November 30, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent engrossed in this huge volume: Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. The first 300 or so pages are just photos, with brief explanations, of Martha’s parties (you’ll find recipes in the last 100 pages). You’ll see inside her various homes, and the grounds of those homes. The MSLO cast of characters is present at many parties, but so are some of Martha’s friends and families. There are parties for everything you can imagine: tea, July 4th, breakfast on the porch, dinner in the clerestory, celebrating a master gardener, Christmas, Easter, spring dinner, and even a picnic at sea. Martha likes to party apparently!
I enjoyed this because it was just so completely over the top. This isn’t a book you pick up and think, “Ok, I’ll do that for the party I’m having next weekend.” Certainly it’s inspirational, and you’ll find loads of great ideas for decorations and food (not to mention the china, silver, and crystal that all looks so lovely), but few people are going to be able to replicate most of this. That being said, it is just a fun book to read through, particularly if you want to catch a glimpse inside Martha’s life or if you just love good photos of food and decor. There are many ideas here that can be toned down to work for the average person. I loved the Peony Garden Party and would love to incorporate some of those ideas to a gathering at my home.
The recipes are mostly very high yield (30+ people) although there are some that are smaller. The recipes are delicious sounding, but honestly there aren’t too many I felt compelled to try. I probably won’t be making Mini Crab Papapadams, Terrine of Duck Breast and Leg Confit, or Orange Easter Cake with Tiny Meringue Nests any time soon. That doesn’t matter though because this is a book about fantasies – the parties you would give if you had a catering staff on hand and Kevin Sharkey on retainer.
I truly enjoyed this book (which I borrowed from the library), but won’t be plunking down $75 to own it. It’s definitely fun to poke around in and ooh and aah at the gorgeous photos, the decadent food, and Martha’s incredible lifestyle.
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Posted by Brette Sember
November 18, 2011
Of course I had to read Whateverland, by Alexis Stewart (Martha’s daughter) and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt (who costarred with her on the Whatever radio and TV shows). This is being billed as some kind of self-help guide – their rules for living or some such nonsense. Let’s be honest here. The only reason to read this is to snoop inside their lives, specifically Alexis’s world with her mother. Each chapter is made up of vignettes from each of them (Alexis seems to have the most though) and ends with a bullet pointed list that offers tips for living – just skip those. The lists are pointless. The vignettes are what is interesting.
Both women are not normal. At all. Jennifer is at least likeable despite her phobias and anxiety. Raised in a sheltered, wealthy life as a child of a music industry mogul (she celebrated Xmas with Barbra Streisand and had the Beastie Boys perform at her sweet 16 party) she’s very open about her issues and how they developed. I loved her honesty and thoughtfulness about her life. She recently lost a lot of weight and is very open about her life before and after the weight loss. She comes across as a person you would enjoy chatting with and definitely has that girlfriend vibe.
Alexis, on the other hand, is unlikeable, cold, entitled, and just awful in so many ways and it comes out loudly and clearly in this book. She spends a lot of time blaming her parents for making her the way she is but there isn’t a lot of reflection on her own persona in any thoughtful way. She’s very rigid. She’s also just really weird – she hates having breasts, she is very open that she likes to sleep with a lot of men, she loves to bake but will not eat a single thing she makes, she hates hugging or touching people, and she makes it clear she just does not like people at all. She’s honest about the fact that she has seemingly no drive or interest in a career and that Martha owns her giant apartment.
If you are interested in what Martha was like as a mother, you’ll want to read this. You’ve probably heard the media frenzy when this book came out about how Alexis had “a glue gun to her head,” had to wrap her own Xmas gifts, and how Martha always went to the bathroom with the door open. There’s lots more in here though, as well as plenty of photos of Alexis as a child. There are plenty of contradictions – Martha was a cold, uninterested, neglectful, unloving mother (Alexis had to shorten her own school uniforms – there is a photo of her with a horrible looking hem – her parents never played games with her, they bought her nothing, she had to do lots of hard manual labor), yet there are stories about Alexis waking up to a giant Easter basket of her favorite candy and how Martha held little “chef” classes for Alexis and friends. She also makes it clear that despite the horrible things she says about Martha, that they are very close. She does not speak at all about her new daughter, Jude (Jennifer talks about her children and being a mom frequently), which I find quite strange.
One of the weirdest things about the book is the final chapter in which the women say they are no longer co-workers (Jennifer does the Whatever radio show alone now) and no longer friends. No explanation is given. I saw them appear on the Today show together to discuss the book and it was clear to me that Alexis decided she was done with Jennifer (she said something about how it’s like a divorce where you wake up one day and decide you no longer like this person). That comes as no surprise after the way she talks about how she enjoys seeking revenge on people and how she kicks people to the curb in her life frequently with no regrets.
If you’re hoping for a self-help book, look elsewhere. If you are just nosy and want to get the inside scoop on Martha, pick this up for a quick read.
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Posted by Brette Sember