Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Flavors Of Michigan

It’s another spectacular Monday! Happy Monday and happy Labor Day to one and all! I always look forward to each and every Monday, as they are my 52 Chances per year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with all of you!



127 years ago (in June 1894), Labor Day officially became a federal holiday. It’s celebrated annually, on the first Monday in September. Just as Memorial Day marks the “unofficial” start of summer, Labor Day is considered the “unofficial” end of summer! However, technically, there’s over two weeks until fall begins.

There aren’t any specific traditions for rejoicing in Labor Day. Some end-of-summer celebrations include events like picnics, outdoor concerts, festivals, fireworks and even shopping; as retailers offer huge Labor Day weekend deals and discounts to move the rest of their summer stock.

I think the real reason that Mom loved to celebrate Labor Day, many decades ago, when my siblings and I were all kids, was because it meant that we were going back to school the next day and she could start her vacation!


Many Michiganders take advantage of this long, holiday weekend to go “up north” for one, last, summer retreat. Today is also the annual Labor Day Walk across the five-mile-long “Mighty Mac”, which has bridged the Straits of Mackinac since 1957. At 26,372 feet, it’s the third longest suspension bridge in North America.

According to the Mackinac Bridge Authority, “The bridge walk has been an annual event since 1958, with the exception of 2020. The 2021 walk will be the 63rd event. Between 25,000 and 30,000 people have participated in recent years.” The bridge is usually shut down to motor traffic for a half-day, for the safety of the Labor Day walkers.


My husband and I have been wanting to explore more of the Americana oddities, natural beauty, and history of Pure Michigan‘s “Tip-of-the-Mitt”; as well as the eastern half of the U.P. We have a bucket list that includes some of Mom and Dad’s favorite places to visit, like Traverse City, Cheboygan, Petosky, Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, St. Ignace, Sault Ste. Marie, Brimley, Tahquamenon Falls, Houghton, and Newberry.

Our home state is so rich in small-town, Norman Rockwell, Americana beauty, history, AND FLAVOR! It’s no wonder Mom loved reviewing different restaurants, locally and state-wide, throughout the decades, as the Secret RecipesTM Detective; figuring out how to duplicate their famous dishes at home, while simultaneously re-discovering her home state of Michigan!

The northern 45th parallel is the circle of latitude that lays halfway between the equator and the north pole. Here, in Michigan, this unique oddity crosses through the “Tip-of-the-Mitt”, from Leland, on the west side, to Alpena, on the east side.

There aren’t any big, roadside attractions for this Americana-style novelty. However, many of the towns along the parallel make the most of their unique locations; offering the oddity-seeking tourists fudge, food, and fermented fruit (aka: wine) – as well as little trinkets, t-shirts, and other commemorative souvenirs. There are about eight different, “45th Parallel” signs across Michigan, which make great photo op’s.

I agree with L.V. Anderson’s research, as seen in her article, The United Sweets of America (Aug. 24, 2014), which claims that Michigan’s unofficial “state dessert” is FUDGE! Likewise, Top 13 Best Foods Which Made Michigan Famous, by the Thumbwind staff at (Sep. 25, 2020), also claims that Mackinac Island Fudge is the #1 favorite! See my re-share of Mom’s imitation for Mackinac Island Dark Fudge below.

Moreover, according to an article at, called The Snack Food That Defines Every State, by Carolyn Menyes (Feb. 26, 2020), fudge was also chosen as the favorite snack food in Michigan! I know fudge seems to be the star in every Michigan “tourist town”, in which I’ve ever been.

Like other tourists, I love to stop and see a fudge-making performance, as well as buy some of their tasty treats. An interesting story on the history of fudge and how it came to be a tourism staple, in the first place, can be found at Another great fudge article to check out is called Why Does Every Tourist Attraction Sell Fudge?, by Kat Eschner (May 12, 2017) at

Additionally, on Thumbwind’s list of famous Michigan-made foods, Detroit’s Coney Island Hot Dog, is #2 (even though the original Coney Island restaurant is on the Atlantic coastline); and Buddy’s Detroit-Style pizza is #3. Those are followed by Traverse City’s tart cherries, the U.P.’s pasties, and Frankenmuth’s home-style chicken to round out its top six choices.

Those choices are also supported by Samantha Lande’s photo collection/article in Great Lakes & Better Food: The Best Things To Eat In Michigan, which includes other iconic favorites like Sanders Hot Fudge Cream Puff, Franklin Cider Mill’s apple cider and donuts, Hamtramck’s paczki (pronounced “poonch-key”), Vernor’s Boston Cooler, and Tom’s Mom’s Cookies.

In an article, These Are Michigan’s 12 Most Iconic Restaurants, by Amy Sherman (published: May 24, 2019; updated: July 9, 2020), the top four [(of 12) restaurants, most of which Mom had visited] are:

      1. Hack-Ma-Tack Inn (Cheboygan) – famous for their whitefish dip and prime rib dinners.
      2. Legs Inn (Cross Village) – famous for their authentic Polish cuisine.
      3. The Whitney (Detroit) – famous for its old world charm and dishes like Beef Wellington.
      4. [Win] Schuler’s (Marshall) – famous for their spicy cheese spread and barbequed meatballs (both of which were among Mom’s “Original 200” recipe collection.) Below is a re-share of her imitation of their famous bar cheese!

Michigan doesn’t really have any official “State Foods” but according to an article at, The Official Food Of Every State, by Grace Mannon (Updated: July 24, 2019), a popular suggestion for Michigan was the Coney dog that came in at #2 on Thumbwind’s list (above).

I guess it depends on where you poll, because that may be so in southeastern Michigan; but, in mid-Michigan, chicken dinners are the favorite offerings! Iva’s (Standish, MI), Zender’s and the Bavarian Inn (both, in Frankenmuth, MI) are a few five-star-favorite, iconic spots where Mom and Dad loved to eat when travelling, as well as THOUSANDS of other people! They each serve authentic, Americana-style, chicken dinners, as well as many other fabulous menu choices.

In the “Tip-Of-The-Mitt” and throughout the U.P., the pasty (pronounced: “pass-tea”), a Cornish-style meat pie, is considered the area’s specialty! Below are two of Mom’s pasty imitations that I shared last year with Kathy Keene’s Good Neighbor” audience, on WHBY.

Michigan’s unofficial “State Dessert Pie” choice is a toss-up between apple and cherry – again, depending on where you poll. The Traverse City area (and the northern Michigan region) is famous for its cherry crops (and wine)! However, apples are the more abundant crop throughout the state, over all.


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 8)

[A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]


ALTHOUGH I’VE BEEN WRITING longer than I’ve been cooking, the notion to investigate the secrets of the food industry didn’t become a full-time labor-of-love until I was working for a small-town newspaper [about 1971.] As the only ‘married lady’ on the staff, I was always assigned the food page and recipe column, and I was willing to try the dishes at home and present a column or article about their results to the paper.

When you work for a small-town paper, you wear many hats. You set type, sell advertising, proof read, design headlines, create art work, campaign for subscribers; and, before you know it, you acquire skills you didn’t even know you possessed. The food department became such a welcomed relief from the local politics that I poured my heart and soul into it, learning some of the essentials of good cooking purely by default!

Everything went well until I initiated an idea to create advertising interest among local restaurants. It started when I answered a reader’s request in my column for a recipe like McDonald’s ‘Special Sauce’. I knew it was a kissin’ cousin of a good Thousand Island dressing, so the development of the recipe wasn’t difficult.

The response from our readers was so appreciative that I contacted local restaurants for their advertising in exchange for my printing one of their recipes and menu in my column and a complimentary review of their place. No one was willing to part with any of their ‘secrets’! So, I decide to see if I could ‘guess’ how they prepared their specialties of the house.

I came across a hotel in town that advertised ‘home-baked’ cheesecake, and I felt they should be telling their customers ‘homemade’. The difference to the public is very slight, but they wanted the public to ‘think’ it was homemade, from scratch, when it was, in fact, simply taken from a carton and popped into the oven like brown-and-serve rolls.

That was before our ‘truth in menu’ laws, but no one at the paper wanted to make an issue out of it. The restaurant insisted it was an old family recipe. I said the cheesecake smacked of commercial automation, stainless steel computerized kitchens and the family they referred to was probably that of Sara Lee! At any rate, that was when I parted company with the paper and set out on my own to create the ‘Secret Recipe Report’, which I dearly miss now.

Mom self-published her ‘Secret Recipe Report’ ideas under a few different titles, as the newsletter evolved over the years. However, she always included, among other things, her own personal reviews and imitations of her favorite dishes at those restaurants, which she patroned.


Since this is Better Breakfast Month and, as the first FULL week in September (the 5th-11th, this year), it’s also… National Waffle Week, here is Mom’s imitation for Biscuit Mix Like Bisquick from her Original 200 recipes and how to make waffles from it; as seen in her last book… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 173). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]

To top it off, literally, there’s also a copy of Mom’s secret recipe for Belgian Waffle Sauce, as seen in her self-published cookbook… Top Secret Recipes Al’a Carte (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sept. 1979, p. 6)!



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


The month of September observes, among other things: Fall Hat Month, International Update Your Resume Month, Little League Month, National Blueberry Popsicle Month, National Chicken Month, National Courtesy MonthNational Honey Month, National Italian Cheese Month, National Library Card Sign Up Month, National Mushroom Month, National Potato Month, National Preparedness Month, National Rice Month, National Self-Care Awareness Month, National Sewing Month, Self-Improvement Month, and Whole Grains Month!

Other celebrations happening this week include:

Today is also… National Coffee Ice Cream Day!

Tomorrow, September 7th is… National Beer Lover’s Day, National Neither Snow Nor Rain Day, National Grandma Moses Day, National Acorn Squash Day, National Salami Day, and National New Hampshire Day!

Wednesday, September 8th is… National Ampersand Day!

September 9th is… National Wiener Schnitzel Day! Plus, the second Thursday in September is also… National School Picture Day!

Friday, September 10th is… National Swap Ideas Day and National TV Dinner Day!

Saturday, September 11th is… National Make Your Bed Day, National Hot Cross Bun Day, and, of course, National Patriot Day!

September 12th is… National Chocolate Milkshake Day and National Day of Encouragement! As the Sunday after Labor Day it’s also… National Grandparent’s Day! Moreover, it’s the start of the second FULL week in September, so it’s also… National Arts In Education Week! Plus, the second week of September is also… National Biscuit and Gravy Week!


…36 down and 16 to go!

Mackinac Island Dark Fudge

Mackinac Island Dark Fudge

By Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 31).

In a heavy saucepan, combine (1 cup each): butter, milk, packed brown sugar, and granulated sugar; also adding a dash of salt and 8 TB Hershey’s baking cocoa. [1 cup chopped nuts can also be added, at this point, if you wish.] Stir and cook until it comes to a boil. Then simmer gently, while stirring for 8 minutes.

Turn off heat and add at once 1-lb powdered sugar and beat with mixer on med-high speed, until thick and smooth (8-10 minutes, at least). Spread out in an 8-inch, buttered, square pan. Put in freezer for about an hour or chill in fridge until firm enough to cut into 1-inch squares. Makes 36 pieces.

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Que Sera, Sera!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Que Sera, Sera!

TGIM! Thank God, it’s Monday, again! Happy Monday to everyone!

I mentioned last week that I plan to make every Monday of this year a memorable beginning to my week – and, hopefully, to yours as well! This week, my focus is on my New Year’s plan, which I mentioned at the end of my blog last week, in the “P.S.” section. For 2020, I want to start a mini e-newsletter, including more of Mom’s “Food-for-Thought”, food-for-the-soul and food for the table inspirations; as well as some of my own too.

I don’t have a “launch” date set for the e-newsletter, yet; as I am still in the process of learning how to create an email list, first. The whole digital process is in no way the same as or even similar to what Mom did by hand for 27 years; the last time being more than 20 years ago. The layouts Mom created and published, herself, were all of her own design. The family helped to label all of the thousands of newsletter issues by hand, then Mom and Dad took them all to the local Post Office and mailed them out to their subscribers by what is now referred to as “snail mail”. That was January 1974 through December 2000!

If you’re not already – you can follow me on Facebook @TheRecipeDetective, on Twitter @recipedetective, on Instagram @recipedetective and on Pinterest @therecipedetective – for that’s where I will be announcing all of my future updates and posts to website, as well as when I’ll be launching my new email sign-up list and the e-newsletter!

When the time came to retire Mom’s Secret Recipes© NewsletterTM, Dad was ready to fully retire, himself, from all of his work in Secret RecipesTM; of course, he was 70 by then and beginning to struggle with his own physical limitations. Mom, being a bit younger, though, never really wanted to “fully retire” from the recipe business, herself. She was a writer – and, as she would often say, “writers never die, they just run out of words.” Well, even Dad would’ve attested that Mom NEVER ran out of words! However, after she had her stroke in 2015, which resulted in her having dementia, Mom struggled with words and writing for a while.

Nevertheless, both, writing and faith were in her blood. Mom had journaled every day, since she was about 10 years old. Her deep-seeded love for writing helped her immensely in the therapy for her dementia, following the stroke, as she couldn’t remember recent events very well. But, by re-reading her journal entries from previous days, it helped her to, somewhat, deal with the forgetfulness.

However, she could never understand why she could remember her youth like it was yesterday but couldn’t remember yesterday; and why she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror or in recent pictures.

As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 6 & 7)


Writer, David Mazel, in a Boston newspaper, talked about looking at old photographs, as if gazing into a lost world, and I know exactly how he feels. I was shuffling through a shoebox full of photos from years ago, feeling it was some other world entirely than the one in which we now lived… where warm memories could stir and awaken me to consider just how well we did with so little, as Paul and I and our five (now, adult) children developed our family enterprise.

Over the years, some images, of how [our] recipe business began, have remained indelible. Others, however, have changed; like the shifting patterns in a rotating kaleidoscope… From that very first article that I wrote for the Royal Oak Tribune [in 1950], when I was 14 years old, to the [last] issue of our Secret RecipesTM Newsletter©…the work has been, truly, a labor of love…

I must have spent hours studying the pieces I wrote in my early days – remembering where I was [and in] what I believed and expected from life when I wrote them. There was always a certainty in each article [and] every book begun but not always finished, then, that life was good and surely God was a loving presence. This always carried me through. It still does.

Just as history tends to repeat itself, once again, the fates had other plans for Mom than she had for herself…as she, instead, began writing just to help herself remember things later. Unfortunately, Mom’s plan to continue writing and advising as the Recipe DetectiveTM had to come to an end…or maybe not – as I became her surrogate writer.

Mom loved Doris Day’s song from the Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956): Que sera, sera! Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera! What will be, will be!’ Mom called those certain, unexpected events in our lives “meant-to-be” moments or happenings – “what will be, will be!” She had complete faith that it was all part of the Lord’s plan (not hers, nor anyone else’s) – and, as she would quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson, ours is not to reason why…

During the last few years of Mom’s life, after her stroke, I got to know her in a whole new way – one that I missed out on during my self-centered teen years in the early-1980s. It was late-2015, when I started the 2-year long process of helping Mom to rewrite her favorite cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition). First, it all had to be edited and re-typed into Microsoft Word in order to be re-published for a whole new digital age of people.

For decades, Mom never wanted to let any of her books be published by a company that wanted to alter her creations. But times changed, as did situations and attitudes. This time, Mom was willing to let someone else do the rewrites and someone else be the publisher.

1974, Gloria Pitzer mimeographing her newsletter and recipe cards.

As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 16)

[A REAL PUBLISHER,] of course, one would surmise…is one who can put your book into print and get it sold for you. Having no actual count of the number of copies we’ve printed and sold, over the years, right at my fingertips; I can only say that we probably give away a good number of what we print [too].

I’ve thought all along that if I could possibly find another way by which to earn the money to pay our bills, I would gladly give my work away free, just for the joy of doing what we do! I have no intentions of ‘retiring’ from this endeavor and my husband, Paul, is slowly accepting this as something that, while it may make us a worthwhile living, also makes that living worthwhile!

WHEN THE MIMEOGRAPH was turning out the pages of my books… I did not look too far ahead to a more sophisticated technique. I took each day as it came and each idea for a cookbook as they also came (and a few of them were NOT cookbooks), trying to present the books with honesty and sincerity and a special enthusiasm that nobody else could give it for us.

My cup had been filling up and running over for a long, long time and I hadn’t even realized it. And that kind of abundance had nothing whatsoever to do with money or fame, but with a sense of direction and yielding – all the rugged way!

Mom and me at her 80th Birthday Party – Photo by Paul Jaekel, Jan. 2016

After researching quite a few publishers, we chose Balboa Press; who, actually, did not want to change much of anything except the title (because it too closely resembled the title of The Betty Crocker Cookbook – as it was intended to, in the first place) and a few illustrations (because they had the “likeness” of “The Colonel” on them.) Additionally, I had to change the layout slightly but not because of the publisher, it was simply because of the digital revolution and the printed format we chose for the final product.

Together, Mom and I chose some parts of the original book to be totally omitted from the new re-write due to their lack of current information, relatability or something else similar. Re-reading Mom’s creative “Food for Thought” articles throughout the book and discussing them with her, brought us closer in a whole new way, with our shared love for writing. Mom loved to mentor those who shared her same love for writing!

As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 75)

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 [when] 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…

Of course, I can only hope that I’ve made Mom proud of what I’m doing with her legacy of love – her family treasure of Secret RecipesTM and all it entails. While Dad was happy to retire the business, Mom never did want to stop what she was doing. However, at some point in time, our bodies and brains reach a moment when they just can’t do what they used to do. Now, even after the finish of her book, I still continue to write for Mom. I am honored to carry her torch in her memory and continue to inspire people in the kitchen, in the home, in the family and throughout the world.

I want this blog, the website and Mom’s last cookbook to reach new pinnacles in the digital market – in her honor and memory, with all the love and passion that I inherited from her. I’ll be honest, though, it has been (and still is) a work in progress and, while I love to write, promoting and selling are not my forte; as, equally, are not my computer skills. I guess you could say that I am a work in progress also! Something else I inherited from Mom – I love to learn! Unfortunately, the older I get the longer it takes me to learn something new. But that doesn’t stop me! You can teach an old dog a new trick, it just takes a little longer!

Nowadays, knowledge is literally and instantaneously at our finger tips! There’s so much information out there from which to learn – it makes our old sets of encyclopedias look like microscopic drops of water in an ocean! You need to be self-motivated and self-inspired to grab the book or the computer and open the “pages”, reading and soaking it up like a sponge! Of course, you also have to be able to differentiate between what’s fact and what’s fiction because not everything on the web is factual but that’s something you learn with experience.


This year in honor of #52Chances and #MemorableBeginnings, I want to offer you a recipe each week from Mom’s “Original 200” Secret RecipesTM collection – as these are the memorable beginnings of the Recipe DetectiveTM. The following recipe is Mom’s imitation of dark fudge like Mackinac Island serves!

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

According to, today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day! To that, Mom would say, “don’t touch the mess on my desk or you’ll goof up my system!” I, on the other hand, love organization! It’s actually one of my OCD passions.

Excerpts from…
My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989)

WHILE SOME FOLKS claim to have been born under a sign related in some way to the stars and other heavenly bodies, I wish to establish, right here and now, the sign under which I must have been born. It reads: ‘DO NOT TOUCH THE MESS ON THIS DESK OR YOU’LL GOOF UP MY SYSTEM.’ From this, you can imagine how astonished I was when, one day, it occurred to me that Heaven had certainly poured me out a blessing and my cup was running over. But I couldn’t find my mop! That has more or less (actually MORE) been the story of my life…my cup runneth over and over and over. (pp. 14-15)

It is with appreciation that, in spite of my lack of organization, Mary Ellen Pinkham, the famous household hints author, took an interest in our recipes…I really should get together with Mary Ellen and learn exactly how to become better organized but, somehow, time keeps getting away from me. (p. 119)


To repeat last week… suggests that we… “Stop shaming Monday and look at what Monday has to offer… 52 CHANCES to see a beautiful sunrise… share your talents with the world… teach someone a new skill that will better their lives…” This year, for me, Mondays are 52 CHANCES to re-tell Mom’s story; hopefully, re-inspiring love in the kitchen, in the home, in the family, throughout the neighborhood and around the world. Two down, 50 to go! I hope you’ll share this with your family and friends and return next Monday for more!