A sit-down dinner for 40 guests in your home? A golden anniversary party for more than 100 well-wishers? Most people would probably rather jump off a cliff than take on such frightening tasks.
Not Patty Roper. “I truly love to entertain,” says Roper, a published author and editorial director of Mississippi Magazine, who has thrown these parties and many more on a foundation of simple recipes and easy decorating techniques.
She shares her ideas in her latest book, “Easy Does It Entertaining,” a colorful, elegant spread of tried-and-true recipes from family, friends and readers and practical party suggestions, decorating ideas and etiquette. The book is divided into seasons and within each season are several party ideas with complete menus. For spring, one party is a Mother’s Day luncheon, for summer she plans an alfresco dinner, for autumn a harvest dinner, and in winter a holiday tea party.
Sprinkled throughout the book are tips like giving Christmas decorations to guests as party favors during the holidays, how to “wrap” a birthday cake with an edible ribbon and how to make a teacup chandelier using cups you have around the house. Without a doubt, Roper is a continuously-flowing fountain of ideas, but Mississippi Magazine readers have known this for years.
Roper began sharing her tips and ideas with readers more than a decade ago in the magazine’s Easy Does It department. Roper’s husband, Richard, is the magazine’s publisher, and she has edited, answered the phones, worked in advertising and wherever else she was needed over the years. Her popular Easy Does It section got its start quite by accident when the staff asked Roper to come up with something quick and easy for an issue. The response from readers was huge, so Roper did it again, and then again. Easy Does It became a regular feature in 1993.
Roper also arranges many of the beautiful rooms and table displays that are published in Mississippi Magazine. She has no formal training in interior design, just a knack for knowing what looks right. A Mississippi native, she is actually a former teacher who taught in the Jackson Public School system for nine years. She published her first book, “Easy Hospitality,” in 1996 and two desk calendars with recipes and decorating projects for each month.
Her magazine spreads, books and calendars are full of simple, inexpensive ideas that make you say, “I wish I’d thought of that.” Take for instance her homemade tiered server, a prettier, more personal version of those you buy ready-made in the store. Roper’s idea — stack and glue three plates of various sizes and styles between two sturdy candle holders to create a three-tiered server. Another idea is a pedestal cake stand.
“Everybody’s looks the same,” said Roper. “One day I took a banquet plate and put it on a candleholder. Then I thought, ‘This would look great at different heights.’ It makes a great wedding gift.”
For Roper, one idea leads to another, and some ideas come from sheer necessity. When she needed 40 soup bowls for a party, she happened upon little candy dishes at a store and used those instead. When recipes go awry, she makes them work anyway.
“I am asked how to make brownie balls all the time,” said Roper. “That came from a time when my brownies came out too soft. I rolled them into balls and rolled them in powdered sugar. Another time a lemon soufflé fell, so I put it in a dish and served it with whipped cream. You make the best of your situation.”
At the Everyday Gourmet in Jackson, Roper’s new book is selling well. “We’ve loved it, “ said Emily Hines, director of Everyday Gourmet’s cooking school who would like to have Roper demonstrate some of her recipes at the store in the future.
Roper is currently working on an easy does it wedding parties book. The book will include tips and recipes for hosting tea parties and bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, day-of-the-wedding parties and even an at-home wedding.
Roper believes in heritage and tradition and sharing the milestones of life with others. In her book she sums it up: “In the South, we are our heritage. We share our past experiences with the present generation, and they in turn pass this heritage on to the future generation. Our children grow up tasting delicious family recipes served on heirloom china and silver and hearing memorable stories of relatives and friends.”
The purpose of all of her endeavors is to make her guests feel special. Even the smallest, simplest attention to detail makes the difference, such as tucking a flower into a napkin ring or arranging salad around the plate to make it look like a wreath for a holiday party.
“It’s not hard, but it makes people say, ‘Wow, they did this just for me,’” said Roper.
Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Ingebretsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.