The book “Do it for Less Parties” by Denise Vivaldo promotes itself as “The how-to cookbook and guide to catering your own party for 12 to 75 guests without breaking the bank.” I was impressed by the way the book not only lives up to the promises on the cover, it’s also packed with the kind of practical advice that is useful long after the party is over. Light on pictures and heavy on the fundamentals of food selection, storage and preparation, this book is more than a glorified recipe book. It is a valuable resource for anyone organizing a party. When I say anyone I speak as someone with no cooking talent whatsoever, as any guest who has ever attempted to choke down my cooking will attest to. Some of the food suggestions, such as buying tart shell and letting guests fill it with various fruits, nutella and nuts, or her fast hors d’oeurves are perfect for us less than perfect cooks. For those of you whose ambition goes as far as creating a whole meal, there are recipes coordinated around specific party themes such as authentic toscana. For convenience, recipes are broken down by ingredients you can buy weeks before or just a day or two before the party.
Vivaldo’s years of experience as a caterer are apparent in the way she lays out sensible strategies for such often overlooked issues as how exactly to lay out a buffet, seating diagrams and guides, hiring wait staff and kitchen help, calculating how much alcohol and food will be needed for different functions and choosing and maintaining good equipment. With few glossy pictures, this is clearly not a coffee table book. No, this book definitely belongs in the kitchens of savvy hostesses everywhere.