Sometimes, Martha Stewart gets a bad rap. People snidely remark that they aren’t Martha (as if that were a “good thing”), and we all know who they’re talking about.
No one is Martha, and that’s okay.
Or, they will despair they’re unable to make things like those Martha and her band of merry men and women create so they don’t try at all.
Is that any way to be?
Bear and I have been DVR-ing the Martha Stewart Show every morning, and we’re really enjoying watching her as she and her guests make beautiful crafts and foods for Christmas. I must say the new live format isn’t as much fun as the older shows, which were filmed at Turkey Hill Farm, but if you record them, you can zip through the boring parts. The Hallmark channel also broadcasts portions of the old shows.
I miss the inspiration behind Turkey Hill Farm.
No one can be Martha, but that’s not what matters. She’s an iconic figure like Julia Child or Oprah Winfrey. As Non-Gardening, Best Friend Aimee says, “What Oprah did for book clubs and reading, especially women reading, Martha did for homemaking.”
Add to that gardening.
Now, I’m going to make a bold statement . . . however you feel about Martha, if it weren’t for her early shows, there wouldn’t be food or garden blogs. Even the Food Network with all of its celebrity chefs owes her a nod.
She taught many of us how to stage food and plants for photos. She elevated baking, gardening and homekeeping to a high art. Remember when you couldn’t find arbors anywhere? When there was no superfine sugar or silver dragees (unless you lived in NYC)? You know someone is a trendsetter when production and distribution must keep up with them.
It’s a testament to my husband’s forbearance that he drove me all over town so I could make blue and silver cookies one year. Later, I made Tiffany inspired cupcakes. They were my idea, but I believe Martha was the original inspiration, the “artist’s date” if you will.
If it weren’t for Martha, I wouldn’t have baked the best and most beautiful fruitcake I ever laid a lip to. The secret was apricot jam and whole pecans. My father loves fruitcake, and when he bit into my nearly perfect homage that year, it was one of the few times I remember him being happy at Christmas. The same season, Mom and I also tackled stollen. It wasn’t our tradition, but after seeing Martha make it with her mother we wanted to try.
In any endeavor, trying is the important thing.
It says a lot about Martha that when I gave away most of my regular cookbooks, I kept Handmade Christmas: The Best of Martha Stewart Living
and Martha Stewart’s Christmas: Entertaining, Decorating and Giving in the hope that someday I could convert the recipes to gluten and dairy free. (I’m almost there.)
So, Martha, this Advent season, I raise a virtual glass of eggnog to you, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my Oklahoma heart.
I’m one of those people with a sign in my kitchen that reads “Martha doesn’t live here…and that’s a good thing.” But the reason I thought it was so funny and appropriate for me is that I’d much rather do other things than clean house, and I’m not the perfectionist that Martha is. Still, I’ve enjoyed watching her show–now that it’s moved to another time and another channel, I rarely get to watch it–and learned a lot from her. One of the more memorable episodes was when Snoop Dogg was a guest on her show and they cooked together–that was the most incongruous pairing I could ever think of:)
Hope the sugarplums are all dancing soon, and wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas, Dee!
Honey, I KNOW you’re right. I remember back to the days when she would record her herb garden (drooooool), and have big family gatherings in the barn. Yikes, I thought I’d died and gone to well, Turkey Hill.
Wish you and I were neighbors…we could stage, bake, garden, and gab over gluten free,
Sharon (big hugs to all your family)
Starting from a different place, Martha is nothing but a name to me (with bits of atmosphere hanging from it). However, I can understand how someone can be an inspiration and also that people might not like to admit how much they have been influenced in case it makes them one of a herd. I have to be wary of that from time to time. I have often been tempted to think that if something is popular, it can’t be any good. (What arrogance!)
(P.S. I’m not as bad as I used to be!)
P.P.S. I think I wish someone would inspire me to be a bit more domestic. Scents and tastes seem so ephemeral it’s hard to put much enthusiasm into them.
P.P.P.S. Happy Christmas again!
Helen at Toronto Gardens
I admire Martha, too. I wasn’t a big watcher of her TV show, but have often bought her magazine, especially the gardening issues. They’re always packed with good info, including some ideas that actual humans might attempt.
What I like is the way she got people to look at everyday things in new ways; that’s the core of creativity. Every time I see an old panelled door in somebody’s garbage, I think what a great headboard it would make. And you can’t find a white milkware vase in our local thrift shop anymore… not since she did a feature using them with votive candles.
You are so right on, Dee! Merry Christmas, dear friend.
Amen to all that, Dee. And ditto for taking responsibility for her actions and not trying to dodge a prison sentence. You know what else she has taught us? How to have pick ourselves up when we fall down.
Dear Dee, There is no one else like Martha. She led the way and inspired us all. Sometimes, I felt like she was looking through the television screen and saying, “Come on ladies, you don’t have to be perfect, but, please, don’t settle for mediocre.” I especially remember the episodes when she cooked with her mom. This is a lovely essay…I’ll join you in that toast to Martha. xxoogail
Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence
I’m a huge fan of Martha and she has taught me a lot, as well. I’m not Martha either, but actually love this saying – it’s a quip to excuse me, not to berate me.
I’m not Martha in so many way – for a start her pale colors look nice with her blond hair…deep, rich, “winter’ colors suite my style better and so you won’t find blue or green chicken egg colors here. Now, crack that egg open, you that yellow abounds.
I can’t seem to get my act together to create beautiful cut outs whether they are for a pie, a cookie, felt Christmas ornaments, or some other reasons a cut out and layered up something to look nice…and they do look nice. I like reading how to do it, but I won’t be doing it.
I love her garden and all she does for the garden…and what the garden does for the kitchen. I like that she turned me on to Ina Garten. I like that I can create floral arrangements with whatever is available in the garden.
I like her use of glitter and glue and reasons to do so. I’m not too crazy with Halloween as she is, but if she keeps it up, I’ll eventually go that way.
Give me her spring garden issue and a nice glass of wine and I’m filled with inspiration for the season.
Her attention to detail and the savvy to create the empire she did is admirable and she will forever be the person I point to as the person who taught me that it is OK to love all things home. H.
I have a book that showcases Martha’s beautiful gardens at Turkey Hill Farm. Do you know why she sold the farm?
You asked about Gimghoul Castle — from what I can find it’s owned by The Order of Gimghoul and a caretaker lives there. That would be a wonderful place to live, wouldn’t it? It’s too bad the castle is not on a tour of historic Chapel Hill buildings.
I love Martha Dee! She is so dang smart… and managed to go to prison, come out, and get back on her feet pronto. Is she originally from Oklahoma maybe… she acts like one of us!
I happen to think Martha Stewart is rather brilliant. The business savvy alone! She gets down but she gets right back up and keeps on climbing. I have to hand it to her. She’s got the stuff most people could never aspire to. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Dee.
See Brenda, I feel that way too. Merry Christmas my friend.
Susan Morrison and I keep telling ourselves that ‘one day we’ll meet Martha’. Like others above have said, love her or hate her you gotta hand it to her – she’s one driven woman. I admire her for all that she’s accomplished, quite often through adversity and mistakes. In my opinion, its okay to set the bar high – it gives us all something to aspire to (just as long as we don’t end up beating ourselves up over never quite reaching that bar!) Thank you for this very thoughtful post, Dee!
Thanks Rebecca. When you meet her, I want to come too. Pleeeaase!
I loved this post! Even though I may gripe and gritch about feeling like her projects and recipes are unattainable, I still fantasize about trying them when I watch her show on Tivo. Some things I even attempt. 🙂
You are SO right about the old episodes. They were wonderful!
Thanks for writing this lovely post.
Thanks Christina. I don’t attempt a lot of things she does because I don’t have that kind of money. However, we can all dream.
Oh Frances, you made me cry. I don’t think I come near, but I also don’t have an army of merry men and women to help. I do have wonderful blogging friends though, and I’m truly grateful for all.
Dear Dee, what a lovely and personal statement to make and I could not agree with you more. We have much to thank The Martha for, and her old shows are still some of the best stuff on TV. All else pales before them. I have those two books, and wouldn’t think of parting with them. Your efforts are sublime, my friend, Martha worthy for sure. 🙂
You make some good points. If we can just remember that we’re never going to be just like her (who has an army of employees to plant thousands of daffodils each year on their gigantic estate?), then we can learn a lot. I believe the desire and ability to create beauty is a divine trait.
Have a great holiday!
I do too VW. Merry Christmas.
Love and good wishes for the holidays and for a happy, healthy 2011.
Watching Martha was always a guilty pleasure. Being a Type A myself, albeit, not a wealthy version, I enjoyed her attention to detail. And yes, Turkey Hill Farm episodes in the garden were especially fun.
As it seems to be nearly two years since I discovered Blotanical & blogging, I wanted to let you know that you are a bit of an icon yourself;~D .. along with Red Dirt Ramblings! Though you’ve long been a favorite Blotanist, I send a very belated blog ‘fave’ your way!
aka Bay Area Tendrils
Awww, Alice thank you so much. You made my day.
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening
Well, I made myself a little “Martha doesn’t live here” magnet for my refrigerator. It’s on the side of the refrigerator that everyone sees when they first come in the house. It’s not an expression of reverse pride, so much as a warning . . . nothing neat, well-designed, or well-crafted here. I have always loved her garden issue in March. No one can be Martha and no one else can be me. So instead of feeling bad that I’m not Martha, I just aspire to be the best “me” I can be. I know you do, too.
Kathy, so true, the best thing we can do for ourselves and God who made us is to be authentic.
Lisa at Greenbow
Yes, people make fun of her “perfection” but she is an inspiration.
I think so. 🙂
Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Love her or hate her, Martha is one heck of a smart, successful businesswoman.
So true, Jo Ellen. I didn’t even bring up her huge line of products sold everywhere. She is smart.
Patsy Bell Hobson
Bad wrap indeed. What an mazing business woman. I am a great supporter of Martha. She has been an inspiration and I’ve tried many new things in the garden and in the kitchen thanks to her.
Me too PB. I’m grateful for her paving the way.
mss @ Zanthan Gardens
I still have my Nov 1978 issue of Sphere’s Cuisine magazine which featured Martha Stewart’s “Farmhouse Thanksgiving” in which she’s described as “a human dynamo who takes the traditional and gives it her own special twists.”
She was the first person I remember reading about who had her own flock of poultry, raised sheep, and filled her garden with exotic vegetables for her table. She was just building a demonstration kitchen with plans to have her own TV show.
More than 30 years ago, I found her memorable. And hooray for an new generation who, largely thanks to Martha, have gotten into knitting, crafting, homemaking and gardening.
MSS, I couldn’t agree with you more. We don’t need to copy her, but remembering homekeeping as something to enjoy is a great lesson. Thanks for the memory. I never saw that show.
Martha has taught us a lot, including how to take responsibility for your actions and how to rise above those who would bring you down. That might be even more important than her gardening and homemaking skills.
Dorothy, you make a very good point. I’m glad you said so. Thanks.