The Southern Living Party Cookbook: A Modern Guide to Gathering

In 1972 just six years after “Southern Living” was founded, the magazine published its “Party Cookbook” with a simple subtitle: “Complete Menus and Entertaining Guide.” The book was written by a witty Chattanooga food columnist named Celia Marks, who clearly understood the art of the soiree. By today’s standards, the cover is not attractive—a dark photo of a crown roast surrounded by spiced crabapples and parsley—but it sold more copies than any other cookbook in Southern Living history. Some of that success can no doubt be attributed to the menus and recipes, which cover every kind of party you can imagine (from a He-Man Brunch to a Holiday Reception), but the secret sauce is Mark’s advice that still holds up 46 years later. “Hospitality, a synonym for the South, comes from the heart,” she writes in the first chapter. “Even the most discerning disciple of etiquette may fall short as a hostess if she fails to bestow this gift upon her guests.”

In October of this year “The Southern Living Cookbook: A Modern Guide to Gathering,” written by Elizabeth Heiskell, a delightful hostess originally from the Mississippi Delta, became the new guide to entertaining. Elizabeth, whom I met years ago at a conference on the Mississippi Delta held at the University of Memphis, has some advice that Marks would probably echo. “If you don’t remember anything else from this book, remember this. Friends who come to your home for a party are not there to pass judgment. They are there to enjoy a strong cocktail or a big glass of wine and a nibble. They are your friends and are grateful just to be invited.”

There are certain rules every party planning connoisseur should know.

Your guests are your friends, not your enemies. They’re just grateful to be included. The more relaxed you are, the more fun your guests will have. The people make the party--not the food, flowers, or quality of your bathroom guest towels.

Yet, even the best can get overwhelmed hosting the perfect party, forgetting their own sage advice, including Oxford, Mississippi’s go-to- caterer for every celebratory scenario life serves up.

In her latest book—“The Southern Living Party Cookbook: A Modern Guide to Gathering,” Heiskell, a bestselling author and TODAY show food contributor, puts her one-of-a-kind touch on updating the top selling Southern Living cookbook of all time, 1972’s “Southern Living Party Cookbook.”

Divided by occasion, this modern-day re-interpretation of the “Southern Living” classic offers a fresh lineup of party ideas, including Bridal Tea, Garden Club luncheon, Summer Nights, Cocktails and Canapes, Tailgate, Picnic on the Lawn, Fall Dinner, and 24 more gatherings you’ll want to host.

With delicious dishes from the original book, popular picks from the current pages of Southern Living magazine, and sure-to-become classics from Elizabeth’s own treasured recipe box, “The Southern Living Party Cookbook” has menus for any occasion, whether it took weeks to plan or came together at the last minute. You’ll enjoy appetizers, mains, drinks and desserts.

Cheers to a happy and relaxing holiday season!

“Like its bestselling predecessor, this modern-day sequel is a gracious guide full of entertaining tips, party inspiration, and mouthwatering recipes to help you—and a whole new generation—entertain like a pro. I know I’ll turn to this book every time I’m feeling stuck or stressed out when party planning.”—Elizabeth Heiskell