2 C. mesa harino (corn flour) or plain, all-purpose, white flour
1 1/3 C. lukewarm water
1 tsp. salt
Combine [all ingredients] by mixing well with your hands. Dough from this mixture must be moist but stiff enough to hold its shape.
Divide dough into 12 equal portions, shaping each into a ball and [placing them each] between two pieces of waxed paper – flattening them very thin, to about 1/8-inch thick.
To transfer circle of dough to a hot, [lightly] greased skillet or griddle [eliminating any extra grease with a paper towel, first – should be almost dry], remove top sheet of waxed paper and invert onto prepared pan, peeling off other sheet of waxed paper.
Brown until underside appears lightly brown, when you lift it to peek, and slightly puffed on top. When edges begin to curl up, remove without turning and wrap in [lightly] greased sheets of foil – or wrap in damp cloth and keep warm in a 200°F oven only until all have been browned as described.
*Fill [tortillas] with taco mixture: Combine 1-lb. ground beef, browned briefly in skillet with 2-3 TB oil, until pink color disappears and add 1 small onion (chopped fine), ¼ of a green pepper (chopped fine), ½ C. tomato juice (or… spicy V-8 Juice), pinch of thyme, dash cayenne pepper, dash chili powder, bit of salt, and pepper (to taste).
Bake at 450°F for 5-8 minutes, or until piping hot, and serve promptly. Serves 6 sensibly.
September is National Americana Month – a time to reflect on and reminisce about the “Norman Rockwell basics” of life in America; those simple things that have uniquely woven us together as Americans! When I think of Americana, in terms of food-related, I think of the nostalgic icons of fast-food chains, state fairs, carnivals, and drive-ins. Even department store restaurants and cafeterias make the reminiscing list for me (and I’ll be writing more about them next week)!
Fast-food is a multi-billion dollar industry. If you like hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, French fries, onion rings, tacos, burritos, pizza, fried chicken, and deep-fried fish – even breakfast foods – they are all among the most popular “fast-food” menu offerings, as well as the most popular consumer choices around America. The fast-food industry has been evolving for over 100 years – the prime of which is considered to have been during the 1960s and 1970s; as so many franchises launched across the country, it was like a “baby boom” in the food industry. Soon after, American fast-food franchising grew globally, as well.
The more critics argued about how bad fast food and junk food was for our health and well-being, the more people wanted to covet it. Mom always contended that “fast food” was food that was prepared quickly and that was done at fine restaurants such as Devon Gables’ Tea Room, as well as fast-food chains like McDonald’s. Mom would also maintain that “junk food” was merely food that was poorly prepared.
Additionally, as Mom said in her last cookbook, “…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 [and presented] makes the difference!” – [As seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 6).]
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, pp. 70 & 71)
SMORGASBORD – FREEDOM OF CHOICE
It’s a mistake to think of the fast food industry as being confined to hamburgers and fries and buckets of chicken or fish. It is really a more versatile banquet of menu selections than the critics give us time to consider. The public is fickle and very easily swayed by the aggressive opinions of self-styled experts who preach the evils of fast food with all the charisma of a revival tent evangelism; and we, the believing public, will go in whatever direction the wind blows the strongest!
Nobody dreamed that the step-child of the food industry would ever have endured this long – for, to everybody’s surprise, fast food has, indeed, become the ‘Liza Doolittle’ of the restaurant industry. The humble streetcar diner of the 1950s and 1960s has blossomed into the Cinderella of the commercial dining division of the food industry. It has soared in sales while all other major enterprises have suffered set-backs in the shadow of the recent economic gloom! [NOTE: That was originally written in 1982, showing that history surely does repeat itself.]
The reason the fast food industry has become a virtual smorgasbord of appealing menu selections is that it is affordable! People who work hard for their money and have little of it left after essentials have been paid for, look for leisure and escape hatches by which they can derive a little pleasure for the money they have left to spend on such luxuries.
Fast food chains cater to crowds with very little fuss, but surroundings that reflect informality. The costs of eating out, however, have increased along with everything else. Now it’s becoming less and less appealing to spend the same money on one fast food meal that would also buy a bag of groceries that could make several meals at home!
So, we can have our cake and eat it too! We can dine in as if we’re eating out – whether we choose to be catered to by wine stewards and parking valets or whether we wish to impersonate the plastic palaces of the fast food kingdom – eating out at home can be a pleasant experience.
FAST FOODS HAVE ARRIVED IN OUR CULTURE at a point in our growth as a society, when ‘time’ is of the essence… held cheaply, spent foolishly, and made to be one of the most aggressive influences in our lives.
The calendar and the clock have given a sense of order to civilization. Our lives are, both, governed by and regulated by the limitations of these two man-made inventions. In a world created and perpetuated by an infinite Spirit, man has adjusted to the divisions of time. The records of one’s birth and death are accounted for by date and moment; and all the time in between is categorized by years, months, weeks, days, hours, moments—even seconds. We are hardly conscious of the limitations to which we submit ourselves by confining our lives to the measurements of calendar and clock divisions.
Without even realizing it, we are constantly meeting deadlines in our lives. We catch a bus, a train, a plane in accordance with the hour and minute scheduled. We compete in and watch sports that honor seconds by which winning and losing, and records are determined.
It is, with some frustration, that man attempts to occasionally free himself of the obligation to live within the framework of the deadline. Our work is subject to how much we can accomplish within a repeating allotment of time. Our leisure is limited by the number of hours and minutes that remain.
Even the successful results of the foods we prepare is completely dependent on the timing we employ. From this, we have derived ‘instant coffee’, ‘the 3-minute egg’, ‘day-old bread’, ‘Minute Rice’, ‘Hour-by-Hour’ deodorant soap, ‘the 5-minute phone call’, ‘the 12 Days of Christmas’, and on and on. We can have a ‘good time’, a ‘great time’, a ‘bad time’. About the only thing not governed by, nor subject to, time is love.
So, ‘Fast Foods’ arrived when it could be most appreciated and most recognized. ‘Fast’ indicates – or, at least, implies – that there will be time left over one would not ordinarily have with food that was NOT ‘fast’. Most food preparations require a lot of time.
But ‘Fast Food’ was capitalized on by the promotional people as being something the on-the-go generation could enjoy and would buy, because they had better things to do than sit around restaurants waiting to be waited on; when, instead, they could run in and out with a meal and be on their way to the fun things in life – or on the way to the more time-consuming things in their life, such as work or business of one kind or another.
With the extensive research into the effects of stress, pressure put upon many people from having too little ‘time’ to be relaxed, to enjoy leisure, freedom from worries, there has been a turn-around in the fast food promotional field. Now they are gradually – without you hardly even being aware of it – changing to a ‘family’ restaurant theme. They want to bring back the old-fashioned, close-knit, solid family unit. Back and forth, like the pendulum of a clock, the gimmicks are given a new face and flavor. The public will eventually become conditioned to the new theme and ‘fast food’ will take on a cosmetic change that we will hardly even notice.
Continuing on with my depiction of 30 of the oldest fast food chains and restaurant franchises in America, which I started a couple of weeks ago; the following 11 chains emerged between 1953 and 1969, many from whom Mom imitated several of their popular menu offerings.
I’ve shared some of those recipes in previous blog posts so I’m re-sharing them, here, again. A few of the other recipes pictured below came from Mom’s last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective, which is a rewrite I helped her do of her favorite self-published cookbook from 1982, Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook. A total of 12 of Mom’s related copycat recipes are pictured below. Enjoy!
Italian-American cuisine was one of many of Mom’s favorite food areas to investigate. She “covered” many “hits” from the older, popular chains such as Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s; as well as newer chains, like Olive Garden, for an example.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 72)
PIZZA AND PASTA DISHES
ITALIAN CUISINE has been a part of our American restaurant industry since the early days of its discovery – if you recall – by an Italian, Columbus! If Christopher Columbus had never tasted pizza or spaghetti with meatballs, then he surely didn’t know what he was missing! But the influence of good Italian cooking in our American ‘Melting-Pot’ cuisine has had a long life of appealing dishes that have influenced, still, other food creations.
The pizza, as we know it in this country, was the creation of an Italian baker in New York’s East side during the late 1800’s. Dock-workers and sailors frequented the bakery for their lunch food, requesting a slice of cheese with their bread and glass of ‘Vino’. The enterprising baker dreamed up what was probably the very first delicatessen in the restaurant industry.
WHEN THE CUSTOMERS REQUESTED bread and cheese, he also added some spicy tomato sauce to it, like an open-face sandwich; and, as the popularity of the dish grew, he topped it off with sausage and other condiments until someone asked him what he called his dish. He thought a moment and replied, ‘Pizza!’
It came from the same word as the musical term, pizzicato, to pinch or pluck a stringed instrument, such as a violin or guitar. Thus, pizza may have been so-named from the fact that the dough, being rounded at first, is pinched and plucked outward until circular and flat.
For whatever reasons, the Italian baker went without recognition for his creation until we were informed by a woman, in her 80’s, that her father and his before him worked the docks in New York where the legend of the beginning of the pizza was a well-known story, handed down from generation to generation, that the dish was, indeed, created in this country and preserved with Italian traditions for all of us to enjoy.
The pasta dishes of our American restaurant cuisine have been expanded to include some very interesting creations, employing imagination when combining compatible ingredients. Although there are probably as many recipes for good sauces as there are cooks to prepare them and restaurants to serve them, I chose only a few for this book that would offer a good, basic dish.
In Mom’s 1998 reprint of her self-published cookbook, Secret Fast Food Recipes (aka: “Book 6”, in a series), she published her delicious imitation of TGI Friday’s Crazy Layer Cake; which I will share with you at a later date.
When it came to deep-fried, battered fish, Arthur Treacher’s establishments did it best and they were always our family’s favorite! Mom’s version, called Archer Teacher’s Fish & Chips, was among her “Original 200” collection.
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Hi, everyone! Thank God, it’s Monday, again! It’s my chance to write about my mom and share my memories of her with you…
Today is Mardi Gras Eve, the day before Mardi Gras; which is, now, called Lundi Gras, [aka: “Fat Monday”] in New Orleans; and, like Mardi Gras, it has its own traditions and celebrations, including lots of food and drinks, as well as various forms of art and music and fireworks. It’s been a growing and evolving celebration, in New Orleans; especially since 1987. However, since its revival, Lundi Gras is not celebrated the way it was before WWI.
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”. Traditionally, on Fat Tuesday, all of the lard, butter, milk and other animal products were used up by this day, so as to reduce waste before the 40-day fasting period of Lent, which begins the next day (on Ash Wednesday). “Fat Tuesday” is also the last day of “Carnival” week – a Christian feasting celebration, leading up to Lenten season’s fasting ritual. The modern “Carnival” celebration is a festival extravaganza, including parades, street parties, music and the arts; plus, other entertaining elements similar to a circus – with elaborate costumes and masks, as well.
Nothing gathers people together more than food. These days, all of the holidays, special events and other reasons for gatherings are, in some fashion, marketed in the food industry! Any reason to celebrate, is a reason to celebrate with food! That should be somebody’s slogan – and remember, I coined it, here, first! Mom was one of the grandest celebrators of food! Every imitation Mom created of a popular dish or food item was, in itself, a celebration! The more food imitations that Mom developed, the further her fans and followers clamored for additional ones, as there was no one else doing such a thing, in those days!
Critics of the junk food and fast food industries thought that Mom’s type of copycat cookery was a fad that wouldn’t last long. But it was only the beginning of a revolutionary movement in the food industry – one that Mom called “Taking The Junk Out Of Junk Food” and “Eating Out At Home”! As a matter of fact, that was the name of an article (reprinted below) that Mom wrote in her “Secret Recipes” column that was printed in the Port Huron Times Herald in the 1970s. In honor of February being National Hot Breakfast Month, I’m including Mom’s recipe from that article for “Big Batch Scrambled Eggs”, like McDonalds once served.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
“Secret Recipes From… Gloria Pitzer” (Times Herald, Port Huron, MI; August 3, 1978) and
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press,; Jan. 2018, p. 136)
TAKE THE JUNK OUT OF JUNK FOODS – EATING OUT AT HOME
Going to a restaurant is like going to a movie, a way of escaping your day-to-day environment in the office or home or at most place you’re in that are functional. Restaurants should be places that make you feel separated from your daily environment.
Many restaurants are very successful because their design is very theatrical, suggesting another time or environmental experience that makes you feel far away from your problems. McDonald’s [restaurants] have been successfully employing the theme of total decorating concept into their units for many years, with the family as the center of attention… [such as] what appeals to family groups – children, parents, grandparents.
Their concepts are warm, functional, attractive and wholesome. They have set the trend in the fast food industry for this type of decor, always emphasizing their immaculate concept. So, how can the food purists and the experts degrade and deplore a company that has survived a competitive marketplace, where so many others have come and gone…?
The introduction of a breakfast menu to the fast food franchise was also their idea and they probably do it better than others because of their organized food-planning concept. Try making scrambled eggs for your next big family breakfast like the ‘Golden Arches’. This recipe, from our ‘Secret Restaurant Recipes, Book #1’, has been adopted by many smaller restaurants and used quite successfully.
Big Batch Scrambled Eggs, by Gloria Pitzer
Break 8 eggs into a large bowl. Avoid using plastic (I prefer earthenware), for plastic seems to discourage fluffiness when beating eggs… Beat on low speed with electric mixer for two minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ cup milk – continue beating another minute. Melt and cool ¼ cup butter (or margarine) and beat this in. Add a little at a time until blended. Lightly butter bottom and sides of a double boiler top [piece] and place over gently simmering water in the bottom [piece]. Pour in egg mixture and cover. Allow to cook on low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. After time is up, turn congealed portion of eggs into middle of pan; cover and continue cooking another 5 to 6 minutes or until all of eggs are in large congealed pieces. Serve on heated platter. (I run mine under hot water or leave in dishwasher for one minute on dry.) Serves four.
In contrast to those critics who condemned “junk food” as being bad for us, Mom’s definition for real “junk food” was simply “poorly prepared food”. People know what they want and they like the so-called “junk” food that’s purportedly so bad for them. However, along with the “everything in moderation” theory, Mom found a way to – forgive the pun – “have her cake and eat it too”, by taking the junk out of junk food through making copycat versions at home, where she controlled the ingredients.
In the 1970s, this was a break through that had many companies up in arms! Someone was duplicating their products at home – cheaper and healthier – and publicly sharing her secrets of how she did it through her self-published newsletters and recipe cards and cookbooks! She was also talking about it on radio and television, as well as in newspapers and magazines!
Though, Mom never really knew what any of the companies’ actual “secret recipes” were for their sumptuous products, she had a talent for figuring it out, based on basic recipes and the specific food’s flavors, smells, textures and color. In fact, Mom had enough talent that some companies sent their lawyers after her, but to no avail.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Eating Out at HomeCookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1978; p. 2)
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…even if we could afford to eat at all or most of our meals away from home, wouldn’t that become monotonous in time?
Mom and Dad found out decades later, in their retirement years, that without us 5 kids in tow and being able to afford it from the success of their Secret RecipesTM business, eating out often really didn’t get as monotonous as she thought it might! For years, Mom and Dad enjoyed eating out for, at least, breakfast and lunch almost every day, and making new friends everywhere they went was an extra perk! They were BIG fans of McDonald’s restaurants, thus, Mom wrote and talked about them often.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p.11)
…talking about the most successful of the fast food chains – McDonald’s! It’s the only company in the fast food industry that has succeeded in cornering the market on family food and fast service restaurants – the world over! McDonald’s was the trend-setter, the hometown hospitality example in the industry. They took meat and potatoes and turned it into a billion-dollar enterprise.
It was 1954 and Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, was 52 years old. Hardly the time in one’s life when they’d start to think about launching a new enterprise, but rather a time when most began to think about retiring! On one of his sales trips, Ray Kroc, a Dixie Cup salesman, met the owners of a thriving hamburger restaurant in California. Eventually, Kroc purchased the business from Maurice (Mac) McDonald and his brother, Richard. Mac & Dick had a fetish for cleanliness. Their place in San Bernardino was spotless! And much like Ray Kroc in his own experience years later, they weren’t too keen about teenagers. They avoided catering to the teenage market exclusively because kids loitered, were noisy and threw food around. The McDonald’s concept was for ‘the family!’ McDonald’s wasn’t the first company to create a fast food concept; but, by far, it was the most recognized and the most profitable in the industry. While fast food has taken it on the chin for every conceivable infraction of culinary achievement that the critics could possibly contrive, McDonald’s still came out on top!
This year in honor of #52Chances and #MemorableBeginnings, I want to offer you a recipe each week from Mom’s “Original 200” Secret RecipesTM collection – as these are the memorable beginnings of the Recipe DetectiveTM. The following recipe is for today, as it is also #NationalTortillaChipDay…
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Next week rings in March! Some of the national, month-long (March), food-related observances for March include Celery Month, Caffeine Awareness Month, Flour Month (with Nat’l Flour Day on the 20th), Frozen Food Month, Noodle Month, Nutrition Month, Peanut Month and Sauce Month, among others. Again, not food-related but close to my heart and Mom’s, as well – it’s also going to be National… Craft Month, Women’s History Month and Small Press Month!
NationalDayCalendar.com suggests that we… “Stop shaming Monday and look at what Monday has to offer… 52 CHANCES to see a beautiful sunrise… share your talents with the world… teach someone a new skill that will better their lives…” For me, it’s 52 CHANCES to tell Mom’s story, again; hopefully, re-inspiring love in the kitchen, in the home and family, throughout the neighborhood and around the world. Eight down, 44 to go!