Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Small Business Owner Invents Copycat Cookery

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



This first full week in May (5th-11th, for 2024) celebrates, among other things, National Small Business Week. Thus, let me tell you, again, about my mom, Gloria Pitzer, and the Secret RecipesTM business she developed over 50 years ago.

My mom invented the copycat cookery concept, while writing one of her columns at a local newspaper. Her readers loved it, sending her many requests. However, when an advertiser got upset over her cheesecake imitation, she was asked not to print such things anymore.

Instead, she went home and took it to the next level; turning her newly discovered niche in the food industry into a small, family-run, self-publishing, recipes business. Mom was a natural at promoting herself and her talents.

She sent out samples of her recipes to various media sources that she got to know, as a freelance writer. She also got involved in local, radio talk shows that were geared toward homemakers, like herself. Word spread fast about this small-town Michigan housewife, discovering ways to make famous food favorites at home.

Mom started out, selling her copycat recipes collection on fileable, index cards for 25-cents each (and 5 for $1), which continually grew. Due to space, she decided to cap her catalog of choices at about 200 recipes. Thus, as she continued to develop and add new imitations, she took older or slower-selling recipes out of the collection.

In 1973, she self-published her very first cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (Happy Newspaper Features, Algonac, MI). It went well but it wasn’t enough for her. Therefore, in 1974, Mom started self-publishing a monthly newsletter, featuring her “secret recipes” and food-for-thought columns; along with gardening tips, household hints, and bits of humor.

After a few initial tries at self-publishing cookbooks, she found that most of her readers wanted more copycat recipes for the “forbidden” fast foods and junk foods than the fancy restaurant dishes. Thus, in 1976, she began writing her first series of self-published, “secret recipes” cookbooks, focused more on fast foods and junk foods.

The first in the series, called The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (aka: “Book 1”), was released in January 1977. Later that year, having so much material with which to still work, Mom was quick to follow it up with “Book 2” in her series, which she cleverly called The Second Helping of Secret Recipes.

The hunger from her fans for more “copycat recipes” continued to grow. Over the next three years, Mom self-published three more hits – each one unique and fresh: Eating Out At Home (aka: “Book 3”), in 1978; Top Secret Recipes Al’a Carte (aka: “Book 4”), in 1979; and The Secrets Of Homemade Groceries (aka: “Book 5”), in 1980.

Between the five books, in this series alone, Mom had developed over 1,400 imitations; covering 59 diverse restaurants (from Arby’s to Yummyland), 83 brands of grocery products (from A&P to Wonder), signature dishes from 22 famous hotel chains and inns.

Also included in this collection are imitations for 15 favorite candies and carnival eats, numerous menu choices from 12 different department stores’ dining rooms and cafeterias, as well as renowned goodies from seven well-known tourist hot spots.

Mom put out a new cookbook about once a year so, just as she did with the recipe cards, she usually discontinued the older books to make room for new ones. You can still find some of her old books for sale on Amazon and eBay.

The growing success of her copycat recipes business led to many opportunities for Mom, doing local, national, and Canadian radio and TV talk shows (some of which aired nationwide, as well as worldwide). That, in turn, opened up many more doors of opportunity for her and her small business grew bigger.

However, Mom wasn’t able to release anything new in 1981, as the project she was working on, at that time, had to be put on hold while the family business was inundated by over a MILLION fan letters, requesting free samples and ordering information for what she was currently offering.

That was following her FIRST appearance on the Phil Donahue Show in July of that year…


As seen in…

The Second Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 1-2)


WHAT IS THE TRUTH about junk food? The food experts have been referring to many snack foods and fast foods as ‘junk’ in an attempt to disqualify their value when compared to foods containing high amounts of protein and vitamins.

No one has confirmed a definition of the expression ‘junk food’, yet the public has been conditioned to accept any snack food, sweets, candies, confections, baked goods and many beverages as ‘junk food’ when, in reality, these are not without nutritional value.

All by itself, a raw carrot could hardly support the human system substantially; neither could a cup of yogurt. Yet, a candy bar or a small piece of cake or a hamburger on a bun is considered, by some of the food industry’s most prestigious experts, as having little or no food value in our daily diets.

The junk food paradox has caused school systems and other public institutions to ban the sale of any foods we would consider snack items, making it illegal, in fact, in the state of Michigan and some others, if such items were sold to children through vending machines on the premises.

This is infuriating to the good cooks and… food chemists among us, who know that JUNK FOOD is actually any food that is poorly prepared. ALL food has nutritional value. Some just seem to have more than others. But, in the final analysis, it is purely personal taste that will determine the popularity of one food over another.

The ‘fast food’ industry has been the most successful of any phase in the business. Their success depending largely on the fact that their recipes are all closely guarded secrets! I say, ‘baloney!’

As a very believing public, we have been spoon-fed a good deal of shrewd publicity by some very skilled… advertising people, who count on our susceptibility to commercial advertising campaigns to buy their products.

Whether we’re buying a hamburger in one of McDonald’s restaurants… or a Twinkie off of the grocer’s shelf, we still believe that these products can’t be equaled by any other company in the industry, nor by the average cook in a standard, home kitchen… AND this is wrong!



Just recently, April celebrated National Inventor’s Month and February 11th observed National Inventors’ Day. It just so happens that my mom is the ORIGINAL Secret RecipesTM Detective, who invented the copycat cookery concept in the early 1970s and turned it into a small, family run, successful business.

She was a trail-blazing pioneer, carving out a uniquely new niche in the food industry, by recreating famous foods at home. It’s hard to believe that was just over 50 years ago. While food critics were warning consumers not to eat junk food and fast food, Mom embraced the “forbidden fruits” and came up with ways to reinvent them at home.

Not only did she discover how to make the products at home but she could also do it less expensively, than buying them. Plus, she was able to control the ingredients that went into them. Mom was always very creative at making things she wanted but couldn’t afford and she was always anxious to share her money-saving discoveries with others, like herself.

Having been born and raised during The Great Depression, Mom learned a lot of crafty skills for making things by hand, at home, to save money. As a young girl, she made her own journals out of looseleaf notebook paper, thin cardboard, and shoelaces. When she had five growing kids at home and couldn’t afford to buy them all new clothes, she made them.

“Necessity is the mother of invention”, according to the old English proverb. People have an incredible ability to adapt when faced with a problem. We will always try to find a solution. That’s what makes “necessity” the mother of invention because, as Plato famously wrote, around 380 B.C., “our need will be the real creator”.

However, some people take it further, saying: “Innovation is the father of necessity”. For instance, before cell phones, we survived without being able to call anyone, to and from almost anywhere. Now we’re dependent on its innovation. Moreover, many people appear to be “tied” to their cell phones and can’t seem to function without them.

In the 1980s, when Dad found out he was diabetic, Mom went to work reinventing his favorite dishes in low-carb and sugar-free versions. Additionally, she reinvented many of her own secret recipes for imitating “famous favorites”, into short-cut versions, as well.

Do you remember when Hostess Brands announced it was going out of business, in 2012, and there was a big run on Twinkies? Some people, who were lucky enough to find them, resold them on eBay for ridiculous amounts of money.

I remember Mom and I, laughing about it because, in the mid-1970s, she invented a copycat recipe, for making them at home (see her story and recipe below).

Likewise, in 2020, Mom’s copycat cookery concept became especially useful, during the Covid-19 pandemic, to satisfy our insatiable cravings for famous foods, when many of our favorite restaurants were shut-down for a while.


You’ll be amazed at the number of recipes you can duplicate in your own kitchen – and those you can, at least, come close to imitating – with far more success than the advertising people give us credit!’ – Gloria Pitzer

So MANY copycats have copied the ORIGINAL copycat – and yet so FEW have actually given her the proper credit she deserves for having inspired them, let alone for having been the first to invent ways to imitate our favorite junk foods, fast foods, and famous restaurant dishes at home.

However, I’d like to give a shout-out to, for printing a copy of one of Mom’s Twinkie imitations and properly giving her credit for it.


In honor of May, being National Salad Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “Hot Turkey Salad”; as seen on her free sample recipes sheet from Fall 2002.


P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


May observes, among other things… American Cheese Month, Better Speech and Language Month, National Asparagus Month, National Stroke Awareness Month, Older Americans Month, National Barbecue Month, National Egg Month, National Get Caught Reading Month, National Hamburger Month, National Photography Month, National Preservation Month, National Recommitment Month, National Salsa Month, National Strawberry Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The first full week in May (5th-11th, for 2024) celebrates, among other things… National Wildflower Week, Screen-Free Week, Public Service Recognition Week, and National Pet Week – which is the 1st Sunday through 2nd Monday of May (5th-13th of 2024).

Today is also… National Nurses Day, National Beverage Day, and National Crepe Suzette Day.

Tomorrow is… National Packaging Design Day, National Paste-Up Day, and National Roast Leg of Lamb Day. Plus, as the first Sunday in May (for 2023), it’s also… National Lemonade Day.

Wednesday, May 8th, is… National Coconut Cream Pie Day and National Have A Coke Day. [NOTE: It’s also the 33-year anniversary (1991) of Mom’s SECOND appearance on the Kelly & Company show (WXYZ-TV, channel 7, in Detroit).]

Thursday, May 9th, is… National Moscato Day and National Butterscotch Brownie Day.

Friday, May 10th, is… National Clean Up Your Room Day, National Shrimp Day, and National Washington Day.


May 11th, is… National Eat What You Want Day and National Foam Rolling Day.

May 12th, is… National Nutty Fudge Day. Plus, as the second Sunday in May (for 2024), it’s also… Mother’s Day. Additionally, as the start of the second full week in May (for 2024), it’s… American Craft Beer Week.


…19 down, 33 more to go!

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