November is, among other things, National Family Stories Month! It’s so appropriate to celebrate this in my blog posts all month, as they are always about memories I have of my mom, the ORIGINAL Secret Recipes DetectiveTM; as well as stories of our family and some of Mom’s own stories, too, in relation to random food for thought or one of the day’s “hot topics”.
Plus, as I mentioned in the opening, TODAY is also National Authors’ Day! Mom authored and self-published more than 40 cookbooks in as many years, starting in 1973. Starting in January 1974, she also wrote and self-published a newsletter for 27 years, about copycat cookery and other things that might interest the typical homemaker.
I, for one, am very grateful for the inspirational role model that Mom was to me – just as her mom was to her. I grew up, as Mom did, motivated to seize every possible opportunity (although, there were many I’ve missed over the years). Both of my parents taught me (as their parents taught them) to always put forth my best efforts, in everything I do. Everyone should have at least one good example to follow. We should also strive to be good examples, ourselves. Pay it forward!
‘I’ve had so many good examples to follow – I’ll try to be one, myself, to somebody else.’– Gloria Pitzer (This is not a Cook Book, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 8)
The authoring seed was planted in Mom’s soul decades before her Secret RecipesTM business really took off in the mid-1970s. Whenever Mom was asked “how it all began”, she always found it hard to pinpoint that one single moment. However, she was initially inspired to be a writer, after watching the 1946 Warner Brothers Picture, “Devotion”, about the Bronte sisters.
Mom said that was when she began to journal, seriously – on a daily basis – usually writing about her life and faith. Mom filled journal after journal with her thoughts and feelings and observations, from the time she was 10 years old until she physically couldn’t, shortly before she passed away in January 2018.
Mom always felt that writing was her “true calling”, claiming that she made a living with her writing, but it was her writing that made living worthwhile! She had committed a little over 70 years of her life to writing – now that’s devotion!
Mom often talked about the time, after seeing the afore mentioned movie, when she had written a poem for a 5th grade writing assignment, which was published in The Detroit News. She thought that may have been the defining moment when her creative writing interests became serious. She was astonished that others found her composition to be that good! Afterwards, Mom entered creative writing contests often – and won quite a few prizes from doing so.
‘The National Essay Award, sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, offered a $100 scholarship [which was a large sum in the mid-1940s] for the best essay written by a high school senior, entitled What it Means to be an American. I worked so hard on that paper – gave it my all! At graduation, I received the scholarship check and I knew, then, that I would be a serious writer after all.’– Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 20)]
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 294)
[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]
EVERY SUCCESSFUL ACCOMPLISHMENT with my writing, after high school and the one year in college, was involved with recipes and cookbooks and restaurants. But I couldn’t see that it was a kind of calling. I saw it only as an interest that temporarily kept me writing and making a worthwhile living at it.
WDEE-Radio, in Detroit, gave me a portable radio for a recipe that took 1st place in a contest they conducted – and in 1962, it was WBRB-Radio, in Mt. Clemens, that gave me a check for first place in their recipe contest. Soon after that, Better Homes & Gardens sent me a check for a recipe in a contest they had conducted.
And, in 1964, WJBK-Radio[Detroit] gave me a maple stereo and radio set for their [contest about the] most unusual experience while listening to the radio, when I wrote to them about our ‘Picnicking in the Snow’. Again, the story was food related, including recipes for having a cook-out on the beach, at Metropolitan Park [on Lake St. Clair in Michigan], in the middle of winter, with the radio going to keep us in the proper mood.
Mom’s faith was always a part of her writing, just as writing was always a part of her faith. She wrote her own daily devotionals in journal after journal. I wish I had those journals now – or at least copies. Over the decades, Mom was greatly influenced, in her writing, by many different, talented women.
One such lady was Maya Angelou, whose story in a 1993 issue of the “Christian Science Monitor”, revealing how her devotion to writing developed with “the yellow pad”, greatly re-inspired Mom to write more about those things for which she was grateful.
Mom wrote about the inspiration on page 10 of the 1994/95 Winter issue her Secret Recipes QuarterlyTM [newsletter]. Maya Angelou was a big motivator, especially in regard to her faith-journaling. The inspiration Mom wrote about came from a 1993 interview Maya had with David Holstrom of “The Christian Science Monitor”.
As Mom wrote in her newsletter, Maya had gone “to her voice teacher in mental turmoil over having to leave her child in Europe when she returned to the States. Frightened for her sanity, she told her teacher that she thought she was going mad.”
Mom went on to tell how Maya’s teacher – instead of showing her pity – had given her a yellow pad of paper and told her to write down all of her blessings on it. Apparently Maya was frustrated, as that wasn’t what she wanted to hear. Her teacher insisted, though; suggesting she start there – with the fact that she could HEAR him! Continuing on, he pointed out that she could SEE the page and could HOLD the pen and so on!
Mom added that Maya had also said, in her interview with Mr. Holstrom, “before I reached the end of the page, I was transformed. So, everything I have written, every book, every stage play, every screenplay, was written on a yellow pad. As soon as I pick it up, I am reminded of my blessings.” Mom was eternally appreciative to Maya for renewing her own gratitude!
Happiness is a state of thought. It begins with gratitude for all we’ve already received and achieved – not with what we own or the ‘things’… – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTMNewsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 5)
Born and bred in Christian Science, with some Jewish, Catholic, and Lutheran influences, as well – Mom was a very devout Christian. No matter what the problems or struggles were, she never lost faith that God had a plan for her. From her parents’ influence, Mom would always try to find something in every day from which to learn, as well as for which to be grateful.
Mom not only wrote about her faith in her own personal journals but also in all of her cookbooks and newsletters. She shared it publicly and openly, like Maya Angelou; with hopes to inspire and help others, who may be at their own crossroads of trials and tribulations.
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. 22)
MY WRITING WAS NEVER A HOBBY
JOURNALISM IS A PECULIAR profession to follow. I’ve been a serious journalist [since graduating high school in 1954]. I’ve worked among writers who wrote to live, while the rest of us lived to write. We had to communicate, to reach out to someone with ideas…thoughts…reasonings and remembering.
While I live to write, I must consider that others do not. Writers never retire, not if they’re truly writers. Editors may retire and reporters may retire…at some given point. But, OLD WRITERS NEVER DIE, they just run out of words.
I never thought I’d see the day that Mom would run out of words. I miss her so much. However, her words live on forever in all of her books, newsletters, and columns! I’ve heard from quite a few people, since starting these blog posts a few years ago, who’ve told me that they still have copies of Mom’s publishings and how special they are to them.
Happy Monday and happy December! Additionally, happy holidays to all and to all #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!
Wednesday is national Christmas Card Day! Last week, I wrote about Mom’s annual, homemade Christmas card/letters. And that, for an added “gift” of kindness, she would also include some of her favorite holiday recipes.
The history/custom of sending Christmas card greetings seems to have begun in England, around 1843, by Sir Henry Cole. The first known Christmas “card” was sent to King James I of England in 1611. Possibly inspired by that holiday greeting, Sir Henry, along with his artistic friend, John Callcott Horsely, created the first “published and sold” Christmas cards; encouraging others to share good memories and holiday greetings between family, friends and others!
Today, even with electronic or e-cards available, we still mail more “hard copy” cards through the postal service – and a wide variety of them too – especially during December! These holiday greetings may be in the form of family pictures or professional photo cards or even a one- or two-page letter that highlights the family’s “big” events for the year.
Another idea that I’ve personally done in past years (before the internet came along), when money was tight, is to send holiday postcards! Postcards have a photo on one side, a simple message on the other side, and are suitable for mailing without an envelope. Plus, they cost less in postage, as well. Holiday postcards are quick and easy to make by recycling previously received Christmas cards.
Holiday greeting cards may be the only communication we send to/receive from a specific friend or family member all year long. These annual greetings touch people’s hearts with an extra bit of meaning during this time of year. It’s even more special when we take the time to say, “We’re thinking of you.”
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 3)
Sending Christmas cards has always been a favorite tradition in our house. In 28 years, we only sent store-bought cards twice. Every Christmas, other than that, we made our cards. That was the one important tradition we followed – and still do…
What usually happened was that we had every good intention of confining our list to those who really were important to us [and] who we rarely saw during the rest of the year… I like to put newsy little notes inside that would bring old friends up to date with what we had been doing since we sent them our last Christmas card.
…I am one of those annoying sentimentalists who will, too, read every word of the long, newsy Christmas letters and the page-by-page accounts of how our friends have been doing since the last Christmas.
I don’t know if fewer cards are being sent at Christmas since postage became so expensive – or if we simply don’t know that many people. The tradition, however, seems to be fading…
December, and all the holidays within it, was probably one of Mom’s most favorite times of every year. ‘Tis the season of Faith, Hope and Love! ’Tis the season of sentimentalists, as well. Mom said, in the memory above, ‘I am one of those annoying sentimentalists’… I don’t find it annoying to be a sentimentalist, as Mom wrote, and I never have – but, then again, I’m in that sentimentalist club too!
‘Every year at this time, we put our very best wishes together with some warm & worthy thoughts, and send them off to you, wrapped in sincere affection and the dearest hopes that this coming year gives you all you expect and derive from it.’ – Gloria Pitzer; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Quarterly, Winter 94/95.
This year, as I write our messages in Christmas cards, from my husband and I to all of our friends and family, I can’t help but reminisce over this past year’s trials-and-tribulations compared to those in previous years. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a rough one for all of us. It has certainly given us cause to re-evaluate what things are most important to us. Everyone’s “important things” will probably vary since, as I said (above), “We are all different…”
If I give our children only one gift, it will be that I gave some practical sense of what is truly important at this time of year – not the gift, but the gathering of family and friends… Not the food, but the feeling of just being home… Never letting what we want be more important than what we need… Not complaining about [the] trivial… And always appreciating what we’ve already received before we can expect to receive more.
[The Christmas Feeling] is basically a simple hope for peace and good will, no matter what other trappings we’ve attached to the occasion through the years since that single star lit up the sky over Bethlehem. No matter what other customs and traditions mankind has attached to Christmas or the celebration of it, the humble wish for ‘peace on Earth, good will towards men’ remains strong among those who thrive on hope and cherish what is good, refusing to be deprived of such expectations!
The importance of the personal gatherings over the tangible gifts has become more significant this year. The giving of the best of ourselves – without expectations of reciprocations of gratitude – is what true “Santas” do. My kids never learned “there’s no such thing as Santa Claus”, because I taught them something different, ever since they were each toddlers.
Similar to The New York Sun’s answer to Virginia, I taught my kids that the “spirit of Santa” lives on in each of us through selfless acts of giving from our hearts. It is with this kind of selflessness that we actually receive our own true gift – one that can’t be bought or even price-valued – the gift of LOVE! With that, there will ALWAYS be a Santa Claus!
Before Mom passed away, while dealing with Dementia, she often reminisced about our ancestors from her childhood memories. She couldn’t understand how she could remember such things so clearly, like they happened yesterday, but couldn’t remember who she saw or spoke to in the previous day.
If only hindsight were foresight! Now I wish I had wrote her stories down – or, better yet, recorded the conversations. We always tend to think there’s time for that later…but then, in the blink of an eye, that time is gone. Over 27 years ago, Mom wrote in one of her newsletters about plans that she and Dad made for a “someday” Christmas present to us kids of a recording of the two of them talking about their life together and their favorite, cherished moments.
Mom also mentioned sharing memories of their own grandparents, whom we (my siblings and I) never got the chance to know; as well as other stories about the family that we could pass on to future generations. I so wish they had followed through with that gift. It would’ve been priceless to me and my own children, as well as to my grandson.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, pp. 4-5)
Breaking through the barriers of tradition, we find a spirited acceptance of new family values. Occasions have replaced celebrations. Getting together has been replaced by BEING together! Good food, comfortable conversation [and] warm hospitality have become more important to the family circle than reverence without reason, tolerance without tact, relatives without relationships!
The lovely part about Christmas for us, was always being together – with our friends, our good and dear neighbors and our relatives; in a series of activities that began with Thanksgiving and tapered off around the new year. It was hectic, but it was also many happy reunions, mixed well with spontaneous visitations that, had they been a part of the ordinary activities of the rest of the year, would not mean so much now!
The food was simple, but ample. The food, I feel, should never be more important than the guests for whom it is prepared…All of these preparations are a part of Christmas – but, not the important part. The tokens only represent the real meaning – that of loving, of letting go of old grudges, of forgetting past hurts, of looking for something good (even though you don’t see it – until you do!)
LOVE, most philosophers conclude, is the highest level of thought. It is the logic of the heart. And no other season of the calendar year seems to reflect more of this feeling, this consolation to our woes, than the season of Christmas!
We reach out to others – and want them, in turn, to respond to us. Some of us do it with gifts that we buy or make and some of us do it with social gestures of food and hospitality. While all of these traditions are renewed at this particular time of the year, the critics complain and the cynics look for reasons to begrudge us the pleasure of loving the season, renewing the fellowship of it – with family, friends and neighbors.
But that’s not unusual and we shouldn’t be surprised by the criticisms that try to take some of the joy out of the holiday traditions we follow – or create for ourselves. There are always critics, unfortunately, for those occasions in our lives when we wish to be glad about something…
So, on with the celebration – whether we choose to keep it quietly in our own personal fashion of religious customs, or whether we choose to make it festive and pronounced with the traditions of gifts and food. The point is, we are celebrating the season of hope… It’s a time for loving – for expressing it [and] for offering it to others! How can something like that not be good!
Our own traditions have not been very elaborate in our family, during the Christmas season; but, the things we have always done to make the holiday more enjoyable, brought us pleasure. So, we have continued with them. Whether you choose to follow traditions or to create some of your own, the underlying meaning is still there to express joy and LOVE – that incredible, curious logic of the heart!
You don’t need to be crafty to create your own homemade holiday cards, gifts, and decorations. Nowadays, ideas and instructions for making just about anything can be found on the world wide web by typing a few key words into a search engine like Google or Bing. The knowledge of the world is, literally, at our finger tips!
My favorite low cost, homemade, gift ideas usually use canning jars – any size or style you want! These jars are so versatile – and reusable too! They can be filled with a homemade dried seasoning mix or baking mix ingredients and a recipe card for what to add and how to use the mix.
Canning jars can also be filled with natural elements like pine sprigs, cloves, cinnamon sticks, etc. for a homemade potpourri that can easily be simmered in a pot of hot water on the stove. They can also be filled with homemade candy, soaps or lotions – there are so many “how to” sites on the internet, from which to gather ideas, inspirations and instructions.
Aside from Bing and Google, Pinterest is often the first source I tap for these kind of ideas and inspirations, as well as YouTube. My own personal page at Pinterest, ldemerich, (which I started many years ago) can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/ldemerich and has quite an eclectic collection of boards.
The OFFICIAL Pinterest page of the Recipe DetectiveTM, which represents Mom and her cookbooks and her legacy, can be seen at https://www.pinterest.com/therecipedetective. Keep in mind, however, that it’s only a couple of years old and I’m still building up boards there. It is a continuous work in progress (WIP), as is this website.
In honor of December being #NationalPearMonth, here is Mom’s “secret recipe” for #CinnamonPearCup; as seen in her self-published cookbook, Mostly 4-Ingredient Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 6)!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…