martha stewart: please consider thinking before you speak [an essay].

martha stewart living magazines.

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.

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49 Comments on "martha stewart: please consider thinking before you speak [an essay]."

  1. Mimi says:

    Well put. And most of us didn’t go to jail, either!

    • shannon says:

      HAHAHA! Thank you, Mimi: i was SO going to mention that part, and i wanted to, and i didn’t, but you’re SO right. That got put in there under “personal issues.” ;) read: PRISON.

  2. I didn’t hear about this interview Martha did, and alas I can’t listen to it at work, but i’ll be sure to when I get home. I think I get the gist of it though, from this post. It makes me sad because Martha had always been my idol. I mean I know she thinks she’s better than everyone, but I have always aspired to become her (mainly for the beautiful properties she has as you said). It’s quite silly for her to make such statements when she OBVIOUSLY didn’t start out as the empire she became. In addition, i’m pretty sure that the crafts in her magazines are done by her employees, not her, and these employees probably have blogs. Honestly, I stopped subscribing to Martha Stewart Magazine years ago when both her crafts and recipes proved too complicated for me- I found ways to make the items on her pages better and more simply, without buying the fancy tools that are “required” for them. So take that, Martha! I just wish she didn’t corner the craft market so that I’m forced to buy her brand (for more $$) when working on project :(

    • shannon says:

      thanks, Amy! I hope you got a chance to see the interview: it was really something to watch. I think it was her tone that got me; pretty condescending, which i never enjoy from anyone. I hope i made my point, and i hope i did it in a non-mean way, because i feel the same way you do: i’m disappointed, and i probably will still buy her magazines from time to time, but the pull to by them every month? it’s becoming less and less. I feel the same way about her and the craft market takeover: i mostly avoid her things when i’m at Michaels, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. they’re decent quality, for sure, just it gets a little ridiculous. But i guess you could say the same thing about her. :)

  3. Faygie says:

    I love this.

    And since you mentioned those bloggers who are only in it for the likes, I totally need to rant about something for a second here: I am getting so annoyed with all the bloggers lately who post their recipes on facebook about 10 times a day with “share this to save it to your facebook page for future reference”, or something like that. Seriously, do they think all their followes are dumb? Nobody saves recipes to their FB page to look it up at a future date. That’s what Pinterest is for. Sharing it only does one thing–it shares the recipe with all your friends/followers, giving more exposure to the blogger. There are some bloggers I am considering not following on FB anymore because of this. And they are often the ones who rarely have recipes I’m interested in anyhow.

    • OMG, “CLICK SHARE TO SAVE THIS TO YOUR WALL” … they need to be punched in the face.

    • shannon says:

      I am so happy you love this! :) i love that you love my rants. i feel like less of an idiot after i hit “publish” because of you.

      *sigh* you and me BOTH, Faygie. i don’t like to down fellow bloggers, but that part? that gets to be way too much, and i think there are lots of us who get sick of bloggers clogging up feeds with the “share this/save this/like this” never ending post stream. You make an excellent point: DO they think their followers believe that’s the best way to save info? i don’t know. I guess i’d feel weird saying “LIKE THIS/SHARE THIS” because i’d feel weird telling people to do something: i always assume that if you want to share it, you will. I’m grateful that after two years of blogging, i think i can say that most of my “likes” on facebook? totally genuine: like people actually like me, and didn’t just hit “like” once because of randomness. and i like that.
      i have unfollowed a few bloggers recently on facebook because of exactly that: every time i’d look at my feed, i’d only see their posts, and never the ones i wanted to see: they were actually blocking out all the other blogs, which is CRAZY. At some point it’s my “new years’ resolution” to get my twitter and FB and all of that organized so that i can whittle it down to my actual likes, because i think that’s important to do.

  4. Word.

    I’m not going to lie, like 80% of the MS cake recipes turn out super dry and crumbly, although that may be my fault for being such an inexperienced baker that I don’t know how many times to stir the batter or at exactly what moment to take something out of the oven, I mean, user error is always a possibility… but for a “master”… that’s a pretty high fail rate. And don’t even get me started on her crafts.

    You had me laughing SO HARD reading this, btw, way to go. Couldn’t have said it better.

    • shannon says:

      WORD, girl. *fist bump*

      it IS a high fail rate, especially when you have SO MANY people working for you. i realize not everything will turn out right in home kitchens, and not everything will be made by people who know what they’re doing, but for those of us who cook pretty regularly, that’s too high a failure rate. and for almost all of us to be saying it? it’s nice to know. maybe her editors should pay attention to that, and the fact that lots of her recipes on the website have pretty much the same comments on them.
      oh lord, the crafts. serious. i have been on the BRINK with some of those. she ruined almost my entire crafting summer.

      yay! i like making you laugh; it’s like a hobby at this point.

  5. elizabeth says:

    I still can’t wrap my head around what she said given that she’s embraced blogging herself in the past (I remember when she had to put down one of her dogs, and posted this extremely touching photo of her burying her face in its fur) and she’s even dedicated episodes of her show to bloggers, encouraging them to update while they were sitting in the audience. It boggles my mind that she would slip up like that, but I guess it shows that she is in fact human?

    I mean, I see what she means and I sort of agree with her regarding some bloggers, but you make a great point that even her cadre of “experts” can make mistakes and despite taking the time to test recipes, they can still fail. I think for food blogging especially, it’s fine to take recipes that are out there if we’re actively making them easier to understand, especially when things like heat levels and timing can be completely inaccurate or not geared towards home equipment no matter what they claim to the contrary.

    So, I guess the rambling point I’m trying to make is: well said Shannon!

    • shannon says:

      Elizabeth, i feel the same: i can’t quite wrap my head around it either, same reason. I’ve seen bloggers on her shows, she’s got that “Martha’s Circle” of bloggers, some of whom i follow, and she features them occasionally in her magazine as well: i’m unsure of her true feelings, i suppose. I feel for her if she’s been burned by bloggers out to tear her to shreds, and i’m not a fan of those types of blogs, but i firmly believe that it’s never a good idea to generalize entire categories of people, because a segment of bad seeds never represents the whole.

      you ramble away: you’re speaking to the “expert” on that particular talent. :) thank you.

  6. This! This is so wonderfully written, and insightful; with each paragraph I read, I found myself crossing my fingers even harder in the hopes that Martha Stewart will someday read it!

    You raise such a good point (among others), too: that if the internets had been around back in the day, Martha Stewart would definitely have started her own food blog!

    Thank you for writing this.

    • shannon says:

      Thank you so much, Allison! Although i’m sure the chances of martha stewart actually reading this are extraordinarily slim, it would be fun if she did. I would hope she understands that it came from the best of places: not as a snarky take-down, but as a reminder that people really look up to her and respect her, and you don’t want to hurt peoples’ feelings by wording things incorrectly or forgetting where you came from. It makes it hard for people to back you when you insult them, pure and simple.

      i wish the internets HAD been around back in the up-and-coming Martha days: it would be interesting to compare the two attitudes now, yes? i think so.

  7. I had heard of Martha Stewart’s comments, but hadn’t seen the video – I just looked at it now. A couple of points: you’re totally correct in “experts,” in particular those who work in the magazine world, as not being particularly expert. The only magazines I’ve ever read where every recipe worked was the old Gourmet. Oh, and Cook’s Illustrated too. Which isn’t to say that all the recipes were good; they weren’t. But they worked. I’ve had loads of failures with recipes from other magazines. BTW, a lot of cookbook recipes – and by famous authors! – often don’t work either. And those trained professionals? I haven’t worked in the magazine world (professional journal world, yes, but not popular magazines), but I have worked in the book biz. I never did cook books, but I used to sit in the office next to the person who did the books for the Culinary Institute of America. She’d often come to me with questions, because I knew tons more about food and cooking than she did! And definitely more about cookbooks, because I was a heavy consumer of them. But I do know how the magazine world works: they hire people with no particular expertise, and they learn on the job. Same as in book publishing. There are some publishing fields where you actually need to know something technical – some parts of medical publishing, for example – but any field that caters to a popular audience? You learn on the job. Just as we all learn in our kitchens, every day. The interesting thing to me about food is I think most of the energy is in blogging these days. I wonder how many magazines are going to survive – they just don’t deliver what people are looking for. And with print, it’s all one-way communication – no easy way for readers to react, ask questions, etc. Anyway, good post – thanks.

    • Aaargh! I forgot to close an ital. Sorry about that.

    • shannon says:

      I caught wind of the video actually through a few other bloggers i follow on FB starting to comment about it: it didn’t take long for it to snowball, that’s for sure.

      Certainly everyone makes mistakes: experts and normal people and everyone in between. but definitely when you’re a Gourmet or Saveur magazine, you need to up your game and make SURE that your publication and website doesn’t take a hit due to recipe failure. I would, if i were a magazine publisher. I agree with Gourmet being very reliable, and I’ve had great luck with Food & Wine as well: they’re seemingly underrated, but they have fabulous offerings in there, and they work. Cook’s Illustrated has built their entire brand on recipe testing and fine-tuning, so they’re always reliable. in fact, i’m one of their “normal people” recipe testers: they send out recipes from time to time, and you make it by a certain date, then answer questions regarding it – and i think that’s a fabulous way to test things out in real kitchens.

      I love your insight on books and publishing there: it’s interesting to note how often “technical” books like cookbooks are edited by people who have learned from experience, but also wouldn’t necessarily know that 2 tablespoons of baking powder in a recipe is most likely an error and should be 2 teaspoons. It’s a fabulous point that it’s how we all learn: from experience and practice.

      magazines are a tough format nowadays: it’s hard to see it as sustaninable, but it’s my big hope that they somehow ARE sustainable, or find a market that keeps them around. I love magazines just as i love books: i like the feeling of flipping through the pages, i love to have it in my hands, and in the case of food magazines, i save the good ones just like i would a cookbook. The great part of good food mags is that seasonal recipes are basically all sorted out for you, fresh and new, every month: no trying to figure out what sounds good right now, and i love that. So i hope they survive, but i hope it’s in a logical way that can be made interactive somehow. Cooking Light magazine (another good one, and so incredibly reliable it’s become a favorite of mine for everyday meals) has a nice corresponding recipe site where you can rate and comment, etc. so maybe that’s where the future is.

      listen: these are good conversations we’re having here. this makes my ranting worth it. :)

  8. Willow says:

    This is fantastic. The moment I saw you post this to facebook with the words “in which I discuss the difference between Martah Stewart and “untrained bloggers” “. I was like — oh yeah, this is going to be good!

    On the one hand, she has a point about *some* bloggers. There are plenty of people out there who post recipes that are just doomed to fail, or some who only post other people’s work verbatim, but they are in a whole different category from the rest of us. While most of us can’t test our recipes in a certified test kitchen, we do recipe test, and my guess is that your kitchen is a lot more like mine than a test kitchen. Plus, I’ll tell you to keep an oven thermometer, because all ovens are different and yours might go a bit faster or slower than mine, which most cookbooks won’t tell you (because the recipe is tested in an oven that is calibrated and perfect and doesn’t make mistakes.)

    And, as you said about having a 50% success rate with Martha’s recipes, there are PLENTY of cookbook recipes (which have gone through the rigors of professional recipe testing) which still fail, or which still have errors in the writing despite being professionally edited. There will always be a failure rate, it’s just the way things go with cooking. It’s variable. I just threw together a biscotti recipe the other day, using a recipe from a well-known, professionally published cookbook, and my “dough” was more like batter. I had to add more than a cup of extra flour to shape it into a log, and even then my biscotti needed significant extra bake time to not be moist. I cannot count the number of times this sort of thing happens, but when it does, do I have the opportunity to leave a comment, or send an email to the author and say “hi, I’ve tried this recipe a couple times now, and I’m fairly certain the amount of flour you give is off… perhaps its a typo?” No. But with a blog, I can not only leave a comment, but more often than not I get a helpful response within a day or two. Like you said, we’re starting a conversation, and more importantly, we’re getting people cooking. I think bloggers help to make cooking approachable for the home-cook, or the person who might not otherwise give cooking a try.

    I could go on for ages, but really, you said it better than I ever could. I wouldn’t be surprised if Martha is regretting her statement already!

    • shannon says:

      Willow, thank you. I like it that you and several others IMMEDIATELY thought of me when you heard the martha interview: yes, i have thoughts. :)

      definitely: there are bloggers out there who make us all look like no-talent hacks. the ones who copy other posts, post sad recipes that will never work, spend an infinite amount of time on social media self-promo’ing…it’s tough, because on one hand they exist, but on the other, i think they’re easy to recognize. And i think it’s easy to tell what blogs are really quality, too. You just have to look around a bit.

      and you’re right: nothing is perfect. I have cookbooks i’ve stopped using due to either just a sheer lack of success, or feeling like my end result should be better for the time i’ve put in. I have several cookbooks which i KNOW have gone through numerous edits and still have errors, and that’s okay! But I’d be careful, if i were a public figure in the way that Martha is, to speak out on an entire group of individuals when she has to be aware that her own recipes aren’t “foolproof” most of the time. As i’ve said before, it’s never a good idea to lump people all together as one, especially if you’re going to say something negative or unkind.

      lol i’m happy you liked it! I’m almost 100% sure she’ll never see this post, and i bet she would dismiss it if she did, and maybe she’d be right to do so. I hope she at least rethinks the way she said things and how cruel it was to many people.

  9. OOh Martha. Perchance we’ve scared the spoiled child? Haven’t seen the entire interview but Martha (and I do like her mag even though I agree with everything you say about it) sounds a bit nervous. Perchance, worried? I don’t believe things are going so well with her, though I may be speaking out of turn, but whatever happened to the Macy’s/Penny’s thing? Whatever. Martha can bully me all she wants. In fact, I will challenge her to a cook off with ingredients from the local grocery in my kitchen. Got that, Martha? I’ll bet Martha hasn’t lifted a pot in years! Good job, Shannon!

    • shannon says:

      Abbe, it’s interesting to hear how many of us like/love Martha, but sort of have that same feeling of “yeah…inspiration is wonderful, maybe not so much with the actual recipes or crafts.” We’re so supportive despite frustrations! I think that’s awesome of us, personally. :)
      And I agree: i know it’s probably difficult to be in her particular industry when all these design sources and magazines and blogs are cropping up with some really stellar ideas and a lot of heart and talent. Just look at pinterest: so much inspiration out there, so i’m sure she’s had some stiff competition as of late, and maybe that’s not fun. but that’s no reason to lash out: you’d think you’d want to embrace some of these up and comers and work WITH them.
      side note: i’d LOVE to see you challenge martha to a cooking duel. just saying. :)

  10. Deb says:

    An outstanding post! Fun to read, well written and spot on. We always knew Martha was a little different than us “regular” folk. She does throw economic caution to the wind tho. Not sure why she would choose to alienate legions of her core followers…. (And even though her recipes are often incomplete, I just picked up “Cakes” at Costco last week, LOL )

    • shannon says:

      Thank you, Deb! I tried to make a point without being mean-spirited, because my true feelings exist more on the spectrum as “dissapointment” rather than “anger.” Or maybe not even dissapointment: i feel sorry for her because i always think it’s sad when people don’t fully recognize who they’re speaking to and how much those people have been instrumental in their own success.
      and all that being said, i’ll still buy the magazines, and i would totally pick up one of her cookbooks if i thought there were enough recipes in there i wanted to try; no shame in that! I try to separate the brand from the person, because i find enough value in some of the things she produces that i’m not going to shortchange myself. Like i said in the post, i just doubt i’ll continue the dream that someday she may pluck me from relative obscurity to write for the magazine. ;)

  11. Amrita says:

    Love this! Although I’m sad that she said that. I haven’t had the best luck with her recipes either, quite honestly. But she also recently threw a lot of shade at Gwyneth so maybe she’s just getting senile? Also, bloggers never claimed to be experts… at least not the ones worth reading.

    • shannon says:

      thanks, Amrita! i’m sad she said it too, although i think she’s proven several times over that she’s a little bit of a loose cannon when not surrounded by her PR people. And you know, I’m happy she said it in a way, also, because i’m a big fan of knowing people’s true feelings, so even if it sucks, it’s good to know her honest opinion. I saw a blog post today somewhere regarding all the good things she’s done for bloggers, and i’m not doubting that, but it’s not about that for me: it’s about WHY she did all those things. Because to me, it’s more about what it looks like on the surface and how she and her company can benefit from that versus her true opinion. Very telling, for sure.
      lol maybe she IS getting senile!! :) she’s getting a little salty recently, for sure. and you’re right: i think the best bloggers are the ones who don’t claim at all to be experts. I think everyone, at any level, has things to learn, and if you think you’re the foremost authority on something? i bet that immediately negates the title. :)

  12. When I watched Martha’s comments this morning, I wondered IMMEDIATELY what you might think of it. all Because I know you use Martha as inspiration just as I do. But more of her recipes have failed in my kitchen that those from any other source – wasted ingredients, redundant steps, expensive tools and contraptions. Not that she’s personally responsible, but I guess her minions screw up sometimes just like real, live human bloggers do.

    When I am speaking with people who yearn to begin baking, I get super excited and gush all about it. Do you hear any of that in Martha’s voice any more? I don’t. I steer new bakers away from her recipes. I say, as many do, look at the pictures. Get inspired by the flavour combinations. Try some of the recipes, but have a sense of humour. And then I recommend a book or two based in the strong traditions of home cooking – simple, tasty, fool-proof. And more often than that, I send them links to my favourite blogs. And though I can now say I’m a professionally trained baker, I prefer to think of myself as an enthusiastic home cook. It would seem that Martha has forgotten her roots. Am I still inspired by Martha? Absolutely. Do I think bloggers are stealing her profits? Absolutely, and I’m betting that’s what bothers Martha & Crew.

    That said, I bet there are times when Martha Stewart wishes she could stand alone as in her kitchen, sleeves rolled up, baking for the sheer joy of it, as I so often do. I bet those times are awfully few and far between for her now…

    • shannon says:

      Maybe we should co-write rants: because you just said that perfectly. It’s a shame, it seems, that MS has become a reliable source of only inspiration, and not so much with actual recipes. The biggest difficulty i find with that is that SO many new and beginning bakers and cooks don’t know this, and it used to frustrate the daylights out of me when something failed (before i knew it wasn’t just me). People are so drawn to what’s inside her pages, and i hate to think that there are those out there throwing in the towel thinking they could never be like her. because they could be: they just need to do it with DIFFERENT recipes. i think that’s exactly where bloggers can step in to help: having the conversation, saying that they don’t need to be frustrated, and then telling them how to do it, with no word count restrictions. That’s often the best thing about us. :)

      i agree: i’m sure there are times when Martha wants to just sit at home and make some muffins, all by herself. also, pies. You DON’T hear that in her voice anymore, and it’s too bad: she was good when she was genuinely excited about things. I guess that’s the tradeoff for being world-famous? i don’t know. I hope we never lose our little selves when we get world-famous. :)

  13. Allie B. says:

    Bravo!!!!

  14. Wendy says:

    I have never been a Martha fan (way too may failed recipes from her trained test kitchen experts) but I do draw inspiration from beautiful photographs and the many Martha Stewart publications (magazines, books, web site) are visually appealing. I have no idea if Martha Stewart is a creative individual. ” Martha Stewart” is a corporation. She doesn’t cook or craft or imagine at this point in her career. There are scores of hired hands for that. Martha does business. We already knew she was an unethical person (see prison sentence) now we know she isn’t a very savvy one either. Based on her foolish, self-important comments about bloggers, I suspect that my dog could teach her an important lesson. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
    Thank you for posting this heart felt rant, Shannon. So many bloggers and blog reading fans are also feeling disappointed/frustrated/insulted/finished with Martha.

    • shannon says:

      You know, it’s hard to say at this point whether she still has that fresh eye for things: i know she used to. that much i know, just based on her early life and things she put out then. she seems “creative” in a business/corporate way, considering she’s grown her business and expanded in the way that she has. I would hope that maybe she makes time to cook and craft, at least sometimes? but maybe not: it would be sad to know that being that famous would mean having to give up those things. She’s so huge that it’s hard to tell which part of her is the person and which part is the business, and that’s tough. it makes it all the more important, i think, to think about what you say when words are coming out of your mouth, because people assume that’s how you feel personally.

      ha! so i super liked the dog smarts comparison: she could learn that very simple lesson, for sure. ;)
      and you are welcome: thanks to everyone for listening and allowing me that freedom to vent every so often when i feel the need. I’ve seen a pretty wide variety of reactions to her comments, ranging from outright rage to staunch defense, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it.

  15. Oh, Martha, Martha, Martha. Hard to take those words back, honey! You said it all, Shannon! I think good old MS just put her foot in her mouth, big time. She needs to show a little respect for those of us who take blogging seriously. Sure, there are blogs out there that have untested or copied recipes. But there are also recipes from “trusted” sites that don’t even pass the read test, so I will never make them. And there are plenty of cookbooks out there with untested recipes. Reader/baker/buyer beware, as always. I have never been much of a fan of MS, and now I am even less of one.

    • shannon says:

      Thanks, Sarah! i mostly think there’s a way to have said that better, if indeed she meant it differently than how it came out. I know firsthand out sucky and difficult verbal interviews can be (i ramble like an absolute ninny), but if she WAS just talking about those among us who crank out untested recipes and who are just wanting to be fast-famous, then say that. don’t say “bloggers” in a generalized way, because it’s an unfair way to describe the community.

      I can say personally that i have tried many, many recipes from those of you with whom i talk regularly here on the blog (via comments or via email). 98% of them have been delicious. now THAT is a good success rate, just saying.

      you make an excellent point about cookbooks, too: in this day and age, things get churned out fast with publishing, and lots of things are self-published; none of that spells disaster or bad recipes, but it’s something to pay attention to when you’re thinking of buying something. It’s why i think the library is so valuable: renting what looks to be incredible cookbooks and finding out that the recipes inside are unmakeable has saved me LOTS of money and wasted shelf space. I think bloggers, by their very nature, do the same thing for their readers.

  16. Emma says:

    Haters gonna hate on both sides, I guess. And Martha’s been in a lot deeper, and in my opinion more real, trouble than this lately regarding her company’s finances. It seems to me that she and her company have been staging stunts (like her online dating interests, and now maybe this?) to drum up continued interest and publicity, because even if it’s negative, people keep talking about her (Miley Cyrus?).

    On another note, I try not to take myself or my blog, or blogging in general very seriously. I do it for fun and to challenge myself, but I do become disenchanted by the idea of food blogging quite frequently. I feel like it has gotten to the point where if someone bakes something fantastic but is not a blogger, their blog friends might speak incredulously about that person’s baking abilities (“I didn’t know you could bake……you don’t write about it and photograph it!”), before insisting that that person should begin blogging. I think that’s kind of silly. I see blogging as an extension of myself, a fun hobby to think about sometimes, but that’s about it. It hasn’t become my life, or my raison d’etre, but I know that for others it has, and more power to them to become the next Martha!

    • Emma says:

      PS MARTHA 4EVER!!!

      :P

    • shannon says:

      True: haters ARE gonna hate, and there’s definitely lots of different takes on her interview, and just martha stewart herself. I’ve noticed the stunts recently too: a little sad, considering i don’t think a person of that caliber (or seeming caliber) should be listening to people who think that would be a good idea. But you make an excellent point: not unlike Ms. Cyrus, we all still run our mouths about her, so she’s definitely getting lip service, good or bad. Always interesting the way celebrity and society works like that.

      Bloggers and the “business” of blogging is so varied, right? Some people: instant fame and cash (or the thought that it could lead them in that direction). some people just love to socialize, i think, and it’s not a bad format to do that in. Some love food and want to share it, still others of us do it for the writing practice. I think lots of us do it for a combination of those latter reasons. I think i took mine more “seriously” at first because i didn’t understand fully my voice at first. Once i gained confidence with it, i loosened up with it, and it’s definitely not my raison d’etre either (raisins? what?) ;) Mine is an odd combo of hobby-turned-opportunity-conduit, which is nice, because it lets me keep this part unserious and more like a hobby, while it gives me opportunities i may otherwise have not had, like the freelance gigs. i stop short at too much self-promotion b/c frankly, we all DO have lives and that takes some work; like lots of work and upkeep, and i just can’t do it. you’re a great example, in my opinion, of the best sort of blogger: when you want to, you do, and your posts are interesting to read, no matter what the topic. when you don’t want to, you don’t phone it in b/c you feel you “need” a post. and that’s one of the many reasons i love you, amen. :)

      • Emma says:

        aww, thanks shannon! i thought i might have offended you when everyone else got a response the other day and i didn’t! sometimes i feel like i don’t fit in, as my thoughts are clearly quite different from everyone else’s here – most of the time i guess i feel that way. wah wah.

        :) i don’t mind.

        • shannon says:

          dear emma, listen: you are one of the people who i’ve known the longest (due to blogging), because you’ve basically been with me since the beginning. I can say with certainty that you’ll never offend me: i like that you’re different, and that you don’t always fit in, because that’s the way i feel about myself often times, too. I also love your point of view, and i love hearing it, and i love even more that you feel comfortable enough to share it over here: i think that’s great.
          most often , if you see that i’m taking awhile to comment, it’s because what you said has made me think, and i want to reread it to make sure i know what you’re saying, then i want to think about it, and then i want to be thoughtful in my OWN response.
          i order you to always say what you feel over here. ALWAYS. i’ll do the same. promise.

  17. You know you’re fabulous when my wife, who only reads my food blog, sends me a text at work that says, “Hey. Read Shannon’s blog today. It is fabulous!”

    Anyways…I’m giving you a standing “O”…for you’re outstanding.

    • shannon says:

      jen, i’m not gonna lie: when i saw Linda comment on this on Facebook, i was like “WHOA: HOLD THE PHONE.” because i know she is not a reader of food blogs. I felt honored. to know that she texted you to tell you about it? double-honored.

      and that YOU like it? TRIFECTA OF HONORED.

  18. Kimberly says:

    “The things I never knew about you, like how you must be a vampire and 609 years old …”

    I heart you, Shannon!

    Bravo!

    • shannon says:

      Thanks, Kimberly: i hope i made my point a little bit. you know how some things just get in your head and bother you until you get them out? this was one of them. :)

  19. Bravo, Shannon! *claps*

    This post is so well written and very well put. Good for you, getting all brave and writing a great essay. I think this is just what Martha needs, a stern talking to. I hope this essay finds itself in her inbox or on her desk.

    I, too, have dabbled in a few of her recipes. Guess what? Same thing-50/50. I always feel defeated when I make one of her recipes. I have since stopped trying. I have recipes on my site that I have tested over 8x. Eight times! I refuse to feed my readers something that isn’t up to my standards; and my standards are quite high. I am my own worst critic. If it’s not good enough for me, it’s not good enough for my readers. My worst nightmare is having someone make my recipe and hate it. I have nightmares about it. I don’t bake for the money (I make just barely enough to cover a cup of coffee each month). I do it for myself. Call me selfish, but baking is all about me. It’s a passion that I enjoy sharing with the world. Guess what? People listen. You listen, at least :) I will continue to bake and if I happen to inspire someone; well, great! Thanks for writing this, Shannon.

  20. shannon says:

    thank you, jennie! i suppose we could call it brave, but i call it knowing that only a few people will ever see this post, because i’m not big-time. :) it’s a calculated risk.

    I’ve sort of stopped also, with trying to make her recipes: i find i have more success with the savory ones, but even those are hit or miss. I will still occasionally pull out a recipe from a magazine, but my most successful ventures have been from the old mags i have saved from the early and mid-2000’s. What’s more, is when i’ve head-to-headed a basic recipe (i.e. cornbread), because i like to do that with cookbooks around here, she’s never won: the other person’s recipe always takes the cake, if you will. :)
    i’m happy to know i’m not the only one who freaks out at the thought of someone hating a recipe i’ve made or adapted: i wait in fear for those comments, knowing that obsessive me will run to the kitchen and IMMEDIATELY retest it to make sure what i wrote was correct.

    you bring up something none of us talk about, and it should be talked about sometimes: most of us do this fun, not for profit. but to go beyond that, most of us actually do this at a cost: i know that if i didn’t blog, we probably wouldn’t spend what we do on foodstuffs. that’s just a fact. now i love doing it, and i find good homes for what i make, but i’m not getting paid for it, and in fact, i’m shelling out money each month for the pleasure of doing what i love. and i don’t mind one bit, but it says something about lots of us who do it for the love and not the money.

    you are welcome: thanks for reading this, Jennie.

  21. Ashley says:

    I’m a bit late to this, but, Amen, sister! I love/hate Martha and she’s definitely alienating some of her best supporters. She’s also definitely changed from where she started or was at even a few years ago. But you are right in pointing out the blogging community as a whole is incredibly supportive of each other and much better at dealing with obstacles than Martha, whether it’s a problem with a new recipe or tackling blog design and traffic issues. And we don’t normally have huge staffs to work on it while we follow our silly monthly schedule printed in the front of the magazine (seriously, it makes me laugh).

  22. Darcy says:

    Found your essay when I was googling “essays on Martha Stewart” and just wanted to add that a long-time friend of mine who graduated from the hotel school at Cornell knew Martha back when she was a caterer in New York and Connecticut. Regarding Martha’s seminal text, “Entertaining,” published in the very early 80’s” he noted that she wasn’t particularly talented, but she had a good photographer. I’ve never forgotten that, especially when one of her recipe fails.

    Don’t know what she said about blogging, but I can imagine that it was unkind.

    • shannon says:

      Hi, Darcy! What she said about bloggers was yes, a little unkind. Maybe a better way to describe it was “unthinking;” i don’t know how mean-spirited it was, but it certainly wasn’t a thoughtful commentary on bloggers or blogging in general.

      That’s a really interesting tidbit of information: and you wonder how often, in this age of Tastespotting and Foodgawker, etc., that’s true in the food world: looks gorgeous, but is the recipe solid? hopefully. Thank you for your comments.

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