Nearly seven years ago, my best friend bought me a subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine as holiday present. Tearing open the wrapping paper, I caught a glimpse of a pyramid stack of rigidly squared off Rice Krispy Treat-style cereal bars on one of those ever-upbeat and brightly lit covers I recognized all too well and protested, “But I don’t read Martha Stewart!”
“Of course you don’t,” she said. “Of course not.”
Martha Stewart was fussy and domestic and a grueling perfectionist who doted on the most inane stuff and I, I, I was all of those things; I just hadn’t come to terms with it yet. I would buy the rag for long train rides and chuck it when I got to my destination; nobody had to know but me. My dirty little magazine-stand secret had dewy, dimly lit pictures of ripe melons all over it, oh yeah, but the authentic kind.
I don’t know when I stopped subscribing (odds are, I haven’t, I just move too damned much) but Martha don’t come round no more, so when we were finally reunited on a New Jersey Transit bus last week, I nearly ate the pages, most pertinently the one with the roasted baby artichokes recipe [link removed as page seems to have disappeared] as I will cook or eat anything in the whole world as long as it involved a single iota of artichoke (“even boogers?” my husband asks and I’ll spare you my answer). I love them that much.
I brought home ten miniature artichokes Tuesday night, so adorable I wanted to line them up and create monologues and dance routines for them, but hunger won out. I got to work on them, so excited about the dish I hummed the whole time. Yet, all directions followed to the letter as would make Martha proud (oh, because I do want to make her proud, I really do), 40 minutes later they remained rubbery and undercooked – by quite a bit – and again 20 and then 40 minutes after that. Nearly two hours in a 400 degree oven was all the kitchen blasphemy I could take (if I remind you it was 100 degrees outside, I will be sent to hell, no doubt) and I tried to dig in. They were still bitter. The hearts were cooked but a full minute of chewing couldn’t grind a single leaf in my eager maw.
Heartbroken, I threw the rest into the trash, but two days later, I still want to know where it all went wrong. But, I first have to confess this isn’t the first time a New Exciting Recipe for baby artichokes failed me; the time I grilled them last year, it was ibid with the rubbery and undercooked, even while cooking them well beyond Mark Bittman’s suggestion.
Mostly I’m crushed because I don’t know where this leaves me, Martha and all the plans I had for us. I suspect the only way to move past this will be over Chocolate-Strawberry Thumbprints on page 176. It’s for the relationship, you see.