Friday, July 21st, is National Junk Food Day! For decades, fast foods and junk foods were always getting a bad rap from the critics, regarding how unhealthy they were. However, over 50 years ago, my mom figured out how to make those taboo foods at home – where she controlled the ingredients, thereby taking the junk out of junk food.
Mom was a trailblazer in the 1970s, when she carved out a new niche in the food industry. She called her concept “copycat cookery” for “eating out at home”. The fact is, fast food and junk food recipes weren’t found in any cookbooks, back then. So she found ways to imitate our favorites at home and for less cost!
In the early 1970s, Mom started investigating how to imitate famous dishes, junk foods, fast foods, and grocery products, at home. She looked forward, every day, to investigating all the possibilities from this new platform! If it saved her household money, she shared it, to help others save too!
Mom took the junk out of the junk foods that the critics warned us not to eat. For 40 years she wrote and self-published more than 40 cookbooks, as well as hundreds of newsletter issues. Over those four decades, her recipe catalog grew from a couple hundred imitations to tens of thousands! I’m still working on a master index list of all of her recipes.
‘THE JUNK FOOD COOK… Is a person who can make instant decisions and not be upset by an exhilarated lifestyle. They are a bit reckless in their choices, usually preferring total freedom and personal happiness even if there is a risk to be considered. They don’t like to waste time and cannot be troubled with unimportant details or pretensions. They like short-cuts because they are usually impatient – but extremely thrifty.’ – Gloria Pitzer, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipe Report (Secret Recipe Report, St. Clair, MI; Issue 85, January 1981; p. 2)
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – Best Of The Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 6). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition).]
[FAST FOODS & JUNK FOODS]
THE CRITICS WHO CONTEND that ‘fast foods’ are ‘junk foods’ and not good for us, have probably never prepared these foods themselves. Certainly, they have no access to the closely guarded recipes from the food companies that created these dishes…
There are only a few people in each operation that are permitted the privilege of such information! So, 99% of the critics’ speculations are based on their own opinions.
To know what these dishes contained, they’d have to be better chemists than I, as I have tested over 20,000 recipes with only the finished product as my guide to determine what each contained.
‘Fast foods’ are not ‘junk foods’ unless they’re not properly prepared. Any food that is poorly prepared (and just as badly presented) is junk! Unfortunately, ‘fast food’ has carried a reputation, by default, of containing ingredients that are ‘harmful’ to us.
Yet, they contain the same ingredients as those foods served in the ‘finer’ restaurants with wine stewards, linen tablecloths, candlelight, coat-check attendants, and parking valets; which separate the plastic palaces of “fast food” from the expensive dining establishments.
One ‘eats’ at McDonald’s, but ‘dines’ at The Four Seasons. Steak and potato or hamburger and French fries – the ingredients are practically the same. How they are prepared makes the difference!
Junk foods and fast foods are also considered “comfort foods”. Science has frequently shown that emotions and food are significantly linked together. It’s widely believed that, in times of stress, “comfort foods” often make us feel better, providing nostalgic or sentimental value but with very little nutritional value.
According to TimeAndDate.com: “Studies have shown that consuming junk food ONCE-IN-A-WHILE does not have a negative effect on health – it is only when one eats junk food for a majority of their meals that their diet can be considered unhealthy. Consuming large amounts of foods considered to be ‘junk’, can lead to several health problems, including a high risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart issues.”
Throughout the first two decades of being the Recipe DetectiveTM, Mom demonstrated her talents for imitating some of our favorite “junk foods” – like KFC’s fried chicken, Oreo cookies, Hostess Twinkies, Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies, and more – on national TV shows like the Phil Donahue Show, ABC’s Home show, and PM Magazine.
Mom’s favorite interviews were those with the hundreds of radio talk shows, nationally and internationally, which she enjoyed doing for 40 years! It’s unfortunate that many of those shows aren’t around anymore because the information they provided became so easy to find on the internet.
I’d like to add that YouTube.com has a music video called “Junk Food Junkie”, by Larry Groce (1976). I remember Mom liking that song when it came out. For great information and ideas with which to celebrate Junk Food Day, check out Chiff.com.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
The Second Helping of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 1-2)
DE-BUNKING THE JUNK!
WHAT IS THE TRUTH about junk food? The food experts have been referring to many snack foods and fast foods as ‘junk’ in an attempt to disqualify their value when compared to foods containing high amounts of protein and vitamins.
No one has confirmed a definition of the expression ‘junk food’, yet the public has been conditioned to accept any snack food, sweets, candies, confections, baked goods and many beverages as ‘junk food’ when, in reality, these are not without nutritional value.
All by itself, a raw carrot could hardly support the human system substantially; neither could a cup of yogurt. Yet, a candy bar or a small piece of cake or a hamburger on a bun is considered, by some of the food industry’s most prestigious experts, as having little or no food value in our daily diets.
The junk food paradox has caused school systems and other public institutions to ban the sale of any foods we would consider snack items, making it illegal, in fact, in the state of Michigan and some others, if such items were sold to children through vending machines on the premises.
‘There really are very few recipe secrets!’ – Gloria Pitzer
This is infuriating to the good cooks and… food chemists among us, who know that JUNK FOOD is actually any food that is poorly prepared. ALL food has nutritional value. Some just seem to have more than others. But, in the final analysis, it is purely personal taste that will determine the popularity of one food over another.
The ‘fast food’ industry has been the most successful of any phase in the business. Their success depending largely on the fact that their recipes are all closely guarded secrets! I say, ‘baloney!’ As a very believing public, we have been spoon-fed a good deal of shrewd publicity by some very skilled… advertising people, who count on our susceptibility to commercial advertising campaigns to buy their products.
Whether we’re buying a hamburger in one of McDonald’s restaurants… or a Twinkie off of the grocer’s shelf, we still believe that these products can’t be equaled by any other company in the industry, nor by the average cook in a standard, home kitchen… AND this is wrong!
EVEN MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Eating Out at Home (National Home News, St. Clair, MI; September 1978, pp. 2-3)
YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW exactly how the original dish was prepared by the commercial food chains. All you need is a basic recipe to which you will add that ‘special seasoning’ or that ‘secret method of preparation’ that sets one famous secret recipe apart from those similar to it…
When I work to duplicate a recipe so that the finished product is as good as (if not better than) a famous restaurant dish, I begin by asking myself a series of questions: I want to know what color the finished dish has…[and] was it achieved by baking, frying or refrigeration?…What specific flavors can I identify?… and about how much of each may have been used…
Similar tests are used in chemistry…[to]…break down the components of an unknown substance and try to rebuild it. So the cook must work like a chemist (and not like a gourmet; who, most of the time, never uses a recipe – but, rather, creates one.)
The most remarkable part of the duplication of famous recipes is that you can accept the challenge to ‘try’ to match their [dish or product]. Sometimes, you will be successful. Sometimes you will fail in the attempt. But, at least, it can be done [‘practice makes perfect’], and it certainly takes the monotony out of mealtime when, for reasons of financial inadequacy, we cannot always eat out…
Stop cheating yourself of the pleasure of good food. Eat what you enjoy, but DON’T OVER eat…This is what really causes the problems of obesity and bad health – rather than believing the propaganda of the experts that ‘fast food’ is ‘junk food’…It is not! Poorly prepared food, whether it is from a fast-service restaurant or a [$20-plate in a] gourmet dining room, is ‘junk’, no matter how you look at it…if it is not properly prepared…
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!
Mom’s original concepts for “eating out at home” and “taking the junk out of junk food” has brought so much joy to so many people who couldn’t afford eating out or indulging in junk food; either for monetary or health reasons. Since its inception in the early 1970s, Mom gained many followers with her copycat concept and influenced many other copycats.
Friday is also… National Be Someone Day!
Be a friend… Be a mentor… Be a light… Be something to someone… BE SOMEONE SPECIAL!
In honor of July, being National Hot Dog Month, and Wednesday, being National Hot Dog Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “Coney Sauce, like Lafayette’s” (Detroit, MI); as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; June 1997, p. 42).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
July’s observances include: National Baked Bean Month, National Culinary Arts Month, National Grilling Month, National Horseradish Month, National Blueberry Month, National Independent Retailer Month, and National Picnic Month!
Today is, among other things… National Lottery Day, National Peach Ice Cream Day (it’s also National Ice Cream Month AND National Peach Month) and World Emoji Day! Plus, as the third Monday in July (for 2023), it’s also… National Get Out of the Dog House Day!
Wednesday, July 19th is… National Daiquiri Day!
July 20th is… National Fortune Cookie Day, National Moon Day, National Lollipop Day, and National Pennsylvania Day! Plus, as the third Thursday of the third quarter (for 2023), it’s also… Get to Know Your Customers Day!
…29 down and 23 to go!