Mondays & Memories of My Mom – California Memories

Thank God it’s Monday. I personally look forward to all Mondays, as they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you. Therefore, happy Monday!



Thursday is National California Day. The sunshine state meant a lot to Mom, as we have a lot of family there. However, after immigrating to the U.S. from Europe, Russia, and the UK, our family’s roots first settled  in several states around the northeastern quadrant of the U.S., including West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.

Mom’s older sister moved to California, from Michigan, with her husband, to raise their family in the Torrance area. Plus, some of her aunts and uncles also moved out there to raise their families, as well, settling in the Hollywood area.

Additionally, my brother, Mike, went to college in Pasadena, California and then also decided to move out there, permanently (aside from a temporary residence in the Phoenix area, once). We’ve had so many relatives move out west, to California – and our family, out there, has grown.

California is the third biggest state (by land mass), after Alaska and Texas; but it’s the most populated state in the union, at over 39 million residents. Thus, about one in eight U.S. residents live in California. Its population is also the most diverse, of all the states, in the share number of its different ethnic groups.

Likewise, the state of California has a very diverse, geographical terrain from the mountains to the valleys, forests to deserts, and don’t forget the 900 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline. Did you know that there’s about 100,000 earthquakes in California each year?

This month is also the 36th anniversary of Mom’s first appearance on ABC’s “Home” show (1988), which was filmed in the “Golden State” of California. The show surprised her with an in-person introduction to Wally Amos, the famous cookie-maker (from Hawaii). Mom also appeared on the show, once again, in March 1991.

My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec 1989, p. 75)

THE CARTOONS (aka: Family Talents)

I DIDN’T ‘DRAW’. I DOODLED. The rest of my family could draw. My uncle, Earl Klein, is a celebrated artist in Southern California, who has spent most of his professional life with Walt Disney, Hanna-Barbera and other wonderful studios.

His own company, Animation Inc., produced the milk commercials for TV that included, ‘Daddy, there’s a cow in the bedroom!’ Another of Uncle Earl’s commercials was the Faygo commercial, ‘Which way did he go… Which way did he go… He went for FAYGO!’

He even did the Cocoa Wheats commercial with the cuckoo clock. One of my mother’s other brothers, Herb Klein, was also an artist and had his own advertising agency in Detroit for many years.

My [two] younger sisters are, both, accomplished artists. Paul and I are glad to see even our children are blessed with this artistic gift, as our son, Michael, has gone through the Pasadena arts Center to become [AN] art director for many fine advertising agencies over the years…

Our daughter, Laura… Is just as talented as her brother, but she has had not a smidgen of special training. Her illustrations are currently with the Center for creative arts here in St. Clair and also at the Mortonville Shoppe across from the old Morton Salt Company plant in Marysville.

My doodles can hardly fall into a class with either of our children, but they are fun to do and, also, have pleased the family over the years.

California is home to many wonders and wonderful things, like Disneyland, which was the first of Walt Disney’s theme parks; opening in Anaheim in 1955. McDonalds and Mrs. Field’s Cookies also originated in California.

Other California origins can be found in Marie Callender’s pie shops and restaurant chain, Bullock’s Department Store, and Polly Pie Shops just to name some of “the greats”; all from whom Mom imitated some of their most wonderful products and dishes.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 11). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].


IT WAS 1954 AND Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, was 52 years old. Hardly the time in one’s life when they’d start to think about launching a new enterprise, but rather a time when most began to think about retiring!

On one of his sales trips, Ray Kroc, a Dixie Cup salesman, met the owners of a thriving hamburger restaurant in California. Eventually, Kroc purchased the business from Maurice (Mac) McDonald and his brother, Richard. Mac & Dick had a fetish for cleanliness. Their place in San Bernardino was spotless!

And much like Ray Kroc in his own experience years later, they weren’t too keen about teenagers. They avoided catering to the teenage market exclusively because kids loitered, were noisy and threw food around. The McDonald’s concept was for “the family!”

McDonald’s wasn’t the first company to create a fast food concept; but, by far, it was the most recognized and the most profitable in the industry. While fast food has taken it on the chin for every conceivable infraction of culinary achievement that the critics could possibly contrive, McDonald’s still came out on top!

Check out a great article about Mom at, How Can I Enjoy A Big Mac Without Actually Leaving Home (2002); including an updated end response from a reader, regarding Todd Wilbur stealing from the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective.

Regardless of what Todd Wilbur would have you think about how he started being a “copycat cook”; long story, short… he actually got his start after ordering a copy of Mom’s self-published cookbook, Secret Fast Food Recipes, in April 1989. He then proceeded to copy and even plagiarize some of her recipes.

Wilbur claims he was inspired by Mrs. Field’s publicized cookie recipe – but our family knows it was actually Mom’s work, as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipes© DetectiveTM that inspired him; a sampling of which had aired on national television and re-run around the world, throughout the second half of 1983, on the Phil Donahue Show.

Eventually, Wilbur may have developed some of his own copycat recipes – unless he was (or is still) plagiarizing other people’s work, as well – but initially he copied the one who INVENTED copycat cookery! Pictured below is Mom’s report about the real story behind Mrs. Fields’ cookie recipe.

California is a great place to visit. As I mentioned earlier, several of our relatives made it their home. But, like my parents, I want to remain in Michigan. I lived in Houston for six months, shortly after I had left home. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad (with my younger sister) had moved to California, briefly. Nevertheless, we all missed Michigan and moved back.

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 300). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].


WE TALKED ABOUT MAKING a move to California in the fall of 1981. I really wanted to move out there, where my sister, Hazel, and her family were living. Our son, Mike, was living in Pasadena, then, and it seemed like it would be a lovely chance for us to…begin a new life in Los Angeles!

We thought that, by moving to California, it would be a new beginning. Leave all our problems behind us in St. Clair. We were mistaken. In the effort to relocate, we notified our subscribers – then, at 15,000 – that we would cease publication with the October 1982 issue of the recipe newsletter, and we would take our books off the market for several months to make the move to Los Angeles.

I went out there in March, while Paul remained in St. Clair so Cheryl could finish the school term. At Easter, they came out with our daughter, Debbie, and her husband, Jim. By that time, I had bought a lovely mobile home [for me, Paul, and Cheryl] in a very nice park.

It was going to be ‘country club living!’ Everybody said so! We enrolled Cheryl in a high school there. She hated it! After a week, she was so ill from disliking the new experience, I had to bring her back to St. Clair, where Paul was still trying to close-up our office.

My father had suffered a stroke during that week and, when I saw how hard my mother was taking his death, I took her back to California with me. She was to stay month – or until Paul and Cheryl could come back out while Debbie and Jim moved into our St. Clair home.

Within the month that my mother was with me in California, I began to miss all the things about St. Clair that originally attracted me to move there. I missed the friendliness of the town. I missed the security of being able to walk the streets without having to fear harm from my fellow man, which in Los Angeles was not easy to do!

Life in California was hectic and fast-moving. Too much importance was placed on being on the go and having a good time. I couldn’t work there! My new book, which should’ve been 75% finished, to replace the original 5 books by October 1st, was only 1% finished. There was no peace or contentment.

When it was time to take my mother back to Michigan, I knew I was going to have to tell Paul and Cheryl that we couldn’t move out there permanently. Cheryl might’ve been willing to give it another try, if it would make Paul and I happy, but I couldn’t see where she would have much of a life for her last 2 years in high school.

I wanted to get back to work and back to familiar and peaceful surroundings, where I could test new recipes and write an inspiring collection of new dishes and new information on the food industry. I couldn’t do that in Los Angeles.

Seeing the barbed wire and tall concrete block walls around the mobile home parks, the condominiums and the school yards made me suddenly appreciate the freedom of living in a small town. I was ready to go home.

I remembered what Dick Syatt, one of our radio friends, had told me about finally getting everything you ever wanted, when he said, ‘Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.’


Here’s a copy (pictured below) of one more of Mom’s memories about California…

Sometimes, we need to have something, lose it, and get it back again before we can really appreciate what we have. I had that chance and I am so glad for it. It was a time to learn and to grow.’ – Gloria Pitzer


In honor of Thursday, being National California Day, AND Saturday, being National Tortilla Chip Day, here’s Mom’s secret recipe for “California Frijoles Soup”; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 125). [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…


Today is also… National Chocolate Mint Day. Plus, as the third Monday in February (for 2024), it’s also… Presidents Day.

Tomorrow is… National Cherry Pie Day and National Muffin Day.

Wednesday, February  21st, is… National Grain-Free Day and National Sticky Bun Day.

February 22nd is… National Cook a Sweet Potato Day and National Margarita Day. Plus, as the fourth Thursday in February (for 2024), it’s also… National Chili Day.

Friday, February 23rd, is… National Banana Bread Day and National Dog Biscuit Day.

Sunday, February  25th, is… National Chocolate Covered Nut Day and National Clam Chowder Day.


…8 down, 44 more to go!

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