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58 of 60 found the following review helpful:
A Classic, Martha at her best. Feb 15, 2004
By B. Marold
"Bruce W. Marold"
This book was published over 20 years ago. It is the foundation of Martha Stewart's reputation, the starting point of her magazine, TV shows, and Kmart product line. The book is worthy of that reputation, as I am hard pressed to think of how any book could do a better job at its chosen task.
I chose to review this old, now classic volume because I recently reviewed two new books on entertaining menus and I felt I could not do the subject justice without consulting the established authority on the subject. I also felt compelled to visit this book because in spite of Martha's well-publicized problems, I have believed she is very good at what she does. Her success is not built on hype, marketing, or fluff. This book demonstrates that fact.
As pointed out by a recent biographer, Christopher Byron, in the book `Martha, Inc.', Stewart has largely invented her persona of talented amateur who happens to be very good at classic `homemaking' tasks. This `handmade' aspect of her character comes through in all her works, and it is not seen as phoniness or pretend knowledge. I believe it is seen as an attitude of `Look, even I, an untrained (fill in what you will) can do this. You can too.' In fact, on one of her TV shows, Martha says her job is really `learning fast' from experts. She constantly praises and quotes from genuine experts such as Julia Child without assuming any credit for having the smarts to have borrowed from such a well-recognized source. In decorating, a constant theme is doing clever things with inexpensive materials to achieve a `Wow' effect. Many of her recommendations can lead one to a fairly hefty price tag, but then, you are foolish if you plan a party for 12 or 24 or 48 or 100 and wish to have it come off well, and not expect a pretty sizable cost. Stewart's first priority is for you to succeed. And, for her, success, is that you please your guests and have fun yourself. She succeeds in providing ample materials for doing that. Her second priority is to be smart in finding economical solutions, such as in hiring help for both wait staff and musical entertainment.
The talented amateur persona is entirely genuine. The best thing about her Food Network show is not what she does, but the quality of her guests and what they can do. That did not stop her from assembling a first rate book with professional grade instruction in some very important cooking and baking skills. There are, for example, exceptionally well done full page illustrated tutorials on making pie crusts, making French bread, creating wedding bouquets, building a gingerbread mansion, and creating a crudite platter. The general quality of these instructions surpasses most features in her magazine and rival step by step instructions by Jacques Pepin.
One may think that if Martha is copying recipes from Julia Child, why not simply get `Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and be done with it. This would work if you had the time, as Martha did, to work your way through this book and pick out those recipes which fit various occasions. I may also note that while they are true classics of cookbook writing craft, Julia Child's recipes are not for the novice. Martha succeeds in making the recipes she has chosen much more accessible to the inexperienced cook. This is not to say Martha Stewart expects a homemaker with average kitchen skills will actually prepare meals for 12, let alone 100. Her recommendations are as much a means of preventing caterers from pulling the wool over the client's eyes as they are recipes for the solo chef. Realistically, for the self-catered party, the recipes are source materials with the bonus that it gives recipes, which work well together by look and by taste.
One important aspect of this work which the prospective reader cannot forget is that this is NOT `Entertaining Lite'. This is how to go the full nine yards without breaking the bank. If there is a trade off between quality and economy, quality wins. The heart of the tutorial on how to entertain is a detailed lesson on how to plan and check preparations.
I am certain wrote much of the material in the book, but I am also sure that she had a lot of professional help from Clarkson Potter layout artists and her credited photographers in the design of the book. Whatever the source, the outcome is worthy of the classic mantle which has been given to the book. It is a worthy standard by which to judge other books on similar subjects. While over a dozen different photographers contributed pictures and most are simply good, the overall effect is excellent. The layout staff really earned their money.
In spite of the battalion of assists Martha must have had in putting this book together, she constantly maintains the illusion that she is personally guiding you through the details by having many scenes photographed at her house and her events with her family members and heirlooms on center stage most of the time. This point of view is familiar to anyone who has read her magazine with its schedule of things Martha will be doing this month.
Be sure to buy the paperback edition of the book published in 1998 as the original hard cover edition published in 1982 would not have the Internet web sites for the Sources.
Regardless of Martha's reported corrosive persona `off camera' and her allegedly illegal dealings, she knows how to throw a good party and she succeeds at passing that information on to you.
82 of 88 found the following review helpful:
Useful Jan 14, 2000
I was very disappointed to discover that the 16 year old book had NOT been updated in any way, other than a new cover and 1 page preface. The photos are outdated and the wedding portion does not have any of the new cake decorating techniques such as rolled fondant. At the very least, I expected updated photos.
However, the recipes look wonderful and the tips on entertaining for different sized groups are helpful. The frugal shopper may wish to simply purchase a used copy of the old version of Entertaining on the auction site since it's EXACTLY the same.
26 of 27 found the following review helpful:
A necessity for every kitchen Jan 03, 2000
This book is incredibly helpful and full of great recipes. As for the person who wrote the bad review about the recipes... well, the grapes aren't stuffed, they're 'coated' (big difference)... as per the comment about the new potatoes, not being able to pick up the toppings with the potatoe? You're not supposed to pick up the toppings 'with' the potatoe... you use a small appetizer plate and eat with a fork. As for the Phylly dough... it's always greasy, that has nothing to do with this recipe. I almost didn't buy this book because of that review, but decided to try it anyway and I'm so glad I did! Martha Stewart is very down to earth with her stories about the mistakes she's learned from etc. Very enjoyable.
12 of 12 found the following review helpful:
This book is a staple in my kitchen. Jun 12, 1998
I bought my first copy of Entertaining in 1984 when I still lived in a house large enough to give big parties. It worked for me then, and it still works for me years later now that I've downsized my life.
I guess I'd have to call this book "art" if one relies on words such as inspiring and beautiful to define art. For instance, one of my favorite recipes is the Iced Lemon Souffle. It is a light, tart, refreshing end to a heavy meal and there are rave reviews each time I serve it. I've served it in a clear bowl like a trifle with raspberry puree and I've used it as an emergency pie filling in a frozen, store-bought pie shell (forgive me, Martha). Either way, I was inspired to try new things by this very useful book.
20 of 23 found the following review helpful:
Martha Stewart's first and best May 24, 2003
As a neighbor of Martha Stewart's in the charming town of Westport, Connecticut, I have had the pleasure of being invited into her home several times. Granted, that ended around the time she became so well-known, but Martha is a truly wonderful woman who is an encyclopedia of entertainment know-how. Fortunately for the rest of the world, this book is *the* next best thing to having Martha in the kitchen and at the party with you. Creative recipies, table settings, and other ideas which help to enhance the environment of any party- large or small.
I feel that this book should be a part anyone's home library who can appreciate the fine art of entertaining and wishes to take their gatherings and functions to the next level.
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