I knew who Martha Stewart was before I knew about her magazine, TV shows, or cookbooks. It was somehow ingrained in me that she was an authority on all things home, in a perfect, but creepy way. She is not a mere mortal. So, when I was challenged by my editor to live like Martha Stewart for a week, I expected to end the experiment exhausted and disillusioned but able to fold a fitted sheet. Instead, I surprised myself by tapping into the zen of Martha. Skeptics, read on to see how I found my inner domestic goddess with minimal effort.
Step One: Bake Like Martha
Sadly, I don't have a famous rapper to count amongst my best friends, so my I had to host a cooking show all by myself. A coworker mentioned how much she wanted to try a recipe of Martha's from her book, A New Way To Bake. I had it bookmarked on my shelf and figured there was no better time than the present to try it out. I like baking but tend to stick to things I know really well, like Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. So, when it came time to attempt a peanut butter sandwich cookie, I felt intimidated. Even though I have a tiny, and often dirty, NYC kitchen, I do have a secret weapon: a standing mixer. I asked myself what Martha would do (the refrain, W.W.M.D., ran through my head all week) and prepped ahead of time. Instead of thinking of it as extra work, I tried to channel feelings of organization and intention. Nevertheless, I didn't read the directions thoroughly enough and had to wake up early one day before work to finish up. While I'm not at my most nimble or sharp-witted early in the morning, I was able to get up early and make it work — sort of. The resulting cookies were nothing like Martha's, but were a hit at work. I consider it a success.
Step Two: Wake Up Early (& Be Productive)
It's hard to separate Martha the person from Martha the persona, but I did rely on a number of interviews she has given to figure out what she does in her own life. The Cut's "How I Get It Done" with Stewart was a guidebook to how she runs a domestic empire. One way to get it all done? Get up really early. Martha rises at 5 a.m. every day and already has a full schedule before arriving at her Manhattan office: gym, reading the news, meeting with the gardener. I manage to drag myself out of bed a few hours after 5 a.m., thanks to some napping and snoozing, and have a productive morning of finishing the cookies. Not even attempting to channel Martha will make me a morning person.
Step 3: Make A Martha-Style Weeknight Meal
Though Martha is known for her complex recipes, I also learned from "How I Get It Done" that she relies on simple, seasonal meals in her day-to-day life. These foods often come from her garden, which I don't have. So, instead, I went to Whole Foods and bought all the fall foods I could, which really meant a lot of squash. She also eats eggs from her own own chickens, which I most certainly don't have, so I also pickED out the most farm-fresh looking eggs at Whole Foods (I went with the blue ones).
The only problem was that as I waited for my simple, healthy dinner of roasted veggies to cook so I could have a plate of them with cottage cheese and a slice good bread (another Martha-inspired pairing via The Cut), I was incredibly hungry. So, I used what I hoped would be Martha-approved eggs for a not very Martha-approved task: frying in lots of oil with a crispy tortilla, then covering them in American cheese. Or maybe Martha would approve — in June she revealed she likes stealing American cheese from her housekeeper. I will say, however, the eggs were absolutely delicious. The yolk was bright orange and had much more flavor than regular grocery store eggs. I decided that I would just have to be my own housekeeper and steal American cheese from myself, and continue to eat this meal until every one of my expensive eggs were gone.
The roasted veggies were great, too.
Step 4: Garden As Best As I Can
Martha Stewart's gardens are something to behold; she has her own orchard, for starters. Since I don't have anything remotely like that, I decide to defy my cursed green thumb and buy a succulent for my desk. As I selected my little plant at the store, I felt a wave of responsibility; this would be my little bit of garden to nurture. I even named him Stuart, in honor of the woman who inspired his purchase. Thinking of it that way, rather than as a pretty thing I have to remember to water so it won't die, made me feel much more warmly towards Stuart than I have to his long-dead predecessors. As of present time, he lives.
Step 5: Enjoy The Outdoors
As I flipped through back issues of Martha Stewart Living and scrolled through Martha's personal Instagram, I felt as if I were taking a trip through the seasons. Everything Martha does, from magazine covers to meal times, is informed by the time of year. In an attempt to get out of my indoor-centric lifestyle, I tried to do as much outdoors as I could, but in a genteel, Martha-esque way. My efforts were largely reduced to taking walks around the block on my lunch break, but I tried to remind myself why I was going outside: to spend time in nature, in whatever limited way I could. It felt more restorative that way, and I did enjoy the beautiful trees.
Bonus Step 6: Post To Instagram Like Martha
If you are not familiar with the slightly unhinged way that Martha Stewart Instagrams, I suggest taking a look yourself. The sentences are long and semi-nonsensical. For example: "And this past Saturday I attended the Hunt breakfast It was lots of fun to see everyone dressed appropriately on magnificent steeds, accompanied by a pack of Very ruly hounds By the way nobody dies!!!!" The photos aren't necessarily in frame or well-contextualized. For someone who appeals so controlled in her private and professional life to have such an unpolished internet presence fascinates me. Even I, with my relatively insignificant 636 followers, think hard about ever little picture I share. So I challenged myself to post a picture to Instagram as if I was Martha. Inspired by a shot of Martha's cat, I posted a photo of my own cat, Pickles, with a similarly stream-of-consciousness caption.
The post got to 65 likes before friend recognized my source material. Another commented that she knows I don't have stairs. While I'd like to say that I let this be a lesson in living a less perfect online life, I deleted the image after a few days.
At the end of the week of living like Martha (or, as I thought of it Martha Stewart Living, Sort Of), I expected to be exhausted and overwhelmed. But, as silly as it sounds, choosing to do certain things that seem like a chore with purpose made them more enjoyable. And while I may never be an early riser or know what it's like to have my own orchard, many of the cues I'd picked up from Martha herself were more easily adapted to my pizza rat NYC existence than I thought. My succulents are still alive, and buying expensive eggs did make me feel fancy. Making little choices like that throughout my week felt like mini vacations to a world in which I did have all the trappings of the Martha lifestyle. Getting up at 5 a.m., though? That's a nonstarter.