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Martha Stewart's Prison Living
Published on Wednesday, June 26, 2002 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Martha Stewart's Prison Living
by Stephanie Salter
 

LAST WEEK, a friend mused:

"Can you imagine Martha Stewart in federal prison?"

As a matter of fact I can.

And I imagine her living as beautifully and tastefully behind bars as any human being could.

I say this not because I am one of the lifestyle queen's millions of fans. I do not subscribe to Martha's magazines, read her newspaper column, watch her TV show, buy her home fashions at Kmart or own any of the books she's written, such as "Favorite Comfort Foods" and "Crafts and Keepsakes for the Holidays."

I do, however, sometimes catch Martha's daily radio spot. Once, she devoted it to step-by-step instructions on how to properly winterize and store your power mower. The process involved draining gasoline, dismantling parts and hanging the motor, if possible, on a wall in your garage or tool shed. From that day on, there was nothing I couldn't imagine the plucky, resourceful Martha Stewart doing.

Thus, if investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee find out that Martha really did have inside information when she sold about 4,000 shares of ImClone stock to escape financial disaster, this is what I imagine: Hello and welcome to "Martha Stewart's Prison Living."

You know, incarceration doesn't have to mean the end of a gracious and creative lifestyle. As regular listeners have learned, the term 'good enough' is simply not in my vocabulary. In just a few short weeks here in the women's minimum security facility at Danbury, Conn., I've discovered dozens of ways to transform prison living into a warm and cozy experience.

Believe me, you don't have to settle for taping ripped-out photos from a 4- year-old People magazine to your cell wall.

Take parsley, for example. This common little herb -- ignored or derided by many on the outside -- has myriad uses for gracious prison living. Ask your bi- weekly visitors to bring you a bunch or two when they come. Stored properly, in about 1-inch of water in your toothbrush cup, parsley will stay relatively fresh for up to 10 days.

Remember, parsley must never be kept in direct sunlight, something that shouldn't be a problem in most federal facilities.

Besides its crisp, outdoorsy fragrance, parsley provides a spot of welcome color in any cell and looks especially nice perched atop a brushed stainless steel institutional sink or toilet seat.

Obviously, parsley is ideal for sprucing up dreary, carbohydrate-heavy prison lunches and dinners. Pick a particularly pretty sprig to carry with you for, say, a T.G.I.F. dinner or bring an extra sprig for a cellblock mate and make it a really special occasion.

Speaking of carbohydrates, the mashed potatoes in most penal facilities make an excellent substitute for glue or paste. This can come in very handy if you want to add real pizazz to those old People magazine pinups by creating a custom-made, decoupage mural for your cell.

And while you're being creative with food, don't forget: Almost any flavor of jam or jelly makes a lovely lip gloss. My current favorite is Concord grape, but strawberry's nice, too.

I like to use my jam/jelly lip gloss every day, but it looks especially nice when I "dress up" by affixing a sprig of parsley to my prison jumpsuit. Most of the time I use a staple I've pulled out of a People magazine to pin on my little green boutonniere. Sometimes I just tuck the parsley behind one ear for a jeune fille effect.

That's all for today. Next time on "Martha" we'll talk about keeping hands and feet soft with mayonnaise and an easy way to turn ketchup and paper napkins into festive partyware.

For a copy of today's show, write or e-mail the warden here in Danbury and ask very nicely. In the meantime, a bunch of parsley is always appreciated.

©2002 San Francisco Chronicle

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