By Mike Royko [Detroit Free Press, The Feature Page; MONDAY, DEC. 10, 1973]
IF YOU spend any time in this corner, you have noticed lately that I have been writing a lot about food, restaurants and eating. It always happens when I go on a strict diet. I satisfy my hungers by writing about food. A shrink could have a field day in my fat-choked noggin about this, and other things, no doubt, but who really cares, right? If it works, then I say write on, baby! The diet is working. I started at 245 a week ago this past Thursday and am right at 230 after a weekend of 1,200-calorie days. But to keep the ol’ write-and-lose therapy going, let me pass on some info about two rather novel cookbooks that have come to my attention.
First, there’s Gloria Pitzer’s handmade (her five kids in Algonac even helped hand-color the cover) delight called, “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook.” Gloria is a delightful newspaper columnist and she notes in the front of her book: “If the Good Lord had intended for me to cook, why wasn’t I born with aluminum hands?”
Another sparkling observation: “Cookbooks do not tell you, for instance, such vital items as the Impossibility of Using Up Easter Eggs!” I really groove on the little asides she tucks between the over 200 sensible recipes. Like this one: “Frankly, I never met a melon squeezer I really liked. They always make me feel so insecure, the way they hold the melon to their eye and thump it like they are expecting a heartbeat.” …It’s a buck and a half and a belly-laugh a page…
Radio was a solid cornerstone in the building of the success of Mom’s Secret RecipesTM business. Many of the people Mom worked with in that industry said she had a great “radio voice”. While, Mom had appeared on some pretty famous television talk shows, over the years, to discuss and demonstrate her fantastic make-alike recipes for fast food, junk food, fine-dining dishes and grocery products – shows such as PM Magazine, The Phil Donahue Show (twice) and The Home Show; plus, some local (Detroit) talk shows – she really felt more “at home” when she was being interviewed on radio talk shows across the country and internationally. Mom found the audiences of the radio talk shows that she was on to be the most receptive audiences.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES: …Recipe DetectiveTM is the name that was given to me by my radio friends, years ago, because I was able to investigate the secrets of the food industry and come up with workable recipes for imitating their special dishes and grocery products. For nearly 20 years [at that time, 1970-1989], I’ve been writing about these recipe secrets and sharing them with the readers of our cookbooks and newsletter and thousands of radio listeners, across the country; sometimes… the world! – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 23)]
RADIO has become one of the biggest blessings in our work – and my ‘recipe visits’ came about as a result of my initial work with Bob Allison and his ‘Ask Your Neighbor’ show…
I found [radio’s] family of listeners [to be] just like neighbors on our street, friendly and receptive! – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 58 & 59)]
On one of the very first pages of Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018), which I helped her to rewrite for the new digital generation from her favorite, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983), is a “thank you list”, dedicated to some of the stations, talk shows and their hosts, spanning across the country from sea to shining sea; as they had, probably, contributed the most positive ripples to the growing success of Mom’s Secret RecipesTM, up to that time (1972-1982).
However, Mom’s relationships with radio talk shows and their hosts went on for more than 32 additional years, when she was forced to give it up for health reasons. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to extend Mom’s “thank you” notes to include some other radio stations, talk shows and hosts with whom she came to know and be friends, following this first list (below); which was originally printed in 1982.
The experiences we have encountered in building this family enterprise of ours, this cottage industry…has occurred while distributing recipe secrets through radio [and television] broadcasting and newspaper exposure…
I have met some of the nicest people in the world, some of the most generous people who want to share their good ideas with me as much as I want to share mine with them. Of these good people, I will speak often and lovingly. – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 2)]
Mom always wrote about her radio visits in all of her publishings – even including her up-coming radio schedules in her newsletter issues, so that her readers in those areas could tune in. Nowadays, you can “tune in” to just about any show, from anywhere, via the internet! Thus, wherever possible, I am including links to the stations and/or hosts, if I can find them. Sad to say, like Mom, many of the hosts, for whom I’ve searched, are no longer with us.
Since I began these blogs to honor Mom’s legacy, I’ve been hearing more and more from people, through social media and emails, who remember her – expressing their own fond memories of Mom. That, in itself, makes what I’m doing with my blogs all worthwhile!I’d like to personally thank everyone (as well as on behalf of Mom), for being such great friends, fans and supporters!
The following “thank you” notes are from page 4 of Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018), with additional excerpts found, mostly, in My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989); as well as some other publishings, where Mom has mentioned these stations, shows and hosts as well.
Sad to say, as I searched for links to some of the names below, I found that many of them, like Mom, have passed on as well. Our condolences go out to all their surviving friends and families – and may they all be resting in peace.
It is as much a thrill for me, today, to hear somebody… request that ‘Gloria, The Secret Recipe Detective’ try to duplicate a recipe, as it was for me a decade ago when it all began. – Gloria Pitzer (May 1982) [*NOTE: That thrill continued to remain with Mom, for many more decades, until she passed away in January 2018.]
THANK YOU, AGAIN, TO…
…Bob Allison & his “Ask Your Neighbor” radio program, formerly on WWJ-Radio (Detroit, MI) and WEXL-Radio (Royal Oak, MI; 1340 AM). Now, you’ll find Bob on WNZK-Radio (960 AM; Detroit, MI) with his son, Rob Allison. The “Ask Your Neighbor” show has been broadcasting since 1962!
[Thank you] for your moral support and interest in my research and development of recipes that imitate restaurant and commercial food products. You’ve been a great friend over the years! – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
“ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR!” – I called [Bob] frequently with answers to his other listeners’ recipe questions, until I became ‘a regular’ on the show. With Bob’s generous help in mentioning my monthly newsletter, my subscriptions began to climb… I was finally showing a profit! That gave my husband, Paul, some relief from his skepticism that I would eventually outgrow my obsession with writing… From Bob Allison’s listeners alone, Paul and I had received over 1,000 letters in one day! [Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 9)]
…Art Lewis and his “Listen to the Mrs.” program [and cohost, Sue Smith,] on WSGW-Radio in Saginaw, MI – which has been on the air since 1952…; and also to Fred Krell [RIP], program director at WSGW-Radio, who had originated the early “call-in” talk shows, “Listen to the Mrs.” and “What’s Your Opinion?”
[Thank you, all, for being great friends over the years! – Gloria Pitzer]
Warren Pierce…was one of my first radio friends with whom I would visit on the air regularly, giving out recipe secrets from the food industry…we found that the listeners’ responses to the famous “make-at-home” recipes prompted some very interesting challenges…my visits, on the radio, with Warren Pierce are still among my favorite experiences in my recipe investigations. I would rather do a radio show with Warren, in fact, than television with anyone else. [Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 254)]
[Thank you] for putting me in touch with some of the most responsive and enthusiastic listening audiences. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
…Jim White [RIP], Ann Keefe [RIP] & Art Fleming [RIP] of KMOX-Radio, St. Louis, MO –
[Thank you] for all the great years we visited on the air, sharing secrets of some giants in the food industry with your nationwide audience. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
…Some of the radio shows that I took part in were on-the-air at midnight, especially my favorite visits with KMOX in St. Louis and WGY in Schenectady. [Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 54)]
…Bob Cudmore of WGY-Radio, Schenectady, NY [1980 to 1993 night time talk show host for “Contact”… and to his predecessor Bill Miller!]
…for whose listeners have become good friends over the many years of our radio visits with your wonderful audience…[Thank you!] – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
ONE OF MY FAVORITEradio visits, on a monthly basis (and sometimes more often than that) was with a Schenectady station [WGY]. Originally, I worked with Bill Miller, whose…show [called ‘Contact’] drew a good following. It was because of Bill’s interest in the nuns of St. Claire, an order in New York state, who baked a delicious cheesecake and sold it to raise money for the poor, that I was first asked to duplicate the recipe…It was a real challenge. Eventually, however, we did come up with our own version and it was a divine experience, which I called ‘Blessed Cheesecake’.
Bill Miller left WGY and was soon replaced by Bob Cudmore, who had [previously] worked with me… at a Pittsfield, MA station. I continued on with ‘Contact’ for a long while, until…around Christmas of 1988. [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 60)]
…Ralph Story [RIP fellow Michigander] of KNX-Radio (1070 AM), Los Angeles, CA. Also…Jackie Olden, Mel Baldwin and Melinda Leeon KNX’s “Food News Hour” [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 58)]
[Thank you] for introducing me to your west coast audience, which offered me many new restaurants to investigate. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
…Bob Barry of WEMP-Radio, Milwaukee, WI (1976-1979) –
…whose newsletter to…radio personalities included notes of my progress and opened many doors for me…[Thank you!] – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
[Thank you] for your encouragement and enthusiastic endorsement as Food Editor of ‘The Washington Post’, making my research of the food industry’s secrets an exciting and interesting labor of love. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
…Ed (& Sydney) Busch of WFAA-Radio, Dallas, TX (1976-1982, hosts of “America Over the Weekend”) –
[Thank you for your priceless contacts and wonderful audience! – Gloria Pitzer]
…Carol Haddix (Food Writer at the Detroit Free Press, 1971-1977 & Food Editor at the Chicago Tribune, 1977-2011)
[Thank you] for an over-whelming response to my ‘Eating Out at Home’ ideas. – Gloria Pitzer (1982)
There are still more thanks to be made, however, they’ll have to wait for my next blog. But, before I go, I want to thank Rosanne Robinson, who found my tribute page for Mom (@TheRecipeDetective) and recently began contacting me through Facebook. She said, in part, that Mom was a regular guest on her radio show at WMB-Radio, adding, “she was my favorite guest and a guarantee my mom would listen too!”
Thank you, Rosanne, for your messages and memories of my mom! Keep in touch! And, to anyone else reading this, please contact me at [email protected] or on Facebook (@TheRecipeDetective) with your memories of my mom! I’d love to hear from you as well!
Greetings! Welcome to my blog home, Mondays & Memories of My Mom! My name is Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to the memory of my mom, Gloria Pitzer, because she left behind such an incredible legacy when she went to be an angel last year.
Most knew her as the ORIGINAL Recipe DetectiveTM, investigator AND imitator of the food industry’s “secrets” behind the well-known products and dishes from famous companies and franchise chains like Olive Garden, Olga’s, Applebee’s, TGIF, Ruby Tuesday, Bob Evans, Big Boy Restaurants, Chi-Chi’s, Cracker Barrel, KFC, Wendy’s, White Castle, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Sanders, Famous Amos, Mrs. Field’s, Kraft, Heinz, Nabisco, Keebler, Sara Lee… and the list goes on!
I’ve been writing these blogs on a weekly basis since last September, to channel the many wonderful memories I have of my mom and, also, to share her astonishing legacy – her special story – with a new, digital generation. Like Mom, I’ve always loved to write. One of my youngest memories are of Mom & I, when she was first teaching me how to write my name. I was going on 4 years old and about to start Kindergarten that fall. Mom sparked my love for writing, which she stoked in me throughout my life.
Mom left her mark on many from her over 60-year writing career, to her famous Secret RecipesTM profession to her personal loves of faith, family and life; all of which she always found a way to intermix in her creations, like the ingredients of a great recipe.
My mom’s first and last love (besides my dad) was with writing. She had always loved to write short stories and poetry since she was a young girl, as did I. She told me many stories of how she dreamed of writing “the great American novel” when she was a teenager. But, Mom’s childhood dream never came to fruition, as events in life took her in a slightly different direction with writing.
As a teenager and young adult in the 1950s and 1960s, she entered and won multiple contests, on radio shows and in magazines, usually winning cash or some sort of prize for her essays. However, every winning achievement that Mom had in authoring, usually included food in some manner.
Mom was creatively gifted, not just as a writer, but also as a publisher, advertiser/marketer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook… and the list just goes on. Combined with a clever and satirical wit, all these ingredients uniquely formed Mom’s own special recipe for success – like a “super-power”! (FYI – yesterday was National Super Hero Day!)
Similar to stand-up comedians, Mom found her ‘family life’ to be the best source on which to base her cleverly witted cartoon panels and stories. In the course of her syndicated writing of “food-for-thought-and-table” columns, Mom found a unique niche that her readers wanted – even if the newspapers’ editors and their food industry advertisers didn’t.
Mom called it “eating out at home”! She set out to discover how to imitate the popular fast food & fine dining dishes in her own kitchen; as well as, some shelf-stable grocery items too. If it saved her household money, my mom wanted to share it with the world to help others save money also. Mom was a trail-blazer and pioneer for copycat cuisine, as no one else was doing this – imitating the fast food and junk food dishes/products that people craved, but critics constantly warned us were unhealthy!
From 1973 through 2004, Mom wrote and self-published hundreds of newsletters and at least 40 books filled with not only thousands of these “secret” recipe imitations that she personally developed and tested, but also with her humorous stories and anecdotes, helpful kitchen and household tips, as well as some background or history about many of the companies and products being imitated.
Mom put so much love and passion into the recipes she developed and wrote, testing them over and over again (which was a labor of love all its own) until she felt they were good enough to share. In addition, Mom found that by promoting the making of these “taboo” foods at home, it gave the cook control over the ingredients that went into the recipes; thereby, debunking the “junk” to which the critics referred!
Her food-for-thought editorials were always written from her heart, with a devotion and hunger for helping and informing her readers, as well as entertaining them. Mom designed each of her books and newsletters, to be as much a coffee-table or bedside-table read as it was a recipe collection for the kitchen. No other such products on the market, at that time, could do that and Mom’s compositions took the monotony out of meal time!
Additionally, more of Mom’s memories about writing are in the following excerpts from of her own story, as seen in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, (Balboa Press; January 2018, pp. 292-297). This book was actually a re-write by me of Mom’s favorite and most famous, self-published cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Printing):
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!
… I met my husband, Paul… 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.
That reminds me of one summer in my teen years, as our family was traveling on vacation to Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH – during the long, 3-hour drive, Mom sat in the back of the van with me and helped me work on a poem that I was inspired to write about her and our family. Another cherished memory! I’ll include the poem at the end of this blog. But, for now, here is the continuation of Mom’s memories about writing…
During those years…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 Columbia Features and I parted company…within 6 months I had regained all my original papers and was syndicating the column from our dining room table…I rode a bike to and from the Pearl Beach post office every day, where I mailed out my columns and looked for responses to ads I had placed… for [my] recipes on 4×6” cards that enabled you to imitate famous dishes at home.
At the suggestion… that I should put all my column’s 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… brought me in contact with the many so-called secrets of the commercial food and restaurant industry.
It was a perfect storm – from the unique subject matter of her books and newsletters to the media exposure of them through radio, newspapers, magazines and TV – which, all together, brought about Mom’s fame as the Recipe DetectiveTM.
I’m currently working on a time line of her appearances and interviews to add to this website’s tabs, gathering most of the information through her books, newsletters and other works as best as I can. However, I haven’t decided on a title for the new tab yet. I’m also still working on updating the “Recipes” tab with more of Mom’s creations. Before closing, here is the poem I mentioned above:
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 available (at that time) self-published cookbooks; as well as how to subscribe to her newsletter.
I’ve recently exhausted all the recipes from the information sheets of which I have copies. However, this website, originally developed by my brother, Michael Pitzer (for internet exposure to our parents and their Secret RecipesTM business), used to offer other “free” recipes that Mom authorized; some of which weren’t on those information sheets.
Since my brother transferred the website to me, with which to carry on Mom’s legacy through these blogs, I’ve been working on updating the “Recipes” tab to include all the free recipes that were on the site to begin with (as they didn’t transfer to the new host), as well as the ones on Mom’s information sheets. It’s taking some time because I only have a printed list of the original 34 recipe titles that were offered on the website. As times change, so do some companies’ recipes; thus, Mom has had a few different versions of some of her recipes. I’ve found almost half of the original list so far. Stay tuned for more updates!
The following recipe may not be the same one that used to show for free on this website before last September, but this is the recipe I found for the same or similar title – as always, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:
Olive Garden-Style Alfredo Fettucine
By Gloria Pitzer, from My Personal Favorites (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 19)
8-oz cream cheese, in bits
¾ c grated Parmesan
8 TB butter
½ c milk
1-lb box fettucine, prepared as box instructs
Put first 4 ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring until smooth and piping hot – but, don’t let it boil or it might scorch! Spoon sauce mixture over 4 portions of prepared fettucine. Serves 4 sensibly or 2 foolishly!
For all of you shrimp-loving foodies out there, this happens to be National Shrimp Scampi Day! Shrimp Scampi was one of Mom’s many favorite dishes at Olive Garden. It goes awesome with her imitation of their Alfredo Fettucine, as given above! The National Day Calendar website has a link to a great shrimp scampi recipe by Elise Bauer on “Simply Recipes”. Enjoy making this wonderful dish, along with the pasta, for dinner to celebrate the day and use #NationalShrimpScampiDay to post about it on social media.
This week also brings an end to National Gardening Month. So, as we come from celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day last week, now it’s Stewardship Week – one of the world’s largest conservation-related observances… this year’s theme is “Life In the Soil: Dig Deeper.” Since conservation is the preservation of resources, it sounds like a great segue from April into May! So is this old proverb…“April showers bring May flowers” – people have quoted this for centuries; but, as we approach May, I find it ironic that the first week is also National Wildflower Week! Additionally, Wednesday, the 1st, is “May Day”, as well as “Bird Day”!