By Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… Top Secret Recipes a la Carte (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sept. 1979)
1 long zucchini
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup oil
1 TB vanilla
3 cups biscuit mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 TB cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
Grate but do not peel the zucchini. Measure out and set aside 2 cups of it. Beat the eggs [with electric mixer] for 5 minutes. Add sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla. Blend [well].
Beat in biscuit mix, baking soda, cinnamon, and walnuts. When smooth [except for the nuts] and blended, pour into two greased and floured 9-inch, bread loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. [Makes 2 loaves.]
Mom (and Dad) faced many uncertainties during the 1970s recession. Early in the decade, Mom left her job at the local newspaper to start her own paper, giving her readers the kind of recipes they wanted, according to the many requests she received.
Mom’s business quickly evolved over the years, in name and design – starting as Happy Newspaper Features, until finally becoming known as Secret RecipesTM – with her Recipe DetectiveTM brand being recognized world-wide. The detective persona came about from her radio audience fans.
In the early years of her home-based business, Mom sold her recipes for a quarter each, printed on 4”x6” index cards, from a mimeograph she kept in our laundry room. It didn’t take long before her recipe library grew to hundreds, mostly through requests from her fans.
The food industry offered unlimited possibilities, for imitating our favorites at home. Within a few years, Mom went from recipe cards to monthly newsletters and multiple cookbooks. She self-published her first cookbook in 1973 and started her newsletter January 1974.
For the first year, at least, Mom “secretly employed” me and my siblings to help her; while simultaneously trying to hide the new “family business” from Dad, at least until it showed a decent profit.
It wasn’t long before Mom started getting calls from local TV stations (and our neighboring Canadian stations), for interviews on news and talk shows; at which point, she had to tell Dad what she was doing.
Within two years, Dad had to take an early retirement from his sign company job; to help Mom, full-time, with the “family business”. That’s why, in our house, every day was National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, since it was a home-based business and we all helped Mom in some way – even if it was just staying out of her way.
Mom “went to work” at home, every day, discovering how to recreate our favorite fast food & restaurant dishes from regular pantry items and without any special gadgets or appliances. She even expanded into imitating grocery products, too. If she could save money on our family’s entertainment and grocery budgets, she wanted to share it with everyone!
‘Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ – Mark Twain
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 36)
HOW SECRET RECIPESTM BEGAN
IT WAS THE WORST possible time to launch a new business. The unemployment rate was terribly high. There was a newsprint paper shortage. There was a gasoline shortage. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to have my own publication, however.
My confrontation with the editor at the Times Herald over the cheesecake recipe [like Sarah Lee’s], was probably the best thing that ever happened to me – us, as a family, in fact.
I was forced to finally do something that, until then, I had only talked about doing because the advice I had listened to was bent on having somebody else handle my work.
Of course, I could not tell Paul what I was going to do – that I was going to publish a newsletter and I was going to try and sell subscriptions to it all without the help of the [publishing and syndicating] agencies to which I had previously been turning.
I was determined to make this idea work because I knew it was a good idea! It was a service that was needed and one that I could provide without ever having to leave the children again.
With the help of the Almighty, I had every confidence that turning out a recipe newsletter was going to be something that would bless everyone concerned: me, the readers, the products mentioned, the reviews of restaurants – every idea was a blessing!
Mom designed her newsletter and cookbooks like warm, comfortable quilts; combining her unique copycat cookery recipe concept for “Eating Out At Home” with humoristic cartoons, household and gardening hints, cooking tips and tricks; as well as adding in her syndicated “Food for Thought” ideas and “No Laughing Matter” columns.
They were all uniquely put together, with love and devotion, creating functional works of art; as Mom wanted them to be just as comfortable on the coffee table as they were on the kitchen counter.
Mom’s favorite way to market her ground-breaking copycat recipes concept was through radio talk shows. For nearly 40 years, she was a regular weekly or monthly guest on numerous radio talk shows (geared toward working homemakers), around the country and in Canada. On occasion, she was also a guest “on-air” with radio stations in other countries.
Mom liked to describe her newsletters as being like a visit from a friend – as you sit at the kitchen table, having coffee, discussing various topics of the day and sharing household tips and recipes. I would describe it, simply, as Mom’s “happy place” and her “legacy of love”.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 53)
RISKS – THE HARD ROAD TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY
THERE ARE MANY RISKS involved with going into business for yourself, no matter what product or service you intend to offer. If I had thought more about the risks, than I did about the possibilities, I never would have moved an inch toward doing any of the things about which I now write.
My husband is not a risk-taker. I am. We complement each other well. He still becomes uneasy and anxious about every new idea I have for another book or another project, on the basis that ‘we can’t afford it.’
I have learned, over the years, to keep many of my projects to myself until they are completed, which in the long run, saves Paul from worrying unnecessarily about something that will very likely turn out well, and keeps me from worrying that Paul is worrying.
Some people experience a certain let-down, after reaching what they consider ‘the top’. When they finally reach the Everest of their ambitions [and] make it to the top, they start to wonder why they were in such a hurry to get there anyhow.
Like Lee Iacocca, who was only in his mid-40s when he was president of the Ford Motor Company, writes in his autobiography, [that he had] no idea what he was going to do ‘for an encore’! I have never had to worry about this, fortunately.
When I have been asked about goals or destination, it is been my feeling that every corner I turn has a new goal, a new destination awaiting us. I have never thought of any one point as being the top. Life has so many wonderful opportunities for each of us to take advantage of, that it does not seem reasonable that I should give myself the limitations that would determine just how far I should be able to go.
Because this was never a hobby, never WORK, never a job, I have had no problem with the worry or concern that accompanies a position from which one expects to retire. I would not want to give up what I have been doing since I was a child [writing].
It would be unfair to have to give up doing something that has also brought so much pleasure and good information to so many people. It was, however, only when I realized what I should be writing about and what I should be sharing with the readers – what I knew best – that things really began to happen.
Of course, my husband wisely reminds me, when someone asked about writing their own cookbook, that WRITING it is the easiest part. Knowing how to SELL it is the hard part!
Writing was always in Mom’s blood. She wrote and self-published a lot of “our family’s story”, in 1989, in her book, My CupRunneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop. The book was basically about how she was led by a special calling to start her Secret RecipesTM legacy. Plus, being that it was a “family enterprise”, it was sub-titled ‘The True Story of a Family’.
Every family has a story to tell – in fact, many stories. They can be pieced together from old pictures, cards, and letters or by tracing your ancestors’ roots through various online sources. It’s the perfect time to research and write about your family’s story, as it’s… National Tell a Story Day and tomorrow is National DNA Day!
In honor of tomorrow, also being National Zucchini Bread Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Zucchini Bread; as seen in her self-published cookbook… Top Secret Recipes a la Carte (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Sept. 1979, p. 52).
By Gloria Pitzer, as seen in… Secret Knock-Off Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov 1996, p. 35)
9-oz box yellow cake mix
1 small box (4-serving size) instant vanilla pudding powder
1 cup grated, unpeeled zucchini
¼ cup oil
1 cup broken walnuts
½ cup orange juice
½ tsp cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
In medium bowl, stir together first three ingredients. Set aside. Into blender, put rest of ingredients. Blend briefly, just to combine. Pour over dry mixture. With electric mixer, on medium speed, combine until all dry stuff has been moistened…
Divide batter equally between three, greased, 1-lb (miniature), foil, loaf pans; placing these on cookie sheet, 1” apart so heat can circulate evenly around pans. Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until “tester” inserted in center of loaves comes out clean.
Cool in pans, on racks, for 1 hour. Refrigerate loaves in sealed food bags to slice after 4 hours – not before! Freeze [sliced bread] to use in a few months. [Makes 3 small loaves.]
Wednesday is celebrating National Tell a Story Day! That’s just what I try to do, here, every Monday. I love telling stories about my mom – and it’s become one of my favorite things to do every week! Likewise, Mom always loved to tell up-lifting and humorous stories in her columns, newsletters, and books – even through her cartoon panels.
By the way, for the rest of this week, it’s still National Humor Month, too! Similar to some of her favorite comedians, Mom found her “family life” to be the best source, on which to draw inspiration for her cleverly witted, food-for-thought stories and cartoons. She was creatively gifted as an artist, writer, and story-teller – among many other things.
Additionally, April is National Couple Appreciation Month! And, when you think about it, none of us would be here, with stories to tell, if it weren’t for our parents getting together – and their parents (pictured above) getting together – and so on! Therefore, as far as couples go, I have to say that I really appreciate my own parents – as well as each of their parents, etcetera.
However, I would think this national observance could be better celebrated in August (rather than April) – especially in this context – as that’s when most family reunions are held, especially on Labor Day weekend, to honor the families’ elders. Otherwise, wouldn’t it make better sense to hold family reunions in April, in honor of Couple Appreciation Month? This could be the new trend for “Spring Break” events!
Mom and Dad were together for 58 years, before Dad passed away in October 2014. The first 20 years of their marriage, Dad worked in various positions at a sign company. He retired in 1976 to help Mom with her business, which had grown a lot in its first couple of years, alone; and it was taking all of his attention, when he wasn’t working at the sign company, as it was. The last 38 of those years, Mom and Dad lived and worked together, side-by-side, 24/7.
[NOTE: I shared this in one of my February blog posts, Marriage And Compatibility, along with Mom’s story of “Compatibility And Forgiveness”, from her own self-published book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 62-64).]
It takes a very special bond – and, as Mom claimed, a lot of forgiveness – to be practically inseparable, day-in and day-out. Many couples discovered that in the early months of the “pandemic shut-down”, when most states were issuing “stay-at-home” orders to try to curb the spread.
When the recipe cards became so popular that we were packaging them, sometimes in complete [$40] sets of the full 200 selections, I began to look at the possibilities of doing my own recipe books – less-expensive to the customer, surely, and less work for us considering all of the myriad choices one can have with 200 individual cards.
I assembled several single page books that I could mimeograph, remaining independent in the production of them, and came up with several workable ideas. It was very shortly thereafter, [from] a printer Paul was dealing with, at the company he worked for in the city, that we learned how to layout our own camera-ready copy and provide the recipes quite inexpensively. It was such a relief to be rid of the messy mimeograph machine.
SELF-SUFFICIENT & SUCCESSFUL
Self-publishing is a hard row to hoe, but worth all efforts when the final product is the result of your dedication and determination not to fail. We hope to now be able to accept QVC’s offer to let them sell our books in a series of six, as they asked us to do just two weeks after we signed with Guthie-Renker . With that now long behind us, we are finally free to fix things the way they were before we fixed them!
BLESSING IN DISGUISE
It was a blessing in disguise that Paul’s assignments at the company where he worked had given him the job of purchasing agent, for it certainly prepared him strongly for the responsibilities that would come our way in branching out into self-publishing our books.
Every department he worked in at Willey Sign Company gave him a basic foundation for being able to structure our business into a self-sufficient operation, from advertising to marketing and bookkeeping.
It was right after the ‘National Enquirer’ and ‘People’ magazine and ‘The Washington Post’ interviewed us and [printed] stories about our work, that he found himself spending every evening after he got home from his job, every weekend and his two-week vacation time, as well, working on our recipe business, that he knew he had to make a choice.
He had to give up his 20-year job and the benefits and such in order to devote full-time to Secret RecipesTM. It was a decision we have never regretted. With only $1000 in the bank and all of the bills that continued to come in day after day, we launched our ship of dreams and have never once had any regrets. Nor have we ever gone one day [as of this printing] since that date, August 13, 1976, without an order!
‘The experiences we have encountered in building this family enterprise of ours, this cottage industry…has occurred while distributing recipe secrets through radio [and television] broadcasting and newspaper exposure… I have met some of the nicest people in the world, some of the most generous people who want to share their good ideas with me as much as I want to share mine with them. Of these good people, I will speak often and lovingly.’ – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 2)]
I have a sign, hanging proudly, near my dining room table that reads: “There’s a room in every home where the smallest events and biggest occasions become the stories of our lives.” The table is the same one I grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. It always seemed to be my family’s favorite spot in which to gather, eat, laugh, and talk about our lives. Those were, at least for me, great times; inspiring many, humorous, family stories.
In honor of TODAY, being National Zucchini Bread Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Zucchini Bread, Inspired By Bill Knapp’s”; as seen in her self-published cookbook… Secret Knock-Off Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov 1996, p. 35).