A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sometimes Even the Master Doesn't Get it Right



Let me preface this post by saying that I LOVE Martha Stewart.

I'll never forget the first, and only, time I ever met her. 
Her first book had come out and no one really knew who she was. I was working for a recherche little French housewares shop off Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia called The Cook Nook. We carried her cookbook. 

As a promotion for the local restaurants, the city was trying to get off the ground a promotion that paired cookbook authors with restaurants around the city. An author would go into the restaurant's kitchen then prepare a meal from their own recipes to a special audience that purchased tickets to the event. All the proceeds went to charity.
The year that Martha's book came out she was invited as a new author to participate in the Cook and the Book promotion. That year they had a big book signing extravaganza at a local department store's gourmet food hall. As a member of the "business" I went to the big book signing to see some of the celebrity authors who were on hand to sell their cookbooks.

As I walked around the hall I saw a number of famous faces swarmed by admiring fans. Right in the center of all this activity was this gorgeous, statuesque blond with long hair standing all alone. I walked over to her and immediately recognized her from the photo on her cookbook, "Entertaining." She seemed bored and slightly annoyed that no one was speaking to her so I went over and made some small talk with her without mentioning that I had recognized her from the photo. After a few moments one of the "Cook and the Book" organizers came over to her and grabbed her attention away from me so I just wandered off to see the other famous faces in the room.

That was my one brief interaction with the Grand Dame of entertaining and dining. I still chuckle when I think of her all alone and rather sad standing unknown in that crowded department store food hall. My how things have changed for her!

Eight years later and Martha is now a household name with her own magazine. In the February 1992 issue of her magazine, Martha did a small piece on serving with majolica. She then created a food tribute to one of her favorite majolica patterns, Griffen, Smith and Company's Shell pattern. This cake, which she called Mocha Majolica was decorated in the Shell pattern. I have no idea what it tasted like but as a former professional cake decorator it looked like a train wreck if I ever saw one! I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face it was just so bad. I wish I had kept my copy of the issue because the photos of the majolica were lovely. Unfortunately it had this hideous "majolica" cake covering the pretty Shell dessert stand.


That recipe is still available on her Web site at marthastewart.com. It's accompanied by this mercifully small image of the "Majolica" Shell cake shown above. One of these days I'm going to make it to see if I have any better luck making it look like majolica than Martha. I bet it tastes much better than it looks!

If you'd like to try it yourself, Here's the link: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/mocha-majolica.
Bon App├ętit!

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