Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2004 / 14 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765
Martha's world still perfect in the magazine
Long before I ever laid hands on a bona fide Martha Stewart Living
magazine, I enjoyed a parody called Is Martha Stuart Living? This was the
magazine that detailed how to make your own water from scratch and gave
tips on dirt collecting and stenciling the driveway. It was a good thing.
And a funny thing.
This week I renewed my subscription to the real Martha Stewart
Living magazine. It, too, is a good thing.
When a friend gave me a subscription several years ago, I wondered
if it was a joke. After all, Martha was the woman who would core an apple,
stuff chicken salad in the center, then carve her daughter's initial into
the side of the apple before packing it in her school lunch for a special
treat. As close as my kids came to a special treat was opening their brown
paper sacks and finding Lunchables, factory-packed lunches containing
high-fat bologna and processed cheese with enough sodium to create a salt
lick for every blacktail deer in North America.
Living told things like how to carve a pumpkin, drill a gazillion
holes in it and thread twinkle lights through the holes for a spooky, yet
glittering effect. The perfect way to please the neighborhood vandals, come
Living told readers how to make an angel food cake from scratch,
braid rugs and rewire lamps. I didn't do any of those things either, but I
realized the magazine was more than a bible for domestic perfectionists; it
was catch-up material (how to make great lasagna, prune raspberry bushes
and fix a broken windowpane) for some of us who hadn't been paying
attention. Silently scattered among the sophisticated pages of Living was
my grandmother's old-fashioned resourcefulness and industry.
Granted, there also was a fantasy quotient to the entire Martha phenomena,
but there was something greater than the woman with the mixer that never
splattered. There was an appeal to the well-ordered life, the intentional
use of time and the ability to bring beauty into the home.
Soon the magazine began accumulating in a corner of our family room the
same way National Geographic refuses to leave the homes of retirees. The
kids used Martha's magazine as reference material and for craft ideas when
baby-sitting. Besides that, the photography has always been outstanding. It
is a magazine you can readily admit to buying for the pictures.
After criminal charges were filed against Martha, advertisers fled from her
magazine like their hot pads were on fire. Martha's stock recently surged
upward when CBS announced she had signed a deal with the producer of
Survivor (How does one get that towel rack plumb on the cell wall using
only a plastic fork and strand of dental floss?).
Uncertain whether Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia will make a full
comeback, other mavens stand poised and waiting with meat forks in hand.
Joan Lunden will host Finding the Next Designing Diva, a reality television
show where 12 rivals will duke it out in the kitchen, garden and craft
room. Let the battle of the glue guns begin.
Meanwhile, Martha's magazine has been quietly retooled. Martha's personal
calendar (move the greenhouse 3 inches to the west on Thursday) has
disappeared. Her essay on the back page has been replaced by a cookie
recipe and her name on the cover noticeably reduced in size. Still, the
content remains the same: home-keeping information and ideas, with a touch
of escapism and fantasy, where gardens never grow weeds, soufflés always
rise, and the kitchen is forever clean.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2004, Lori Borgman
JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of , most recently, "Pass the Faith, Please" (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) and I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.