Hi, again, to everyone!
If you’re new to here – I am Laura Emerich and Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, is my mom. I started this blog series to carry on her legacy, which is why I titled my first blog in this series “A Legacy of Love” (9/17/2018), as that is what “Secret Recipes” always was to her and what it became to me over the last few years of her life while I re-wrote her favorite cookbook for her; to be published, again, for a new generation! I ended that 1st blog with a promised continuation of the story of her experience with being on The Phil Donahue Show, and here it is!
“…it was her first appearance on ‘The Phil Donahue Show’ that created the most overwhelming response to her talents than she could have ever expected’ – from Mondays & Memories of My Mom Blog Post, 9/17/2018 (https://therecipedetective.com/category/blog/)
It was July 7, 1981 when Mom FIRST appeared on The Phil Donahue Show. She appeared, again, almost 12 years later, on April 16, 1993. The response to her 1st appearance was over-whelming, to say the least – not only to her, but to our whole family; and even to our local Post Office and the community! During her 2nd appearance, The Phil Donahue Show was not allowed to give out her contact information. The request for transcripts for that episode broke the show’s record! A rough recording of that episode can be found on YouTube, in 5 parts.
Here is Mom’s own account of her 1st experience, as it appears in her last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing, p. 298-299) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]:
It was 1977, and we were considering a move from Pearl Beach to St. Clair, since our 80-year old house was already packed, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, with recipe books and newsletter inventory. Just about the time we planned our move, the Phil Donahue show called and invited us to Dayton, Ohio to appear on their program there. I had to decline. We already had more work than we could handle, and I had found that television appearances were merely food demonstrations that I did not enjoy experiencing. I enjoyed my radio work more, and the number of stations on which I had become a regular participant had grown to include over 100 across the country and in Canada.
We were settling down in our new house in St. Clair, with our office in the basement. We outgrew that arrangement in a short time and rented a larger office uptown. But the books became more successful than we anticipated, and the newsletter circulation was growing to over 10,000. Soon, I found that we had to put the business back into our home. I couldn’t depend on being in a writing mood between our regular “office” business hours of 8 AM to 5 PM. 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. With my files and reference materials at the office and me, at home on the telephone with the radio shows, the arrangement was not satisfactory. So, Paul and our 2 sons remodeled our two-car garage, attached to the kitchen, and we moved the operation back there; where, for the next 4 years, the business ran quite smoothly.
We were receiving about 1,000 letters a day from the radio shows that I took part in and the newspaper stories that I was more-or-less an acting consultant on subjects related to “fast food”. In the spring of 1981, our old friend, Carol Haddix, ran a story about our new book of “Homemade Groceries” in the Chicago Tribune, where she had just been assigned the food department. The Donahue Show people called once more and requested our appearance. We had just done a PM Magazine show with Detroit and had declined an invitation to appear in New York on Good Morning America, as well as declining an opportunity to have People Magazine interview us – and I still wonder why in the world I said I would do the Donahue show! I think it was because I had just tangled with Grit, the weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania, over giving credit to the Food editor’s teenage daughter for having developed a fish batter like Arthur Treacher’s, using club soda and pancake mix – and received an apology on the back page of one of their issues, placing the item between an ad for corn and callous remover and waste cinchers. I was also tangling with Jove Publications, who were pressing hard to sell their “Junk Food Cookbook”, using my recipes, word-for-word, with credit going to somebody else. I wanted to establish the fact that I was very much in business and willing to protect my copyrighted property with the same enthusiasm and sincerity as the major food companies had exhibited in protecting theirs from my imitations. (And believe me, we’ve heard from all the big ones!)
So, on July 6, Paul and I flew to Chicago, staying at the Hyatt O’Hare, and did the Donahue show live – for an entire hour – on July 7, flying back that same afternoon. The next day, 15,000 letters waited for us at the St. Clair post office. And every day for 4 months, we picked up thousands of letters – having received by Christmas, well over 1 million letters, requesting information on how to acquire our books, which were still available only by mail from our address. We were bogged down with an unexpected response. It was an experience of mixed blessings!
If you’ve ever seen 1 million letters, you know how we felt when we tried to handle the overwhelming response! It was exhausting! Our home, which was both our office and our sanctuary, became like a factory, with people helping us to process the mail, eventually having to return thousands of the orders to the customers with our deepest regrets that we could not, in all fairness to them, delay their order. The onslaught of mail had forced us to do this. We were all working from 7 AM until 1 or 2 AM the next morning just to open and read the mail.
Our phone bill had been buried in some of that mail and in a month’s time, being something like 23 to 24 days behind in opening the mail, our phone was shut off for non-payment of our bill. As soon as we realized what the mail was doing to us, we tried to get Donahue’s people to stop the continued scheduled showings of our appearance. But that show remained on their repeat schedule for almost a year, playing in the Panama Canal zone, Greenland, Iceland, Australia and on hundreds of small town stations.
Most of the letters requested a sheet of ‘free’ recipes that were included with the order blank for a self-addressed stamped envelope to us. The offer would have been good for us, if it had only been shown that one time – the day on which we appeared on the show – but for nearly a year afterward, the requests still came, as did the complaints and the threats to report us to postal authorities for not having sent those ‘free’ recipes, tore us apart emotionally and physically! Some people did not include their self-addressed-stamped envelope. Some envelopes were addressed to themselves, such as Joe Smith, but in care of OUR address instead of THEIR address. It was a confusing mess! Some people wrote threatening letters that they hadn’t received their orders and were turning us over to the postmaster general as frauds! I laid my head on my desk many a time, in tears of anguish and fatigue. The family was falling apart. We couldn’t print our books fast enough, to fill all the orders! Then the post office, in delivering the thousands of books that we DID mail out, lost some, destroyed some, and delayed and even miss-directed other orders…
I remembered what Dick Syatt, one of our radio friends, had told me about finally getting everything you ever wanted, when he said, ‘Hell is God, giving you what you thought you wanted.’ Sometimes we need to have something, lose it and get it back again, before we can really appreciate what we have. I had that chance and I am so glad for it. It was a time to learn and to grow.
To Mom, the “Donahue Show” appearance always remained the single, most important part of her “Secret Recipes” growing experience. It opened many doors that would have otherwise been closed in her field, allowing her to let her light shine; and inspiring her light to keep shining. Here is Mom’s favorite recipe experience from that show, as it appears in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing, p. 89) – a re-write of her famous, self-published book, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]:
THIS RECIPE was created on-the-spot when I discovered that my usual ingredients and…most familiar utensils were not ready…to use on The Donahue Show (… July 7, 1981) …I had to adlib the experience, calling upon every possible thing I could remember about good cooking. It was luck! And luck – of course – is when preparation and experience meet opportunity!
There was a toaster oven on the table the staff had set up for me to use during the live–telecast of the show. At 8 o’clock in the morning, the producer of the show was driving around Chicago, trying to find a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that was open, so that the audience could later compare what I had prepared to what the restaurant prepared. So, I looked at the ingredients I had on hand and tried to improvise with what was there. The on-the-spot recipe was every bit as good as what Paul & I had been publishing and was so much easier, that again we could prove that there will always be more than one way to arrive at a given result!
OVEN-FRIED KENTUCKY-STYLE CHICKEN
In doubled plastic food bags, combine well: 3 cups self-rising flour, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 envelopes Lipton Tomato Cup-a-Soup powder (see Index for my “Cup-of-Thoup” recipe), 2 packages Good Seasons’ Italian dressing mix powder and 1 teaspoon season salt. Twist the end of the bags tightly, creating an inflated balloon affect. Then shake the mixture well to combine.
Spray a jellyroll pan (10 x 15 x 3/4-inch) with Pam or wipe it well with oil. Run a cut-up chicken fryer under cold water and let excess water drip off, putting all the pieces into a colander to drain a few minutes. Dredge pieces one at a time in the flour mixture, by placing each piece in the bag of seasoned flour and shaking to coat. Arrange the coated pieces, skin-side up on prepared pan. Melt ¼ pound margarine or butter and, using a 1-inch-wide, soft-bristled, pastry brush (or one from a paint store with soft hair bristles – NOT plastic bristles,) dab the melted butter or margarine over the floured surface (skin-side only) of each chicken piece. When all the melted butter or margarine has been divided between the pieces, bake it in a 350°F oven, uncovered, for 1 hour or until golden brown and tender.
FOR CRISPY COATING: After applying melted butter or margarine, dust pieces with a few additional tablespoons of seasoned flour and drizzle with more melted butter or margarine before baking. Serves 4 to 6.