Best part of the interview? "'I like to create what I call ‘tablescapes,' " she explains. 'It's so much more fun when you organize your table around a theme, don't you think?'" O, RLY? (And, yes, then she creates an ominous-sounding "Founding Fathers" tablescape.)
As always, it's kind of hard not to like Sandra Lee. Yes, there's the harsh reality of her unimaginably tough background, lending her an aura of "realness" that somehow grounds her. But that's only part of it. She's just so...weird. And this piece did nothing to dispel the impression of her as being a sort of human form of her cooking show: both artificial and genuine, contrived and really enthusiastic, and, on a completely unrelated note, very committed to being a good Gubernatorial partner. A few choice excerpts:
Over a post-shopping breakfast, Lee happily orders eggs and bacon with a side of granola. "I'm a meat-and-potatoes girl, but I still have to watch it," she says, giggling as she whips up her sweater to reveal, sweetly but somewhat disingenuously, an expanse of perfectly smooth alabaster skin without the merest hint of any bulge.
On her relationship with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:
Well, here's the thing: In 2010 I made a very conscious effort to get ahead of my work; I cleared the decks and reorganized the company so that I would have more time to devote to Andrew. I've always seen my job as making life easier for my audience, and now my job is to make life easier for him. I need to understand this new landscape and figure out how I can best contribute in a meaningful way. But we have this great opportunity to make a difference for people in need.
And then, of course, there's her house.
Lee swings her toasty steering wheel to the right, and we park in the driveway of a white Colonial-style clapboard house, surrounded by trees, facing a bucolic pond full of squawking geese and ducks. "Hope you don't mind taking your shoes off," Lee says, opening the front door and handing me a pair of fluffy slippers. As soon as I walk into the living room, I understand why. A creamy carpet covers the entire floor, a family of decorative polar bears frolics on the sideboard in artificial snow, an enormous silver tiger reclines on a mother-of-pearl coffee table, and in the fireplace are-what else?-white birch logs that are clearly never going to see a match. "Yes, I love white, and I'd wear it all the time if I could. Some people think I have an issue with cleanliness, but to me it's just so pretty."
We're still trying to visualize those polar bears — are they, y'know, life-sized? Or some kind of elaborate tablescape? — but overall, this confirms our general sense that she is, with apologies to Eleanor Roosevelt, the most fascinating First Lady the Empire State has known for many a moon. I'll confess, I was starting to worry when the Inaugural passed without so much as an apple-themed cocktail, but that "Mount Vernon" motif has me all kinds of heartened. Lee calls her philosophy of cooking "the maximum joy with the minimum heartache." And as political ambitions go, it's not so bad, either.
Sandra Lee: The Woman In White [Vogue]