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On reading Martha and Doris


Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Publish Network joint release For immediate release
May 14, 2010
-Pam Peters-Pries

WATERLOO, Ont. and SCOTTDALE, Pa. — 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 in Doris Janzen Longacre’s gracious and lucid introduction to the More-with-Less Cookbook. Could Doris have foreseen how Martha Stewart would influence us when she said: “…the fact that in North America we tend to feast non-stop 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’s 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.

Check out More-with-Less at

Pam Peters-Pries is a writer from Blumenort, Manitoba. This story is from the April, 2010 issue of Purpose, a monthly publication from Mennonite Publishing Network that offers inspiration for daily Christian life. Go to for more information.