Well, well; Martha Stewart. Looks like you’ve gone and gotten yourself into an eensy bit of trouble, haven’t you? Whoopsies! Seems as though the only thing you haven’t found the perfect hand-embroidered fabric storage box for is your incredibly insulting, out-of-touch comments. To be fair, there are probably lots of those comments, so you may want to consider packing them away in that extra home of yours on your property. It would be a good thing.
Let’s talk, Martha. *pats chair*
You know, sometimes, we gloss over the shortcomings of our friends and family, simply because we love them. We focus on the good; we focus on the benefit they bring to our lives and disregard the things which perhaps need work. Sometimes we do that so much that we even forget about those shortcomings. I tend to think that’s what many of us have done with you. You’re Martha Stewart, after all: maven of crafts, diva of decorating, goddess of all holidays, right? You provide an inspiration to millions of people everywhere, and not always the people you’d expect. We all wait patiently to see what ideas the next magazine will bring, each and every month.
By the way, this “we” I keep referring to? I’m talking about bloggers, otherwise known as a huge portion of your population. But more than that, I’m talking about those of us who read blogs, because guess what? LOTS OF PEOPLE READ BLOGS. And you know what else? They like us, even. So all of us out there on the internets who talk about food, home repair, parties, or DIY, for free, because we love it? We have a reach, too. It’s your audience. Perhaps not as big, but pretty powerful. There’s love here, and a mutual respect, and a conversation happening. You like to sit on your reclaimed wood and merino wool-padded throne and watch your empire happen: we work hard every day to build ours.
So back to covering up the unsavory bits. I have been steadily cooking, almost every day, for years now. I’ve become pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. I’m completely self-trained aside from the gentle prodding of my mother during my formative years to pay attention to what she was doing. I’m what you consider an idiot, evidently. I do have a degree in English Lit, which I suppose could translate into maybe being able to jot a few words down on paper, but I’m sure I’m not “trained editor at Vogue” material like, say, the Diana Vreelands and Anna Wintours of the world. Which is weird, Martha, because Ms. Vreeland? She’s an icon, and she was a debutante who went to dancing school (and in no way am I downing that, Movita Beaucoup. I think dancing school is incredibly difficult), while Ms. Wintour began her career as a 16-year-old girl at Harrod’s: no formal training to write there, either. One could argue, and they would be correct, that the success of both Ms. Vreeland and Ms. Wintour was this: they were driven to do the thing they felt most passionate about. And they worked at it until they were practically immortal.
So would those be the Vogue editors you speak of? Because although they eventually gained a busload of experience immersed in the magazine world, they didn’t start out that way. They started out with passion and a desire to build a career. Like so many bloggers I know.
But I keep getting off track: back to the food. I’m pretty good at it. I craft my own recipes quite often now, because I’ve built up my confidence with it, and I’ve learned more about techniques and how flavors work together. I still adapt recipes from my cookbooks all the time: I try to make them my own, because I think that’s the true nature of recipes: passing them from one to the next in an attempt to keep people cooking and baking. Is that not it? Is a recipe only good if it’s “brand new” and not a “copied” version of what “trained professionals” have done? Interesting. Because I didn’t know you and your trained editors invented the blueberry buckle, cornbread stuffing, or oven-roasted chicken with lemon and thyme. Fascinating. The things I never knew about you, like how you must be a vampire and 609 years old, because those recipes have been around forever, and in basically the same format, by the way.
And here’s the rub: those recipes you present so beautifully in your magazines? I’ve tried lots of them. I have a 50% failure rate with them, and by “failure,” I don’t mean minor. I mean rolling-on-the-floor, laughing-at-my-results utter failure. I realize by your standards that I’m not a “professional,” but (pardon me if I’m wrong) I thought your magazine was geared to the home cook? No? Do you think Jacques Pépin waits anxiously for his mail to come so he can try out your recipes? Perhaps he does; what would I know, anyway. But I’ve cooked enough to know that with many of your recipe failures, it’s you, not me.
If I were to venture a guess, those magazines – and the recipes found within – are headed straight to women and men and maybe even kids who just love you and want to cook something and feel like you for 30 minutes of their day. How discouraging it must be for them to continually fall short of what they think is an “easy recipe” for you: people stop cooking entirely for just that reason.
Food bloggers? We have real kitchens, not “test” kitchens equipped with top of the line equipment. I’ve never even heard of the brand name listed on my oven, but it cooks evenly, and does a good job for me. We research recipes, find our own way with them, tweak them, discard them, rinse and repeat. But if they’re really good? We post them. I speak for myself in saying that I only publish the recipes I fall in love with: If it’s just okay, they get scrapped. That’s how I run my blog, and that’s how many others do as well. Because it’s our name on it; it’s our meager little brand. I don’t want people coming back and saying how awful something was because I didn’t fine-tune it enough; it’s like a blogger’s worst nightmare. And as far as I’m concerned, our test kitchens beat your test kitchen any day of the week, because we’re in there ourselves.
To say nothing of your crafts, Martha, although I’ll concede that some of them – like some of your recipes – are pretty spectacular. But you’re “the” expert, right? I shouldn’t be using the word “some” here; you should have a better track record than “some.” I actually went through a bunch of Martha Stewart Living magazines I had stored up to find some fun summer crafts this year. I found one in particular for a pom-pom swizzle stick; cute, right? Not really, because as it turns out, I needed a “pom pom maker” to complete the task. May I ask you a question, Martha? Do you think we’re aching to add a pom-pom maker to our gadgets? It was raffia on a stick: I should have needed string, a scissors, and some tape for that. Thank heavens for the DIY/Craft bloggers out there, because you know why? They’ll never tell me I need to purchase special items. See these adorable apple crafts? That’s felt, glue, and paper, and they’re perfect. Now that’s what I call “do it yourself.”
But you’ve become a marketing opportunity at this point in the game, am I right? You’re a needless gadget purveyor, out shilling your wares from Macy’s to Michaels, and we eat it up. Because you must know what’s best: you are our home-keeping icon. You know how to groom gardens and arrange flowers and keep it all together. Look at all you’ve achieved! And to think that years ago, you were just a single mom who liked to cook and bake and organize and plan parties for your friends…
Wait a minute.
Could that be true? Although you would have us all believe you’ve “started this whole category of lifestyle” at birth, you didn’t. You were a model. You learned to cook and sew from your mother, to garden from your father, and to can and preserve while visiting your grandparents. You started a catering business in your basement. Now, the internet wasn’t around (at least as it exists today) back in the eighties, but dare I speculate that you would have probably started *gasp* a BLOG to document your personal journey?
Because that’s why many of us started ours. Before you protest, yes: there are hacks out there. Tons of them. they’re in it for the popularity; the “likes,” the unique hits, the possibility of a cookbook deal and to become The Pioneer Woman overnight. But they’re not difficult to spot: indeed, they’re actually hard to miss, with flashy ads blazing all over their pages. There are bloggers like that out there who make the rest of us look bad, i agree. But we’re not all like that. I find it odd that you don’t know that, considering you have “Martha’s Circle,” a community of bloggers to whom you’ve given your gold-leafed seal of approval. Oh, and one of those bloggers is Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame: a self-trained baker and cook who began by adapting recipes to teach herself how to cook. I wonder what she thinks of your feelings towards bloggers.
We’re not perfect. Neither are you, as evidenced over and over again in your at-times mediocre recipes, incredibly time-consuming crafts, and even your professional and personal failures. But what we are a community. We share recipes and stories, garner inspiration from each other, build on ideas we see all around us, and chat about our plans for the future. We thought you were part of that community as well: a mentor of sorts, showing us what it’s like when creativity and drive gives way to success.
Perhaps we were wrong in thinking that. Perhaps you are an out-of-touch corporate machine with a slightly fading influence on domestic culture, and you’re too far removed from us to really participate in what we have here. And that’s okay: I’ll still buy your magazines and glean ideas from its pages. But I won’t assume that you may care someday, or that you’ll encourage me to stretch my imagination and use my talents to build something.
Truth: I still aspire to be you. I want the apple orchards, the restored farmhouse, the gardens, the feeling that I’ve accomplished something using a sassy combination of creativity and talent. I want the horse barn to have Thanksgiving in, the falling snow over my perfectly lit home, and a venue to share beautiful recipes and start conversations. But not like this, Martha. Not if it means I forget where I started and who helped me get there.
So shame on you: all the business savvy in the world, and you can’t figure out that you just insulted and hurt the feelings of a vast majority of your audience. You should think before you speak; even I know that. And I’m just a blogger.