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. I remember Kentucky Fried Chicken for sure, and I think McDonald’s, among others. Am I confabulating? Did this book ever truly exist? Was the author crushed (or bought out) by corporate forces uglier than (or maybe as rich as) she ever imagined? I must know. — NA., San Diego
Whatever else you may be doing with your spare time, you are not confabulating. The woman and the book still exist in the busy, busy kitchen of 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, now we can 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 has newsletters, handbooks, leaflets, fliers, bulletins, updates to handbooks and leaflets and fliers and bulletins, plus at least one book. The Copycat Cookbook. These are published out of her home with the help of her husband, who handles the “graphic design." (From the looks of things, I’d guess he was a roofer before Glo got 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 just the kind of legal mess you envisioned, N.A., Gloria’s cleverly disguised her knock-offs with names like Hopeless Oh Ohs, White Tassel Hamburgers, Let-all Seize 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.
The Copycat Cookbook is still available; write for details to Gloria Pitzer, P.O. Box 152, St. Clair MI 48079. Or you can wait a month for a new book, Top Secret Recipes, by Todd Wilbur (Plume/Penguin), another do-it-at-home guide to American corporate cuisine. I’m told copies will be available at the Cook’s Bookstore, 3854 Fifth Avenue, in Hillcrest and probably at other locations. And if you’d like 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.