1974 – The Big-Little Cookbooklet was a small-sized booklet written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI) & was part of a limited series called “Dumb Little Cookbooks – Reliable Recipes for Reluctant Cooks” from Gloria’s Homemaker’s Newsletter. NO LONGER IN PRINT – This book has a 5.5” x 4.5” format of 48 pages with 22 recipes for low & no sugar dishes, desserts, main dishes, salads and side dishes. The booklet also has 15 “write-your-own-recipe” pages, plus extra “cook’s notes” pages. The booklets were assembled and decorated by hand and sold for $1 each.
1973 – The Better Cooker’s Cookbook was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI), having a 5.5” x 8.5” format of 53 pages, filled with humorous quips, tips and cartoons; plus, over 150 index listings. NO LONGER IN PRINT – This is a collection of recipes that Gloria originally published in Cookbook Corner, a recipe column she syndicated to many newspapers for over 5 years. The recipes were all “reluctant-cook-budget-tested” by Gloria and her family of seven! The books sold for $1.50 each, plus $0.25 postage.
This cookbook was part of Gloria Pitzer’s “Laughable Books”™ series, which were free-lanced in newspapers and magazines, previously included Reliable Recipes for Reluctant Cooks, Helpful Hints for Helpless Housekeepers (or Housework has its Hang-Ups), Shakespeare: Wherefore Art Though? (or It Could be Verse), What Dr. Spock Left Out (or Bringing Up Parents), Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer and Woman’s Lip as Ms-Pronounced by Gloria Pitzer.
Sub-Titles: “Budget Recipes”, “Over 200 Simple Sensible Suggestions from and for Semi-Gourmets”
1972-1976 – The development of the “Original 200” – a recipe card collection by Gloria Pitzer
1972-1976 – “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes” began with a unique collection of about 200 recipes (each printed on 4”x6” index cards, ready for filing), which Gloria developed and tested in her own kitchen – recipes for making famous fast-food dishes and favorite supermarket products right at home; with the intention to save households money on their “entertaining” & “grocery” costs. This photo (above) is a copy of one of her own ads [as seen on the back of her bi-centennial cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook (July1976)], for how to buy these recipe cards at $0.25 each or 5 for $1. These are NO LONGER IN PRINT!
We’d love to hear from anyone who still has her original, individual recipe cards! Please write to us at: [email protected]
If you’re new to here, welcome! I’m Laura Emerich – one of 5 who called Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, “Mom”. I started this blog series in September (2018) to carry on Mom’s legacy of her Secret Recipes “empire”, as it was very special to me too; especially over the last few years of her life while I collaborated with her in re-writing her favorite cookbook, to be re-published by Balboa Press, and inspire a new generation!
This week, I want to start a special series on Mondays & Memories of Mom, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of how she came to be “The Recipe Detective”, her trademarked name. This series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, in her own words, as seen on pages 292-297 in her last cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” , published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing):
BEHIND THE SCENES – “Private Investigator of Secret Recipes” or “The Recipe Detective” are the names that my friends in radio and newspapers have given to me, and I enjoy living up to that assignment! I enjoy working with these recipe secrets, but most of all, I enjoy writing about them. I’ve been writing all my life… Going way-back to when I was in grade school. I was always writing a book, or a poem or a short story. It was a way of life from my earliest memories – a way over which I seem to have no personal control! I had to write… Preferably about what I knew best at the time. Little did I know that what I would come to know best would be cooking! The one year that I spent at Michigan State (when it was still a college, mind you – you figure that out!) … Was one year in which I learned 2 important things – I could not pass my Creative Writing course and I was “kicked out” of Home Economics! My Creative Writing instructor told me that I typed a neat looking paper and probably should be a secretary, for I would never make it as a writer. My Home Economics instructor advised me to spend the rest of my life having my meals delivered, for I was always finding fault with the way so many cookbooks were written.
I took a position with the J. Walter Thompson Advertising company in Detroit, working as a secretary to the copywriters. I met my husband, Paul, there when he returned from a 4-year tour of service with the Air Force. We started dating and one year later we were married. That was 1956. Bill was born over a year later, and then Mike came 20 months after that, and Debbie came along 20 months after that. I lost 3 babies in the next 3 years, but Laura was born in 1964 and Cheryl came 20 months after that. During those years, Paul was working for a sign company in Mt. Clemens, Michigan – where, in the 20 years he spent with them, he did everything from drafting to purchasing agent to account rep! I kept up with my writing, always working for one of the suburban papers and constantly free-lancing to magazines. When Redbook sent me $500 for my “Young Mother’s Story” submission in February 1963, called “We’ll Never Live with In-Laws Again”, I put part of the money into a typewriter, as I had always had to borrow one before that. I wanted a typewriter more than Reagan wanted to be president! I put a lot of miles on that $39.95 machine – I designed a column for weekly newspapers and mailed out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, I had acquired 60 regular papers for my “No Laughing Matter” column and another column I called “Minding the Hearth”. Columbia Features in New York offered me a contract, and, for a year, I allowed them to syndicate the column in competition with a new humorist, Erma Bombeck! (Right church, wrong pew for me!) When a big city paper carried Erma’s column, Columbia placed mine in their competing paper. I split with Columbia on a 60/40 basis (I took 40) and finally, by mutual-agreement, we broke the contract. I was on my own.
HOW SECRET RECIPES BEGAN – When Columbia Features and I parted company, they had acquired only 2 additional papers from me and lost several more. Within 6 months, I had regained all my original papers and was syndicating the column from our dining room table, where we then lived in what my friend, Bob Allison, called “beautiful downtown Pearl Beach” – a town so small that I told people City Hall was over a Dairy Queen, our McDonald’s had only one arch and, if we had a Howard Johnson’s, it would’ve had only 3 flavors! We had a 9-year old station wagon at that time. It burned oil and barely got Paul to work and back without something breaking down! I rode a bike to and from the Pearl Beach post office every day where I mailed out my columns and, then, looked for responses to ads I had placed in the Tower Press and Grit magazines for recipes on 4×6” cards that enabled you to imitate famous dishes at home.
[That might have been around 1973.]
I remember (around 1974-1976) when Mom would take my sisters and I to Sears, JC Penny’s and JL Hudson’s at the Macomb Mall near Detroit and, later (1976), to Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights (MI), where we would all get a handful of Mom’s business cards to stick in the pockets of various clothes and purse displays for shoppers to find, and then we’d have lunch in the Hudson’s dining room, where Mom found a lot of great dishes to mimic at home. We had a 5-star rating system of our own when we were with Mom on any of her restaurant reviews – it was, actually, largely based on how clean they kept their restrooms! But, back to Mom’s story…
BOB ALLISON’s “ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR” – I was a regular participant on Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” radio show that aired 5 days a week for 2 hours in the morning. I used Bob’s program for asking for food information that I needed for my weekly columns. Bob’s audience was very helpful in supplying me with answers. To reciprocate, I would reply to some of the requests made by his audience when they called into Bob’s show. It was a unique format in that one could not simply call in a recipe or information simply because they wanted to share it with others. The information or the recipe had to, first, be requested by a previous caller. Many of my first “Secret Recipes” were developed because of requests made specifically by Bob’s callers for such dishes as The Colonel’s secret spices, Arthur Treacher’s fish batter, Sander’s hot fudge, Win Schuler’s bar cheese and so on.
As I re-type her words, another fun memory comes to me, regarding Mom’s radio visits on “Ask Your Neighbor” – because of the show’s format, Mom couldn’t just phone in to the show and “announce” make-alike recipes she had developed. There were only 2 types of callers allowed – (1) those requesting certain recipes or tips and (2) those who have the answer to one or more of those requests. When she developed a make-alike recipe that nobody requested, but she was anxious to share it, she would have a friend or one of us kids call the show “as a listener” to make a request for it; then, she could call in with her answer! That was so much fun! Once again, back to Mom’s story…
[NOTE: “Ask Your Neighbor” is still heard weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 11AM EST on WNZK 690AM, Detroit. A live stream can also be found on the show’s website at http://www.askyourneighbor.com/index.htm]
At the suggestion of one of Bob’s callers that I should put all my column recipes into a book, I wrote my 1st edition called “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook”. In less than a month, I had sold 1000 copies. I wasn’t satisfied with the book, so I didn’t reprint it – but, decided that it might work out better if I could do those recipes monthly…I put together my 1st issue of what came to be my “Secret Recipe Report”, a newsletter that, for 106 consecutive monthly issues, brought me in contact with the many so-called secrets of the commercial food and restaurant industry.
I probably wouldn’t have done the monthly, except for a falling-out I had with the editor of a small-town paper for which I was writing a food column. I had published some of my 1st attempts at duplicating famous dishes in that column and the response was beautiful, until I offended one of the papers biggest advertisers with a rendition of their cheesecake… “The kind that nobody doesn’t like.” The editor told me I would have to go back to standard recipes like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf or chocolate cake – or I could pick up my check. I told him to MAIL it to me. That’s when I decided it was time to launch my own paper. That afternoon, I put out my charter issue, sending samples of it to those whose names and addresses I had on file from having written to me at the paper. That was the beginning of “Secret Recipes”!
I’ve recently started putting together a “Time Line”, of sorts, regarding all the different publications that Mom has written, illustrated and self-published over the past 4½ decades (1973-2018). There’s a few books that I don’t have, myself, so, I have to search the Amazon and Ebay websites for some of her old, out-of-print books. Soon, you’ll see updates to this website regarding the 2 “Cookbooks” tabs. I’m also still working on uploading more recipes to the “Recipes” tab as well. Also, stay tuned, next week, for part 2 of this series about Mom’s own story.
In the mean time, as I do each week, I will end this blog with one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on one of her “Free Recipes/Information” sheets. In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, whether you’re hosting a party or taking a dish-to-pass for someone else’s party, this is a picture of her easy and awesome, make-alike version of 5-Alarm-Style Taco Sauce (1985) to go with your favorite tortilla chips – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.
Another version of this recipe can also be found on page 69 of Mom’s last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]; again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it; but, here it is for you – again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:
FIVE-ALARM TACO SAUCE – Prepare 1 recipe of Gloria’s “Big Match Special Sauce” [see blog from 11/19/18] and add to it: 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon chili powder and ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or to taste). Sufficient to top-off a dozen tacos [or for dipping!]
Happy Monday to everybody! I hope you make today special for somebody, even if it’s only for yourself!
My name is Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. She passed away almost a year ago (it’ll be a year next Monday) and I started this blog series in September (2018) to carry on her legacy of love with her “Secret Recipes”. To me, her love of writing and cooking and inspiring others in the same was a big part of her legacy – especially since I collaborated with her during the last few years of her life to re-write her favorite cookbook, “The Better Cookery Cookbook” (1983), so it could be re-published to inspire new generations in the “digital age”! Shortly before Mom passed away, it went to print, being published by Balboa Press with the title adjusted to “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”.
ASPIRE TO INSPIRE
Have you ever wanted to be amused and inspired at the same time? Mom’s many talents gave me that feeling! I aspire to inspire happiness, as Mom did for so many years, for so many people. As such, this week, I’d like to build more on last week’s blog, “New Year, New Attitude”, and the references I made to inspirations because Mom was, and continues to be, such a huge inspiration in my life. My mom wrote the following excerpt in her book, “My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, [self-published by Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, Dec. 1989; p. 75]:
We embrace the challenge to inspire…The care and concern that an author has for their readers is part of the pleasure of presenting interesting ideas in either an entertaining way or in an informative way. I try to balance my own presentations between the two. When I am broadcasting over the numerous radio stations around the country, sometimes around the world, I try to lift the listener to a new height of interest and enthusiasm, and I leave the serious side of nutrition to the experts, who have the medical background to support their claims. My hope is to present my recipes in such a way that cooking is a joy and never a job! I try to present these recipes with the same concern as I do giving a gift to a special friend. Each of our 5 children, who have grown up helping Paul and me with these recipes, have gone out into the world with this legacy of love and enthusiasm. We can only hope that they use what we have given them.
Photo taken by Gloria Pitzer (1988-ish); The Pitzer “kids” – Bill, Michael, Debbie, Laura and Cheryl
I can only hope that I’ve made Mom proud of what I’m doing with her legacy of love… especially regarding this blog series, her website and her last cookbook; developing and promoting them, in her memory and honor, with the love and passion and so much more that she instilled in me and continues to inspire in me. I want to take this blog, as well as her website & book, to new heights for her. It’s a work in progress though. I’ll be honest – while I love to write, promoting and selling are not my forte.
“In doing our best, we run into road blocks we hadn’t counted on; and it is not the falls we take that make the difference, but how well we recover and continue on that matters.” – Gloria Pitzer [“My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, self-published by Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, Dec. 1989; p. xi]
My inherited love for writing has always been in me. One of my favorite and youngest memories of Mom & I is when she was first teaching me how to write, from how to hold the pencil to how to draw the letters to how to form the words by putting those wonderful letters together. Much like Mom, when I was growing up, I was always drawing, reading and writing little stories, as well as a lot of poetry. Whether it was inspired by or inherited from my Mom, English was always my favorite subject throughout school and I always loved the essay assignments the most!
“Succeeding against the odds…When I look back now, I realize that I was so busy trying to prove that others were wrong about me, I couldn’t see how events were already taking place that would sooner or later put me where I had always wanted to be – writing for a worthwhile living, while it made living worthwhile.” – Gloria Pitzer [“My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop”, self-published by Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, Dec. 1989; p. 81]
Mom always hated when “the press” referred to her as having turned a hobby into an occupation. Writing was never a hobby to Mom, and she used to say that being a writer isn’t what she did; but, rather, who she was! I could always relate to that! She also loved to say in a lot of her publishings that, while she made a worthwhile living at writing, it was her writing that made living worthwhile. I’ve never made a living at writing, but I’d certainly love to do that!
My road block, however, is promoting and selling; which is much more of a learning process for me, while it just seemed to come naturally for Mom. Luckily, I love to learn! Another one of the things Mom inspired in me is my passion to learn – she’d always say, “learn something new every day!” Along with my “new year, new attitude” resolution for 2019, I’ve determined that every day is a defining moment for each of us, in which experience and knowledge, together, influence our personal evolution; thus, we need to seize those moments and do our best to make the most out of them!
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers
Nowadays, knowledge is literally and instantaneously at our finger tips! For most of my life, I was a bookworm. I continue to love the hard copy in my hands; but, now, I’m also a world-wide-web-worm! There’s so much out there from which to learn! But you have to be self-motivated to and self-inspired to grab the book or the computer and open the “pages” and read, soaking it up like a sponge! Of course, you also have to be able to differentiate between what’s fact and what’s fiction; but, that’s a discussion for another time.
One particular couple I’ve found on the web, from whom I love to learn, are Alex & Lauren of createandgo.co. They have been inspiring me a lot in this learning process I started for blogging and promoting, because I would love to afford do this full-time and completely give up my part-time, “real-paying” job as a data collector.
“The best way to learn any new pattern of behavior – whether it is eating or dancing or jogging or working – is to break it down into small manageable parts and work through them step-by-step!” – Gloria Pitzer, [“Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018) – a re-write by Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing), page 283]
It was always such a mystery to Mom why some people were willing to endure such an irony of accepting the risk of failing at what they attempt with foods (preparing, presenting, etc.) more readily than they will the failings with their relationships with other people, and that they’d put more effort into setting a good table rather than setting a good example. I’m inspired by Mom to do both.
Once again, as with my pervious blogs, I’d like to close with one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000), which she used to give out in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope; asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. In keeping with the Super Bowl season of party planning (or attending), this is a photo copy of her imitation of Hooters-Style Wings, which I think she originally called Chooser’s Wings and, later, changed it to Hoosier’s Wings.
Note: this particular chicken wings recipe was not included in Mom’s last cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, recipes for many other wonderful chicken and other related dishes, as well as wonderful morsels of Food for Thought and humorous antidotes can be found in the “Chicken” chapter or section of this book on pages 86-104. Enjoy!
If you’re new to here, my name is Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. I started this blog series in September (2018) to carry on Mom’s legacy, as that is what “Secret Recipes” was to her and what it became to me, especially over the last few years of her life while I collaborated with her in re-writing her favorite cookbook, to be re-published by Balboa Press, and inspire a new generation – a digital generation!
There’s always something special about celebrating a new year! It’s commonly looked upon as a chance to start over and wipe the slate clean; to forgive and forget or just bury the hatchet and move on. It’s a time to improve and better ourselves, so as to evolve in the human race. The beginning of a new year is a time when people want to make real and positive changes in their lives. Simply changing the calendar out seems to be a turning point that offers us up new inspiration and attitude. It’s a fresh new start, a new beginning for whatever we aspire. The older I get, especially since I lost my mom almost a year ago, the more I realize that every day I wake up is a turning point in which I have to develop and grow a new and positive attitude!
In the same way as Joel Osteen was one of Mom’s favorite inspirationalists, she was one of mine. What does it mean – to inspire someone? Whether it be through their words or through their actions, it’s about motivating someone else from within their souls; sparking their fire in some stirring and exciting way that helps them strive for and achieve their desired successes.
As the song goes, ‘should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?’ – it begs the question as to whether or not we should forgive and forget. If Mom could have had her way, the whole world would’ve been friends forever. However, even she knew that was an unrealistic hope, considering the course of human behavior and events. But, even though history tends to repeat itself, there’s no reason not to start making new, inspiring history to repeat!
So often, people can’t even find friends within the same family. Mom always felt that the family unit was so important to our troubled world, which seemed to lack any direction in which to go for comfort and relief. Nonetheless, she continued to hope – as do I. Mom often emphasized, in her writing, the importance of really caring about each other. She held a strong faith in LOVE and all the things it could overcome and yield. She found common ground for this caring attitude in the loving manner that cooks have toward the food they prepare and present to those with whom they share their tables.
‘You certainly won’t hear opportunity knocking at the front door, if you’re in the back yard looking for four-leaf clovers.’ – Gloria Pitzer (‘My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop’, written and self-published by Gloria Pitzer, Dec. 1989; p. 4)
I grew up, as my mom did, inspired by my parents to seize opportunities (although there were many I didn’t see and, thus, missed) and to always put across my best efforts in everything I do. When I can’t do “Plan A”, I go to “Plan B”! Everyone should have a few good examples to follow. As my mom once wrote about her mom [on page 8 of her self-published book, This is not a Cook Book (Oct. 1986)], I shall repeat for her – and this is a perfect example of inspiring history repeating itself – ‘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…The world could turn [its] back on her children, but she would always be there for them when we needed her. She’s given me an example that’s going to be tough to equal.’
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, Oct. 1986; p. 8)
I can only hope that I have done the same with my own children, as I feel Mom did with me and my siblings; as her mom did with her and her siblings as well! James Keller once said, “A candle loses nothing in lighting another candle.” Mom embellished on it a bit by adding that if you can’t be a lighthouse, be a candle!
Happy birthday, Mom! (1/7/1936)
As with my pervious blogs, I’d like to share with you one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet (2000), which she used to give out in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope – this is her Red Lobster-Style Cheese Biscuit, which she calls “Glad Lobster Cheese Biscuits” – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.
Note: this particular biscuit recipe was not included in Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, many other wonderful bread-type recipes and humorous stories can be found in the “Breads” chapter or section of this book on pages 141-182.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to Crouton Crackerjacks, who did a wonderful YouTube video, making Mom’s version of Cracker Barrel’s Buttermilk Biscuits, which the guy in the video says tastes nothing like Cracker Barrel’s biscuit even though it is an excellent biscuit. Keep in mind that some restaurants change their recipes over the years and, even in a chain like Cracker Barrel, not every restaurant across the country makes every dish exactly the same. All-in-all, it’s an excellent video to check out at https://youtu.be/CLc0Hkbwz7c and, like the guy in the video claims, it is an excellent biscuit recipe that my mom developed – regardless of what restaurant inspired it.
In closing, I wish a very happy New Year to everyone! Be determined and decided to have a splendid and awe-inspiring year!
Allow me to introduce myself to any new visitors here – I am Laura (Pitzer) Emerich, and this is my blog, Mondays & Memories of My Mom, a tribute to the legacy of a woman who helped to make me who I am, as well as a mentor and “trail-blazer” for so many others. To me, she’s “Mom”; but, to the world, she’s Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective. In the early ‘70s, Mom started developing (writing and testing) her own recipes that mimicked popular dishes in the restaurant, grocery and fast food industries.
Illustration by Gloria Pitzer
She marketed her talents – as I wrote in my first blog, A Legacy of Love– “through newspapers, magazines, local television talk shows…but, especially through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years she was a regular on a few local radio talk shows such as ‘Ask Your Neighbor’, hosted by Bob Allison on WWJ-Radio, which still airs out of the Detroit area today and ‘Listen to the Mrs.’, which is still hosted by Art Lewis on WSGW-Radio in Saginaw, MI. Mom said Warren Pierce of ‘The Warren Pierce Show’ put her ‘in touch with some of the most responsive and enthusiastic listening audiences.’ That show also still airs out of the Detroit area on WJR-Radio. Mom did radio shows all over the country – mostly by phone, from the comfort of home.”
She passed away almost a year ago, 2 weeks after her 82nd birthday, leaving behind a beautiful legacy of faith, love, generosity, sarcastic humor and a wide range of artistic talents. I feel so lucky to have all these memories of her and how she contributed to making me the woman I am today. So, I want to share those wonderful recollections with the world, which is so easy now through the internet and social media; and try to carry on her legacy in my own way. Mom was such a huge influence in my life. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows – you have to have storms to get those rainbows and appreciate the sunshine even more! So, it’s all good!
Photo by Paul Jaekel, Jan. 2016
During the last few years of Mom’s life, I got to know her in a new way – one that I missed out on in my self-centered teen years. I was helping Mom to rewrite her favorite cookbook, from 1983, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook, to be published by Balboa Press. Mom never wanted to let any of her cookbooks be published by a company that wanted to change her creations. But, times changed and so did situations, as well as attitudes. The publisher we chose for the project didn’t want to change very much of anything except the title (because it too closely resembled The Betty Crocker Cookbook title, which it was supposed to in the first place) and a few illustrations (because they had the likeness of “The Colonel” on them.) I also had to change the layout slightly; not because of the publisher, but because of the digital revolution and the printed format we chose for the final product. Mom and I also had to choose some parts to be totally omitted due to their lack of current relatability or something else. Years ago, Mom would’ve said, “Never! Not any of it!” But, she learned over the years that it’s better to go with the flow than swim against the tide. I’ve always loved to write, myself; something Mom always nurtured in me. Re-reading Mom’s creative “Food for Thought” articles and discussing them with her, brought us closer in a whole new way. Mom’s favorite thing in life was to write. She also loved to mentor those who shared the love! She always said, “I make a living with my writing – but, it’s my writing that makes living worthwhile!”
“When you’re wishing for a happier, fuller life, a life with real meaning, there’s a need to remain steadfastly receptive to intuitions & inspirations that whisper to the listening thought of hope & courage.” – Gloria Pitzer [as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 183, Nov-Dec 1997; pg. 10]
Now, it’s New Year’s Eve! This is the time that most of us spend recalling, reasoning, recollecting, reflecting, reminiscing, remembering, ruminating and resolving to do and be better than we’ve ever been, even more than we are right now – resolutions are made that call for improvement and change in ourselves! Making a New Year’s resolution is a common tradition, whereas people resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or to, otherwise, improve their life.
The New Year’s Eve anthem (a musical composition of celebration), Auld Lang Syneis an old Scots poem penned by Robert Burns in 1788; but made known more famously by Guy Lombardo’s version, which he and His Royal Canadians band sung every New Year’s Eve for about 38 years (1939-1977). The title literally translates into basic English as “old long since,” which basically equals “days gone by” or can be even more loosely interpreted as “for the sake of old times.” Any way you cut it, it’s traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight to say goodbye to the old year and celebrate the new one. However, it is also heard at funerals, graduations, and other special occasions as a farewell or ending to that event.
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne! For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.” – Robert Burns (1759 – 1796)
The most commonly sung [or should I say “mis-sung” – in our own special drunken interpretations?] parts of Auld Lang Syne are the 1st verse and chorus, which begs the question, “Should we leave it behind us and forget about it?” I ask myself, how am I to learn from my mistakes if I forget them? Mom once said, “You never realize what a good memory you have until you try to forget something.” [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 146, Sep-Oct 1990; pg. 7] However, this is another, earlier viewpoint from Mom on the subject of forgetting, as she wrote in a small “Food for Thought” piece in one of her newsletters:
“Some things, perhaps, are better left unsaid and forgotten – or, like the woman in The Bible, who looked back when she was warned not to, we just might become pillars of emotional salt; hardening our feelings and losing our sense of compassion, rather than become someone with perspective, with our eyes on where we’re going, rather than where we’ve already been.
Being able to get a handle on life by not letting it get the best of us, when the lemons outweigh the levity in our relationships, is a recipe worth having. Resolving the problems with recipes in the kitchen is something we’re all willing to accept, because cooking is an individual and very personal experience – a creative challenge for some, a positive involvement for others. Yet we accept the risk of failing at what we attempt with foods, more readily than we will with our relationships with other people. It’s a puzzle to me that we are willing to endure such a paradox that we’ll put more effort into the table we set than into the examples we set…” [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 130, Jan-Feb 1988; pg. 8]
In closing, as with my pervious blogs, I’d like to share with you one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on her “Free Recipes/Information” sheet, which she used to give out in exchange for a self-addressed, stamped envelope; asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. This is a photo copy of her 2000 imitation of a sugar-free, Strawberry Fluff-Style dessert like the one served at Old Country Buffet. It’s a great dessert to take to parties as a dish-to-pass, allowing yourself and others, whose New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, to indulge and not feel guilty!
Note: this particular sugar-free recipe was not included in Mom’s last cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, many other wonderful sugar-free recipes and humorous stories can be found in the “Dieting” Dishes chapter or section of this book on pages 283-291.
Finally, dear strangers and friends, on this celebratory occasion of ringing in the new year, I wish for you all to cherish your memories – good and bad – as they are all a part of who you are and will help you in becoming who you want to be in 2019! As Mom would always say, “Happy sleuthing in the kitchen!”… But, may the table you set, pale in comparison to the example you set! Happy New Year to you all!
I hope everyone will take, at least, a small amount of time today and these next “12 days of Christmas” to remember all of our service people who can’t be with their own families during these holidays, as they give of themselves to protect us and heal us.
This is such a wonderful and magical time of year! While there are still those with a “Bah-humbug” attitude, I come across a lot more people, lately, who are spreading more good cheer than bad cheer. Mom used to tell me, “the most valuable gift you can give is to be a good example!” This time of year seems to bring out the best “good examples” in most of us. It’s contageous and seems to flow right into the new year. More people are volunteering their time for “good deeds” and helping out those in need by donating money, coats, toys and more. Generous “Santas” are paying off strangers’ “lay-aways” at different stores across the country. I just wish the giving of ourselves lasted all year long!
Some will blame their “Bah-humbug” attitude on the commercialism of the holiday, with marketing “experts” advising stores to start putting out their Christmas stock (right along with Halloween) in September! Then, as soon as Halloween is over, people start hearing Christmas music on the radio stations and stores’ PA Systems around the first week in November. Not to mention the seemingly month-long “Black Friday” event. By the time the actual “12 days of Christmas” start (on Christmas Day), we’re burnt-out on the “must-haves” that commercialism has pressed onto the public; while the true meaning of the season gets lost in the chaos!
This is, as Mom once wrote, “the easiest cop-out for those who put a price tag on the pleasures of the holiday & insist that the success of the celebration depends on the amount of money spent on the preparations and gifts. 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 trivial [stuff]… And always appreciating what we’ve already received before we can expect to receive more.”
Mom also wrote [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!” [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter, Issue 147, Nov-Dec 1990; pages 1 & 8]
Photo by Gloria Pitzer (me and my Xmas Candy House)
Personally, I have tried to pass on Mom’s attitude to my own children, as she did to me… the importance of the personal gatherings over the tangible gifts and, especially, the giving of the best of ourselves – without expectations of reciprocations of gratitude – because that’s what true “Santas” do. My kids never learned “there’s no such thing as Santa Claus”, because I taught them something different, from the times they were each little – similar to The New York Sun’s answer to Virginia – how 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! And, with that, there will ALWAYS be a Santa Claus!
On that note, I leave you with this image of the classic Christmas Eve poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore [first published on Dec. 23, 1823 in the Troy Sentinel newspaper in upstate New York], as seen at http://www.nightbeforechristmas.biz/poem.htm.
Also, as with my pervious blogs, I’d like to end by sharing with you one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on her “Free Recipes & Ordering Information” sheets (1993), asking only for proper credit if you care to share it. This is a photo copy of Mom’s make-alike version of Kentucky-Style Coleslaw, updated from Mom’s 1988 version in her self-published book, The Copycat Cookbook:
Note: this particular slaw recipe was not included in Mom’s last cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing). However, other wonderful slaw recipes and a special “Coleslaw Secret” can be found in this book on pages 38-39.
If you’re new to this site and this blog, let me introduce myself. My name is Laura (Pitzer) Emerich and I started this blog to honor my mom’s legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipes Detective – Gloria Pitzer. Since the early ‘70s, Mom was “busting” the secret recipes of the fast food industry, as well as some “fine” restaurants and grocery products too! As I mentioned in my last blog, “Imitation”, Mom never really knew their exact recipes, but she could imitate them very well!!!
I’ve been writing these weekly blogs, about the many wonderful memories I have of Mom as I was growing up, since this past September. Shortly after starting these blogs, I decided to include one of Mom’s recipes with each one. For the 35-plus years that Mom “worked her business”, she offered (in exchange for a SASE) a sheet of free recipes, along with information on how to order her currently (at that time) available self-published cookbooks, as well as how to subscribe to her newsletters; which were published monthly in the beginning, then bi-monthly and quarterly and back to monthly until she permanently retired it.
Five weeks ago, I shared another blog, “Time to Make the Cookies”, regarding cookies as they related to some of my memories of Mom, and including her make-alike version of one the Famous Amos cookies (with an alternative option.) Rather than repeating those memories, here, with these Mrs. Fields make-alike cookie recipes (below) that Mom also gave out for free (merely asking for proper credit when shared), I thought I’d write about making a new memory.
While surfing the internet around Thanksgiving time, I came across a Martha Stewart link, “8 Steps to Hosting a Cookie Swap”. I hadn’t participated in a cookie swap/exchange since my first two kids were toddlers (in the late “80s!) Anticipating the coming of “the final push” to get all my Christmas cookies made in time for holiday visitors and last minute gift-giving, I planned my first (hopefully annual) Christmas cookie exchange party with some of my girlfriends, who also hadn’t participated in any such event in a long time, if at all. While Martha’s ‘8 Steps’ was a great source of inspiration, I added some of my own ideas too!
I started (as in Martha’s ‘Step 1’) by inviting people. I created a private “event” through my personal Facebook page and invited about 18 girlfriends that were nearby and whom I knew (or thought) liked to bake and socialize (not to discriminate against my male friends who also enjoy baking, but the perk was for female bonding time.) Although, one friend’s “significant other” popped in to share some male bonding with my husband while all of us ladies “cackled” amongst ourselves; which was perfectly fine. Martha Stewart’s link suggested inviting up to 8 friends; but, having hosted other types of parties over the years, I knew that only one-third to half of invitees actually come. So, I invited 18 friends and about 8 people RSVP’d that they could come. Hindsight being foresight, next year, I will probably, also, “snail-mail” personal invitations because not everyone (in my generation) knows about Facebook created events; plus, it’s something tangible that they can hang on their refrigerator or calendar as a reminder.
On the event page, I asked everyone to post what cookies they were thinking about bringing (as in Martha’s ‘Step 2’), so we didn’t end up with 5 people bringing the same type. I suggested everyone bring 8 dozen cookies – no matter how many people actually come, I posted, if you bring 8 dozen of the same type, you’d be taking home 8 dozen of a variety. The more that come, the more of a variety there will be. I also asked that they post their recipe there, on the event page, (or email or text me a copy) so I could print out the necessary copies for everyone attending (instead of them making their own copies, not knowing how many copies to actually make.) However, only a few shared their recipes on the event page or texted me a picture of it in time for me to copy them for everyone.
Instead of making display cards or having everyone make multiple copies of their recipes on cards (as in Martha’s ‘Step 3’) for the cookie table, I bought little “brag books” from my local Dollar Tree store. I found and printed out a cute little cookie jar graphic to put in the cover’s picture window on each book. Then I printed out copies of the recipes that I had received before and at the party, inserting them into the pages of each book – for everyone to each take home from the party as a memento and, in which to continue collecting other cookie recipes.
On my party prep checklist, I forgot to list ‘creating a packaging station’ (as described in Martha’s Steps 4 through 7) for wrapping up all the dozens of cookies that everyone was going to take home. I was going to buy things at the dollar store for this; but I didn’t write it down and, then, was distracted by the crowd at the store, and just wanted to hurry and get out of there with my “brag books” and “door prize” picks. Fortunately, some of my friends must have anticipated this – one brought special Christmas trays on which everyone could to take home their cookies and some others pre-wrapped their dozens of cookies in decorative bags and tins for easy grabbing!
Not listed in Martha Stewarts ‘8 Steps’, but which occurred to me, is to serve snacks. Whenever I host anything (in-bred from my mom), I, at least, serve something to munch on – it’s always an ice-breaker! So, I decided to prepare a bunch of simple finger-food snacks for everyone to enjoy besides the cookie samples. Having hypoglycemia, myself, I knew I couldn’t snack on all that sugar and wanted to offer my friends the same option. One friend, who couldn’t make cookies in time for the party, but didn’t want to miss out on the “girl time”, brought a wonderful spinach dip and crackers for the “snack table” instead. All were welcomed, cookies in tow or not! Afterwards, I found that Martha Stewart did have a follow up to the ‘8 Steps’ regarding finger-foods to serve at your cookie swap – https://www.marthastewart.com/274426/holiday-cookie-swap-finger-foods
As everyone started showing up, I got wrapped up in setting up the snack table, making introductions between those who didn’t know each other and, of course, in the socializing. Thus, I forgot all about putting out the coffee, tea and punch that I had planned (Step 8); but I did have bottled water for everyone (thanks to my wonderful husband – who always has my back – as he brought in a cooler full of the iced-down bottles for all of us!)
Also, not listed in the “8 Steps”, I decided to offer a few “door prizes”. Martha did make mention of voting on a favorite cookie during the test-tasting, but I was debating between having a few cute, little shower-type games for us to play or just drawing a few names from a hat (or something like that.) In the end, because the socializing was going so well and I didn’t want it to stop, I just had my husband draw 3 names out of a bowl containing all the names of the ladies who showed up; and each of those 3 ladies went home with an extra little gift bag from me.
Unfortunately, it didn’t dawn on me until after my first friend left and others were getting ready to do the same that I should have been taking pictures of everyone and their wonderful baked goods! I did get my husband to take one picture of all of us before anyone else left, which I could immediately send to everyone through my Messenger App. Note-to-self: next time, delegate (in advance) someone to be “the photographer”, which wasn’t in the 8 Steps either! Anyway, I hope I created some special new memories for my friends. I know I will cherish the memories of that day, myself, flaws and all! In fact, I am really looking forward to doing it all again next year!
Photo by Laura Emerich, Dec. 14, 2018
In the mean time, this is a picture of the cookie recipe I chose to make for my friends – my mom’s make-alike version of Mrs. Fields Soft Sugar Cookies – as printed on her later “Free Recipes/Information” sheets (2000) under the name “Mrs. Meadows”, along with her make-alike version of Mrs. F’s Crisp Buttery Cookies, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:
*Special note: I used a 1/8-cup scoop to ball up my cookies and I had about 50 cookies. This recipe says it yields 2 dozen…it should be 4 dozen.
In addition, this is a picture of Mom’s 1985 version of Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies from her older “Free Recipes/Information” sheets, again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:
Note: Unlike the previously shared “free” recipes in my blogs, the Mrs. Fields make-alike cookies I’ve included in this blog also appeared in some of Mom’s other previously self-published cookbooks and newsletters; but, they didn’t make it into her last cookbook [“Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective”, published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing).]
Hi, Everyone! Happy Monday! I’m Laura Emerich and this is my blog about memories of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, and her legacy as the ORIGINAL Secret Recipe Detective. She liked to refer to herself as the “Rich Little” of the Food Industry because she could imitate their famous food products, at home in her own kitchen, like Rich Little could imitate the voices of famous people.. She never knew what they actually used in their own “secret” recipes, but she knew she could come up with a make-alike version based on what she could taste, smell and see. A few times, at the request of her readers and radio listeners, without actually trying the product, itself; Mom could come up with an imitation simply based only on their descriptions.
To imitate is to clone, copy, impersonate, mimic, replicate, reproduce, counterfeit, duplicate, fake, forge, match, mock, parallel, resemble, simulate, echo, mirror, parrot, pattern or represent something or someone. Imitation – according to Merriam-Webster – is something produced as a copy; resembling something else that is usually genuine and of better quality [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imitation]. It’s quite ironic that so many others over the years, since Mom originated the Secret Recipes (T.M.) business, have imitated her, the original imitator. But not all of them have given her the appropriate credit due to her. Kudos to those who have given her the proper credit, though!
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” – C. C. Colton
Most everyone has heard, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”; one of Charles Caleb Colton‘s most famous quotes. Dictionary.com says, “to imitate someone is to pay the person a genuine compliment — often an unintended compliment.” You will, likewise, find at Wikipedia.org that imitation is also a form of social learning that leads to the development of traditions.
I really liked that last reference…”that leads to the development of traditions.” Who doesn’t have some old, family tradition that they follow, just as their parents and grandparents and previous generations did? Who hasn’t made new family traditions for coming generations to copy and embrace? Just think about it, at some point, all of those old traditions were, once, new traditions that were so enjoyed they were, thus, passed on to future generations and continue to be so. Cultures are built on traditions. One of my all-time favorite musicals is “Fiddler on the Roof”, which is chucked full of traditions and the struggles of keeping them or amending them to the ever-changing times – including a song about it!
When it came to imitations, it wasn’t very often that Mom received any praise from a major company for her make-alike versions of their famous products. She was often threatened with lawsuits. But, like I said previously, she really didn’t know what they actually used in their recipes, nor did she want to. She loved the mystery and sleuthing involved in solving it, just like a good Sherlock Holmes novel. She often changed the name to a “sound-alike” title for her make-alike versions – she would always jokingly say, “to protect the innocent!”
However, she was well received, even complimented, by some companies and their owners, such as Sanders Chocolates, Wally Amos of Famous Amos Cookies, Harland Sanders (the original owner of KFC) and White Castle; just to name a few. They found her imitations of their products flattering. In fact, I recently came across an old letter among some of Mom’s things that I got after her passing. The letter was from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle (Columbus, Ohio) to Mom – and I remembered writing about it when I helped Mom with the rewriting of her favorite “Better Cookery Cookbook”. Gail Turley was very flattered with Mom’s imitation and dually impressed with Mom’s clever use of baby food to enhance the flavor of the beef. She even bought 15 copies of Mom’s cookbook (which contained the White Castle Hamburger knockoff) to share with some of her colleagues.
Mom’s make-alike version of White Castle hamburgers, also called “Sliders” because they’re so easy to eat (of which Mom called her version “White Tassel Burgers”), was one of the recipes she offered on her “free information” sheets. The White Castle picture with Mom’s original editorial on the company, along with other information and her make-alike recipe (all below), can be found on pages 12-13 of Mom’s last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)], asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.
WHITE CASTLE – In 1916, Walter Anderson started his career in the restaurant field by opening a rented, re-modeled streetcar and giving the food industry its very first “fast food” place. In 1921, he ran into some difficulties when he tried to lease another place to expand his operation. So, he turned to a Realtor by the name of Billy Ingram, who secured the needed lease for Anderson, and soon became partners with him in the hamburger restaurant. Eventually, the operation became entirely Billy Ingram’s, and today White Castle is a respected name that represents “quality” in the food industry.
Originating in Wichita, Kansas during “The Depression”, Ingram so-named his operation “White Castle” because it stood for purity, cleanliness, strength and dignity. He was a business man with high ethics. He was responsible for many changes in the business that initiated health inspections, to ensure that all restaurants complied with what Ingram personally felt was a responsibility to the customer. He invented utensils never used, such as the spatula and the grills that are still considered the most practical equipment.
White Castle has no special, secret recipe – but, the technique used to prepare their small hamburger is unique and unequaled by competitors. You must like onions toappreciate White Castle patties. The quality of the beef they specifically use that we couldn’t possibly equal it with what we buy in the supermarkets; so, I set to work to try to enhance the ordinary “ground chuck” available to us with a few ingredients that create a recipe reminiscent of Ingram’s “White Castles.”
A letter of appreciation from Gail Turley, Director of Advertising and Public Relations with White Castle Systems in their Columbus, Ohio headquarters reflected the feelings not often expressed by the major food companies, whose products I attempt to imitate with “make at home” recipes. “On behalf of White Castle System,” the letter said, “We are honored that you deemed the White Castle Hamburger worthy of an attempt at replication of the early days of White Castle and Billy Ingram…” And she enclosed a check to cover the cost of purchasing 15 copies of my first Secret Recipes Book to distribute to their Regional Managers. A far cry from the reaction I received from Orange Julius and Stouffer’s, who threatened legal action against me.
WHITE TASSLE BURGERS
Supposedly, the original beef mixture used in the famous White Castle patties during the early 30’s was of such high quality that there was no way to equal it [50 years later.] Today we send beef to the market much younger, before it has aged. Young beef has less fat, which Americans want. The marbleizing fat in older beef is what gives it flavor. To compensate for this, it seemed to me, ground beef’s flavor could be enhanced by adding another pure beef product – strained baby food. It worked!
3-ounce jar baby food, strained veal
1 ½ pounds ground round steak
1 tablespoon onion powder
½ teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into 12 rectangular, thin patties. Fry briskly on a hot, lightly oiled flat grill, making 5-6 small holes in each patty with the end of a spatula handle. After turning patties once, place bottom half of bun over cooked side of patty and place the top half of the bun over the bottom half. Fry quickly to desired “done-ness” and remove. Add pickle slices and a few tablespoons of chopped, grilled onions to each serving. Makes 1 dozen burgers.