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The Big Apple: Behind the Scenes at The Martha Stewart Show

October 18, 2011

Exciting times this week! I was in New York yesterday making apple dumplings and apple butter with none other than Martha Stewart for her Martha Show. The episodes will air this Thursday, October 20, at 10 a.m. on the Hallmark Channel.

Officially listed

Anyone who has paid attention to food or home design or crafts or magazines or television can imagine how exciting this was. I’ll never forget the first time I leafed through my mother’s copy of Martha’s first book, Entertaining, in 1982. Pouring over those pages like an 11-year-old Talmudic scholar, I absorbed that impossibly perfect vision of domestic life as a roadmap for what I wanted my grown-up life to look like.  Of course, my grown-up home doesn’t come close to looking like Martha’s. I could never match her precision or drive, let alone her resources. But her products still inspire me. Her team boasts some of the most talented designers, cooks, crafters, producers, and stylists in the field today, so heading to the studios was like being called to the Mother Ship of creativity. And I’m grateful for her message that the domestic sphere can be important and beautiful. Apparently, she also believes that the professional sphere should be beautiful, too, because her studios are stunning. The first view, after snaking our way through several hallways, was of a very swanky dressing room.

The dressing room, with signature Martha colors and MSL-branded furniture, naturally.

Across the hall was the Green Room, with its display of Emmys.  Martha’s office was just around the corner, but the frosted glass gave me only brief glimpses of her perfectly layered blonde tresses.

I was then called into the kitchen, to go over the dishes we were to prepare that day: apple dumplings with cider-rum sauce and overnight apple butter. The kitchen team, like everyone else, was incredibly gracious and welcoming, eager to make sure that what went on set was true to my vision for the recipes. I rehearsed my segment with producer Greta Anthony, had the makeup and hair treatment (including false eyelashes and a wing-y head of curls that were designed to give my flat hair some pizzazz and keep it out of my face), and after some torturous hurry-up-and-waiting and deep breathing, it was showtime. Walking toward set, I felt like a tiny thing, a mouse headed into the lion’s ring. But within seconds,  all fear dissipated. Martha was warm and gracious and TALL. A head and a long model’s neck above me even if she hadn’t been wearing stilettos, which she was.

I heard the staff and audience cheering me on and got swept up in the good feeling.

Discussing the dough. Martha can roll out pastry like a master.

My husband, Scott, was in the Green Room and he took these shots off the monitor.

We got through the dumplings, paused for a break, and then it was time for the apple butter.

“Martha, I just love my slow cooker!”

The final segment was  shorter. I did make the mistake of calling the apple butter a “dump and go recipe,” to which she shot back, “I don’t like the word ‘dump.'”

But where some might have read “scolding” I read, “sassy,” so I came back with “Ok, it’s an ‘artfully arrange and go recipe*,” and she smiled. I think she has a better sense of humor than some people might assume.

In fact, as I left the set, the producers said, “Wow, you could tell that Martha really liked you!” I think that’s a good thing.

Leaving the set with Kyle, the stage manager who keeps everyone calm and happy backstage

My one regret: Because Martha Stewart Omnimedia has its own magazine, they were reluctant to mention my Yankee title in my intro, so my real employer went unmentioned. It would’ve been nice to give a shout-out to my New England family.

*All quotes paraphrased until I can watch the actual tape on Thursday.

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