Monday, November 10, 2008

Martha, Martha, Martha

Last Friday night, at the Williams Sonoma at the Bellevue downtown, I met one of my heroes, Martha Stewart. Although to be clear, when a colleague asked me incredulously, "do you like Martha Stewart?" I responded, "well, not in a friend way."

But certainly in an icon way. Martha's recipes have provided me with great food; her decorating efforts have inspired me. There are times when I have had to draw the line at the level of effort, or as described in my "Pumpkin Soup Meltdown" entry, simply not been able to rise to her challenges. Nevertheless, she has been a consistent role model in my adult, home-making life.

Which is why seeing her seemed like the only choice for me on Friday. Martha was doing a book signing of her new "Martha Stewart's Cooking School," a large and colorful book, full of step-by-step instructions for classic recipes. In the same vein as The French Laundry Cookbook and Julia Child's The Way to Cook, this type of cookbook was long overdue for Martha. After some confusion about needing tickets and Williams Sonoma graciously calling me (thanks, Anna!) when a ticket freed up, I waited in the long but well-organized line. The store even served us samples of some of its Thanksgiving options, which were delicious.

Then the moment of truth. Martha was handled by no less than two people before you could approach and three (plus one security guard) to see you out. I was reminded of the part of the movie, "A Christmas Story," when Ralphie finally meets Santa only to be herded in and out by pushy-but-smiling elves. Everyone seemed kind, but they were clearly there to make sure you did not linger, nor pose for photographs, nor ask Martha to make out the signature to you, personally (she wasn't doing that).

Martha greeted me with a "hello" that made me want to somehow connect with her, a sentiment likely echoed by each of the hundreds of people that came before me. I responded, "how are you hanging in there," which could have only been some product of an IQ-dropping adrenaline surge. She gave me a look and shrug that to me said, "you know, it's a book signing, not prison" but could also perhaps be read as "fine." I recovered to spout my rehearsed line, "Your Quick and Healthy Cookbook revolutionized the way I think about cooking." [While nerdy, this is a true expression on my part, reflecting how impressed I was with the way the book is organized by seasons and uses the simplest combinations of ingredients.] To which Martha responded, looking directly into my eyes, "good, good." With a solemn seriousness only someone that reserved can convey in the fewest of words.

As I turned my head slightly, the three post-signing elves smiled and gestured for me to move along. For the record, Martha Stewart is more beautiful in person, perfectly put together with the right hair and lovely outfit, complemented by a modern, grey jacket. I felt heady as I left, as though I had encountered more greatness than my small brain could handle. After all, I just had a conversation, however small, with this woman, whose books grace my shelves and whose magazine arrives in my mailbox monthly, all telling me how to live my life just a little bit better. So I continue to adore her -- just not in a friend way.

Williams Sonoma is located at 200 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia.


Lisa said...

I love her new cookbook. She is a brilliant beautiful lady but I know what you mean about not liking her is a friend sort of way. I was in her blogging show audience. Not too long ago I had my book signed by Giada and she is the type of person I would love to hang out with.

MarthaAndMe said...

I'm so jealous you got to meet her! The signings have all been too far away for me to attend so far. She is certainly an inspiration in so many ways. I am awed by her complete and total grasp of "good things" for all aspects of life.

I sympathize with your pumpkin soup meltdown. I made her "dessert of the month" this month and titled my post "crabby cake"!

Kate said...

Lisa and Marthaandme - thanks for your posts and for introducing me to your cool blogs. I promise to add them to my site as soon as is back up and running. Marthaandme, I love that your blog is all about attempting Martha! And your crabby cake entry is every time I try a recipe that's too much for me - I just feel like I've run a marathon. Kudos for trying, though.

Laura in Fairbanks said...

Ah, Martha. Makes me wish I live somewhere she'd actually visit.