Villas, Martha Pearl
Villas, Martha Pearl
PERSONAL: Born Martha Pearl Pierson; married Harold Villas; children: James.
ADDRESSES: Home—Charlotte, NC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, William Morrow, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Cook and writer. Has appeared on television programs, including Good Morning America and programs broadcast on the Food Network. Has conducted courses at Cipriani Hotel Cooking School, Venice, Italy.
COOKBOOKS; WITH SON, JAMES VILLAS
My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
My Mother's Southern Desserts: More than 200 Treasured Family Recipes for Holiday and Everyday Celebrations, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
My Mother's Southern Entertaining, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Martha Pearl Villas, who likes to cook for family and friends, as well as for church and other organizations, passed her love of cooking on to her son James Villas, a noted food and wine editor and writer. Mother and son have collaborated on several cookbooks, including their first, My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences, in which the authors present some of the favorite recipes from the Villas family's North Carolina kitchen. Featuring a no-fats-barred approach, the recipes use eggs, half-and-half, bacon grease, and creamed soups as major ingredients for dishes such as cheese puffs, corn pudding, and ham and sweet potato hash. The book includes numerous photos, including family pictures, and anecdotes. In a review in the Denver Post, Carol Deegan commented, "Don't look for nutrition information in this cookbook, but there is lots of good advice from Martha Pearl." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the book "recreates the bustling and sometimes brawling approach to cooking that typifies … [this] family." Barbara Jacobs, writing in Booklist, commented, "As much fun to read as to use."
In My Mother's Southern Desserts: More than 200 Treasured Family Recipes for Holiday and Everyday Celebrations mother and son focus on rich, sweet after-meal treats typical of the South, such as Berta's Georgia Kiss Pudding, Hootie's Eggnog Walnut Pie, Pineapple Dessert Soufflé, The Delta Queen's Pralines, and Bereavement Chocolate Bread Pudding. The book is organized around the holiday seasons, from Christmas to the more regional Kentucky Derby Day to various Villas family birthday celebrations. Once again the authors provide numerous family anecdotes about the recipes' history both within the family and the South in general. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented, "Ingredients are supermarket accessible and instructions are straightforward, without references to food processors or standing mixers." Mark Knoblauch, writing in Booklist, noted that the "uniquely named desserts … recall a time when neighbors and relatives expressed their sympathy through pies and cakes brought to mourners' homes." In a review on the BookPage.com, Sybil Pratt noted, "The affection that James feels for his mother and that his mother puts into all her divine desserts makes this book as satisfying as the confections you can produce from it."
For My Mother's Southern Entertaining the authors provide twenty-nine specific menus and more than 175 recipes for entertaining Southern style during the various seasons. Recipes include shrimp and grits, sweet potato and apple gratin, ham braised in cider and molasses, and holiday bourbon cake. In addition to providing complete menus for holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, the authors provide gourmet ideas for the Super Bowl, graduations, and even church luncheons. The menus include everything from drinks and appetizers to main courses and desserts. Writing on Epicurious.com, Irene Sax noted that she enjoyed the book "because of its recipes" but added, "I like it even more for the glimpse into a way of life I just barely remember, when everyone cooked … and when nobody with any manners would dream of taking guests out to a restaurant." In a review in Nation's Restaurant News, Michael Schrader noted that the Villas's recipes are "festive dishes" and "an eloquent testimony to the rich culinary heritage of the South."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1994, Barbara Jacobs, review of My Mother's Southern Kitchen: Recipes and Reminiscences, p. 387; July, 1998, Mark Knoblauch, review of My Mother's Southern Desserts: More than 200 Treasured Family Recipes for Holiday and Everyday Celebrations, p. 1847.
Denver Post, May 10, 1995, Carol Deegan, review of My Mother's Southern Kitchen, p. E01.
Library Journal, October 15, 1998, Judith S. Sutton, review of My Mother's Southern Desserts, p. 92.
Nation's Restaurant News, June 26, 2000, Michael Schrader, review of My Mother's Southern Entertaining, p. 196.
Publishers Weekly, September 26, 1994, review of My Mother's Southern Kitchen, p. 66; August 17, 1998, review of My Mother's Southern Desserts, p. 67.
BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (March 30, 2005), Sybil Pratt, review of My Mother's Southern Desserts.
eCookBooks.com, http://static.ecookbooks.com/ (March 30, 2005), information on author's son and their collaborations.
Epicurious.com, http://www.epicurious.com/ (June 7, 2000), Irene Sax, review of My Mother's Southern Entertaining.