1982 – Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook – was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook, having a 6” x 9” format with 400 pages, is a unique assembly of nearly 1,000 make-at-home, make-alike recipes of Gloria’s famous fast foods, restaurant dishes and grocery products collection. In addition, Gloria includes various historical information, illustrations and photographs along with her usual wit, food-for-thought and humorous stories.
This book was actually inspired from a much needed vacation that Gloria and Paul took from their business in 1979, after completing and publishing Book 5, taking their 2 minor daughters, Laura and Cheryl, with them. They stayed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island where they just so happened to be filming “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, and Christopher Plummer. The Pitzers were lucky enough to meet the three movie stars at breakfast one morning; and, while Gloria was smitten with Christopher Plummer, in the back of her mind she was already taking notes for what would become a special section of this cookbook – about the elegant dishes served at the Grand Hotel.
However, in 2015-2017, it was re-written by Gloria and her daughter, Laura Emerich, to bring it to a new generation. In January 2018, a few days before Gloria passed away, it was re-published under the name, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, which is available, for sale, at $20.99 each through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252
Sub-Title: “The Best of The Recipe Detective” and “Famous Foods from Famous Places”
5 out of 5 stars – Better Cookery Cookbook – Bonnie Case – December 25, 2012 – “Bought this book 25 years ago, loved it so much when I spotted it on Amazon I bought one for my daughter and daughter in law. Favorite is Bob Evans Gravy. Now have another new daughter in law – would order again.”
1979 – Gloria Pitzer’s Dieter’s Digest booklet was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this little booklet had a 24-page, 5.5″ x 8.5″ format filled with dieting information, inspirational and humorous stories and healthy recipes. It sold for $1 per issue.
1979 – Gloria Pitzer Presents Top Secret Recipes Al’a Carte cookbook was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). Some of the art work in this book was also done by 2 of Gloria’s 5 children, Mike Pitzer & Debbie Pitzer (now, Hamilton). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook, sometimes referred to as “Book 4” or the “Orange Book”, had a 52-page, 8.5″ x 11″ format and sold for $5 per copy. The recipes in this book were uniquely laid out like an encyclopedia, in alphabetical order; so, there was no index included in the 1st printing. However, one was added in later printings with over 370 index listings. Over the many years and various printings, the cover was changed slightly, but the title always remained the same, along with the original masthead, “Cookbook”.
1978 – Gloria Pitzer Presents: Eating Out at Home a cookbook written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook, sometimes referred to as “Book 3” or the “Yellow Book”, had a 52-page, 8.5″ x 11″ format filled with her famous make-at-home recipes for imitating fast foods, restaurant dishes and grocery products. In addition, Gloria includes background information along with her usual witty & humorous stories, food-for-thought and over 240 index listings. It sold for $5 per copy. Over the years of various printings, the cover changed slightly, but the title remained the same. The masthead originally read “Secret Recipe Report”, but it changed to “Cookbook Secrets” in later printings, The sub-title, “A Recipe Portfolio”, was also added in the later printings.
1977 – The Second Helping of Secret Recipes was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (National Homemakers Newsletter, St. Clair, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook is sometimes referred to as “Book 2”, “2nd Helpings” or “The Green Book”. Over the many years and various printings, the cover changed slightly, as did the size and price of the book. The size changed from the original 80-page, 5.5″ x 8.5″ format with 178 recipes listed to a 52-page, 8.5″ x 11″ format with 209 recipes listed. The original title remained the same, but the sub-titles also changed over the years (as seen in the various cover photos shown above and below); while the masthead of “Secret Recipe Report” was added in 1978 and, later, changed to “Cookbook”. Starting in 1978, Gloria’s son, Michael Pitzer, illustrated many of the later printings of this book.
Sub-Titles: “Book 2”, “Of Fast Foods & Other Favorites, Imitated by Gloria Pitzer”, “The Junk Food Junkie Rides the Range Again”, “The Fast Food Cookbook, Taking the Junk Out of Junk Food”
Years: July 1977 – August 1981+
Recipes: 178 listed originally; 209 listed in the larger size
Pages: 80 originally; 52 in the larger format
Size: 5.5″ x 8.5″ originally; 8.5″ x 11″ shortly after the 1st printing
Price: Originally $3.00 for the small format; the larger format sold for $5 each
(The picture above is from an ad. I can’t find any available pictures of the original cover from the 1st printings in 1976-1977, using the 5.5” x 8.5” format – they may have originally sold for $3 per copy, as “Book 2” did in 1977.)
1976 – The Secret Restaurant Recipes Book was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI). NO LONGER IN PRINT – this cookbook, sometimes referred to as “Book 1” or the “Blue Book”, was actually a revised edition of her original cookbook, The Better Cooker’s Cookbook (1973). Although this version wasn’t Gloria’s first cookbook, it was her first true “commercial success”.
Note: So far, I have yet to find any copies of the original, August 1976, small format of this book. I would love to know if anyone still has one – it would be over 42 years old now! Please write to us at: [email protected]
Over the many years of various printings, the cover design, title and subtitle changed slightly, as did the size and price of the book. The size changed from the original 80-page, 5.5″ x 8.5″ format to a 42-page, 8.5″ x 11″ format in 1977. The masthead, “Secret Recipe Report” was added in 1979 and changed to, simply, “Cookbook” in 1981. These changes can be seen on the various cover photos shown below.
In 1982, Michael Pitzer (Gloria’s son, who illustrated many of the printings of this book) was working at Wells Rich Greene in Los Angeles on the Jack-in-the-Box® advertising account. During one of their creative presentations, then President of JIB, Barry Krantz asked if he could get a complete set of Gloria’s cookbooks for their “test kitchen”. Now, we wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions, but shortly thereafter Jack-in-the-Box was not only back in the burger business, but they also began introducing fresh-baked cookies and wonderful chicken sandwiches. Coincidence? Maybe…
Sub-Titles: “Book 1”, “Fast Foods and Other Favorites”, “The Junk Food Junkie Rides the Range Again” and “The Original Junk Food Book”
Years: Aug 1976 – Aug 1981+
Recipes: unknown for original, smaller format; 290 listed in the larger size format
Pages: originally 80; larger format had 52
Size: originally 5.5″ x 8.5″; later format was 8.5″ x 11″
Price: original (possibly) $3 per copy; later printings were $5 per copy
1973 – The Better Cooker’s Cookbook was written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features; Algonac, MI), having a 5.5” x 8.5” format of 53 pages, filled with humorous quips, tips and cartoons; plus, over 150 index listings. NO LONGER IN PRINT – This is a collection of recipes that Gloria originally published in Cookbook Corner, a recipe column she syndicated to many newspapers for over 5 years. The recipes were all “reluctant-cook-budget-tested” by Gloria and her family of seven! The books sold for $1.50 each, plus $0.25 postage.
This cookbook was part of Gloria Pitzer’s “Laughable Books”™ series, which were free-lanced in newspapers and magazines, previously included Reliable Recipes for Reluctant Cooks, Helpful Hints for Helpless Housekeepers (or Housework has its Hang-Ups), Shakespeare: Wherefore Art Though? (or It Could be Verse), What Dr. Spock Left Out (or Bringing Up Parents), Full House as Kept by Gloria Pitzer and Woman’s Lip as Ms-Pronounced by Gloria Pitzer.
Sub-Titles: “Budget Recipes”, “Over 200 Simple Sensible Suggestions from and for Semi-Gourmets”
1974 – Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter – written, illustrated and published by Gloria Pitzer (Happy Newspaper Features, Pearl Beach, MI) – started as “a monthly compendium of fact and fancies”, as Gloria referred to it, adding that it was “the almost-magazine…not quite a newspaper…that can build into a book.” NO LONGER IN PRINT – this was, originally, a small, 3-ring binder-style publication, printed in a 5.5” x 8.5” format with 12 back-to-back pages packed full of “food for the table and food for thought”, household tips, humorous quips and cartoons; plus, a “Readers Swap Shop”. The newsletter originally sold for $0.50 per issue, as well as $2.75 for a 6-month subscription or $5 for a 1-year subscription.
Over the decades, the newsletter evolved with the changing times – the name slightly changed a few times, as well as the size and number of issues printed in a year; plus, of course, the cost grew with inflation too. By 1976, it was being published monthly in an 8.5” x 11”, 10-page format and sold for $0.50 per copy or $6 for a 1-year subscription. By 1978 the name slightly changed to Gloria Pitzer’s National Home News Magazine, though the format remained the same; and it sold for $7 per 1-year subscription.
In 1980, Gloria Pitzer revised the newsletter again, getting right to the heart of cooking – reducing the number of ingredients to comply with your time and, most of all, your budget. While the format size remained the same, the name was changed to “Gloria Pitzer’s Monthly Cookbook of Secret Recipes”. Each copy contained about 100 recipes and sold for $1 per issue, or you could subscribe for a full year.
Starting with the Summer issue of 1984 (Jul-Aug-Sep), the newsletter was published quarterly under the name Gloria Pitzer’s Cook’s Quarterly, still in an 8.5” x 11” format with up to 20 pages full of “Food for Thought” & “Thoughts on Food”; plus, household hints, short cut cooking tips and recipes for imitating favorite restaurant dishes and grocery products at home. It sold for $10 per 1-year (4 issues) subscription or $2.50 for a single issue.
By 1986, the newsletter was being published every 2 months under the name Secret Recipes Newsletter. Still in the 8.5” x 11” format, the 12-page publication boasted at least 50 recipes per issue along with humorous stories, “Food for Thought” and news on nutrition, restaurants and product reviews. It continued to sell for $10 for a 1-year subscription of 6 issues (or $2 per single copy) until 1989, when the price was raised to $12.50 for a 1-year subscription (or $2.50 per single copy). Then, in 1991, the price went down to $12 per year and $2.50 for single copies. The bi-monthly newsletter was temporarily retired after the March-April 1994 issue.
However, in 1995, the publication was back by popular demand under the name Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Quarterly for $16 per year (4 issues) with 20 pages per issue; each issue featured at least 75 recipes for imitating famous restaurant dishes and grocery products at home; plus, more “Food for Thought”, household hints and cooking tips. But, by 1997, the publication went back to the bi-monthly, 12-page format under the old name, Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter and sold for $16 per 1-year subscription (6 issues) or $2.75 per single copy.
In January 1998, the newsletter went back to being a monthly publication with the name shortened to Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes. The 8.5” x 11”, 8-page format was still full of “Food for Thought”, household hints and tips, famous restaurant recipes and grocery products you can make at home. During its last year of publication, it sold for $18 per 1-year subscription or $2 per single copy. It was permanently retired, after 27 years, with the December 2000 issue.
“Every issue is like getting together for coffee with friends!” SM– Gloria Pitzer
We’d love to hear from anyone who still has old copies of her original newsletters! Please write to us at: [email protected]
1972-1976 – The development of the “Original 200” – a recipe card collection by Gloria Pitzer
1972-1976 – “Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes” began with a unique collection of about 200 recipes (each printed on 4”x6” index cards, ready for filing), which Gloria developed and tested in her own kitchen – recipes for making famous fast-food dishes and favorite supermarket products right at home; with the intention to save households money on their “entertaining” & “grocery” costs. This photo (above) is a copy of one of her own ads [as seen on the back of her bi-centennial cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s The American Cookery Cookbook (July1976)], for how to buy these recipe cards at $0.25 each or 5 for $1. These are NO LONGER IN PRINT!
We’d love to hear from anyone who still has her original, individual recipe cards! Please write to us at: [email protected]
If you’re new to here, welcome! I’m Laura Emerich – one of 5 who called Gloria Pitzer, the ORIGINAL “Secret Recipe Detective”, “Mom”. I started this blog series in September (2018) to carry on Mom’s legacy of her Secret Recipes “empire”, as it was very special to me too; especially over the last few years of her life while I collaborated with her in re-writing her favorite cookbook, to be re-published by Balboa Press, and inspire a new generation!
This week, I want to start a special series on Mondays & Memories of Mom, sharing with you some of Mom’s own memories of how she came to be “The Recipe Detective”, her trademarked name. This series is based on excerpts from Mom’s story, in her own words, as seen on pages 292-297 in her last cookbook, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” , published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing):
BEHIND THE SCENES – “Private Investigator of Secret Recipes” or “The Recipe Detective” are the names that my friends in radio and newspapers have given to me, and I enjoy living up to that assignment! I enjoy working with these recipe secrets, but most of all, I enjoy writing about them. I’ve been writing all my life… Going way-back to when I was in grade school. I was always writing a book, or a poem or a short story. It was a way of life from my earliest memories – a way over which I seem to have no personal control! I had to write… Preferably about what I knew best at the time. Little did I know that what I would come to know best would be cooking! The one year that I spent at Michigan State (when it was still a college, mind you – you figure that out!) … Was one year in which I learned 2 important things – I could not pass my Creative Writing course and I was “kicked out” of Home Economics! My Creative Writing instructor told me that I typed a neat looking paper and probably should be a secretary, for I would never make it as a writer. My Home Economics instructor advised me to spend the rest of my life having my meals delivered, for I was always finding fault with the way so many cookbooks were written.
I took a position with the J. Walter Thompson Advertising company in Detroit, working as a secretary to the copywriters. I met my husband, Paul, there when he returned from a 4-year tour of service with the Air Force. We started dating and one year later we were married. That was 1956. Bill was born over a year later, and then Mike came 20 months after that, and Debbie came along 20 months after that. I lost 3 babies in the next 3 years, but Laura was born in 1964 and Cheryl came 20 months after that. During those years, Paul was working for a sign company in Mt. Clemens, Michigan – where, in the 20 years he spent with them, he did everything from drafting to purchasing agent to account rep! I kept up with my writing, always working for one of the suburban papers and constantly free-lancing to magazines. When Redbook sent me $500 for my “Young Mother’s Story” submission in February 1963, called “We’ll Never Live with In-Laws Again”, I put part of the money into a typewriter, as I had always had to borrow one before that. I wanted a typewriter more than Reagan wanted to be president! I put a lot of miles on that $39.95 machine – I designed a column for weekly newspapers and mailed out samples to over 300 newspapers. Within a year, I had acquired 60 regular papers for my “No Laughing Matter” column and another column I called “Minding the Hearth”. Columbia Features in New York offered me a contract, and, for a year, I allowed them to syndicate the column in competition with a new humorist, Erma Bombeck! (Right church, wrong pew for me!) When a big city paper carried Erma’s column, Columbia placed mine in their competing paper. I split with Columbia on a 60/40 basis (I took 40) and finally, by mutual-agreement, we broke the contract. I was on my own.
HOW SECRET RECIPES BEGAN – When Columbia Features and I parted company, they had acquired only 2 additional papers from me and lost several more. Within 6 months, I had regained all my original papers and was syndicating the column from our dining room table, where we then lived in what my friend, Bob Allison, called “beautiful downtown Pearl Beach” – a town so small that I told people City Hall was over a Dairy Queen, our McDonald’s had only one arch and, if we had a Howard Johnson’s, it would’ve had only 3 flavors! We had a 9-year old station wagon at that time. It burned oil and barely got Paul to work and back without something breaking down! I rode a bike to and from the Pearl Beach post office every day where I mailed out my columns and, then, looked for responses to ads I had placed in the Tower Press and Grit magazines for recipes on 4×6” cards that enabled you to imitate famous dishes at home.
[That might have been around 1973.]
I remember (around 1974-1976) when Mom would take my sisters and I to Sears, JC Penny’s and JL Hudson’s at the Macomb Mall near Detroit and, later (1976), to Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights (MI), where we would all get a handful of Mom’s business cards to stick in the pockets of various clothes and purse displays for shoppers to find, and then we’d have lunch in the Hudson’s dining room, where Mom found a lot of great dishes to mimic at home. We had a 5-star rating system of our own when we were with Mom on any of her restaurant reviews – it was, actually, largely based on how clean they kept their restrooms! But, back to Mom’s story…
BOB ALLISON’s “ASK YOUR NEIGHBOR” – I was a regular participant on Bob Allison’s “Ask Your Neighbor” radio show that aired 5 days a week for 2 hours in the morning. I used Bob’s program for asking for food information that I needed for my weekly columns. Bob’s audience was very helpful in supplying me with answers. To reciprocate, I would reply to some of the requests made by his audience when they called into Bob’s show. It was a unique format in that one could not simply call in a recipe or information simply because they wanted to share it with others. The information or the recipe had to, first, be requested by a previous caller. Many of my first “Secret Recipes” were developed because of requests made specifically by Bob’s callers for such dishes as The Colonel’s secret spices, Arthur Treacher’s fish batter, Sander’s hot fudge, Win Schuler’s bar cheese and so on.
As I re-type her words, another fun memory comes to me, regarding Mom’s radio visits on “Ask Your Neighbor” – because of the show’s format, Mom couldn’t just phone in to the show and “announce” make-alike recipes she had developed. There were only 2 types of callers allowed – (1) those requesting certain recipes or tips and (2) those who have the answer to one or more of those requests. When she developed a make-alike recipe that nobody requested, but she was anxious to share it, she would have a friend or one of us kids call the show “as a listener” to make a request for it; then, she could call in with her answer! That was so much fun! Once again, back to Mom’s story…
[NOTE: “Ask Your Neighbor” is still heard weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 11AM EST on WNZK 690AM, Detroit. A live stream can also be found on the show’s website at http://www.askyourneighbor.com/index.htm]
At the suggestion of one of Bob’s callers that I should put all my column recipes into a book, I wrote my 1st edition called “The Better Cooker’s Cookbook”. In less than a month, I had sold 1000 copies. I wasn’t satisfied with the book, so I didn’t reprint it – but, decided that it might work out better if I could do those recipes monthly…I put together my 1st issue of what came to be my “Secret Recipe Report”, a newsletter that, for 106 consecutive monthly issues, brought me in contact with the many so-called secrets of the commercial food and restaurant industry.
I probably wouldn’t have done the monthly, except for a falling-out I had with the editor of a small-town paper for which I was writing a food column. I had published some of my 1st attempts at duplicating famous dishes in that column and the response was beautiful, until I offended one of the papers biggest advertisers with a rendition of their cheesecake… “The kind that nobody doesn’t like.” The editor told me I would have to go back to standard recipes like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf or chocolate cake – or I could pick up my check. I told him to MAIL it to me. That’s when I decided it was time to launch my own paper. That afternoon, I put out my charter issue, sending samples of it to those whose names and addresses I had on file from having written to me at the paper. That was the beginning of “Secret Recipes”!
I’ve recently started putting together a “Time Line”, of sorts, regarding all the different publications that Mom has written, illustrated and self-published over the past 4½ decades (1973-2018). There’s a few books that I don’t have, myself, so, I have to search the Amazon and Ebay websites for some of her old, out-of-print books. Soon, you’ll see updates to this website regarding the 2 “Cookbooks” tabs. I’m also still working on uploading more recipes to the “Recipes” tab as well. Also, stay tuned, next week, for part 2 of this series about Mom’s own story.
In the mean time, as I do each week, I will end this blog with one of Mom’s make-alike recipes that appeared on one of her “Free Recipes/Information” sheets. In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, whether you’re hosting a party or taking a dish-to-pass for someone else’s party, this is a picture of her easy and awesome, make-alike version of 5-Alarm-Style Taco Sauce (1985) to go with your favorite tortilla chips – asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.
Another version of this recipe can also be found on page 69 of Mom’s last book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective” [published by Balboa Press (January 2018, 1st Printing) – a re-write by me, Laura Emerich, of her famous, self-published book, “Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook” (May 1983, 3rd Printing)]; again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it; but, here it is for you – again, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it:
FIVE-ALARM TACO SAUCE – Prepare 1 recipe of Gloria’s “Big Match Special Sauce” [see blog from 11/19/18] and add to it: 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon chili powder and ¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or to taste). Sufficient to top-off a dozen tacos [or for dipping!]