What a photo. Out of all of the photographs in this enormous book (Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations) this photo of Martha on page 50, shown above, captures so much of the essence of what this gorgeous tome is all about: being welcome. The contentment in Martha's eyes, that candid smile, not a hint of self-consciousness, and the luminescent aura that surrounds her speaks volumes about this hostess. She is glad you're here. There are several great shots of Martha throughout the book, all of them capturing a natural, unfettered spirit with effervescent expressions that show us she is truly in her element: at home, surrounded by beautiful things, delicious food and the people closest to her.
Unlike Martha's first book, Entertaining, which was groundbreaking for its sheer scope and thoroughness, this follow-up volume demonstrates a hostess who is more comfortable in her approach to entertaining. The parties, holiday gatherings and more formal business luncheons in Martha's Entertaining are more accessible to the reader, I think, because we know the hostess so very well now. To those of us who have been with Martha since the beginning, she is as familiar as any aunt, any friend or teacher and we are eager to learn from her. Today, she is simply Martha. And that single pronoun evokes in our imaginations a very specific style that we have come to identify with and adore.
Aside from the hostess, the groups of guests shown attending the parties in these pages are small. The environments, too, while extraordinary in their architecture and design, are relatively informal. Decorations are kept free of any sort of bombast and over-the-topness and there is an elegant simplicity to many of the occasions she chronicles. There is not a "Sit-Down Country Luncheon for One Hundred Seventy-Five" with tents and a small orchestra, for example, nor a "Country Pie Party for Fifty." In fact, the number of guests in the parties and events hosted by Martha in this book range from four to thirty - with the exception of a few large-scale events she hosted for charitable purposes - and she is just as comfortable serving oatmeal with brown sugar and croissants from the freezer for breakfast as she is serving a five-course dinner.
For a fan of Martha Stewart, the book is bliss. We readers adore her magazines not only for their information but also for their presentations of ideas: the layout, the colour, the style. The same will be true for this book.
Each chapter in Martha's Entertaining is like receiving a special invitation into one of her homes, an offering to behold the dinnerware, the flower arrangements, the beautiful spaces and the stunning views. The visual magnitude of the book instantly achieves intimacy and Martha's thoughtful reflections on each event - the inspirations for the table settings, the menus, the locations and the colour choices - dazzle us even further. The book is a tribute to the very notion of inspiration, for each page is both inspired and inspiring.
I knew I would like this book the moment I heard about its inception and it was worth the wait. I know you'll love it too. (Click here to watch Martha and some of the people who helped her with the book discuss some of their favourite photographs and recipes.)