With her short, blonde hair and pinstriped apron, she may not look much like the other Martha, but Martha Storey, cofounder with her husband, John Storey, of 17-year-old Storey Communications in North Adams, Mass., and author of 500 Treasured Country Recipes (Oct.), is just as sure of herself in the kitchen as Stewart.
In her, and her company's, first general cookbook, Storey offers what Susan Herrmann Loomis, author of Farmhouse Cookbook, calls "a treasure trove of folksy tips, homey recipes, and guides for forgotten chores like making butter and sour cream." 500 Treasured Country Recipes is a compendium of hand-me-down recipes for condiments, chicken potpie and even a hero sandwich. One thing that distinguishes this Martha's work is her attention to foods for entertaining at potlucks and covered dish suppers, as well as instructions on taffy pulling and making mead.
"This is not a trendy cookbook," Storey explained. "The recipes have been gathered from my family, my friends, people I have gone to church with and Storey authors I've worked with." In fact, she said, the idea to write a cookbook came after completing Storey's Basic Country Skills with her husband last year. "We decided we should have a similar kind of reference for a cook," she explained. " 500 Treasured Country Recipes is filled with the country techniques that are in many areas forgotten, like how to brew root beer and how to clean a fish."
For a mid-size publisher that specializes in books on gardening and country living skills, Storey Communications knows how to turn up the heat on cookbook sales. After sending Martha Storey on a pre-Thanksgiving tour, which included an appearance on QVC, 500 Treasured Country Recipes almost completely sold out of its first two printings, totaling 55,000 copies in both hardcover and paperback. Earlier this month it went back to press for another 15,000 copies.
Thanks to a publicity assist from Lisa Ekus Public Relations, 500 Treasured Country Recipes has been reviewed in a number of major newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It is also a leading cookbook at specialty booksellers like David Strymish's Jessica's Biscuit (Newton, Mass.), which carries more than 8,000 cookbooks. "It's not a bestseller for us," he said, "but it's in the top 50." Not bad for a first cookbook.
Storey plans to stir up Christmas sales by putting up holiday recipes on its www.marthastorey.com Web site. Then, once Christmas and post-holiday diets are only a distant memory, Martha S. will embark on a second six-city tour in early March. A return visit to QVC is also in the works.