I'm a tremendous fan of the Food Network, and one of my favorite shows on it used to be "From Martha's Kitchen," hosted by the one and only Martha Stewart. Since Martha's legal troubles, the show has been yanked from Food Network's schedule.
I watched it not so much for its instructional value (honestly, how much vinaigrette can one person make?), but for the sheer entertainment of it all. Martha is very used to being in control of things. When she is placed outside of her natural environment, or is presented with a guest in the kitchen, the orderly world of Martha crumbles into chaos. I now present to you a list of bizarre occurences "From Martha's Kitchen":
1. Martha meets Corn Dogs
Episode: "Iowa State Fair and Fair Food at Home", Production # MS1C67
Martha and flan? Yes. Martha and elaborately decorated cakes? Yes. Martha and CORN DOGS...? Not so much. This segment finds Martha in the Corn Dog booth at the Iowa State Fair, batter-dipping and deep-frying away. Thankfully, we are spared the almost-inevitable instructions to "use only the best, most delicious corn dog batter available."
2. Any show with Martha's mother
A number of episodes, including:
Episode: "Icebox Cookies with Mrs. Kostyra (Martha's Mom)", Production # MS1B81;
Episode: "Cooking with Mom", Production # MS1C18;
Episode: "Thanksgiving with Mother--Martha Kostyra", Production # MS1A40;
Episode: "Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes", Production # MS1D03;
Any time Martha's mother comes around, we are reminded that Martha is actually a human being with parents and everything. Martha's mother is a crusty Polish woman who has little time for Martha's obsession with perfect cookies:
Martha: Ok, I'm making my cookies with an ice cream scoop to get uniformly-sized heaping teaspoons of dough, formed into perfectly round balls, and we'll gently place them on this Silpat-lined baking sheet...
Mom: Martha, just spoon them out, don't take forever.
Also, Mom doesn't always measure
ingredients, and this drives Martha batty
, prompting a string of "About how much sugar
would you say that was? ... Ok, and how much salt
? ... Really, that much? I think it looked more like a tablespoon
3. Flowerpot "dirt cakes"
Episode: "Kids Parties From Martha's Kitchen" (special), Production # MSSP11
For the moment, we'll ignore the fact that the Martha Stewart aesthetic is, in general, not for kids. This whole special is kind of odd, but the icing on the cake (so to speak) comes during the "dirt cakes" segment. Martha is joined by a guest. If memory serves me right, it's someone from Martha's staff who has no culinary experience whatsoever. My theory is that Martha lost a bet, but I digress. This woman (whose name escapes me) spends the entire segment making snide comments and shooting dirty looks at Martha. For example, while Martha talks about preparing an actual terra-cotta flower pot for the ice cream dirt cake, the other woman prepares a plastic beach bucket, saying in a rather nasty tone of voice, "Yes, well, some of us have a life, Martha. Mine can be for the people who actually DON'T have to be perfect all the time." She's like that through the whole thing, and I actually ended up feeling bad for Martha (this does not happen often).
4. Vanilla ice cream with Andy Rooney
Episode: "Ice Cream", Production # MS1C66
How Andy Rooney landed this gig, I still do not know. Whatever brought about this classic meeting of Connecticut culinary minds, there he is, Andy Rooney, attempting to make old-fashioned vanilla ice cream with Martha. Martha, however, spends most of the segment looking like she is about to send Andy out of the room. First, he guesses at the ratio of sugar to cream (see Martha's aversion to non-exact measuring: Martha's mother, above). He then declares that he "can't get much flavor" out of a vanilla bean, and he dumps in an indeterminate amount of vanilla extract (causing Martha to come close to a coronary). At this point, Martha shows him how to use the vanilla bean properly. When she tells him that you can also put the used bean in your sugar jar to get vanilla sugar, he tells her, "I didn't come for tips, Martha." Martha says at the end that the ice cream is really very good, but her facial expression says otherwise.
5. Donuts with the kiddies
Episode: "Halloween Donuts & Drinks", Production # MS1D22
From the start of the "spooky donut decoration" segment, there's a sense that something is off. Martha has two girls (ages 5 and 8) in the studio with her. The girls are there because their mother won the chance to appear on the show at an auction. "Hey kids, guess what!..." Anyway, Martha and the girls have their icing and sprinkles, and things are going well... until Martha asks the girls if they like jelly donuts. They say NO. Martha can't believe this, responding with a "You DON'T LIKE JELLY DONUTS!!??!" that makes it sound like the girls have, in fact, just killed one of her dogs. Martha's done being nice to these two uncultured donut heathens, and decides to make a donut glaze. She gets out a bottle of yellow food coloring, and a bottle of red food coloring, and asks the girls what color she'll end up with when she mixes red and yellow. The girls have no idea. "Purple?" "No. Yellow and red...?" "Blue?" "No. Yellow and red...?" It goes on like this for a while, until finally the older girl figures it out and says "Orange." Martha declares that they really need to spend more time with their color wheels. Just more proof for my theory that Martha isn't for children.
Most of the Halloween episodes are hilarious in their own right. Martha frequently does segments in costume, and her usual "Good Things" are temporarily renamed as "Bad Things".
6. Making Brownies with The Rock
Episode: "Sweet Touches with The Rock", Production # MS1C57
This tops them all. "Sweet Touches with The Rock" is one of one of Martha's Valentine's Day episodes, and true to the title, special guest star The Rock shows up to make giant heart-shaped brownies with Martha. To truly understand the implications of this, take a moment, and try to picture Martha watching Smackdown. For his part, The Rock is incredibly good-natured about the whole thing, as Martha asks him things like, "Would you like to pipe on the chocolate ganache, Rock?" By the end, The Rock has decorated a lovely heart brownie for his wife.
Martha: So, Rock, what's your famous line?
The Rock (very sedately): If you smell what The Rock is cooking.
Martha (absolutely serious): Today, he's cooking chocolate brownies.
Words cannot do this scene justice.
Episodes that I haven't seen that could potentially earn a coveted spot on this list:
1. Barbie Birthday Party. "Join Martha and her young friends and learn how to make a Barbie Cake, table decorations and the best Barbie favors." Good Lord.
2. Bryant Gumbel Thanksgiving. "A special Thanksgiving dinner with Bryant Gumbel." I'm not sure "special" is an adequate word.
3. Breakfast. "Brian Dennehy stops by and stirs up some Homemade Yogurt." I've seen snippets of this, but not the whole thing. I bet Brian Dennehy has some mad yogurt skillz.
4. Special Guest Colin Powell. "Martha and some friends join General Powell in the kitchen for some hearty cooking and more heartfelt stories."