By Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 235) [A revised reprint of… Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)]
¼-lb. butter or margarine
½ cup light corn syrup
Dash of salt
1-lb. powdered sugar
12-oz pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla [extract]
In a 1 ½-quart sauce pan, bring the butter and corn syrup to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute; then, immediately, turn heat down to lowest point. Beat in the salt and HALF of the powdered sugar. It will lump a bit, but the electric mixer will smooth it out as you continue beating.
Add rest of sugar and raise the heat for 1 or 2 minutes until it shows the 1st bubble of a boil again. Quickly remove from the heat and beat in the rest of the powdered sugar, then the chips until melted and smooth. Next, beat in the vanilla. Pour into a buttered 8- or 9-inch, square pan. Chill 1 hour. Cut into squares.
Makes about 2 pounds. To achieve the “Mackinac loaf-style”, pack the fudge into a buttered 9-inch bread loaf pan. Chill it several hours, or overnight, and remove it from the pan to slice it as you would bread. You can change the flavor of the fudge by changing the flavors of the baking chips and extract.
Summer has unofficially started and I’m so looking forward to summertime road trips and picnics like I wrote about last week. I’m also looking forward to going camping, again! June is just a few days away and it celebrates, among other things, National Camping Month and National Great Outdoors Month! I’ll be writing more about that next week.
Today, I want to write about pen pals, as Thursday is not only the start of June, but also National Pen Pal Day! Handwriting and letter writing are becoming things of the past – nostalgia keeps it hanging on by a thread, though.
Have you ever been a pen pal? Many young pen pal relationships start from a brief friendship at summer camp or as strangers that never met, such as through a school writing program or magazine ad. Nowadays, you can get pen pals online.
My first time, as a pen pal, was when I was in 5th grade and “assigned” a pen pal who was also in 5th grade, in another state. That was through a national school writing program. We only corresponded for one semester.
We learned about each other’s likes and dislikes, families and friends, as well as school and community events. I loved being and having a pen pal. I wrote to several others, over the following years, most of whom I found through ads in various teen magazines.
It was wonderful, getting mail addressed to me and reading about my new friend’s life in another state. And the reciprocation was just as special. Eventually, most stopped writing, as they got older and busier, which happens often. Very seldom do people ever maintain friendships from childhood into their teen years, let alone into adulthood.
However, I’ve remained friends with one pen pal for over 46 years, now! Although, nowadays, other than some notes on our annual Christmas cards, we don’t physically write letters to each other anymore because we often keep in touch on Facebook. We’ve still never met in person, though.
Sometimes pen pal relationships last less than a year. However, most pen pals remain friends for many years – some for a lifetime. The best pen pals are usually those with common interests or who are open-minded to learning about other people, cultures, and languages. Pen pals generally want to connect with the world outside their own borders.
Pen pals can be people who already know each other but live far apart. Most often, pen pals are strangers that never meet in person. Through an exchange of letters, they share mutual interests and teach each other about their different backgrounds, religions, and lifestyles.
Mom was pen pals, for her entire adult life, with one of her classmates that had moved to New York. She also offered a monthly pen pal exchange in her newsletter, during its first year of publication, in 1974. Mom always encouraged my own pen pal friendships when I was young.
I ALWAYS TRY TO BE brief in my messages of importance to someone on whom I wish to make an impression. As often the importance of what you want to say is lost in too many words. Another writer [Robert Southey, English Poet (1774-1843)] put it best: ‘Be brief, for words are like sunbeams – the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn!’– Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 62)
According to Wikipedia.org, pen pals “are people who regularly write to each other, particularly via postal mail [aka: snail mail]. Pen pals are usually strangers whose relationship is based primarily, or even solely, on their exchange of letters.”
The term, “pen pals” (which began as “pen friends” in the 1920s), has steadily been around since the 1930s; thanks to the Student Letter Exchange society, formed in 1936, to help people find suitable pen pals. It also helped students from different countries connect through letters and learn about each other’s cultures, while improving reading and writing skills.
98five.com’s The World’s Oldest Pen Pals Have Turned 100 Years Old [author unknown (Jan. 9, 2023)] is a really interesting and inspiring 2-minute read about a British man and American woman who’ve been pen pals since 1938, when they were both 16 years old. They both recently turned 100 years old and still correspond (with some help). Check it out!
At MarthaStewart.com, How to Find a Modern-Day Pen Pal, by Alexandra Lim-Chua Wee (April 16, 2019), is a great source from which to start, if you’re feeling nostalgic and want to establish a pen pal relationship – with a peer, an active military member or a veteran, a senior citizen, a “shut-in”, or someone from another country just to name some examples.
Nowadays, we mostly use email and social media platforms, for corresponding. But some of us “older folk” still prefer the old-fashion way – handwritten, with pen and paper (maybe even fancy stationary), an envelope and stamp, a walk to the mailbox, and don’t forget to put the flag up so your postal carrier knows there’s mail waiting to go out!
It’s the simple things in life – like getting or sending a personal letter or card in the postal mail (aka: snail mail) – that still thrill some of us and make us smile, with happy memories of days gone by.
If you’ve never been a pen pal, you may be wondering: “What should I write in my first letter?” I suggest that you first write about where you found their details. Then begin your initial introduction – the basics of who you are – such as name, age, occupation (or grade, if a student), where you’re from, a little about your family/pets (if any).
Next, share your common interests and other details about yourself – hobbies and interests, likes and dislikes. You can also write about what your typical day is like. Keep it personalized but don’t overdo it. Ask your pen pal some questions about their life but, again, don’t overdo it. Save some for the next letter, too.
“I asked people to send us letters; real letters, written by hand and sent through the post. I sat in the office with my student assistants and waited for the letters to arrive. There was something exciting about sorting through the pile, letters from Canada and the US, from Spain and Germany and France, from Donegal and Dublin and Brighton and Tring. We set to work with the letter knives and started to read. I was hoping that they would, while still being framed as letters, take the form of stories, essays, poems, memoir, criticism. What actually happened was that almost everyone wrote about the nostalgic and rare pleasure of sitting down to write a letter at all.”
Reading and writing have many benefits – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They’re great, simple “workouts” that stimulate brain function. Writing is a wonderful way for seniors to exercise their minds and hands. Pen pals often write about their day’s events or current affairs, which helps keep one’s mind sharp.
Therefore, writing is also known to help with memory and putting your life events in perspective with how people in other parts of the world live, too. Writing also improves communication skills, productivity, and overall happiness; while decreasing stress and anxiety.
Handwriting is becoming a thing of the past. Everything is written electronically these days – school papers, emails, texts, even notes. In the unending, human quest for making life easier, the latest contributor to the dying practice of writing, is AI – Artificial Intelligence. Personally, I think it’s a scary thing.
In general, writing anything by hand is becoming a lost practice. I’ve heard that cursive writing (penmanship) isn’t even taught in school anymore. Although “handwriting” and “penmanship” are often used interchangeably, they’re really not the same. “Handwriting” is self-described – the act of writing by hand. “Penmanship” is the ability to write legibly.
Remember when we all used to send and receive handwritten holiday, birthday, and anniversary cards, as well as “Thinking of You” and “Thank You” notes? They are all becoming dying traditions.
Thankfulness is an emotion. Gratitude is an attitude – that of appreciation under any circumstance. Gratitude involves being thankful, but it’s more than just that. Gratitude means being thankful and appreciative of life every day – even when it’s a bad day or nothing special is happening.
IN THE MEANTIME, we open letters every day from people all over the world, saying ‘thank you for writing your books’ – ‘I feel as if I know you just from reading your books’ – ‘I don’t know whether to keep up on reading or run to the kitchen and bake something’ – and then I know [nothing can] keep me from continuing with this work. – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984, p. xv)
In honor of TODAY, still being May and National Salad Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Chicken Salad Like Hudson’s; as seen in her self-published cookbook, Secret Fast Food Recipes – Revised (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Oct. 1998, 20th printing, p. 28).
I also gave this recipe out a couple of years ago, on Kathy Keene’s ‘Good Neighbor’ radio show, on WHBY (Appleton, WI). Kathy has since retired. The show was discontinued and, unfortunately, my link to the recorded audio doesn’t work anymore.
When my parents were empty-nesters and needed a break from their long work week, they’d often go on a road trip somewhere – for the day or the weekend. It didn’t matter if it was a planned trip or a “new scenic route” (when Dad got lost), because they were together, exploring, and enjoying Michigan’s beautiful scenery.
Did you know that Michigan has 3,288 miles of coastline that borders four of the five Great Lakes? It’s the longest freshwater coastline in the U.S. In fact, regardless of water type (sea or fresh), Michigan is only in second place, to Alaska, in total length of coastline.
Sometimes, however, “work” would manage to creep back in, because whenever they stopped for a bite to eat, Mom always managed to find someone’s [restaurant] “house special” that she wanted to analyze and duplicate when she got home.
Whenever possible, my husband and I LOVE to go on road trips to different areas in our scenic state of Michigan, just like my parents used to do. We really enjoy exploring the sparkling, blue water shorelines of the Great Lakes, surrounding most of our state; as well as the in-land lakes, small towns, rivers, forests, farmlands, and parks.
Additionally, Sunday is celebrating National Beef Burger Day and National Hamburger Day, all of which adds up to more great reasons for a road trip and picnic (or a backyard barbecue) this weekend to celebrate the unofficial start of summer!
What are your favorite go-to picnic or backyard barbecue foods? Among classic picnic treats, the finger foods that travel well and won’t spoil on a warm day include sandwiches/wraps, fried chicken, fresh vegetables and fruit. Remember – if anything has mayo in it, keep it chilled!
Aside from the “main dish”, popular picnic foods include appetizers like deviled eggs, pigs-in-a-blanket, and stuffed mushrooms; sides like mac-n-cheese or baked beans; coleslaw and salads like pasta, potato, veggie, and fruit; desserts like pies, brownies, bars, and cookies; plus, snacks like string cheese, meat sticks, chips, pretzels, and trail mix.
Just as in any celebration, throughout the year, a very important part of picnic activities, besides socializing, getting fresh air, and making memories, is eating the food! Therefore, I’m including, here, a list (based on a Google search consensus) for 10 popular food choices to take on a picnic.
10 Popular Picnic Food Picks:
Things to do on a picnic outing (besides eating) include playing music, singing/dancing, walking, playing table/yard games, bird watching, people watching, sun bathing; plus, if you’re at a beach, you can add in searching for skipping stones or sea shells, swimming, fishing, and building sand castles.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, I can’t wait until we can begin our ‘motor-home camping’ again with our Good Samfriends. It’s our weekend vacation pleasure, May through October. Becoming part of the Good Sam organization is the best thing that has ever happened to us, where we could both enjoy mutual friendships and activities. Wonderful, caring people, who constantly remind us that ‘there are no strangers in Good Sam – only friends we haven’t met, yet!’ – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… “GOOD SAM – CARING AND CAMPING”, from Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May-June 1987, 126th issue, p. 3)]
You don’t need to go on an expensive, fancy vacation or plan an extravagant party to reconnect with family and friends over the Memorial Day weekend. A simple picnic is a fun and relaxing way to gather and make memories. But if you want to have MORE than a “simple” picnic…
Have you ever heard of a mystery picnic? I recently discovered this fun twist on our iconic, seasonal tradition at CuriousCampers.com, out of Australia. I can’t wait to create and host my own scavenger hunt style picnic for a special summer gathering with friends and family!
According to the website, “mystery picnics” combine travel, food, and fun; while solving a series of clues that take you to various places, where you collect things to add to the “picnic basket” at the final destination. It’s a fun idea to explore the area, as you collect “picnic basket items”, and then gather with the other guests to share your collection and adventures.
The difference between a treasure hunt and scavenger hunt is slight. A treasure hunt has only one thing for which to hunt (aka: the treasure) – the first one to find it wins. Once “the treasure” is found the hunt is done for everyone. A scavenger hunt offers each guest a list or variety of things to find/collect.
Both hunts use riddles and clues to send participants from one place to another. Usually, participants can work in pairs or in teams or individually. A scavenger hunt is typically played in an extensive outdoor area but it can also be scaled down to play at home, like a treasure hunt.
The host typically creates a “trail”, so that the answer to one clue reveals the next one. You can either write them on pieces of paper hidden at the chosen locations or put them in an “online” forum (like an “event” or “group” page on Facebook) that gives clues to the answers, as well.
The first riddle should be included in the initial invitation. Guests have to figure it out before they start, so they know where to go first and collect something for the picnic, along with a clue to the next destination. Repeat as often as necessary, before getting to the final destination – the “mystery picnic” spot.
A checklist comes in handy, when packing for anything. I use part of my camping checklist for my picnic “basket”, which is actually a plastic tote. It’s always on the ready so I can easily throw it in the trunk of our car, along with a food bag and cooler, whenever my husband and I want to go on a spontaneous, all-day Road Trip.
It may seem like a lot of stuff but it actually packs up fairly small and compact. As a Mom of three, I learned from my own mom, over the years, (as she used to have to pack for a family of seven) how to pack 10 pounds of stuff in a 5-pound bag. I found organization is key. As the old adage says: “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it!”
I also gave this recipe out a couple of years ago, on Kathy Keene’s ‘Good Neighbor’ radio show, on WHBY (Appleton, WI). Kathy has since retired. The show was discontinued and, unfortunately, my link to the recorded audio doesn’t work anymore.
As the second full week of May, this is National Etiquette Week! According to Wikipedia.org, Etiquette is a code of ethics or set of standards for acceptable social and personal behaviors, which are observed and practiced in polite societies, as well as in social classes or groups.
Etiquette refers to socially suitable and responsible behaviors. In simpler words, it’s a guideline of customs for good manners and civil conduct in a cultured society. Synonyms for “good mannered” include civil, considerate, cordial, courteous, and gracious, according to Thesaurus.com.
There are a lot of great benefits that come from using good manners. Obviously, it makes you more pleasant to be around and draws others to you, like a magnet. Knowing how to behave and what is expected of you, in various social situations, produces positive reinforcements from others. Another benefit is that it helps build confidence and self-esteem.
My husband and I were recently discussing how our parents taught us these things (etiquette and manners) throughout our childhoods. We raised our children in the same manner. Somewhere along the way, parents stopped teaching these things to the next generations. I work in retail – so I witness it all the time.
Some examples of using proper etiquette include saying things like “please”, “thank you”, “I’m sorry”, and “excuse me”. Be punctual, professional, responsive, and respectful. Practice active listening and don’t interrupt others. Speak with kindness, honesty, a smile, and eye-contact. Give compliments and avoid negative remarks and criticisms.
The list goes on and on! Open doors for others. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Dress appropriately. Shake hands/fist-bump in greetings or agreements. Don’t be boastful or arrogant. Respect your elders. Be kind and compassionate. Show appreciation and gratitude.
Table manners and meal etiquette is usually different at home than it is at someone else’s house or out in public. Commonly though, chew with your mouth closed; be observant of your surroundings and other people; read the room and choose your words/topics wisely, watching your volume, as well. Avoid using your cell phone in social settings.
These are all examples of good manners that show consideration for others. Holidays, weddings, funerals, and church services are other settings/events that follow certain rules of conduct (or etiquette). Etiquette and good manners are essential in life, as they help us to behave well at home and in society.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
No Laughing Matter, By Gloria Pitzer (Circa 1971)
WHY WASTE ETIQUETTE BOOKS ON ADULTS?
SOMETHING HAS GOT TO be done about etiquette books. All of them seem to be written for grownups. This makes as much sense as sending Twiggy to a sauna bath. The grownups I know have beautiful manners. It’s a joy to be in their company.
On the other hand, how many children are invited to catered [affairs]? Give a grownup a present for his [or her] birthday and he [or she will] be as happy as a hippy with a new string of beads. He [or she] doesn’t burst into tears and declare outrageously: ‘But I already have a Hot Wheels [or Barbie] case!’
Emily Post has wasted her energies on adults. She should have directed her talents to children. We’re all aware of little children’s charms. I have noticed this whenever I take my 4-year old with me.
I have yet to have the produce manager at the ‘A & P’ pat me on the head and offer me an apple. Nor has the bank teller offered me a sucker, only to hear me rapt: ‘But I want a purple one. I hate green!’
The experts claim children learn by example rather than precept. I wish they would then explain why a child would rather sit ON the table or UNDER it, when parents sit on chairs – with all four legs of that chair on the floor, yet!
Most parents hope to instill in their offspring, during infancy, the simple precept of keeping their fingers out of the Pablum; and accelerate it through teenage adolescence, with more sophisticated postulates of good table manners.
We then hope they come to know that forks are NOT for tapping table legs or catapulting peas off of somebody’s head. Heaven knows we parents try! Yet, children, in spite of their endearing young charms are not socially in demand.
Grandmothers do not invite them to spend the entire summer with them – a weekend, maybe! And you’re not about to serve fondue to them, at dinner because, for one thing, little children would rather build something out of their mashed potatoes than eat them.
The trouble with children is they fail to realize that parents are emotionally insecure. And the reason children must be taught to conform to basic social graces is that, someday, they too will be adults. They too will become attached to certain material objects they will respect and cherish and want others to respect and cherish…
Like plants and vases and ball point pens – that bicycles are very expensive and should not be left in the drive-way, where the garbage man might run over them.
A six-year old cannot understand, even though you’ve explained it to her 37 times why she cannot take your silver gravy ladle to the sandbox or your wiglet to ‘show-and-tell’. But just wait until you try to throw out a bald-headed Barbie doll, with a string missing from her back and [only] one leg.
Reasoning and civilized behavior are what distinguishes human beings from animals. We start to learn etiquette at a very young age – from our parents and family, as well as from institutions like schools, churches, and businesses.
There are a variety of different “codes of etiquette”, depending on diverse places and events – such as in a store, place of business, or corporation; during formal/informal “meetings”, at weddings and funerals, while dining/eating out, when talking on the phone, and even bathroom usage.
Kids are sponges. Teach them early about good behavior. It takes a village – so set good examples for them to follow! Etiquette is not written rules with which everyone HAS to comply, or else. However, there are consequences to bad behaviors, while good behaviors are rewarded. When we use good manners, life is so much more pleasant!
Etiquette teaches us how to behave appropriately and treat others respectfully, in any context – such as being a good neighbor and citizen. There’s also proper etiquette for travel, in workplaces and schools, and on the internet [aka: netiquette]. By the way, National Business Etiquette Week is the first full business week [Monday to Friday] in June.
‘I believe these people agree that there is a greater need to recognize decency and honesty, but in good taste; savoring dependability, unselfishness, compassion and, yes, good manners – all of which are basic to the good life for both the individual and the community.’– Helen Hayes (in a commencement address). [As seen in… This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 17).]
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 8)
HAVING A GOOD EXAMPLE
EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE a few good examples to follow at some time in their life. I’m fortunate to have found several… My next door neighbor is one good example to follow.
She’s the one [who’ll] take a cake to a new neighbor, to welcome them. And she’s the one [who’ll] collect for flowers if there’s a death in the neighborhood. She always waves when she sees another neighbor and always smiles. A good example!
My mother is another good example I’ve followed. Her best gift and her greatest asset is that she’s always been a patient listener and a wise advisor. She was absolutely loyal to my father, through all of his mistakes, in each of his blunders.
The world could turn their backs on her children but she would always be there for [us] when we needed her. She’s given me an example that’s going to be tough to equal. In time though, I hope that I can say I’ve had so many good examples to follow – I’ll try to be one, myself, to somebody else.
Have you noticed how much neighboring and neighborhoods have changed over the years? In the past, people used to bring their new neighbors casseroles or baked goods, just to introduce themselves and say, “Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood!” Years ago, neighbors often offered to help with the “move-in” or some other project.
Sometimes they’d stop by for a cup of coffee and some small talk, chatting about current events and asking questions about each other. According to TheSpruce.com, Neighborhood Etiquette used to include sharing things like tools and garden equipment, so everyone didn’t have to go out and buy expensive items that they didn’t often use.
All forms of good etiquette begin with “The Golden Rule” – treat others as you would like to be treated. We’ve been taught this since we were toddlers in a sandbox. Why does it seem like so many of us tend to forget about that once we age into the double digits?
According to Wikipedia’s analysis of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum (the author) “explains how the world would be improved if adults adhered to the same basic rules as children; i.e. sharing, being kind to one another, cleaning up after themselves, and living ‘a balanced life’ of work, play, and learning.” Basic etiquette.
In honor of Saturday, being National Pick Strawberries Day, and May, being National Strawberry Month, PLUS Wednesday, being National Juice Slush Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipes for Strawberry Brutus and Brutus Orange Beverage, as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Second Helping Of Secret Recipes Cookbook – Revised (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1978, 4th Printing; p. 17). Remember Brutus? He’s the one who “did in” Julius!
Once again, it’s National Small Business Week! Small Business Saturday is officially the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but I think it should be observed EVERY Saturday – or any day that ends in “y”, for that matter.
First Friday is a special, monthly event that various communities celebrate. It brings small businesses together with arts and entertainment, attracting locals to explore their downtown area more. WebstaurantStore.com’s blog, What is First Friday, is an excellent read about what this kind of event does for small local businesses, in their communities.
The SBA describes small businesses simply as having less than 500 employees. And so called “Mom & Pop shops” (which are very small businesses) are key contributors to the American economy, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Small businesses are the backbone of every community, as well as our country as a whole. Most towns also have a Chamber of Commerce, which is another excellent source through which small businesses can network with each other and their community, to better their company.
“Mom & Pop” is a popular expression, used to describe very small, independent, generally family-owned businesses. These “shops” are typically in one location and are operated by a small number of family members, serving their local community. By the way, National Independent Retailer Month is officially observed in July.
I’ve often shared Mom’s story, of how she quit her job at a local newspaper, in the early 1970s, and went home to start her own small business, using her innovative copycat cookery concept for “eating out at home”.
It was in the early 1970s, while writing a food column for a local newspaper, that Mom broke new ground in the food industry, with her “copycat cookery”. While saving on our family budget and answering the similar needs of her readers, she discovered how to imitate America’s favorite fast foods, restaurant dishes, and grocery products right at home!
At first, the editors, where she was working, loved it because the readers loved it. Then a food company, from which Mom imitated a dish, complained to them and threatened to pull their ads (and money) from the paper. Rather than go back to writing old boring recipes and content, Mom decided to launch her own small news and recipes business.
She never really knew what was in the closely guarded secret recipes of the food industry – unless someone shared a recipe with her, which a few did – but Mom did know how to investigate a dish or food product (by look, taste, smell, touch, etc.), figuring out how to make it herself.
For 40 years Mom wrote and, with Dad’s help, self-published more than 40 cookbooks, as well as hundreds of newsletter issues. Over the decades, her recipe catalog grew from a few dozen copycat recipe imitations to a couple hundred to tens of thousands! My sisters and I helped out whenever possible. It was definitely a FAMILY enterprise.
I don’t know a single, small business owner who doesn’t put in a LOT of hours (about 60-80 hours per week). Mom and Dad were no different. On a slow day, they’d have at least 100 letters to open, read, and answer. Besides the occasional TV appearance or media interview, throughout each week Mom also had regular radio interviews scheduled.
When Mom was on a big radio show (syndicated or large area coverage), there’d usually be, soon afterward, thousands of letters to go through and answer. They built up their business (and reputation), by giving their customers great service; being honest, dependable, and quick to respond to their requests.
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. 70)
HOW TO LAUNCH YOUR OWN RISKY BUSINESS
LET ME ASSURE YOU, there is no formula for furthering a business like ours. Many people have asked for advice in writing and publishing a cookbook or putting out a newsletter like ours and have seemed so disappointed when I also assure them that I cannot convey to them in a brief letter [or] conversation, what it has taken me nearly 20 years to learn, mostly through experience, through trial and error – sometimes a lot of error!
But it is always a learning experience, as was the case with Thomas Edison when he was trying to invent the dry cell battery. After 200 tests and all failures, somebody else came out with the invention. Reporters asked Edison how he felt about his 200 failures, to which he replied: ‘Those weren’t 200 failures, at all. They were 200 things I found that wouldn’t work!’
Today is also the 32-year anniversary of Mom’s 1991 appearance on the Kelly & Company show (WXYZ-TV, Channel 7, in Detroit). That was her second appearance. The first time was a little more than six months before that, in October 1990. It went so well and they had such a great response from viewers, the producers were compelled to invite her back, again.
By the way, pictured below is the afore mentioned “Butter Crust, Pie Crust (like Baker’s Square)” recipe (in the picture above). It’s a re-share from October 8, 2018. Check out the Recipes tab for more of Mom’s copycat creations that I’ve shared in my blog posts.
‘THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE I know are those who discover that what they should be doing and what they are doing are the same thing!’– Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 19)
For 20 years, starting in 1974, Mom was on many TV and radio talk shows, locally (Detroit/Southeastern Michigan area) as well as nationally and even internationally, promoting her copycat cookery concept, which quickly took the world by storm. As the food industry grew and evolved, so did Mom’s recipe “catalog”.
ONE THING I’LL SAY for being on TV, people remember you. Sometimes it’s nice. On Mother’s Day, Paul took me to The Edison Inn, in Port Huron, for dinner. A nice looking couple at the next table smiled and nodded. My first thought was [she] was a neighbor or somebody I may have bowled with.
But shortly they came over and introduced themselves and she said she had seen me on television the week before. I was amazed. She said she almost didn’t watch the show that day but the friend she walked with insisted they be back by 9 o’clock because the recipe detective was going to be on Kelly & Co.
So she watched the show, too, and sent [a request] that day for our sample recipes. She was so pleased when she received them back two days later. And this brings up another point – WHY, when we do radio or TV for that matter, Paul and I insist that the mail come to our address.
Whenever it has gone to a station, with the promise to the listeners or viewers that they would forward it on to us, it is weeks later. By that time, the folks who wrote might have forgotten what they wrote for or were holding us responsible for the poor service they received.
Paul insists on good service to our readers on all counts! And it gives us one more job to do if we have to sit down and apologize to dozens [or hundreds or thousands] of people that we received their letters weeks after the offer was made.
Since 1977, the activity of this family enterprise has been our only source of income. My husband, Paul, left his own job of 20 years to devote [his] full time and attention to managing this work; and the precision and honesty with which he carries out each and every business detail has made it the success that it is, believe me!
His official title, he claims, is ‘Chairman of the Broad’ – but I reserve the right to revise his spelling! It is a wonderful business to be in, in spite of the misconception that it’s a job, when really it’s a joy! And I continue to give thanks. My cup runneth over and over!
Additionally, Thursday is National Eat What You Want Day! Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to eat whatever they want. It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. Thus, in the late 1970s, while dieting, Mom adapted or re-invented some of her recipes to still enjoy, without all the calories. She called it “taking the junk out of junk food.”
In December 1979, Mom launched her first “Diet Secrets” issue of Gloria Pitzer’s Dieter’s Digest. And, when Dad found out he was diabetic, Mom revamped even more of her recipes to accommodate his new, essential low-carb diet.
Mom also invented another new concept with-in her copycat cookery concept. She called it “short-cut cookery”, using 5 ingredients or less to accomplish the same end result as a longer list would achieve but with less work.
For example, Mom discovered that mayonnaise made a great substitute for eggs and oil. Likewise, she found that cake and pudding mixes contained many of the long list of dry ingredients found in things like from-scratch cookies and brownies.
I miss her a lot, especially now, as we approach Mother’s Day! Hug your mom if you can!
In honor of TODAY, being National Have A Coke Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe, for what she called Close-A-Cola; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 267). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].
Friday is celebrating, among other things, National Cartoonists Day! Within Mom’s many talents – as a writer, food reviewer, recipe developer, newsletter and book publisher, marketer, and so on – she was also a cartoonist.
In the 1960s and 1970s, before Mom started her copycat recipe business, she drew a series of cartoon panels, which she entitled Full House – As Kept By Gloria Pitzer. They were first published in a couple of local Michigan newspapers, The Roseville Community Enterprise (Roseville, MI) and The Richmond Review (Richmond, MI).
Along with the cartoon panels, Mom also designed her own journalistic columns, mailing out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, she was writing two different columns (“No Laughing Matter” and “Minding the Hearth”), regularly, for 60 papers. Other columns she wrote were titled Pitzer’s Patter, Cookbook Corner, and Food For Thought.
According to UrbanDictionary.com, Food-For-Thought is “Learning new information that you never thought was important to think about. It enables you to have a greater intelligence in every aspect of life while feeding your mind.” Similarly, at Merriam-Webster.com, Food-for-Thought is “something that should be thought about or considered carefully.”
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. 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 [at] 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 pleased the family over the years.
Mom didn’t just doodle – she was an illustrator and cartoonist. Like the chicken-and-egg analogy – I’m not sure which came first, as some of my copies of Mom’s cartoons and columns are not dated but they match in subject matter.
Either way, they were both usually inspired by things that happened in/to our family, which Mom thought would be of interest to other working homemakers like herself. “Write what you know” is a commonly known quote from Mark Twain.
Mom’s columns, although in hard copy publications, were much like the web pages or website blogs we have today. In both, the writers express their own opinions, while circulating information (and maybe entertaining the readers), on a regular basis.
Except, obviously back then, they were only typed and printed in hard-copy, through newspapers and magazines. Nowadays, instead, they are electronically posted on the internet. In my own blog posts, I also like to write about various subject matters, just as Mom did, those of which I hope will be of interest to people like us..
There was never a dull moment in our household. As a young, working wife and mother of five kids, Mom found her hectic, yet laughable, family life to be the best subject about which to comedically write AND draw. She was so creative and funny – she could see humor in almost anything.
My mom had a way of taking our family’s everyday life events and turning them into some great “fishing stories”. Speaking of which, that reminds me of a cartoon Mom drew (below) in 1971, based on my love for fishing and my brothers’ irritation of it.
Some of my favorite early childhood memories are of fishing with my dad and two brothers. My brothers didn’t very much care for me tagging along, but Dad was happy with my enthusiastic interest in fishing… especially, I think, because I liked to find the worms with which for him to bait our hooks.
We were living in the Algonac-Pearl Beach area (of Michigan), on the beautiful St. Clair River (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway), across from the North Channel (west of Harsens Island) that flows into Lake St. Clair. We fished off the end of our dock often, for whatever was in season – bass, perch, walleye, whitefish, trout, etc.
One day, when I was about 6 or 7 years old, [I was] fishing with my dad and brother, Mike. My line caught something that I just couldn’t pull in by myself. Dad came over to help me. I was very excited that I had caught something, and it was apparently BIG because I couldn’t reel it in by myself!
After a couple minutes of struggling, even with Dad’s help, we finally got it pulled up to the surface of the water, only to find it was an old shoe filled with mud! Dad helped me to [bait and] cast my line out again and I patiently waited for a real bite.
Then, I got a rather strong pull on my line and Dad had to help me reel it in again – this time it was an old coffee can filled with mud! My brother, Mike, got the biggest kick out of that and roared with laughter! [I was determined to not let him discourage me.]
Dad set me back up with a new worm on my hook, to try again on the other side of the dock, hoping I wouldn’t catch another shoe or can of mud. Within MINUTES I had hooked something big and heavy again! Mike teased me that it was another can of mud.
But, as Dad helped me, again, to get the object to the surface, we both saw that it was a HUGE catfish! [It] broke my line as soon as we got it up on the edge of the dock. It flopped back into the water and swam away quickly. So, I do have a [fishing] story about ‘the one that got away’ – but it was real!
Mom was artistically gifted, not just as a cartoonist and writer, but also as a publisher, marketer, illustrator, crafter, homemaker, cook… and the list goes on. She combined all of it together, with a clever and satirical wit. All of these ingredients were uniquely blended to form Mom’s own special recipe for success – as the Secret Recipes DetectiveTM!
Speaking of which, it was during the course of publishing her cartoons and “food-for-thought” columns that Mom discovered a unique, undiscovered niche in the food and recipes industries for which her readers craved – she called it “copycat cookery”. At that time, there was nothing else like it!
Even though the newspapers’ editors and their food industry advertisers didn’t like it and tried to stop her, Mom felt all the more compelled to follow her own path. She faithfully trusted in the direction to which she believed Fate was leading her.
In honor of TODAY, being the start of May and National Egg Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Bagel Factory [Style] Challah (aka: Egg Bread); as seen in one of her first self-published cookbooks… The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; Jan. 1977, p. 31).
By Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… Top Secret Recipes a la Carte (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sept. 1979)
1 long zucchini
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup oil
1 TB vanilla
3 cups biscuit mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 TB cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
Grate but do not peel the zucchini. Measure out and set aside 2 cups of it. Beat the eggs [with electric mixer] for 5 minutes. Add sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla. Blend [well].
Beat in biscuit mix, baking soda, cinnamon, and walnuts. When smooth [except for the nuts] and blended, pour into two greased and floured 9-inch, bread loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. [Makes 2 loaves.]
Mom (and Dad) faced many uncertainties during the 1970s recession. Early in the decade, Mom left her job at the local newspaper to start her own paper, giving her readers the kind of recipes they wanted, according to the many requests she received.
Mom’s business quickly evolved over the years, in name and design – starting as Happy Newspaper Features, until finally becoming known as Secret RecipesTM – with her Recipe DetectiveTM brand being recognized world-wide. The detective persona came about from her radio audience fans.
In the early years of her home-based business, Mom sold her recipes for a quarter each, printed on 4”x6” index cards, from a mimeograph she kept in our laundry room. It didn’t take long before her recipe library grew to hundreds, mostly through requests from her fans.
The food industry offered unlimited possibilities, for imitating our favorites at home. Within a few years, Mom went from recipe cards to monthly newsletters and multiple cookbooks. She self-published her first cookbook in 1973 and started her newsletter January 1974.
For the first year, at least, Mom “secretly employed” me and my siblings to help her; while simultaneously trying to hide the new “family business” from Dad, at least until it showed a decent profit.
It wasn’t long before Mom started getting calls from local TV stations (and our neighboring Canadian stations), for interviews on news and talk shows; at which point, she had to tell Dad what she was doing.
Within two years, Dad had to take an early retirement from his sign company job; to help Mom, full-time, with the “family business”. That’s why, in our house, every day was National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, since it was a home-based business and we all helped Mom in some way – even if it was just staying out of her way.
Mom “went to work” at home, every day, discovering how to recreate our favorite fast food & restaurant dishes from regular pantry items and without any special gadgets or appliances. She even expanded into imitating grocery products, too. If she could save money on our family’s entertainment and grocery budgets, she wanted to share it with everyone!
‘Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ – Mark Twain
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. 36)
HOW SECRET RECIPESTM BEGAN
IT WAS THE WORST possible time to launch a new business. The unemployment rate was terribly high. There was a newsprint paper shortage. There was a gasoline shortage. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to have my own publication, however.
My confrontation with the editor at the Times Herald over the cheesecake recipe [like Sarah Lee’s], was probably the best thing that ever happened to me – us, as a family, in fact.
I was forced to finally do something that, until then, I had only talked about doing because the advice I had listened to was bent on having somebody else handle my work.
Of course, I could not tell Paul what I was going to do – that I was going to publish a newsletter and I was going to try and sell subscriptions to it all without the help of the [publishing and syndicating] agencies to which I had previously been turning.
I was determined to make this idea work because I knew it was a good idea! It was a service that was needed and one that I could provide without ever having to leave the children again.
With the help of the Almighty, I had every confidence that turning out a recipe newsletter was going to be something that would bless everyone concerned: me, the readers, the products mentioned, the reviews of restaurants – every idea was a blessing!
Mom designed her newsletter and cookbooks like warm, comfortable quilts; combining her unique copycat cookery recipe concept for “Eating Out At Home” with humoristic cartoons, household and gardening hints, cooking tips and tricks; as well as adding in her syndicated “Food for Thought” ideas and “No Laughing Matter” columns.
They were all uniquely put together, with love and devotion, creating functional works of art; as Mom wanted them to be just as comfortable on the coffee table as they were on the kitchen counter.
Mom’s favorite way to market her ground-breaking copycat recipes concept was through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years, she was a regular weekly or monthly guest on numerous radio talk shows (geared toward working homemakers), around the country and in Canada. On occasion, she was also a guest “on-air” with radio stations in other countries.
Mom liked to describe her newsletters as being like a visit from a friend – as you sit at the kitchen table, having coffee, discussing various topics of the day and sharing household tips and recipes. I would describe it, simply, as Mom’s “happy place” and her “legacy of love”.
MORE 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. 53)
RISKS – THE HARD ROAD TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY
THERE ARE MANY RISKS involved with going into business for yourself, no matter what product or service you intend to offer. If I had thought more about the risks, than I did about the possibilities, I never would have moved an inch toward doing any of the things about which I now write.
My husband is not a risk-taker. I am. We complement each other well. He still becomes uneasy and anxious about every new idea I have for another book or another project, on the basis that ‘we can’t afford it.’
I have learned, over the years, to keep many of my projects to myself until they are completed, which in the long run, saves Paul from worrying unnecessarily about something that will very likely turn out well, and keeps me from worrying that Paul is worrying.
Some people experience a certain let-down, after reaching what they consider ‘the top’. When they finally reach the Everest of their ambitions [and] make it to the top, they start to wonder why they were in such a hurry to get there anyhow.
Like Lee Iacocca, who was only in his mid-40s when he was president of the Ford Motor Company, writes in his autobiography, [that he had] no idea what he was going to do ‘for an encore’! I have never had to worry about this, fortunately.
When I have been asked about goals or destination, it is been my feeling that every corner I turn has a new goal, a new destination awaiting us. I have never thought of any one point as being the top. Life has so many wonderful opportunities for each of us to take advantage of, that it does not seem reasonable that I should give myself the limitations that would determine just how far I should be able to go.
Because this was never a hobby, never WORK, never a job, I have had no problem with the worry or concern that accompanies a position from which one expects to retire. I would not want to give up what I have been doing since I was a child [writing].
It would be unfair to have to give up doing something that has also brought so much pleasure and good information to so many people. It was, however, only when I realized what I should be writing about and what I should be sharing with the readers – what I knew best – that things really began to happen.
Of course, my husband wisely reminds me, when someone asked about writing their own cookbook, that WRITING it is the easiest part. Knowing how to SELL it is the hard part!
Writing was always in Mom’s blood. She wrote and self-published a lot of “our family’s story”, in 1989, in her book, My CupRunneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop. The book was basically about how she was led by a special calling to start her Secret RecipesTM legacy. Plus, being that it was a “family enterprise”, it was sub-titled ‘The True Story of a Family’.
Every family has a story to tell – in fact, many stories. They can be pieced together from old pictures, cards, and letters or by tracing your ancestors’ roots through various online sources. It’s the perfect time to research and write about your family’s story, as it’s… National Tell a Story Day and tomorrow is National DNA Day!
In honor of tomorrow, also being National Zucchini Bread Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Zucchini Bread; as seen in her self-published cookbook… Top Secret Recipes a la Carte (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sept. 1979, p. 52).
DESSERTS from D-Zerta became a life-saver whenever I wanted a snack and couldn’t think of anything sinfully delicious (plus, low-cal and low-carb!) Prepare the gelatin per box directions, but substitute sugar-free soda for the required water in the directions. Sugar-free cola and cherry gelatin is very good! Sugar-free 7-UP or Vernors goes well with the strawberry-flavored gelatin, also!
1 envelope D-Zerta lemon-flavored gelatin
8 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup heavy (un-whipped) whipping cream
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract
½ cup finely crushed pecans or walnuts
Prepare gelatin per envelope directions [with sugar-free lemon-flavored soda rather than water] and placed in refrigerator until it is syrup-like, but not firm. Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese, heavy (un-whipped) whipping cream, sour cream, and vanilla or lemon extract. When smooth and creamy, fold in the syrup-like gelatin mixture.
Grease a 9-inch layer cake pan and dust it evenly over the bottom and sides with pecans or walnuts. Shake out the excess nuts but reserve them for the top of the desert. Pour in the cheese mixture. Sprinkle top with the remaining nuts. Chill until firm. Garnish each “reasonable” serving with whipped cream. Serves 8.
DESSERTS FROM D-ZERTA became a life-saver whenever I wanted a snack and couldn’t think of anything sinfully delicious (plus, low-cal and low-carb)! Prepare the gelatin per box directions, but substitute sugar-free soda for the required water, in the directions. Sugar-free cola and cherry gelatin is very good! Sugar-free 7-Up or Vernors goes well with strawberry flavored gelatin, also!
1 envelope D-Zerta cherry-flavored gelatin
2 cups sugar-free cherry soda
8-oz cream cheese
¼ cup heavy (un-whipped) whipping cream
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp almond extract
½ cup finely crushed pecans or walnuts
Whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings, to garnish
Prepare D-Zerta per envelope directions (with sugar-free cherry soda rather than water) and place in refrigerator until it is syrup-like, but not firm. Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese, heavy (un-whipped) whipping cream, sour cream, and almond extract.
When smooth and creamy, fold in the syrup-like gelatin mixture. Grease a 9-inch layer cake pan and dust it evenly over the bottom and sides with the finely crushed pecans or walnuts. Shake out the excess nuts but reserve them for the top of the dessert.
Pour in the cheese mixture, adding a small dollop of whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings to garnish. Sprinkle top with the remaining nuts. Chill until firm. Serves 8. Remember the “reasonable” serving rule!