When WJR Radio, Detroit, sent Warren Pierce to cover the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles, Warren saved a very special recipe for me. It was created by the chef of the country inn where Prince Charles and his royal party dined on the way to the theater.
His favorite dish there was an egg creation, quite like strata, but without the bread. When Warren returned from his assignment in Great Britain, he phoned me for a radio conversation with the chef from England. The chef was on one phone, I on the other and Warren bringing us together on the air for his afternoon program.
It was, indeed, an honor to talk with someone of his stature. The recipe he shared with us was not in exact measurements, but rather in technique – and it works beautifully… A true Royal dish!
2 eggs, separated
2 more whole eggs
¼ cup un-whipped whipping cream (heavy cream)
¼ pound butter
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup well-chopped boiled ham
¼ cup minced or finely diced green pepper
2 green onions (finally snipped with kitchen scissors, whites and the green stems)
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon season salt
Separate 2 eggs. Beat the whites until stiff, but not dry, and set aside. Beat the 2 yolks with the 2 whole eggs, using an electric mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until thick and lemon colored. Slowly beat in the un-whipped whipping cream (heavy cream) and then fold in the stiffly beaten whites.
Melt the butter in a heavy 10-inch skillet, but do not let it change color. Regulate the heat under the skillet so that the butter remains golden yellow, but hot and melted. Pour in the egg mixture. Do not stir it. Over the top of the egg mixture – sprinkle the cheddar cheese, ham, green pepper, green onions, pepper, and season salt.
Let it cook about 3 minutes on medium to low heat or until the edge of the egg begins to thicken. Then fold it over so that the uncooked part with the ham, etc., is enclosed in the middle. Turn it carefully to cook the top part, about 2 minutes, and serve it promptly, while piping hot, with a hollandaise or béarnaise sauce on the side. Serves 2 royally!
This Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of Mom’s SECOND appearance on the Phil Donahue show (in 1993)! I wrote about Mom’s experiences with the Donahue Show appearances a few years ago, in my blog post, Fortunate. That episode broke records!
Let me back-track a bit. The year, following Mom’s FIRST appearance on the Donahue Show, in July 1981, was probably the most chaotic time in the 40-year history of her family-run, dining room table, cottage-style operation. We didn’t expect, nor were we set up for over a million letters in response, requesting the free recipes offered on the show.
Secret RecipesTM was just A FAMILY AFFAIR! Other than one full-time Administrative Assistant, it was just my parents, taking care of the day-to-day operations of their self-publishing, mail-order, recipes business, with a little help, now and then, from me and my sisters, after school.
For months, following Mom’s 1981 appearance, the Donahue show re-aired that episode around the country and around the world and we received over a million letters; necessitating the need to bring in some extra help, including some of my high school friends, to assist with all of the extra mailings we had to prepare and send out.
We mailed out hundreds of thousands of Mom’s “free recipes and product-ordering information” sheets, in exchange for all the self-addressed stamped envelopes that poured in, per the offer they had announced on the Donahue show. We were also mailing out thousands more newsletter issues, from all of the new subscriptions that followed.
As chaotic as it was, in the end, Mom recognized that the Donahue Show opened a lot of doors for her that might never have happened, otherwise. It brought her unique style of “copycat cookery” to the attention of MILLIONS of new eyes, fairly quickly (as it was before household internet) worldwide. She felt very fortunate and grateful.
There’s no denying that Mom pioneered a ‘movement’, carving out a new niche in the food industry – “copycat cookery”. There was nothing else like it, at that time. Critics said the “fad” wouldn’t last long. But Mom inspired a crusade of “copycats”. Unfortunately, some went as far as copying Mom’s work, to the point of plagiarism, prompting legal battles.
The pressure of everything was straining Mom and Dad and tearing our family apart. [NOTE: April is National Stress Awareness Month!] Mom swore she’d never do another national TV show. However, she was talked into doing several more, over the years, including Donahue, AGAIN!
I LOOK BACK NOW… and realize how FORTUNATEI was to have had my life touched by so many helpful people – so many famous people! It’s almost incredible that what started out to be merely the frosting on the cake, of my monthly newsletter, soon became the whole cake! – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 86)
When the producer of the Donahue Show called Mom, after 12 years, asking her to come back, in April 1993, Mom hesitantly agreed but only on the condition that they not give out any contact information for Secret RecipesTM or our family. That stipulation inadvertently resulted in a record-breaking event for the show!
The “Recipe Detective” episode had the most requested transcript, of all time, shattering the last record into tiny bits! The Donahue Show sent Mom a congratulatory letter and plaque to commemorate the historic event. Unfortunately, the show ended it’s 29-year stretch (1967-1996) a few years later, re-running the 1993 episode of Mom that year, too.
There are “grainy” recordings of the 1993, hour-long episode on YouTube, in a series of 5 segments. I wish I knew where I could find a recording or transcript from Mom’s July 7th, 1981, appearance. If anyone reading this knows, PLEASE, send me an email at: [email protected] – and thank you, in advance!
Did you know… Mom was the FIRST person (circa 1975) to develop a make-at-home version for imitating the cream-filled, golden-sponge-cake delight at home? Thus, I was surprised to find, when I searched for “twinkie recipes” on Google, Mom’s imitation wasn’t even listed in the first two pages of “About 1,520,000 results…”!
So MANY copycats have copied the ORIGINAL copycat – yet so FEW have given her the proper credit she deserves, for being the inventor of copycat cookery. On that note, I also searched for “Pitzer Twinkie recipe”. Mom’s recipe, from this website, which I first shared in a 2019 blog post, was the THIRD one listed, out of “About 161,000 results…”).
Did you know… on August 19th, 1919… William B. Ward registered the trademark name, Hostess, for his family’s company’s breads and cakes division? Additionally, it was James Dewar, while working for the Ward family at the Continental Baking Company, who invented the original Twinkie®.
Originally, when the baking company was founded in the early 1900s, it was called Ward Baking Company. Soon after, it was known as the Continental Baking Company. Then it was purchased by Interstate Bakeries Corporation and renamed Hostess Brands.
For a more in-depth history of the Ward family, their baking company, Dewar’s Twinkies® and the drama that surrounded all of them, check out a fascinating article (as written by Bloomberg News), on FinancialPost.com, about the Twinkie history, spiced with murder & scandal! I’ve included, below, the short story that Mom wrote about Dewar decades ago.
A little over 10 years ago (in November 2012), there was a big run on Twinkies®. Hostess Brands Company had announced it was going out of business and utter madness ensued, as Americans swarmed the stores and internet to buy every Twinkie® they could find!
Some were being auctioned on eBay for THOUSANDS of dollars – and people were paying it! Our Canadian neighbors still had Hostess Brands in their country. They were laughing at us and joking about the lengths to which Americans would go, to get their hands on the suddenly-hard-to-find, coveted Twinkies®.
A spokesperson for Hostess Brands sarcastically asked the media where all of those Hostess enthusiasts were BEFORE they had to file for bankruptcy.
TO DEBUNK THE JUNK…don’t think of Hostess Twinkies as ‘junk’ dessert but, rather, the very same cake ingredients prepared in the Waldorf Astoria kitchens as the basis for their ‘Flaming Cherries Supreme’. All we did [to imitate the product] was shape the cake differently, adding a little body to the filling and putting it INSIDE the cake, rather than on top, as the Waldorf did! – Gloria Pitzer, Eating Out at Home (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978, p. 3)
Today’s also National Find a Rainbow Day. Likewise, it’s the National Month of Hope! A quote on NationalDayCalendar.com, claims rainbows are considered symbols of beauty, as well as signs of hope and promise. When April showers come and the sun’s rays are opposite them, in the sky, look for the beautiful “arc of many colors”, created by Mother Nature.
Scientifically, they’re simply made from a combination of elements – like the sun being opposite the rain, in the sky, and “reflections and refractions of light” in the droplets of water. This can also be imitated in your backyard, on a sunny day, with a garden hose, spraying water. Try it!
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 34)
WHEN YOU HEAL THE HURT
IT HAS BEEN SAID that ‘when God closes a door, He opens a window’ – for those who have the wit to discover it. Among the ill, the handicapped, the disfigured… are an astonishing number of people who have found their ‘windows’. In quiet resurrections, they have risen out of their pain and despair and shattered hopes to new ambitions, new satisfactions and new happiness.
Though largely unsung, these men and women have in them the stuff of heroes! Their battles of necessity are fought alone… in endless hours and days and months. But, in these battles, they somehow develop a special kind of courage and, sooner or later, the breakthrough comes. Then, in spite of all the odds against them, they dare to say: ‘I may not have much candle left but, with what I have, I’ll shed a light.’
So, if you can’t be a lighthouse – be a candle! Let your light shine so that those on whom it may fall, will be blessed; and, like a springboard, bounce right back to make you feel good about it…
This made me think – besides being a light, “BE A RAINBOW” to someone! Shine beauty on them, giving hope and a promise for betterment of whatever may need it.
In honor of TODAY, being World Party Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “Prince Charles’ Skillet Strata”; as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 135). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].
Having an incurable curiosity, it follows that I should find the study of nutrition and the importance certain foods have in our diet, a very interesting endeavor, of which I have never tried. THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW TO LEARN, some new information, interesting discoveries to make cooking a positive pursuit.– Gloria Pitzer [Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984), p. 15)]
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…