Books | July 2016
As contributing editor for both Garden and Gun and Elle Decor, Julia Reed has become a well-respected expert in the art of hosting a memorable party. In her years of entertaining, she has collected a great many tips and tricks which she showers upon her readers in her new book, Julia Reed’s South. Better yet, she manages to offer new spins and fresh takes on beloved traditions which are sure to inspire party-givers everywhere.
“I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, where entertaining at home was a way of life by necessity,” she writes in the opening pages. Reed grew up in Greenville and recalls those early experiences which shaped her style when it comes to creating a great event. “But, for the most part, if we wanted to have some fun, we learned early on how to make it ourselves. Fortunately, I had some very good teachers,” she adds. She credits her parents and their zest for entertaining with inspiring in her a lifelong love of creating special gatherings.
Reed shares with readers her early entertaining experiences, most notably her first at the tender age of eleven, which was a sweet dinner party for her mother complete with quiche and creative party favors. From there, she grew to love the art of being a hostess and the rest is history, though she continued to be influenced by other entertaining gurus along the way; particularly Lee Baile, whose book was such an inspiration to her in the beginning due to his own deeply Southern spirit.
The book features eleven irresistible seasonal events complete with recipes, table setting and wine tips, and plenty of anecdotal tales from the author’s Mississippi background. “It’s Finally Spring Lunch” and “A Fall Hunt Breakfast” are just two of the offerings. Many of the delicious-looking recipes are pictured and truly jump off the page for readers to enjoy. The photographer, Paul Costello, is a lifestyle photographer whose work has appeared in many other publications, as well.
Reed says that the entire entertaining process should be a source of joy, for both party-givers and party-goers alike. “The main thing is that it all should be a pleasure — the planning, the list-making of guests and groceries, the decoration of your table, even if you have time only for a bowl of fruit or a couple of low cylinders of grocery store roses,” she explains. “Celebrations, whether you’re throwing a picnic on a sandbar or having a ‛visiting dignitary’ to dinner, should not be about pomp or pretension, or even precision. A certain amount of pizzazz never hurts, and neither does generosity — not in terms of how fine the wine or expensive the caviar, but in terms of spirit,” she continues. Mainly, she suggests creating a relaxed vibe to the celebration by being relaxed yourself. “If the host or hostess is relaxed, the guests will be too,” she notes.
For those most important and special of occasions, the book includes a menu for what it coins “The Visiting Dignitary Dinner.” Reed says that this is the ideal menu to mark important occasions and milestone. “Whether you’re talking about matters of state or simply celebrating the accomplishments of someone you love, the food shouldn’t be the point,” she writes. “It should, however, be delicious in that old-fashioned, glamorous way my mother has always had a handle on. This menu is a prime example, which is why I think it has stood the test of time” she adds. The offerings on this particular menu include rib-eye roast, mustard mousse, horseradish mousse, scalloped oysters, rice pilaf, and more. It’s the perfect meal for meshing down-home hospitality with a little something extra for special guests or important achievements that call for a party.
In addition to her aforementioned positions, Julia Reed also writes a column for Southern Living and contributes to the Wall Street Journal. She is also the author of five books.
Life of the Party
Native Southerner and lifestyle expert Julia Reed shows readers how to throw
the ultimate party in her recently released book Julia Reed’s South:
Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long
Review by Shana Raley-Lusk