LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Martha Stewart is - could we call her America's Tastemaker? Her fans think she can do anything beautifully. Even people who profess not to like her own her books and cook her recipes. She has a new book, called "Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations" - sort of like her first book almost 30 years ago, which was called "Entertaining."

MARTHA STEWART: The first book really was kind of an entertaining textbook for the homemaker. I couldn't find a good book about entertaining in 1982 and neither could my friends, so I decided to write it. At the time, I was a caterer and...

WERTHEIMER: One of the reviews says: Caterer Martha Stewart, and then goes on to describe...

STEWART: Right, and I was catering lots and lots of parties, so we photographed the most interesting of the parties. This book is very different because these were all my own, personal parties; parties and events that I had at my own home or my weekend home out in East Hampton, or up in Maine at my summer house.

WERTHEIMER: Now, the pictures, as you say, are taken in your very extraordinary homes. And you serve beautiful food on amazing china, beautiful flatware and all the wonderful glass. How are we meant to think about this book? I mean, this is obviously not the homemaker kind of book.

STEWART: Well, in a way it is because what I did in this book was try to capture sort of the essence of what we all like to do when we entertain, which was make wonderful food from really good recipes, set a pretty table or a beautiful buffet, make flower arrangements cut from our own gardens. It's kind of a dreamscape, in a way.

But there are many, many practical and interesting and inspiring kinds of moments throughout the book that I think will enable people to have a pretty Easter, have a wonderful Fourth of July, have an inspiring Christmas.

WERTHEIMER: I must say that my first run through the book, I was thinking some people would look at this book and decide that if this is what a Christmas party should look like, I'm going to spend the holiday under the bed.

STEWART: Oh, no, no, no, no. That's not what it's meant to do at all. It's just - I'd make the Christmas cookies that are in the book 'cause they're really cute. And I certainly would make a croquembouche.

WERTHEIMER: The Noah's Ark cookies, those are wonderful.

STEWART: Yes, aren't they great? Yeah, they're really great.

WERTHEIMER: Now, when you decorate for Christmas, you can see in the background of all the pictures that there are Christmas trees everywhere, wreaths in every window, and it's incredibly beautiful. I understand you keep all your Christmas decorations in the basement of the farm at Bedford?

STEWART: Yeah, we have a very organized basement. You would love it down there.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I don't know if you're an archivist at all, but it's all organized in those plastic tubs on big, floor-to-ceiling shelves. So we know where everything is. We create Christmas. That's one of our big things every year for television, for the magazine. And so I'm always adding to collections of stuff.

And it's a lot of fun to - this year, oh, I'm doing a whole new thing for the new grandchild. Baby Jude is having a Brown Bear Christmas.

WERTHEIMER: Oh, my goodness.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STEWART: 'Cause we made a whole lot of ornaments in the shape of bears this year, so I think that would be sort of cute for a baby who's about 10 months old. Don't you?

WERTHEIMER: I think it would be. Of course it would be. Now, I have to say, though, there is a picture of - opening the chapter, of a ceramic Nativity scene that you have on display. It looks like Drabware that...

STEWART: Yes, Wedgwood Drabware.

WERTHEIMER: ...that - with a sort of a light brown, coffee-cream color.

STEWART: You caught that, did you?

WERTHEIMER: I - well - I just could not quite believe it when I read the caption...

STEWART: Right.

WERTHEIMER: ...which...

STEWART: Shall I tell you?

WERTHEIMER: Yeah.

STEWART: OK, well, it's kind of a funny story. When I was incarcerated at Alderson in West Virginia for a five-month term, they had a ceramics class. And in the ceramics class was a storage warehouse room, where I found all the molds for an entire large Nativity scene. It took me a long time to find each mold. And because I was raised a Catholic, I know the story. I know that...

WERTHEIMER: You know how many there should be.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I know the characters, right. I know the wise men and the camels, and all of that. But it's a big thing; I think there's about 15 pieces. And I was able to purchase enough clay with my monthly stipend. And I forgo - forwent, is that a word, forwent?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STEWART: I didn't get a lot of other things that I would've liked in that five-month period because I bought clay instead. And I molded the entire Nativity scene, and then I had to figure out how to paint it drab color, 'cause there's no - there's - I think there's six different colors of paint that you could get. But I managed a fashion a drab color, and it looks just like Wedgwood.

WERTHEIMER: One of the things that I was fascinated about - this book - was that each chapter begins with an explanation of what the entertainment is - you know, an Easter egg party, a Christmas party, a boat party. And then there is a printed menu, and there are lots of pictures of beautiful table settings and flowers and whatnot. And then, in some cases, you include a picture where the table is - not been cleared, but all the people have left.

So the chairs are like, pushed back every sort of way, and napkins are just crumpled up on the table.

STEWART: That was the morning after a Burgundy dinner.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STEWART: When I bought that beautiful house in Maine - which had been built by Edsel Ford, by the way - they built a wine cellar right in the stone foundation of the house. It's built right into the granite mountain. And when I bought the house from the second family that owned it, they left their wine cellar for me, which was filled with aging Burgundy.

So I was told by an expert - a wine-expert friend - he said, boy, you better drink this Burgundy; it's going to go over the hill soon. So we designed a Burgundy dinner, and we drank and drank and drank bottles of delicious '85s and '82s. And it was time, and they were good. And we served them with short ribs, and beautiful fig and apple tarts. And none of us felt like cleaning up after this elaborate dinner.

So - and the table actually, I thought, looked kind of interesting, so we left it. And next morning, we photographed it. If you are a careful hostess, though, you would pour a little bit of water into each of the glasses, so that the wine doesn't etch the beautiful crystal. Do you know that?

WERTHEIMER: And did you remember to do it?

STEWART: I did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WERTHEIMER: Of course, you did.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

WERTHEIMER: Well, thank you very much for this.

STEWART: OK.

WERTHEIMER: Martha Stewart's newest book, which I believe is book number 75. Could that possibly be right?

STEWART: It is. Yes, it is.

WERTHEIMER: It's called "Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations." Martha Stewart, thank you very much.

STEWART: Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: There's a recipe for Noah's Ark cookies at NPR.org. Also, a picture of that Nativity scene. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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