More Doris, less Martha


Enjoying the everyday experience of sharing food

by Pam Peters-Pries

On a recent vacation I browsed through several copies of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine from the library. Each issue was a feast of gorgeous photographs and spectacular ideas. Martha’s magazines are seductive. As I flipped through them, I dreamt of my friends’ accolades as I placed perfectly plated and garnished meals before them, the reputation I would earn for being “the hostess with the mostest.”

But then there were the haunting, darker thoughts: What if the Layered Spring Omelet didn’t stack up as prettily as in the picture? Would people notice if I used plain old table salt instead of the coarse sea salt listed in the recipe?

Reading Martha’s magazine, you start to think it’s not simply welcoming friends into your home that matters. It’s the effort and expense you incur to host them, and the impression you make with very tricky recipes that really counts.

I found an antidote for my Martha-induced anxiety from Doris Janzen Longacre, author of the More-With-Less Cookbook. Could Doris have foreseen how Martha Stewart would influence us when she said, in her gracious and lucid introduction, that the North American tendency to “feast nonstop can dull our festive joy . . .. We require more and more trimming to turn any celebration into a meal distinguishable from our daily diet.”

Or when she said: “Serving guests becomes an ego trip, rather than a relaxed meeting of friends around that most common everyday experience of sharing food. Gathering around the table in fellowship turns into entertaining.”

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia wouldn’t be the vast empire it is today if everyone heeded Doris’ timeless advice of 35 years ago: “Hold in clear perspective the reason for celebrating. Don’t expect food to be the total experience. More with less means affirming faith and relationships as the basis for celebrating, and letting food play a complementary role.”

If the world had a little more Doris Janzen Longacre and a little less Martha Stewart, we might all be enjoying our gatherings with friends a lot more with a lot less. The next time you’re fretting over those fussy garnishes and mismatched table settings, put that Martha Stewart magazine away and go back to your copy of More-With-Less.

Doris has some really, really good advice for you.


Pam Peters-Pries is a writer based in Blumenort, Man. This essay was first published in the April 2010 issue of Purpose, a monthly publication from Mennonite Publishing Network.

Now with more than 850,000 copies around the globe, Doris Janzen Longacre’s More-With-Less Cookbook, first published in 1976 by Herald Press, has become the favorite cookbook of many families. Full of recipes from hundreds of contributors, More-With-Less Cookbook offers suggestions “on how to eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources.” Herald Press published a 25th anniversary edition in 2003. Longacre died of cancer in 1979 at the age of 39 before she could complete the original manuscript of her second book, Living More with Less. This second book was published in 1980 and a 30th anniversary edition was released in November 2010.


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