Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Significance Of The Pretzel

Happy Monday, everyone, and #TGIM! I always look forward to Mondays because they are my #52Chances a year, in which I can share Memories of My Mom with all of you!


Still happening during this month of October is National Pretzel Month… Not to be confused with April’s National SOFT Pretzel Month, as October encompasses ALL pretzel styles and types.

Pretzels come in a multitude of ways – soft, hard, knotted, twisted, and straight, just to name some of the most common styles. For best flavor, soft pretzels should be eaten shortly after they’re made, while hard-baked pretzels have a long shelf-life.

Additionally, pretzel dough, itself, has captured the imagination of bakers, over the centuries; as it can be found in many different flavors, shapes and other forms – like bread, rolls and buns. Pretzels have had a long history and large influence on the American food industry. Supposedly, the pretzel is the oldest known snack food in America.

Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 264)

DRINKS AND SNACKS have given an unlikely edge to a suffering food industry that was never anticipated as being possibly successful. Potato chips, pretzels, dips and appetizers have been more than well-received by a public that the industry was once certain had tried everything they could have been offered and will probably not buy another new idea! How wrong!

Whenever a new snack item or beverage has been introduced to the public, it has been received with enthusiasm, until proven unworthy of patronage, because we have become an on-the-run generation of picky eaters.

Some just don’t want to get involved any longer with a big meal experience. Some don’t want to take the time to make the foods and then, serve them and, finally, clean up afterward. We look for snacks and beverages to serve our guests and to enjoy individually in our most private and leisurely moments.

FROM THE OFFERINGS OF THE FOOD INDUSTRY have come some relatively good ideas, such as the baked potato chip product. Pretzels have gone from the 200-year-old tradition of hard and dry-baked to a soft, bread-like product, liberally sprinkled in salt and topped with prepared mustard and, as a fast food enterprise, has been one of the leading money-makers in the industry.

Historically, food has usually been a comfort source for most people, especially in a common response to stress and anxiety. Science has shown, time and again, that emotions and food are linked together. It’s widely believed that, in times of stress, “comfort foods” will often make you feel better, at least temporarily.

Pretzels are considered to be “comfort foods”, as these types of foods provide a nostalgic or sentimental value but have very little nutritional value, if any at all.

According to an article at, pretzels “had inherent religious associations [regarding the legend that it was first invented by Italian Monks in 610 A.D.], but they also came to be associated with Lent because they didn’t use eggs or dairy products, which were traditionally prohibited during the period of fasting and restriction.”


When German immigrants began settling in Pennsylvania, around 1710, they brought their pretzels and recipes with them. German home-bakers who lacked eggs or lard could still bake this relatively filling, concentrated “bread” with only three easy ingredients – flour, water, and salt.

According to an article I read at, on the pretzel’s history, here, in America: “In 1861, Julius Sturgis founded the first commercial pretzel bakery in the town of Lititz in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.” Continuing on, the article also said: “Sturgis also claimed credit for developing the first hard pretzels – or at least, for being the first to intentionally bake hard pretzels (rather than leave the soft ones in the oven too long by accident).”

There is another great article, also explaining some of the history and significance of the pretzel, by Carole Christman Koch at She claims, in her article, that “Pennsylvania is the center of pretzel production in the U.S., making 80 percent of the nation’s supply.”

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Michigan has a quite large population of German-Americans in Frankenmuth, where the German heritage emanates from all of the breweries, restaurants, bakeries, fudge/candy shops, cheese houses, and even the little souvenir stores. Frankenmuth’s Bavarian style pretzels are a classic Octoberfest snack, which are baked fresh, daily!

Mom was always a big fan of pretzels (in any form or fashion), as well as recipes with only a few ingredients! She was a firm believer that “three, four and five ingredient recipes that are totally reliable, are sufficient to satisfy even the most reluctant cook” – as she wrote in many of her editorials on “short-cut cookery”.

Additionally, Mom wrote that the short recipes, with which she enjoyed working, while quite basic, had endless options “for expanding each into fancier dishes or…different flavorings than [for which] the original [recipe] calls.” Below is Mom’s own 4-ingredient recipe for Soft Pretzels, as seen in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 274).


Don’t forget that October is also National Cookbook Month!


As seen in, the introduction of…

Gloria Pitzer’s Reliable Recipes For Reluctant Cooks (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1983, p. 2-3)


DEAR FRIEND, the cook who meets every culinary challenge with confidence is one to be admired. They set an example to follow – impossible as that may be! For those of us who react to most recipes with reluctance, however, cooking [and baking] is an experience we muddle through, without mastering any of the myriad facets of fancy fare!

We want reliable recipes – rather than cookbook complications! We want successful results, without ridiculous rules! We want simple procedures, without pitfalls, when we put our prescriptions into practice!…

The problem with most recipes is the awesome number of ingredients required. You [may] wonder, looking at a bowl of batter, ‘Did [I] put in four cups of flour – or did the phone ring just then and it was only three?’ Did you remember the salt and, if you didn’t, was it that important that you left it out – because somebody interrupted you at that point and your last memory of adding an ingredient was erased by the interruption!

Of course, the confident cook never worries about things like that. They forge ahead brilliantly, creating cuisine that would make you and I faint at the mere thought of trying it. And even when you and I DO finally achieve a success, we’re not sure it’s supposed to turn out that way – that easily – because our record of near-misses, far out-weigh our scores of success!

THE RELUCTANT COOK isn’t looking for absolute perfection! We want only to create the illusion that we can cope with culinary accomplishments, riding the surfboard of certainty over the sea of success!


No matter how wonderful a recipe is rated to be, no two people are going to have identical results with the same formula. This is enough to throw any reluctant cook into a tither – anticipating failure before you even pick up a spatula or get out the mixing bowls!

However, this fact should not come as a surprise to the experienced cook. Even experience in the kitchen has not been enough to relieve you of ALL reluctance! …No two dishes ever come out exactly alike… This is the option each cook has to take with every recipe. You always put a little more into the making of a dish than the recipe requires.


As seen in…

The Joy Of Not Cooking Any More Than You Have To (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Nov. 1983, p. 109)


SOME COOKS WHO FIND JOY IN N-O-T COOKING – Anymore Than You Have To, don’t mind at all baking their own bread, biscuits, rolls, muffins and cakes. It’s a strange thing that baking is a kind of therapy for the same cooks who don’t like to pamper a roux, stir a sauce nor baste a roast.

Bread-baking gives one a sense of real accomplishment in the kitchen, especially when you can’t do other things well in the realm of creative cuisine. It’s hard to muff a muffin batter when you don’t even have to get out your electric mixer to put it together.

It’s gratifying to dig your knuckles into a pillow of yeast dough and work off your frustrations by kneading the dough into elasticity, suitable for yielding one heck-of-a good loaf of bread.

Among other food-related things that the month of October is also celebrating (and I haven’t already mentioned, yet, this month) are the following 10 “foodie” occasions, from one of my favorite sources –

National Caramel Month, National Cookie Month, National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, National Seafood Month, Pear and Pineapple Month, Rhubarb Month, Spinach Lovers Month, National Pork Month, National Sausage Month – as well as National Polish-American Heritage Month (another fabulous source of some really great “comfort foods” that I’ll write about next week)!



‘I believe that one of the most dignified ways we are capable of, to assert and then reassert our dignity in the face of poverty and war’s fears and pains, is to nourish ourselves with all possible skill, delicacy and ever-increasing enjoyment.’– M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf (1942).



In honor of tomorrow, being National Brandied Fruit Day, here is Mom’s “secret” recipe for Brandied Fruit… As seen in her self-published cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Al’ A Carte (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sept. 1979, p. 9).

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


Since Wednesday is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, here is a special repeat of Mom’s Sugar-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie! Enjoy!

Next Monday, will be my regular monthly visit on the “Good Neighbor” show; with host, Kathy Keene, at WHBY in Wisconsin! We’ll be sharing our memories of Mom as the Recipe DetectiveTM and one or two of her recipes as well. Tune in at 11:08 AM (Central)/12:08 PM (Eastern). In case you miss it, there will also be a link on WHBY’s website at so you can listen to it at your leisure!



…42 down, 10 to go!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Mom’s Cup Runneth Over

Happy Monday and happy National Food Day!


As I said at the end of last week’s blog, today is National Food Day; plus, it’s also Pumpkin Cheesecake Day! See the end of this blog for a copy of Mom’s sugar-free recipe for the latter. Part of what started Mom’s career as the Recipe DetectiveTM for Secret RecipesTM, was her keen ideas on how to make our family’s food budget stretch during the 1970s’ food crisis by making some of her own groceries, including special sweets and treats like Sarah Lee’s cheesecake, Hostess cake products and Famous Amos’ cookies to name a few.

Mom started sharing some of her discoveries in the columns she syndicated. It had a snowball effect when she started imitating famous food products and dishes, at home – in her own kitchen, with what she had on hand in her pantry – because our family of seven couldn’t always afford those kind of eating-out treats…that’s how Mom, first, developed her “Copycat Cookery” and “Eating Out at Home” concepts!

There were never any cookbooks out, prior to Mom’s first collection (in the mid-to-late 1970s), that offered copycat recipes for creating imitations of fast food and junk food favorites (without the junk in them), grocery products and famous dishes from famous restaurants.

First 5 books of the Secret Recipes Collection

At the time, in the early-1970s, Mom was writing and syndicating columns, focused on homemakers like her. They went out to multiple newspapers and magazines across the states. After a short syndication term with Columbia Features, Mom started syndicating her own columns. She often received requests from her readers whose families couldn’t afford to eat out, wanting to know how to make something at home and save on their food budget. She, too, felt a need or want for the same thing.

When Mom first began what was, later, to become her Secret RecipesTM legacy, and from which she also came to earn her title as the Recipe DetectiveTM; she had invented a copycat version of McDonald’s “Secret Sauce” and another for a cheesecake like Sarah Lee’s; requests for which she had received from her readers. Once Mom figured out one imitation and printed it, one request after another would come in for Mom to answer. I printed these recipes in two previous blog entries, but here they are again for your enjoyment…

Mom loved all the new challenges that came in for her to research and develop. At first, the publishers were all in favor of Mom writing what she thought her audience wanted in her column. However, when their advertisers put up a fuss about Mom’s imitations, the publishers told her to stop doing the copycat recipes or they’d have to let her go.

Realizing that this was an unexplored area of the food industry and that there were wants/needs, as she read in her readers’ letters, for making favorite food products at home; Mom left to start her own publication, telling the publishers to mail her last check to her. During the previous twenty years, working many different positions in the newspaper industry, Mom had picked up a lot of knowledge about how to put out a paper.


[By the way, National Newspaper Week began on the 1st Sunday of October, thus it ran from the 6th to the 12th.]

Mom reached out to her friends, family, neighbors and newspaper contacts and, in January 1974, she put out her first newsletter issue to a couple hundred subscribers. Initially, Mom was influenced by such talented women as Carol Duvall, Erma Bombeck and Elsie Masterton; designing her own publication to be a patch-work-quilt full of humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table…the kinds of things women would likely discuss while sitting around the kitchen table, visiting and having coffee.

Mom called it a family, cottage-style operation. In order to balance all of her responsibilities, she involved all of the family…testing recipes, doing artwork, promoting and other such things. Aside from the newsletter, Mom sold her recipes, printed on index cards, for a quarter each or 5 for a dollar. When her recipe collection grew into the hundreds, Mom started developing and publishing her own cookbooks in the same manner as her newsletter issues, including all of the humor, household tips and tricks, food for thought, food for the soul and food for the table.

Mom’s following grew quickly, once word got out across the wire service that a small-town Michigan housewife was developing make-alike recipes for recreating famous food products at home, and the response had a snowball effect. There were many interviews by radio talk show hosts, as well as newspaper and magazine columnists; plus, some television appearances (first, locally and then nationally.)


Wednesday, the 23rd, is National TV Talk Show Host Day (and, the late, Johnny Carson’s birthday.) A couple of national TV talk shows that Mom appeared on were the Phil Donahue Show (twice – 1981 and 1993) & the Home Show (1984?), where she met Wally Amos of the Famous Amos brand sweets.

Mom was also invited to appear on the Tonight Show; but had been so over-whelmed by her other TV appearances and the audiences’ responses and orders that our family just couldn’t keep up. Not wanting to get so big that she may lose her enjoyment in what she does, Mom, regretfully, had to decline. However, she did get to know Ed McMahan and his wife, Pam, since they were originally from Michigan. Michiganders are kindred spirits!

Thanks from Ed & Pam McMahon

As I wrote about in a February blog entry, people loved Mom’s fresh, new ideas on how to make fast food, junk food, grocery products and famous restaurant dishes right at home, easily and at less cost. Times were financially tough back then – there was a recession going on, as well as a food crisis.


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; January 2018, 1st Printing – pp. 6-7)

…[it was] amid an economic recession with the highest rate of unemployment I had ever experienced, but it was worth the risk. I was a dedicated writer that new someone had to give homemakers something more than what they were being given in the colored glossy magazines…There had to be more to mealtime… The food industry gave us more appealing products than did the cookbooks we trusted.

THEY LAUGHED! THEY DOUBTED! They even tried to take me to court when some famous food companies insisted that I stop giving away their secrets. They couldn’t believe me when I said that I did NOT know, nor did I want to know, what they put in their so-called secret recipes. I did know that there were very few recipes that couldn’t be duplicated or imitated at home… for much less than purchasing the original product…

Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery. – Charles Caleb Colton

FAMOUS FOODS FROM FAMOUS PLACES have intrigued good cooks for a long time – even before fast foods of the 1950’s were a curiosity. When cookbooks offer us a sampling of good foods, they seldom devote themselves to the dishes of famous restaurants. There was speculation among the critics as to the virtues of re-creating, at home, the foods that you can buy ‘eating out’, such as the fast food fares of the popular franchise restaurants…

Who would want to imitate ‘fast food’ at home? I found that over a million people who saw me demonstrate replicating some famous fast food products on The Phil Donahue Show (July 7, 1981) DID – and their letters poured in at a rate of over 15,000 a day for months on end! While I have investigated the recipes, dishes and cooking techniques of ‘fine’ dining rooms around the world, I received more requests from people who wanted to know how to make things like McDonald’s Special Sauce or General Foods Shake-N-Bake coating mix or White Castle’s hamburgers than I received for those things like Club 21’s Coq Au Vin.


Since today is, among other things, National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day


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

October is also, among other things, National Book Month & National Reading Group Month & National Cookbook Month!

#NationalBookMonth #NationalReadingGroupMonth #NationalCookbookMonth

‘A cookbook should be as exciting as a good mystery!’ – Gloria Pitzer

Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available for sale, at $20.99 each, through the publisher, Balboa Press, at; it’s also available in eBook form, for $3.99, at