Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Martha Adventure

So it started a few weeks ago when a couple friends both separately mentioned wanting to take a NY trip this fall. I remembered I had wanted to take in a Martha Stewart Show taping sometime and figured I'd check the television taping schedule to see if any would make timing sense with the NY trips.

On the Martha Stewart web site, the first show listed was for a "Harvest" show and they wanted gardeners to bring in their home-grown edibles. I shot off a quick online note that night describing my new community garden plot and saying I'd bring okra. I got a call and email the next morning say "yes" -- to bring the okra (as no other applicants had mentioned it) and could I bring some gardening friends.

I immediately thought of my fellow garden writers and New York natives, Ellen Zachos and Ellen Spector Platt. I called the Ellens and they were both "in." I made my bus reservations and started planning my basket design and wardrobe. The show sent a few more notes asking again for more gardening friends, for garden advice tips, and to tell us all the rules. Those included not to wear black, tan, or grey; to not bring Martha "gift" or expect an autograph; to arrive on time (8:30am for our 10am live show); etc.

Packing up my basket the day before my departure, I saw I was a little low on okra so I added a strawberry basket in of tomatillos, yellow cherry tomatoes, and a small jar filled with ground cherries. I then asked a few fellow community gardeners if they had okra to spare. I cut 2 green from one plot and 3 reds from another. I figured more was better than looking skimpy. I'm glad I did as I lost a couple okra somewhere along my journey!

The morning of the show, the Ellens and I arrived at the studio to find a long line out front. We had a little time as they brought in groups a few at a time through security and screening. We compared basket contents with our line-neighbors and exchanged stories/backgrounds/introductions. It became clear to me that most others there were not home gardeners, but instead were professional farmers. Indeed, as we were grouped and seated for the show, they called folks in by their farm names. I was disappointed that the theme and focus had shifted off of backyard, urban growers, but I understand the staff had to make sure there was a full bounty and good turn-out.

While we waited outside, Joey, the warm-up guy, and a few producers came out and told those of us still in line to get ready for a camera pan and to put on our "TV smiles." They did a few passes with a steady cam then we got in and filled out release forms, checked our bags, and got seated.

Before the show and during the commercial breaks they played amped-up energy pop like Eminem and the Pussycat Dolls. I had to wonder if Martha actually liked it or merely tolerated it. 

The opening segment, Martha pulled out HER basket of home-grown okra and proceeded to cook with it. So, yeah, my presence or basket were not needed - LOL.

It was an interesting show with chef Emeril Lagasse as the only guest. He came in the ground and made a dish from the ingredients he collected from baskets. To me he seemed rather subdued and quiet, maybe Martha makes him nervous?

Next, they pulled a NY corn farmer from the audience and he got to use his sweet corn with Martha showing some cooking and preserving tips.

A segment taped at the National Heirloom Exhibition in Sonoma, CA, was very well done, and actually made me want to go to it next year. Though I believe the time conflicts badly with the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello :-(.

Most of the produce brought to the show went to City Harvest, a NY food bank. (You were given a choice if you wanted to take it back or donate it and Martha even commented off-camera that she knew it would be hard for some to give-away their home-grown babies as they put so much work into them.) I gave all the okra (about 5 pounds worth), but kept the jar of ground cherries as I promised to try and save the seeds for a few fellow gardeners. The ground cherries and tomatoes I shared with seat neighbors to snack on.

After the show, we all received two books, ""Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders," by Emeril Lagasse and "The Heirloom Life Gardener," by Jere and Emilee Gettle. I perused both on the bus ride back to DC. I'll be adding the heirloom edibles book to our review pile for the magazine and think I'll make the Emeril book a prize in a future contest.

Ellen Zachos in blue, Ellen Spector Platt in red, and me in tangerine sweater set (waving).

Don't blink or you'll miss me!

Emeril picks the lilac wine from Ellen's basket. I'm on her left.

Emeril trying to open Ellen's lilac wine on air.

During the Q&A, the women in front of us gets picked first. You can see Ellen Spector Platt's herb basket on her left and my okra basket to her right.

As the end credits roll, they panned up the aisle and you get a really good luck at us and our "tv smiles."


  1. How fun! Mom and I got to attend the blogging show in January 2010. Just reading your account of your Martha experience brought back great memories. It sounds like a pretty much identical experience. Isn't her set gorgeous?

  2. Ooh, I remberthat blogging show too! I wonder if I saw you all - glad some garden writers got to be a part of it. And yes, gorgeous studios - all new kitchen just installed this past week. What struck me most was the size of the staff - guess it takes an Army to be Martha.

  3. Thanks so much for making this happen, Kathy. Maybe next time we'll be the guests instead of in the audience!


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