Martha Stewart And Me


I love dessert.  No, not the regular lump of vanilla ice cream trying to drown a soggy slice of apple pie.  The desserts I love are works of art that take half a day to create and are just too elegant to eat.  The problem is I’m no damn good at them.

Let me explain.

First of all, I can cook.  Well, not really.  I can put the fire to various food items; you can eat them, and they taste alright, but….  Basically, I’m a little bit more than a frozen food microwave chef, but quite a bit less than someone who’s completely competent with pots and pans.  Therefore, unless I really have to, I restrict my culinary adventures to KFC – except dessert.  I love dessert.

Secondly, like most people who don’t have to do it every day, I look at gorgeous food creations and think, “How hard can it be?”

And thirdly, I’m a Never Say Die type of guy.  Show me a lost cause, and I’m in there like a dirty shirt.

So what happens is, Martha Stewart shows up on YouTube with a Banana Cream/ Hazelnut Torte on a field of Bavarian Chocolate with Mint Sprigs, Almond Slivers and Caramel Swirls, and I say to myself, “Hell, yeah! I can do that.”  But I can’t.  And we all know why.  Cuz Martha has a fleet of Bavarian elves who bake the torte, sliver the almonds, swirl the caramel and bring their own chocolate.  All I’ve got is a naïve belief that Ms. Stewart is America’s Sweetheart and not an evil crone who hates me.  Three hours later, I’m knee deep in a nine obscenity barroom brawl.  There’s a glob of brown something in the oven, defying Newton’s 3rd Law of Thermodynamics, a half a bag of spilled almonds under the fridge and a boiling pot of – “OMG! Caramel isn’t supposed to do that!” — on the stove.  (And I haven’t even discovered I bought the wrong kind of chocolate — yet.)  Time to surrender, slide this mess into the trash, and swear by all that’s holy to never ….  But then it happens again.  Martha’s made a Gingerbread Stonehenge with jelly bean Druids and a lemon zest, orange icing sun.  Gingerbread’s easy — right?  WRONG!

Over the years, I’ve made any number of after-dinner disasters, including a butterscotch butterfly that melted back into her chrysalis, a flock of chocolate birds that flew in all directions when the balloon exploded, and a strange frozen layered thing that slid into the sink when I wasn’t looking.  I’ve carved pears, sectioned oranges and made watermelon stars – and none of them looked anything like the picture.  I’ve combined, folded, melted, simmered and boiled.  I’ve cut diagonally, rolled vertically, pinched, poked and prodded with a fork.  I’ve sliced and I’ve iced.  And all to no avail — because nothing I’ve ever done has turned out the way it does in Martha’s videos.

But don’t cry for me.  Don’t weep for my defeats.  I may be beaten and bent, but I’m not broken.  I’m still standing.

“Do you hear me, Martha Stewart?  I’m still standing.  I’m still here.  And as God is my witness, one of these days, one of these days, my stuff is going to look like yours.  That’s right, Martha Stewart!  I’m coming for you.  I’m coming for you, and I’m bringing Hell with me!  You don’t scare me with your perky professionalism.  I’ll take you and four more like ya.  And Snoop Dog, too, if he wants a piece.  So get ready, Martha Stewart: I’m coming for you because I love dessert, and not you or any of your perfect videos are ever – ever — going to take that away from me.”

Everybody Works


Everybody works.  Some work harder than others, some work smarter than others, but as each of us wanders along life’s incredible journey, we all have a relentless series of jobs to do.  Just to clarify – I’m not talking about gainful employment; I’m talking about all those nasty little tasks that haunt our otherwise leisured existence — everything from filling out income tax forms to assembling a Fridekgloben bookcase from Ikea.  This is the work that torments our souls.

Having survived on this planet for – uh – a number of years, I’ve done my share of personal chores and, without bragging, I’ve gained some valuable experience.  Here are just a few bits and bobs from what I’ve learned along the way.

1 – Every job takes longer than you think.  No matter how simple it looks or how comprehensively you’ve prepared, the task at hand is going to eat up more minutes than you bargained for.  (See items 4, 5, 6, 7 and sometimes 8 for a detailed explanation.)

2 – The rule of quarters.  No matter what you do, the first 75% of the job takes 25% of the time and the last 25% takes 75% — or more.

3 – Do as much as possible before lunch — cuz after lunch, you’re going to be useless.

4 – Something you need isn’t going to be there.  Whether it’s a particular medical receipt, a pinch of coriander, an account number or an oddly shaped one-use-only tool, there will be one item, that’s absolutely necessary to the task, which you either don’t have or can’t find.  This means you have to stop, search or go buy it – no other choice.  And, BTW, this never happens at the beginning of the adventure but always more than halfway through — when you’ve got everything torn up, half assembled, disassembled and/or spread out all over hell.

5 – There will be an essential piece of information missing.  Assembly instructions are notorious for this – the placement of Lock Washer #3 is a mystery known only to God.  Meanwhile, the Federal Government will not accept your tax return without an entry in Box 906a even though its purpose is a bigger secret than the contents of Area 51.  But the very worst are online forms that demand an encyclopedia of personal information and, after you’ve entered it all, flash the big red “Error” warning at you — while slyly refusing to tell you where the error occurred.

6 – The thing that’s supposed to fit … won’t.  Carpenters and plumbers know this and are skilled in Improvise, Adapt and Overcome, but the rest of us are utterly stunned when the last bolt’s too big, the connecting rod’s too short or the brand new muffin pans don’t fit in the oven.  The result is an extended period of swearing and weeping.

7 – The experience you gain from one task does not translate to anything else.  What you learned trimming the hedge doesn’t help you buy car insurance online.  Painting the porch and making a soufflé are straight chalk and cheese.  Every task demands a particular expertise, so whatever you attempt to do (unless you’re a poly-skilled professional, or spend your life watching YouTube) you’re going to waste a lot of time reinventing the wheel.

And finally:

8 – You can’t get there from here. – This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens regularly enough to be included here.  Basically, there’s always a danger that the first touch on any project will set off a chain of disasters, each more expensive and time-consuming than the last.  The leaking faucet that eventually becomes a $5,000 plumbing job.  The birthday cake that ends up with a new stove.  The computer upgrade that resets your Netflix account to Serbia and your banking information to Good Shepherd Savings and Loan in Azerbaijan.  Seriously, I have a friend who tried to buy a paper shredder and is locked out of Amazon forever.  (Even they don’t know why.)

Yeah, we all have jobs to do, but I’ve discovered that only paid professionals and enthusiastic hobbyists get anything out of these mundane tasks.  The rest of us just have to grit and bear it.