Cloning Martha

By Maralyn Lois Polak

I see where Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia may be searching for a new CEO to succeed the ever-so-slightly tarnished Empress of Home-Ec. Aside from not being a blonde – a minor, temporary setback – I would like to leap forward into the breach and declare my immediate availability, now that she may step aside because of that pesky insider-trading investigation.

Besides several years winning prize-ribbons for Cooking and Sewing at the County Fair – were they blue, or was that the ocean? – as a high-school 4-H Club member in New Jersey, I am highly qualified.

Really.

No one, and I mean, no one, to this day even remembers how instead of Funnel Cake, I made Tunnel Cake, and the judges were intrigued by what might have lived in there.

“Weevils?”

During my way-distant teenage days, I was also a mother’s helper – that’s what we called nannies back then – for two toddlers, “Trixie and Jenny Mitch” at the beach, before biking to my evening job as supermarket cashier, bookkeeper, and occasional fill-in bakery girl, tying boxed layer cakes while hypnotized by assistant manager “Trib Bedino” stirring chocolate sauce for Napoleons in his undershirt, sweat dripping from his pits into the vat.

Eventually, I uh, was let go by Mrs. Mitch when her little girls started calling me “Mommy,” but certainly that doesn’t diminish my managerial skills.

Just ask my cat. Who, of course, will insist that cats grow up best in a no-parent home.

Although, after college, where I snagged a degree in business administration and doily-crochet, I went on to help run a magazine or two, and, yes, marry a man who mastered the execution of shirt-sleeve cuisine on several continents, notably that memorable first meal he had me prepare as a young bride: pork chops, mashed potatoes, and peas … on lead-glazed plates I just created in pottery class.

Sorry!

Of course, I can imagine how my mother, with her rabbinical roots, might have gone into cardiac arrest at that menu, since her definition of a mixed marriage was someone who had never sampled borsht.

When it comes to domestic skills, I can thank that very same ex-hubby for allowing me to make him dashiki-style shirts with my sewing machine during his intrepid jazz-musician days. That led to sewing myself kimono-style dresses without the bust darts – I always removed them since I felt mostly male designers conspired to dictate to women how high we must wear our bosoms. And don’t get me started about those adorable sweater-vests for our first dog, Froggy Arpeggio, poor thing, so vulnerable to chills.

As for imaginative domestic projects, how’s this? I’ll never forget when, somehow, “Can and Toy” my poetry publishers, got roped into making 20,000 (!!!) bologna sandwiches at the convention center of a major East Coast city, to promote my book of food-love verse.

What a zoo!

First they had to drive 50 miles to pick up the free name-brand bread, famous cold-cuts and gigantic jar of mustard. Then they had to set up a slathering assembly line, while I signed autographs.

This event was a true vegetarian’s nightmare. There I was, trapped in Booth 135, teeming with stampeding hordes of doughy smorgasbord devotees, grabbing at the teetering precarious stack of sandwiches that, moment by moment, resembled more and more the Leaning Tower of Pisa, threatening to topple over on me, obliterating any pretenses of book-selling.

Why the popularity of those crudely made sandwiches? The lines for the “real” food – raspberry beer, and sauteed artichokes with capers and parmesan, and fantasy wedding cake, and white-chocolate liqueur, and tangerine juice, and candy-coated espresso coffee beans, and peppermint patties, and barbecued smoked salmon, and roasted red peppers marinated with garlic in olive oil on French bread rounds – wound around the block.

While the bologna table – really my book table – was relatively clear.

At least, I consoled myself, writing free verse is infinitely more rewarding than giving away free cold-cuts:

“What percent fat?” one fella asked.

“Is this Kosher?” another wanted to know.

“Mayonnaise, or mustard?” the weight-conscious women demanded.

“Can I have a whole one?” said a lanky guard.

“Any special orders?” the wiseacres cracked.

“How ’bout a sestina, or a villanelle,” I offered helpfully, trying my best not to be peeved the public prefers pig offal to Petrarchan stanzas.

No one bothered to ask, but clearly people who like bologna sandwiches hate poetry, and people who like poetry can’t stand bologna sandwiches!

A true Martha Moment, si?