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Dear Matthew Alice:

A number of years ago I read about a woman who had written a book of recipes she had developed that supposedly replicated the taste of the items of a number of fast food chains. Did this book every truly exist, or am I confabulating?

-- N.A., San Diego

Whatever else you're doing, you're not confabulating. The lady is Gloria Pitzer of St. Clair, Michigan. Since the 1970s, Gloria's been helping a nation of housewives replicate the subtleties of Wonder Bread and McDonald's special sauce right in their own homes. Amaze and mystify your friends! Imagine their delight when you serve them steaming heaps of Taco Bell tacos without ever getting in your car! Thanks to Gloria, we can now make our own bad food, just like the experts.

A bibliography comprising Gloria's oeuvre would take more ink than this publication could afford. Suffice it to say, she had newsletters, handbooks, leaflets, fliers, bulletins, updates to handbooks and leaflets and fliers and bulletins, plus at least one book, The Copycat Cookbook. These were published out of her home with the help of her husband, who handled the "graphic design." (From the look of things, I'd guess he was a roofer before Glo was bitten by the publishing bug.) The San Diego Public Library has in its reference stacks (downtown) a copy of Pitzer's staple-bound 1979 "Secret Restaurant Recipes Cookbook," a monument to the potential of clip art and xerography in the hands of amateurs.

Perhaps to avoid a legal mess, Gloria's disguised her knock-offs with names like Hopeless Oh Ohs, White Tassel Hamburgers, Let-all Seizer Her pizza, and Thunder Bread. To Gloria's taste buds, the Keen-tucky Kernel's secret herbs and spices can be duplicated with Good Seasons dry Italian salad dressing mix, vinegar, and heaps of salt. The principal ingredients in the filling for her Hostess Twinkies-- sorry, Hopeless Twinkles-- are sugar and Crisco, whipped to a frenzy. If you want some I-made-it-myself Dr. Pepper or Coke to go with Gloria's Big Match burgers, see Steven Tchudi's volume Soda Poppery, also available at the library.

But Gloria simply pioneered taste-alike cuisine. She's passed her spatula to a new generation, one Todd Wilbur, whose Top Secret Recipes launched a small empire based on faux salad dressings and do-it-yourself barbecue sauces that match the stuff served at famous restaurants. See the web site of the same name.

Gloria Pitzer's Babysitter's Friend Sets the Record Straight About the Glorious Mrs. Pitzer; the Nefarious Todd Wilbur; Lovely Marysville, MI (not to be confused with Lovely St. Clair, MI); WSGW; Phil Donahue; and Some Midwest Newspaper Scandal Involving a Guy Named Mitch Albom!

A few years ago we sent you all to the library to check out a copy of Gloria Pitzer's book "Secret Restaurant Recipes Cookbook," which carefully explains how to duplicate fast food favorites right in your own home. Now we learn that my hype of Gloria's book was an ugly gumbo of half truths and inaccuracies. Apparently, if I'm not careful, my name will be mud just like Mitch Albom's. While I try to figure out who he is and what bad thing he did, you can read the real Gloria story from somebody who knows somebody who actually knows her.

Dear Matt: In regards to your column, which I found online, "How can I enjoy a Big Mac without actually leaving the house?" [August 2002 in the archives] I have known about Gloria Pitzer since she was first a local columnist is our little village newspaper. I was born in St. Clair [MI] and my friend used to babysit for Gloria.

There are a few factual problems with [your] column. First, Gloria Pitzer has not lived in St. Clair for a LOT of years. Her address for the cookbooks and recipes is a PO Box in Marysville, MI. They are fairly close, but not the same.

Next, and most important: In my understanding, Todd Wilbur [author of a newer book similar to Gloria's] ripped off Gloria's recipes. He apparently reworded them and/or snatched up some of them when Gloria allowed their cookbook copyright to expire. Gloria worked hard to get those recipes, and she deserves the credit. She named them creatively and appeared several times on Phil Donahue's show. She still does radio shows as a featured guest to answer questions about recipes, WSGW in Saginaw and a station in Chicago. I primarily use her recipes to adapt my favorite restaurant and supermarket specialties to be more healthy. I get almost the same flavors and hopefully will avoid some of the problems.

I realize that I am probably not one of the first to point these things out. [Note to K: You are the very first!] However, this does reflect on your verification of facts. And, the big deal over Mitch Albom submitting a column before the actual event here in the Detroit area makes your errors seem more serious. I hope you will be more careful in your own interest.

Sincerely, K. Eglinton

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