Colonel’s secret spices, Arthur Treacher’s fish batter, Sander’s hot fudge, Win Schuler’s bar cheese and so on.
At the suggestion of one of Bob’s callers that I should put all my column recipes into a book, I wrote my 1st edition  called ‘The Better Cooker’s Cookbook’. In less than a month, I had sold 1000 copies. I wasn’t satisfied with the book, so I didn’t reprint it – but, decided that it might work out better if I could do those recipes monthly.
So, in December 1973, I put together my 1st issue of what came to be my ‘Secret Recipe Report’; a newsletter that… brought me in contact with the many so-called secrets of the commercial food and restaurant industry.
I probably wouldn’t have done the [newsletter], except for a falling-out I had [at the time] with the editor of a small-town paper for which I was writing a food column. I had published some of my 1st attempts at duplicating famous dishes in that column…
The response was beautiful, until I offended one of the paper’s biggest advertisers with a rendition of their cheesecake… ‘The kind that nobody doesn’t like.’ The editor told me I would have to go back to standard recipes like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf or chocolate cake – or I could pick up my check. I told him to ‘MAIL it to me!’
That’s when I decided it was time to launch my own paper. That afternoon, I put out my charter issue, sending samples of it to those whose names and addresses I had on file from having written to me at the paper. That was the beginning of ‘Secret Recipes’!
Since starting this blog series, in Mom’s honor, I’ve received many emails and social media messages from people who remember the joy Mom brought them and their families through her cookbooks and newsletters. She inspired them in the kitchen. That inspires me!
In honor of TODAY, being National Strawberry Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “Strawberry Nut Bread, like The Wine Country Inn” (St. Helena, CA); as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 165). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)]. Followed by a re-share of her “Strawberry Freezer Jam” recipe (from page 184 of the same book)!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
For a couple more days, February is still celebrating… National Fasting February, An Affair to Remember Month, Black History Month, National Canned Food Month, National Creative Romance Month, National Great American Pies Month, National Bake for Family Fun Month, National Bird Feeding Month, National Cherry Month, National Grapefruit Month, National Hot Breakfast Month, National Library Lover’s Month, National Snack Food Month, and National Weddings Month!
Wednesday is the beginning of March, which celebrates, among other things… Irish-American Heritage Month, National Caffeine Awareness Month, National Celery Month, National Flour Month, and National Sauce Month! Additionally, National Procrastination Week is the first two weeks of March (1st-14th or 5th-18th (2023) or whenever it’s convenient). [NOTE: Lent began on Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, and will run throughout March, until Thursday, April 6th (for 2023).]
March 2nd is… National Banana Cream Pie Day, National Old Stuff Day, and National Read Across America Day (Dr. Seuss Day) [NOTE: If it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it moves to the closest school day.]
March 3rd is… National Anthem Day, National Cold Cuts Day, National I Want You to Be Happy Day, National Mulled Wine Day, and Soup It Forward Day! Plus, as the first Friday in March (for 2023), it’s also National Day of Unplugging, National Dress in Blue Day, and National Employee Appreciation Day!
…9 down and 43 to go!