my Martha moment


Have you had a Martha Moment?  I had one just yesterday, in the happy chaos and maddening madness of throwing a party.  A great big pig roast, in our case. 

What's a Martha Moment, you asked?  Well, it's when a great party idea strikes you seemingly out of nowhere–a great, simple, elegant idea that's just so evident you wonder why no one else had thought of it before.  (Someone probably did–and quite likely Martha herself even–but they just didn't bother telling you about it.)


I was deciding what to do with all the dishes people brought to
accompany our roast pig.  We had a long, long shelf along the side of
the hoop house in which we set up the (also long, long) dining table.  We lined it
with thick brown butcher paper, to hide the not-so-pretty construction
of planks and cement blocks.  There were so many delicious-looking
dishes, I found myself wondering what they were and who made them.
That's when my Martha Moment struck.  In I ran to the house, and out
I came with three markers in hand. 


When each friend put down their plates, boxes, or cute little bags, we asked them to take a pen and write down their name and what they brought, right on the brown paper. 

That's a brilliantly simple idea.  Everyone knew what they're getting and even who made it so they could give the compliment to the right cook.   Not to mention it made for a very cute and elegant food table.  Martha would be proud.

How about you, have you got one?  Will you share?  (Drop a link in the comment if you've blogged yours.)

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34 Responses to “my Martha moment

  • Audrey said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 11:19am

    A beautiful idea…and a nice way to show appreciation for your friends! Ryan’s apple tarts are beautiful, too.

  • damaris palmer said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 11:47am

    This is such a good idea and looks great too. Just stumbled upon your blog and now I think I’m hooked.

  • Cara said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 11:54am

    Oh my! I found your blog while looking for a pop tart recipe, and your blog is so beautiful! I love every recipe! Those plum tea cakes! I am going to try your pop tarts, hope they come out as pretty as yours!

  • jen maiser said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 1:35pm

    Yes, this idea was pretty damn brilliant. It was so dang simple, and looked gorgeous — totally went with the simple but elegant look of the day.

  • Maris said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 1:47pm

    I always have Martha moments but so rarely do I actually follow through with the great idea.
    PS – your mixed cabbage salad sounds amazing, but NOT as amazing as the apple tarts!

  • barbara said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 2:14pm

    A brilliant idea Pim. Now I want to have a party just so I can do this.

  • sam said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 3:56pm

    it was a wonderful idea, Pim – thanks so much for having the idea (which I shall borrow, no doubt, sometime in the future), and the party and the idea to invite me to the party too. Hey – my cookie presentation is a bit Martha, too, non? At least I managed one step up from kitchen towel and tupperware!
    thanks so much for yours and David’s generous hospitality.

  • Kimber said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 6:36pm

    Firstly, I am a recent fan of your site-in fact I think I might need a twelve step program because I am on almost daily,getting caught up on what I have missed! I really enjoy your passionate insight Pim!
    My Martha moment hit me when I was a poor biochem student, throwing a dinner party. My centerpice was textbooks piled just so, with “designed” coffee-ring notebook paper, empty coffe cups, and dorm accesories. My guests were all science students of one sort or another, so I made place cards of index cards, and put a formula that belonged to their branch of science. The placemats were blown up pages from a Chem 101 textbook. The party favor was a bottle of microbrewed beer local to Berkeley. The Student theme made my very humble menu memorable (to me at least)!

  • Dana McCauley said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 6:41pm

    That is a great idea1 I say call it a Pim moment. You deserve the credit.

  • Bron said:
    October 13th, 2008 at 6:57pm

    Su..Su..SUPER idea!! Like Barbara I want a party to borrow and recreate it, thanks for sharing! 😉

  • Kim U said:
    October 14th, 2008 at 11:06am

    What a great idea!

  • Lucy said:
    October 14th, 2008 at 12:22pm

    Pim, a great idea and a beautiful magical way to record and document in your blog such an important aspect of hosting an event with lots of guests. It really looks great, bravo for your flash of inspiration! These photos are works of art as well.

  • bionicgrrrl said:
    October 14th, 2008 at 5:55pm

    Diner in Brooklyn does something similar. The waiters/waitresses write down the specials on the paper tablecloth at your table as they recite them. It’s a cute system, but our waitress there was completely pretentious last time and took away the fun of the place.
    I love what you did though. Real cute. Another cute idea would be to take polaroids of each guest and have them write what they brought on the photo. These can then be placed by each dish.

  • Alli411 said:
    October 15th, 2008 at 4:43pm

    What a great idea! Reading your post brought me back many years ago to when I was a kid. We had rolls of butcher paper from family supermarkets that we used to draw on. We’d roll it out 5-10 feet and make beautiful pictures. Fun! I haven’t thought about that in years.

  • Simbelmyne said:
    October 15th, 2008 at 7:04pm

    Wonderful idea! No martha moments here, that’s why I read blogs 😉
    Thank you for your lovely one!

  • Shana Ray said:
    October 16th, 2008 at 2:59pm

    I was told to take a look at your blog from a friend of mine, and I am sure glad I did.
    Your images are amazing! Martha moments are sometimes the easiest solutions to a problem. This one was great.

  • Simon: It's All About The Food said:
    October 16th, 2008 at 5:25pm

    Looks fantastic!!!

  • bliss said:
    October 16th, 2008 at 9:52pm

    dear pim,
    i just love your website.
    your food photos are works of art!!! maybe someday you’ll publish lots of books and calendars?? =)

  • prayer said:
    October 17th, 2008 at 4:32am

    i love using paper as impromptu tablecloths! w/ a few markers and crayons about, you just might get great works of art as you eat!

  • Lainey said:
    October 17th, 2008 at 7:04am

    ahhh martha. she single-handedly revolutionized my mother’s cooking back in the 90s. god bless that crazy woman.

  • swirlingnotions said:
    October 17th, 2008 at 11:21am

    That’s fabulous! I’m so going to pilfer that idea for our next al fresco, butcher paper shindig.
    My Martha Moment is my kitchen chalkboard. I write what I bought at the farmers’ market or picked in the garden before tucking them in the fridge so that I can know what I’ve got on-hand at a glance.

  • J Kinch said:
    October 17th, 2008 at 10:23pm

    The Pig Roast and pot luck was fantastic….
    Loved sampling all the variety of food–including the shoo fly pie…
    The cookies were also great…
    Maybe an annual event????

  • My First Kitchen said:
    October 20th, 2008 at 6:18am

    Great idea! Martha moments are some of the best to have. I’ll file this away for my next party. Or I could just come to your next party?

  • J. the artist/writer said:
    October 22nd, 2008 at 2:47pm

    Very clever and easy. I have a roll of brown kraft paper in the garage that we use for wrapping art, so I definitely will do this!
    This has nothing to do with the “Martha” moment, but something that Alli411 sparked a memory. Our 5th, 6th grade teacher used to roll out white paper, about 2 ft. wide, the whole lenghth of the classroom, and we’d all get on our hands and knees and draw a mural together — something to do with what we were studying — history, geography, or a seasonal thing, like Pilgrims and Indians (this was New England!). It was great creative, pre-computer fun, and made us use our imaginations. We all loved it back there in the dark ages!!

  • Jutapha said:
    October 25th, 2008 at 4:40pm

    what a nice idea! simple but gorgeous!

  • Pirouette said:
    October 31st, 2008 at 7:19pm

    I feel like “the martha moment” summed up those ahas! so well that I included it in my weekly food blog roundup. Thank you for always posting wonderful content.

  • Carrie Oliver said:
    November 3rd, 2008 at 11:15am

    This is beautiful and what a great idea. I have had a number of Martha moments but must admit I have little to no eye for presentation, which diminishes the impact.

  • JENN said:
    May 19th, 2009 at 11:58pm

    I love this idea and we want to use it for our wedding coming up soon in June… we’re having BBQ for the main meal, so what could be better than decorating with butcher paper?! can you tell me what size you used? it comes in rolls of 18″, 24″, and 36″Rolls, and we’re decorating our serving tables like you did with it. Do you recommend 36″? Thank you for the inspiration!

  • said:
    June 16th, 2009 at 8:42pm

    Guests brought white wine, but not cooled. I put a bottle in the freezer and spied my [favorite snack] frozen grapes… so plopped a small handful into each white wine glass: presto, cold wine with a nice cool touch. Everyone loved it! Lori

  • kadınlar kulübü said:
    June 11th, 2010 at 11:55am

    A brilliant idea Pim. Now I want to have a party just so I can do this.

  • Ivy said:
    January 3rd, 2012 at 9:34pm

    This would fit right in at a downhome hipster wedding, love it!

  • Mem said:
    February 19th, 2012 at 10:03pm

    That’s a great idea! If you know ahead of time, ask each person to bring some copies of the recipe too.

  • kinzi said:
    November 26th, 2012 at 3:14pm

    I love your delicious blog , i also have a baking blog Go to my blog at:

  • ORGANIC said:
    February 20th, 2013 at 4:42am

    haha! i had exact same idea myself!!! i’m from australia by the way. we dig this organic, rustly, brown paper and wooden board with rough bunches of herbs and scrawley thick marker calligraphy. the slightly ‘undone’ look that takes longer to acheive than the completely groomed ‘done’ LOOK.

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