S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

TV Cook Sandra Lee Is Cuomo’s First Lady

Through books, television shows and magazines, the self-described “lifestylist” has taught time-pressed women that they can create domestic happiness by drawing on what is around them: spicing up packaged cake mix with peach juice, transforming artichokes into striking table centerpieces and displaying humdrum hand soap in an elegant crystal decanter.
Her latest domestic project? The Cuomo family.
Ms. Lee, the companion of Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, has invited his young daughters onto her Food Network show to bake cupcakes. “Good job, sweetheart!” she exclaimed after Mariah, one of Mr. Cuomo’s 15-year-old twins, expertly applied icing.
She takes Mr. Cuomo’s mother, Matilda, antiquing in upstate New York, and bakes brownies for Mr. Cuomo’s staff.
She has even become a rallying cry in the attorney general’s office. When Mr. Cuomo is flustered by a bureaucratic logjam, he is known to complain that the hyper-organized Sandy “could have gotten this done already.”
Mr. Cuomo rarely talks about Ms. Lee in public and is eager to shield her from the slings and arrows of the campaign trail.
But she is expected to join him for a kind of political coming out when he announces his candidacy for governor about a week from now. Their relationship of five years has already put her at the center of a political dynasty and raised the possibility that the state’s next first lady will be a celebrity chef, decorator and party planner whose wealth and star power outstrip that of the governor himself.
Even in New York, where Mr. Cuomo has run for statewide office twice, Ms. Lee is just as likely as he is to show up on television or stroll across a red carpet.
Or to be recognized on the street. A woman recently approached Mr. Cuomo and Ms. Lee on the street and gushed about Ms. Lee’s recipes. “I just made your cupcakes,” she said. The woman seemed to barely notice Mr. Cuomo.
Friends said that Ms. Lee, 43, had started to imagine how her life would change if Mr. Cuomo won, and the kind of role she would play if he were to become governor.
Brooke Johnson, the president of the Food Network, recalled asking Ms. Lee whether a campaign would leave her with less control over her time. She replied, “If it happens, supporting Andrew will be a top priority.”
Colleen Schmidt, a close friend of Ms. Lee since college, said, “If you are looking for a first lady, somebody to live in that type of environment, she is probably the best, well-trained person you could have.”
Ms. Lee seems to share Mr. Cuomo’s suspicion of the political press. After lengthy negotiations with her staff and his aides, she declined to be interviewed for this article but allowed a few friends and family members to speak about her.
Though Ms. Lee and Mr. Cuomo are, on the surface, dissimilar (she is a college dropout who grew up in California and Wisconsin, and he is a law-school graduate from New York), they share some essential traits: an unyielding drive and an action-oriented style.
She redecorates the set of her show for every episode, swapping out color-coded items, right down to the curtains. (“It’s unusual,” conceded Kathleen Finch, a former network executive involved with the program, “but it works.”)
To get ideas for new recipes, she sometimes orders half the items on the menu at restaurants. And she wrote a 270-page memoir, “Made From Scratch,” in six weeks.
“She is a workaholic, through and through,” her brother-in-law, Lee Gaskill, said.
“A perfectionist,” said Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, who publishes Ms. Lee’s magazine.
Such meticulousness grew out of a troubled childhood: an absent father, a chronically ill mother and welfare checks that she was forced to cash on her own, at age 13, to buy groceries for her siblings, according to her book.
Her solution to the chaos was to impose order on it: as a teenager, she was directing a household of four children, conjuring up the inexpensive meals and penny-wise routines that would later become the basis of her multimillion dollar brand, Semi-Homemade, which relies heavily on packaged goods. “We made simple bargain cuisine, not because we wanted to, but because we had to,” she writes of those days in her book.
After leaving home as a 16-year-old, she built the résumé of an undeterred striver — cleaning houses, waiting on tables and hawking products at trade shows and county fairs. Her ambition was evident to everyone who met her.
C. C. Carr, a corporate spokeswoman, recalled taping an infomercial for a line of do-it-yourself window treatments that Ms. Lee had created in the 1990s, called Kurtain Kraft. At one point, Ms. Lee turned to her and said, “I am going to be the next Martha Stewart.”
“I remember it,” Ms. Carr said, “because I thought, if anybody can do it, it’s her.”
In many ways, she did. Semi-Homemade has become an industry juggernaut. She hosts two of the highest-rated shows on the Food Network, has sold more than one million books and has developed products sold at Sears, Target and Wal-Mart.
Two of my favorites have been together for years. I just found out. What fun! The N.Y. Attorney General's father, Mario Cuomo, is my all time favorite politician. I often wished he had become the POTUS, but it was not to be. Perhaps the son will become N.Y.'s governor, just as his father did.

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