When I was traveling with my daughter in November, she bought a copy of a Martha Stewart magazine about homemade gifts. Back when Martha was just an upstart ex-model, I remember reading a review of one of her first cookbooks, which gently disdained her practice of basically lifting other people's recipes, changing some tiny thing about it, and passing it off as her own. (Although, realistically, most cookbooks do this, as the review also pointed out, but anyway.) Of course, that was way before Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Martha Stewart Bitch CEO, Martha Stewart goes to jail, Martha Stewart appears again on television talk shows and somehow, because she went to jail, magically became slightly more likeable.
I am not above picking up a lifestyle magazine from time to time. But I generally found Martha Stewart Living to be rather forbidding. Too many instructions and special requirements, fancy equipment and too many steps in all the projects. Likewise, when I am in the depths of my squalor (and that pretty much tops out about now in the Megastore year, with Christmas (the baking, the buying, the wrapping, the decorating) and the end of the semester (the grading, the portfolios, the torn-out hair) coinciding), I think wistfully of how I could keep a better house. You may have seen the new Martha Stewart book--Homekeeping Handbook? This sort of book is tailor-made for this type of annual (okay, maybe more frequent than that) crisis, and don't think I haven't thought about buying it. But ultimately, I know it wouldn't help. Martha is way too organized for the likes of me, and I would probably find I feel the same way about the book as I do about the magazine--too many instructions and special requirements, too much equipment and too many steps.
Anyway, I had a chance to peruse the Martha crafty gift mag and found several things I wanted to make--food things--so I bought my own copy. Between then and a couple of days ago, I re-perused it several times. I considered: should I scrap my own time-honored Christmas baking regimen in favor of Cigarettes Russes (a very labor-intensive cookie that yielded about 2 dozen fancy rolled cookies) and Sweet Cardamom Crackers (that last one still sounds kind of tempting)? Or should I add to the time-honored baking regimen? Replace one or two of the old faves with a new-fangled recipe or two (probably lifted from someone else with a tiny alteration--but who's counting)?
I know, these are trivial questions, but you have to remember--I was grading and dreaming of Christmas. I only put my tree up yesterday. I believe this beats the old record of the tardiest tree -raising date at the Store.
So, basically, the outcome of the perusing and considering was: I scrapped a couple of things in the old regimen and substituted new ones, and let me tell you, they are all good. I made pomegranate jelly (not baking, but I'm giving little jars away to people I would formerly have given baked goods, so somehow, it's part of the regimen). I made excellent caramels (each wrapped in a waxed paper square). I made Lemon Sandwich cookies. I made Chocolate Peppermint cookies, which were unbelievably good. I didn't scoop the dough with a 1" ice cream scoop, which apparently does a better job of apportioning out the dough--I don't have a 1" ice cream scoop, or silicone baking mats, or cooking spray, for that matter. I improvised. But it was all good, anyway.
Whatever else I may have thought about Martha, I'm pretty darn happy about my cookies. Also the jelly and the caramels. Maybe I will hang up my clothes tomorrow, or fold the dishtowels, cloth napkins, table cloths and place mats I had to wash because we had a mouse incident (don't ask). Even though Christmas is just around the corner, it's not too late to be a little tidier. That's would be good thing. I'm pretty confident that's the way Martha would see it, anyway.