I’ll admit I was skeptical when a friend gifted me Pippa Middleton’s new party planning tome, Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends, an entertaining guide complete with recipes and million gorgeous photographs. I admire Pippa’s style from across the pond and think she is someone I would love to meet. After all, she is a fellow Virgo who likes to write, cook, and entertain so we certainly have a few things in common! But I had to wonder if her first book would be just a chance to monopolize on her fame or an honest-to-goodness useful source.
Though the book has received less-than-stellar reviews I actually enjoyed it. While this isn’t a volume about how to throw a state dinner, or be the show-stopping bridesmaid at your sister’s wedding, it is very fun and practical in many regards.
I think the key to understanding this book is to know that Pippa is writing it with mostly singletons and young parents in mind. Her year of celebrations focuses on lots of dating moments (a stay at home Valentine’s dinner, New Year’s Eve with friends), and entertaining small children at family-style events like Halloween or garden parties. Being that I have small children and love the idea of throwing a casual garden party complete with sack races, and would readily make a lollipop-studded pumpkin for any Halloween event, all of these tips made perfect sense to me.
She also paints the pictures of being a very practical entertainer. Her general entertaining approach seems to be casually elegant food and décor with an appropriate sense of British whimsy for every occasion. As someone who shuns doilies and believes in approachable, hearty food, I really appreciate her easy, friendly style. Like her, I completely agree that wildflowers arranged in beribboned jam jars look beautiful at a table set for an outdoor barbecue. I would also serve homemade burgers with tons of vegetarian sides at my own mid-summer family soiree. Who wouldn’t? And who hasn’t been swayed by the look of that yummy lentil and grilled pepper salad on page 322? I would serve that in a heartbeat.
It is refreshing to see that her crafts are simple and achievable, as opposed to the Martha Stewart-style, ten-plus-step craft projects we’ve gotten used to stateside. For those of us less inclined to dive for the nearest jigsaw when making simple party decorations, I welcome the reasonable alternatives she presents, like wine bottle candles and easy children’s party favors.
The recipes in this book tend to veer on the very British side. But seeing as I lived in Scotland for some time, I was excited to finally find a real menu for Burns Night (the traditional yearly celebration of Scottish poet Robert Burns) as opposed to the cliff note versions I find in the U.S. I love her simple menus for tea sandwiches, festive canapés for Christmas, and easily the most decadent chocolate dessert ever for Valentine’s Day.
While I think some people may be disappointed that this book is not more aspirational (she is the sister of the future Queen!) it rings true for me. This isn’t about setting the table with your most formal crystal, or entertaining with butlers and maids Downton-Abbey style. Pippa is a 29-year-old woman writing about entertaining for her age bracket. Singletons, young families, and entertainers on a budget will all enjoy her easy-breezy style and the luscious photography that illustrates her ideas. We all need to give it a chance.
This winter I plan to give Celebrate a real crack and use some of Pippa’s recipes and entertaining tips in my own home. I’ll chronicle this journey in a Celebrating with Pippa series here on The Family Kitchen, much like I once did with Gwyneth Paltrow’s first cookbook. I hope you will all enjoy this book as much as I have already and we can all invite a little bit of Pippa into our own homes.
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