Author, latest Southern Family Cookbook (2012)
Written over 55 books in the sewing industry
Founder of Sew Beautiful magazine
Conducted sewing workshops on six continents
Host of PBS television series, Martha’s Sewing Room
Graduated with a degree in speech and English from the University of Alabama
Received her Ph.D in educational administration and management from the University of Alabama
Mother of five and grandmother to 18 grandchildren
Christmas Cookin' Southern Style
Martha didn’t invent heirloom sewing – a collection of needlework techniques which has survived for centuries – but she and her staff have helped to turn this age-old art into a popular hobby. Martha has an heirloom sewing business which grew out of a tiny shop in Huntsville, Alabama. In 1981, two months after opening her shop, she imported laces and fabrics to sell mail-order, both wholesale and retail. Next, she started Martha Pullen’s School of Art Fashion, which attracted more than 600 women to Huntsville twice a year. She then ventured out of her local market and conducted Martha Pullen schools in Australia, England, Sweden, Canada, and New Zealand. She founded and published Sew Beautiful magazine in 1987. She shared her love of heirloom sewing with public television audiences around the United States and Canada through her Martha’s Sewing Room series. In 2004, Martha Pullen Company merged with the Birmingham-based Hoffman Media, LLC which allowed Martha’s time to be freed up so she could pursue another dream – sharing her extensive collection of heirloom garments with the world. Her first two volumes of the Vintage Collection of Martha Pullen series of books debuted in 2005. Martha has written 55 books about the sewing industry. This year, the Martha Pullen Company was acquired by FW Media.
Martha has always been a bit of an entrepreneur. When she was a fourteen years old she started the Martha Campbell’s School of Dance in Scottsboro, Alabama. Her parents made her save the money she earned for her college education. Martha married Joe, an implant dentist, and moved to Huntsville before she finished her PhD. When they married, Joe had two boys and she had two boys, all elementary-school age. Fourteen months after they married, they had their daughter, Joanna. Although Martha and Joe were churchgoers neither of them had a relationship with the Lord. She grew up in a Christian home and went to church faithfully, but never had a personal relationship with the Lord. “I loved Jesus, but I did not know Jesus,” says Martha. Joe went a business trip to Europe; while he was away he received the Lord. When he returned home he shared his conversion experience with Martha. Although Martha was reluctant she went to a new church with Joe. When the pastor made the call for salvation Martha recalls, “It was so clear that I could not refuse.” Once she accepted Jesus as her Savior she says she has never been the same. She gives total credit for her sewing business as well as other blessings to God. She is an active member of her church and has volunteered with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in Africa, Jamaica, and Brazil.
A COOKING MEMOIR
“Food plays an important role in our memories,” shares Martha. As a single mother and graduate student, she was able to make sure her family always had plenty to eat. It just wasn’t very fancy. “I always had chicken and ground beef in the freezer, but you could not see that when you opened the tiny apartment-size refrigerator,” she says. One day when she was visiting her sister, her son came in the room and announced Aunt Mary and Uncle Alex were rich. He said, “They have a boat and a whole refrigerator full of food.” She says it is a reminder to all of us to be thankful for what we have because to some a refrigerator full of food is considered a standard for wealth.
Her latest book, Southern Family Cookbook, is a little different than other cookbooks. She combined family stories, Bible verses along with her favorite recipes. Martha says when she would write down a family recipe, she was compelled to write down a memory or family story surrounding the dish. “Since mine is a Southern, Christian family, I found that not only were many of my life stories centered around food, but they also reflected Christian principles,” shares Martha. She wrote the book with her daughter-in-law Suzanne Crocker. “We believe with all our hearts that it is important to record not only the recipes from your life, but also the memories of those occasions—both happy and sad—for future generations. Your stories will be a diary of not only your life, but of your loved ones as well,” shares Martha. With scripture and testimonies included with the traditions and recipes, a future unsaved great granddaughter or niece just might say, "She talks a lot about Jesus and these scriptures are 'good.' Maybe I need to find out more about Jesus and the Bible." Martha prays that each cookbook that someone writes would lead future generations to the Lord.
To help minimize the seemingly monumental task of sitting down and writing out your recipes, Martha offers a distinctive feature with this cookbook. It comes with a CD which gives readers the guidance and space they need, with templates, to record their recipes and treasured memories. Martha says writing a food memoir is one of the easiest ways to write your life story. “If you don’t write down your family stories, they will be gone forever. Do this for your children, your grandchildren, and for generations to come in the next century.”
Martha offers the following tips to help you have a happy and joyful holiday season this year and in the years to come:
- Share the Wealth – Martha’s mother, who was called Mammy by the grandchildren, always took her vegetable beef soup and basic cornbread to older people or people who were sick around the holidays. They told her that was the best Christmas present anyone could have brought to them – homemade soup that would last for several days.
- Give to Others – After church on Christmas Eve Martha’s church takes homemade trays of Christmas goodies around to the nurse’s stations at hospitals and nursing homes, fire departments, and police departments.
- Keep it Simple – On Christmas Eve the family comes to Martha’s house to open presents around lunchtime. The menu consists of dishes that can be made ahead a week or more and frozen. She also uses paper plates and napkins.
- Make Sure There’s Plenty of Food - For Christmas dinner the food is served buffet style. Family members help by bringing a few dishes such as sweet potato casserole and turnip greens. “I am so tired when everyone leaves I put the dishes in the sink and go to bed. There is always the day after Christmas to clean up,” shares Martha.
- Make the Day Beautiful – Joe’s mother as well as Martha’s mother always used magnolia leaves sprayed with silver or gold in their Christmas decorations, usually on their mantle. On Christmas day all of the gold china, sterling, crystal, and monogrammed linen napkins come out of storage.
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