Lately, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block. I don’t know why I have not been writing regularly, because when I do, it gives me immense satisfaction. I think I am lazy. Living alone can make you that way. Work days have their routines and while I could certainly write after work, there are other distractions which call to me, like meal planning, meal preparation, the actual eating of the meal, and then the meal clean-up.
This could be a two-hour project if I have been seduced by a recipe pictorial in a magazine, or a 15-minute one. I am partial to the 15-minute food plan, but it is far less satisfying unless the preparer is one of my good friends, Tony Raffa or Papa Murphy.
Then one day, when there are no more episodes of “Poldark” or “Outlander” to watch, I aimlessly pick up the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living. Yes, I know it is a mistake. My counselor Harriet at Glossy Magazine Addicts Anonymous warned me that this is the tipping point.
I can always hear her voice in my head, “Put it down, now!” I’m relatively certain that in a former life Harriet was a drill sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. But right now, no one is watching. I’m home alone. What could it hurt? Besides, I might be flipping through and find a laundry tip that will make my whites whiter and my colors brighter. What could be wrong with that?
As my fingers caress the shiny pages, my eyes fall upon page after page of mouth-watering food. Briefly I wonder if Martha has ever considered adding little packets with just one tasting enclosed to each page like perfume ads? Of course she has; she’s Martha Stewart, the woman who became a zillionaire showing us how to improve on a million things that did not really need improving.
As I flip through the meal-planning section, I stop at “How to throw an elegant soiree for 80 of your dearest friends” spread. The instructions begin with, “Have the staff wash and iron 90 of your favorite white linen chair covers” (Martha always counts on a few party crashers), which implies that you could possibly have other white linen chair covers that aren’t your favorite. Earth to Martha!
Chair covers are just the beginning, followed by table linens, multiple centerpieces with home-grown flowers, place cards from paper you made yourself by chewing up paper pulp and shaping them with cookie cutters, recipes with 57 ingredients sourced from foreign countries with which we have no international treaties, and finally, providing some soft background music from a close, personal friend, like Sir Elton John.
You would think that after seeing that I could never possibly measure up to the high standards that Martha sets, I would cancel my subscription. But like a climber at the foot of Everest, I see the glorious summit and dream that maybe one day, I, too, can intimidate my dinner guests by decorating my entrees and accessorizing my vegetables. As for the place cards, I’m going to start right now by chewing up this column.