“Now, I could go on and on about Marcel Proust and his madeleines. That’s really kind of what made madeleines famous for me: when I read A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past).”—Martha Stewart [excerpted from the TV show Martha Bakes (“French Classics”—May 3, 2014)]
“Tender, light as feathers, delicious madeleines: Now, I think I know why Proust dreamed about them.”—Martha Stewart
- from The World According to Martha (Edited by Bill Adler); p. 22 (on herself):
[As a] First Lady, [she was] knocked to death and now [she’s a] senator. You know, a very important person, still. Because she’s smart, she’s worthy, she’s great. You know, that’s what I hope I’ll be thought of as.”—[Martha Stewart] On Hillary Clinton, The Associated Press, January 26, 2003
- pp. 163, 165 (on other people):
“Mrs. Clinton. How does she do it? You think you have insurmountable problems?”—[Martha Stewart], St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri), May 29, 1998
“He deals with the powerful, the super-rich, the notorious, the good, the evil—he weaves a tale and makes it exciting and more interesting than almost anybody.”—On author Dominick Dunne, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine), August 15, 2001
- p. 28 (on her critics): “I don’t think they’re funny enough. I would do them myself. But I don’t have the time.”—On parodies of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, USA Today, December 8, 1999
- p. 30 (on customers): “I listen and I listen. One of my best qualities is that I listen and I make judgments on what I hear. And I have done that since the beginning of this business. To me, the most important persons to listen to are my readers, my viewers, my listeners, and my Internet users. I read every letter. I think about what they say, and I try to respond to them in as favorable a way as possible.”—[Martha Stewart], Moneyline News Hour, CNN, October 19, 1999
- p. 74 (on her business philosophy): “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. An important part of business is to make fun of yourself because if you don’t, someone else will.”—[Martha Stewart], University Wire, March 15, 2001
- pp. 177, 180 (what other people say about martha):
“She made a mistake. But she went in, she served her time, and she comes out hotter than ever before. I think she’s bigger than ever before. She’s got star power. She’s got a magic to her.”—Donald Trump, Agence France Presse, March 6, 2005
“Due to dangerous conditions, Martha Stewart has called off plans to watch the millennium’s first sunrise on top of a mountain. Instead, Stewart said she’ll make her own sunrise out of orange rinds.”—Conan O’Brien on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, NBC, cited by Arkansas-Democrat Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas), December 12, 1999
- pp. 145, 148, 150, 152 (on serving time):
“The camp is fine; it is pretty much what I anticipated. The best news — everyone is nice — both the officials and my fellow inmates — I have adjusted and am very busy. The camp is like an old-fashioned college campus—without the freedom, of course.”—[Martha Stewart], The Associated Press, October 15, 2004
“The judges, the lawyers, the prosecutors do not really know what it’s like to be incarcerated. They do not know that time passes slowly, there are no good educational opportunities, there is little of value with which to pass the time.”—Letter from prison to newspaper, Saint Paul Pioneer Press (Saint Paul, Minnesota), March 8, 2005
“I didn’t really miss material things at all. It was kind of nice to have a rest from the material things.”—[Martha Stewart], Associated Press Financial Wire, March 5, 2005
“I have had time to think, time to write, time to exercise, time to not eat the bad food, and time to walk and contemplate the future.”—[Martha Stewart], Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), February 26, 2005
- p. 47 (on holidays): “I really like keeping tradition alive and encouraging people to think about the holidays positively. I hate to see people so worried about not having enough money to buy presents because that’s what sort of ruins Christmas. People overextend themselves at Christmas time when a homemade box of cookies would be just as nice as a diamond ring. Really and truly, I think that. It’s more the tradition. It’s more the thought than the expenditure. What I do is based on creativity, and a lot of it is very noncostly. Making paper ornaments. What can be cheaper? Making cookies. Cheap as can be. Wrapping presents with glassine, tissue paper and string. They are beautiful.”—St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida), December 10, 1996
- p. 103 (on fame): “Oh, great. I’m in real fine company.”—[Martha Stewart] On being on the cover of Newsweek and learning from the magazine’s editors that most of the people who make the cover are murderers, terrorists, sexual deviants, or dead, New York Daily News (New York, New York), December 7, 1998
- pp. 135, 137 (on the imclone debacle): “For a creative person to be maligned like this is the worst thing that could happen. It takes away the joy.”—USA Today, September 2, 2003
“It’s sort of the American way to go up and down the ladder, maybe several times in a lifetime. And I’ve had a real long up. . . . And now I’ve had a long way down.”—The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), January 28, 2003
- from THE BEST OF FRIENDS: Martha and Me by Mariana Pasternak; pp. 14-21 [Part I—First Encounter (1—Martha at the Gate)]: Because it was the beginning of June when we first went to dinner at Turkey Hill, the long day cast a soft pink light over the gorgeous property. The place could properly be called an estate, bringing to mind the setting of Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra. Like the Mannon residence on the outskirts of a small New England seaport town, Turkey Hill had extensive grounds, a greenhouse, an orchard, and large flower gardens (which I got to see the following morning when we were invited back for a daylight tour of the place, with its pool, barn, and chicken coop that Martha, with charming humor, referred to as the palais du poulet).
Most flower gardens, despite the images propagated by gardening magazines, are less a show of color than a display of life and death, with some perennials blooming too early, others too late, the coordination promised in the planting packets never quite coming through. Not Martha’s. Her flowers were magnificent, in concert, and bloomed before anyone else’s, as though there were some isolated precocious microclimate at Turkey Hill. It may have been the property’s position on the hill, or just Martha’s luck that caused her peonies—some of my favorite flowers—to put on such a show. Her tree peonies were three to four feet tall and had the largest blossoms I had ever seen: some deep red, almost black, and fragrant, with silky petals that formed a delicate crown for the large cluster of golden yellow stamen; the dramatic fuchsia ones with a subtle fragrance; and pink Hanakisoi. As we toured Martha’s garden in the cool of the evening, she showed up all her plants, pronouncing every name correctly, like Hah-nah-khi-soy, their lush heads drooping as though doped, the ruff of pale petals mysteriously supported by the verdant cluster of leaves.
The setting was splendorous, even theatrical, but when the door swung open and we stopped inside the house, I felt claustrophobic, as if I were in a museum. Homes have hearts, and one need not venture very far into them to hear how they beat. The heart of the Stewart home, in contrast with the lively gardens outside, beat slowly, and low, like a fog horn on a day thick with drizzly mist.
Or so I thought. Several seconds into my first visit, Martha and Andy’s home revealed itself to have several hearts, each with a beat distinct from the next. If the main pump had a somewhat sad sound, the peripheral pulses in the array of rooms that sprawled throughout the farmhouse had somehow clung to their own unique rhythms, thus making color, fun, laughter, even love possible in certain spots.
But I didn’t dwell much on the Stewarts’ abode, because a house is ultimately a shell. I was curious about the sort of people who might make their shelter into a museum, the mandate of which, above all else, is to not touch.
I took to Andy Stewart immediately. He was a love of a man, keenly intelligent but with a generosity of spirit so strong you could bask in his knowledge and never once feel inadequate, or afraid of asking a question that would reveal your ignorance. Andy opened the door for us that evening, ushered us in, and I could immediately sense his energetic spirit. Successful entrepreneur, world traveler, he was still so much more than the sum of these accomplishments. There exist in the world a few extraordinarily special people and Andy was one of them.
Andy led us down a hallway into the kitchen. As soon as we stepped over the threshold, it was as if we had stepped into a whole new house. Leaving behind the stark, formal, and chilly abode, we found ourselves in an open kitchen suffused with a warm glow, a table elegantly set in front of the large, dark stone fireplace where a fire was crackling away, and above the mantel a Hudson River Valley painting. Martha was cooking at the stove, stirring with a huge wooden spoon. Above and around her, hanging from hooks, were copper pots, their bottoms lustrous in the low, rich light. From another part of the ceiling hung baskets, and on the shelves were displays of clay pots, pretty dishes, and Depression glass. As I took domesticity for granted and lived on love, not food, I had little appreciation for all that luxury and refinement. It was so beautiful it seemed staged, and an odd feeling came over me. I felt outside, detached, unreal.
“I feel,” I said to Andy, “like we are in a Soutine painting.”
I was thinking of his Carcass of Beef, for which Soutine kept a rotting animal carcass in his studio, much to the displeasure of his neighbors. And indeed the kitchen had a gleam of abstract expressionism. Andy looked at me with his warm eyes and nodded, and then he told a tale about Soutine, one of many painters he knew a lot about.
I listened to Andy talk. He was the first person I met in America who shared my liking of the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. He lent me his copy so I could read it in English. The sheer volume of his knowledge convinced me, right then and there, that of the four of us, he was the most impressive.
I heard the whisking of Martha’s stirring spoon. I heard the wind walking through the trees beyond the open windows. Suddenly the evening was alive with good food and good hosts and good fun. The meal was excellent, as delicious as watching its preparation had been. Andy was taster supreme. Martha used the dinner party as an occasion to try out recipes for her upcoming book, Entertaining. Holding long-handled spoons out to her husband, spoons brimming with rich red broths or tasty stewed juices in which floated tender hunks of choice meats, Martha would patiently wait while Andy took the spoon from her hand and, touching his lip to the spoon’s edge, take in the complex matrix of flavors. I could almost hear him deconstruct in his mind: pepper, parsley, nutmeg. Martha waited for his assessment, which she trusted so completely it was endearing.
“Salt,” Andy finally pronounced. “It needs more salt.” Or just a smidge more thyme, a sprinkling of rosemary, a slice of shallot, a mince of garlic—no, not the store-bought kind. The Stewarts grew their own garlic, and Martha could pull a fresh bunch of bulbs from one of her many pantries, and, after splitting each one with the side of her powerful fist, expertly wield her knife and sever the cloves so delicately that every segment fainted flat on her cutting board.
I watched, fascinated. I noticed that my fiancé, standing next to me, was equally taken in. This was unlike anything I’d ever seen between a couple before. We were witnessing the intimacies of a marriage, and more. We were witnessing two artists at work. For me, who had always pooh-poohed cooking as work for women under domestic duress, that night was transformative.
The abundance of spices, the tangy sauce took me back to the scented shadow of the apricot tree that grew in the perennially blooming flower beds of my childhood home. Those gardens were even more magical than Martha’s, for my grandmother had resurrected every shredded peony, each torn tulip from the bomb-blackened ruins of World War II, which had turned my Romania into a landscape of charcoal and chiaroscuro. In my grandmother’s hands, flowers parted their petals and melons yielded their flesh—plus all their seeds, which she scooped from the cut halves and then flung back over the loam, yielding her still more fruit, more flavors, year after year, and long past the time when the Communists came. They could not take away my grandmother’s secret ways with seeds or sauces, or the fact that even the most ravaged soil loved her touch. As did I.
In some strange way, just as the survivors of World War II returned to their homes with so much hope, and the keenest caution, so too, after that first night, I was drawn back to the Stewarts’ kitchen, so I might watch (and taste) what I had long thought a menial chore rise up to the ranks of art. In secret, I thought of the Romanian word dor: the feeling of nostalgic longing for something that, or someone who, might be forever lost.
. . . . Back in the kitchen, I commented on the beauty of the pots Martha was using, glazed clay pots of simple form with flat bases and flaring rims. And that is when she started talking, her words working on me like a spell. I listened to the stories of the pots that Martha and Andy had brought home from the Moroccan markets. I could smell the kabobs, hear the humming of traffic, see the stand of the potter who molded the soil into shapes, and then covered his creation with glazes of exotic traditions.
We sat at their beautiful kitchen table in front of the fireplace, and Martha and Andy took turns throughout the meal entertaining us with tales of their world travels, from Morocco to Japan to France. I told the story of my escape from Romania. My fiancé told the story of his service in Vietnam.
Having finished his surgical training in England, he had come to the United States for advanced training in cardiovascular surgery at the Mayo Clinic. The Vietnam conflict was still raging. Since the American military had an urgent need for surgical staff, he was called to service as soon as he arrived in the country. But he was determined to complete his advanced training and petitioned the local Selective Service Office in Rochester, Minnesota, for a deferment, vowing to volunteer for service in Vietnam as soon as his training was finished. To his amazement, the deferment was granted. As my fiancé explained that night, this great country had so much respect for individual preferences that it even respected someone who was not yet a citizen. Once he completed his surgical training, he went to Vietnam.
As we sat around their kitchen table in front of the fireplace with our empty dinner dishes, he said, “I had a premonition.” What? I looked at this man I would soon marry, and I understood there is so much you cannot know about another human being.
“I had a premonition,” he said, “that I would not come back alive. I ordered a handmade tuxedo so I could be buried properly, and packed it with my favorite book and a bottle of bourbon.”
The room had fallen into a hush.
Then Martha spoke, her voice cracking the mood.
“Did you eat dog meat over there?” she asked.
The question jarred me. It was, at the very least, wildly out of context.
“Dog meat,” Martha said again, her countenance cool, almost cruel, especially because she could see the pain in his eyes. She went on to explain how the Vietnamese have many culinary delights made with dog meat.
“And the dogs,” she said, “are sometimes tortured before slaughter.”
Andy then stepped in to save the evening. “Come,” he said, breaking the awkward silence that followed, his voice the color of sun-thickened honey.
He led us from room to room, and suddenly the Stewarts were doing their duet again, charming us, enchanting us with stories of their travels, story after story, country after country, the whole globe, it seemed, spilling from their lips.
They showed us their dining room chandelier. As a discrete object, it surpassed loveliness. Yet for me that chandelier was a revelation not just because of its innate beauty, its stateliness and self-composure as it hung, so still, from the dining room ceiling, at once radiating light and at the same time drawing its glow back into its body. For me it was the Stewarts’ showing off their chandelier that was inspiring.
The handsome crystal chandelier had been given to the couple by Andy’s mother. Most people, upon pointing out a favored object in their home, would have simply communicated this shred of history and stopped there. But Martha, who began the story of the light, continued, standing in its hand-cut glass-and-crystal glow as she described the story of this light with obvious passion. With Martha pausing at points that seemed almost rehearsed so that Andy could step in and pick up the trailing root of her sentence, they told us why that particular fixture was absolutely appropriate for the historicity of their home. They had sought out the perfect fixture, bypassing hundreds of gorgeous chandeliers that were somehow not “quite right.” The “right one” had to fit the original architecture of their 1805 colonial-style farmhouse and its elegant simplicity. It had to have a cast-bronze frame, and be magnificent but not very large, to suit the proportions of the dining room. It had to have a certain kind and quality of leaded crystals, prisms, and handblown bobeches. And behold, here it was.
We then came to a large oil painting hanging on their dining room wall. The Stewarts told the story of how they had found it in an antique gallery in France, how Martha had purchased it, only to then learn that the French government was loath to let them take it from France due to export laws that forbade cultural treasures and antiquities from being carried out of the country.
The fact that the Stewarts prevailed through what must have been an intense negotiation was testimony to their drive, and perhaps their canniness. They’d cleared all the obstacles and gone through the trouble and expense of shipping the painting across the Atlantic. They’d gone, if not through hell then certainly high water, to bring this eighteenth-century canvas to their walls, where it now hung center-stage, a statement for sure.
But what really surprised me was the subject of the picture itself: Jupiter, in the form of a cloud, embraces an ecstatic Io. The scene, copied from Correggio’s Jupiter and Io, was inspired by Ovid’s classic Metamorphoses, in which the god and philanderer Jupiter, hoping to hide his love affair from his ever-vigilant wife, turns the world to fog and mist, which then becomes the blanket for his and princess Io’s illicit lovemaking. Io is clearly enraptured, her eyes fixed on her lover. Jupiter, having left his wife, comes down, feathery, to touch Io’s glowing rosy flesh.
“I fell in love with the painting,” Martha said, her voice oddly flat.
It was late now. Time to go home.
“Is it strange,” I said as we got back into the car, “to make infidelity the focal point of your home with your husband?”
I don’t remember his reply. We were tired. We were intrigued with our hosts, a bit wary but impressed, not only with Andy’s vast oceans of knowledge but by their home and their flair.
And the dinner had been delicious.