They’re back! Don, Peggy, Roger, Joan, weasely Pete and the rest of the Lucky smoking, snappy copy writing, afternoon cocktail swilling, skirt chasing, ‘Zou Bisou Bisou’ singing crew. Mad Men is back in all its glory and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! But why? A show that could reasonably be described as a bunch of alcoholic whoring frat boy chauvinists (and homophobes, and racists) behaving badly as they cavort on Madison Avenue should turn me off, right? Yet, (forgive me Gloria), all that and more contribute to why I love it so. How could I not love a show with pregnant women kaffee klatching at kitchen tables over gimlets and Camels? And as they get pleasantly pissed, their children sit in playpens with sharp metal hinges just waiting to catch a finger, playing with toys made of countless tiny ingestible parts and drinking fruit punch chockfull of red dye#2. It’s great! Every garage filled with leaded gasoline guzzling cars with no seat belts, every garbage can filled with bottles, plastics and paper together, just waiting for their spot in a landfill. Damn I love this show! As a proud feminist and environmentally conscious gal who spent a lot of her career being the only girl in the room and who worked her way up from a secretary to the boss, I should be picketing AMC’s offices. Or writing letters to editors filled with righteous indignation. At the very least I should turn OFF the TV! Yet like so many of you I twitched with gleeful anticipation, chilling martini glasses and fixing rumaki in preparation for last Sunday’s return of the 1960’s in all its delightful decadent dysfunction. It’s all so wrong yet all SO right, and I giddily gush over it with pals like an adolescent girl discussing Twilight. How do I love thee Mad Men? Let me count the ways.
First, I was born in the early 60s, so technically I could be one of Don and Betty’s children. Well, if dear old dad was the bastard child of a prostitute, assumed another’s identity, possessed a tortured soul, unquenchable thirst and penchant for screwing anything in a skirt, and mom was a depressed alcoholic ice queen with a house dress and a shotgun. Thankfully, they were not. However, I did grow up in the cocktail culture suburbs of Manhattan, and fondly remember the treat of having TV dinners on tray tables in front of the black & white console and pestering my parents for Manhattan soaked maraschino cherries (made all the more appealing by red dye #2). Another thing I love (besides the incredible writing, acting, costumes, sets and yummy Jon Hamm and John Slattery), is how politically incorrect everything is by today’s standards. To see how far we’ve come in my lifetime (and in some ways, how far we haven’t) is fascinating. And every frame has a martini in sight. What’s not to LOVE?
Then there’s Joan. I have a major crush on Joan. The sexpot of the show from day 1, she’s also the strongest woman in the office. Sure there’s Peggy, and I like her very much but she’s no Joan. I really want Peggy to succeed but often have to resist the urge to slap her and tell her to suck it up and get that damn chip off her shoulder. I’ve been there, know the necessary mistakes she still has to make to have any hope to be seen on the same level as the guys, and cringe every time she makes them. With Peggy I see a little sister. Joan is a best friend and every once in a while, me. Sure we both share a certain generosity in endowments (mine more private family foundation sized, hers more Rockefeller), but the similarity is really in how she acts and reacts with the men in the office. In some ways Joan is one of the ‘boys’, yet knows how to rise above them. Shrugging off most of their nonsense, she’s learned how to talk to them if she wants to be taken seriously. And when she’s had enough of their crap, she can deliver a zinger with a pinpoint accuracy guaranteed to achieve greatest deflation. That gives her power. All that combined in a woman who clearly owns her body and it’s ample curves like no other heroine I can remember. How refreshing to see a woman with all that VA-VA-VOOM drawn with so much intellect, humanity and strength. Simply put, Peggy may one day be Don Draper, but Joan will own the agency.
Of course, no ode would be complete without mentioning Don. Yes, he’s a class ‘A’ heel, so easy to hate and yet I still love him. Don is the epitome of a tragic hero. That is, if Sisyphus had a scotch in one hand and the other up someone’s skirt. I really want Don to be happy, though somehow can’t wait to see how he’s going to screw it up this time, and with whom. Plus he’s awfully easy on the eyes and you just know I’d go there with him if he tried.
So thank you Matt Weiner for giving us a great reason to swill martinis on Sunday nights, reveling in the shenanigans of the swinging sloshed Sixties at Sterling Cooper Draper Price. Next time don’t stay away so long.
This week’s recipe quite literally swings from the 60s. A few weekends ago I was at a dinner party with some of my favorite people. It was a terrific night of stories, laughter and great food. My friends Linda and Joe hosted, and the menu featured family recipes handed down from Linda’s mom. All of the dishes were fantastic, but the one that stood out in my mind was something I love but haven’t seen in a long, long time – a jello mold! Filled with wine and cherries, it jiggled proudly at my end of the table and was the PERFECT compliment to the savory dishes. Naturally I asked for the recipe and Linda graciously shared it and all its wobbly glory.
Linda’s Wine and Cherries Jell-O Mold
I admit it, I don’t actually own a Jell-O mold. Like Tupperware, Jell-O molds are something that separates the married women from the singles, and so I’ll make this in a medium size bowl. It may not be as pretty as Linda’s, but the taste and wobble are the same.
- 1 large package Black Cherry Jell-O dissolved in 2 cups Hot water
- 1 can pitted black cherries and one cup of the cherry juice/syrup
- 1 cup Manischewitz Extra Heavy Malaga wine
Mix all the ingredients together and follow directions for using a jello mold on the package.