Martha Stewart: Only for No. 1 is a baby shower needed, but exceptions cry out

Posted: June 24, 2011

Q: How do friends and family celebrate the birth of a second child? I've heard a shower should be thrown only in honor of the first baby's birth.

A: Strict etiquette holds that friends and family shower the mother-to-be only the first time around, because the gifts given generally provide the parents with the items they'll need for children who may follow. Also, people shouldn't feel pressured to buy gifts for each new member of the family. But as with most questions of etiquette, good reasons arise for breaking the rules.

If many years have passed since the birth of the first child, or if the couple already have a boy and know they're having a girl (or vice versa), they may need some new things. If they move to a different community or the mother-to-be changes jobs, it's fine for new friends or colleagues to throw her a baby shower.

For close family members, it doesn't matter how many babies have come along; they're bound to want to celebrate the arrival of the newest child, before or after the birth. If you wish to invite more people, have a lunch or a tea instead of a shower, and request on the invitation that guests bring only themselves, not gifts.

Q: What is the correct way to lay out food on a buffet?

A: There are no rules governing the layout of a buffet, but an efficient setup and well-considered menu choices will keep the food fresh and your guests happy.

Stack plates at the head of the table and silverware and napkins at the end. Arrange the table so your guests can access the food from both sides. Start with the main course; for accompanying condiments, put one bowl on each side of the serving dish. Next come the sides; rather than using lots of spoons and forks, provide nice-looking tongs, which will allow guests to serve themselves easily while holding a plate.

For hot foods, heat platters first. If you're grilling, you may want a separate station by the grill, so freshly cooked fish, burgers, ribs and chicken can be dished out right away. Place cold foods, especially salads with mayonnaise or seafood, on ice. (Don't put all the food out at once; refresh the buffet as needed.)

As for what to serve, avoid green salads if the meal will be alfresco; they wilt quickly in the sun. Instead, try a sturdy (and delicious) grain-based salad (go to www.martha stewart.com/grain-salad for recipes). Or grill and dress vegetables ahead of time, and serve them at room temperature. Keep dessert in the kitchen until after the main meal.

Q: How can I use mulberries?

A: If a mulberry tree grows near you, consider yourself lucky. Its highly fragile but sweet and succulent berries are too perishable to be shipped to market, so the only way to sample the fruits is to pick them yourself.

Substitute these jewels for any other berry in a recipe. Eat them with whipped cream, make a fresh jam, or bake them into cobblers or pies. For something different, try summer pudding, an impressive English dish that's easy to make (go to www.marthastewart.com/ red-fruit- pudding for a recipe).

Pick and prep: Harvesting mulberries can be a tricky task; the juicy, plump fruits may burst as you pluck them. To keep them intact, try this method: Lay an old sheet on the ground, and shake the branches of the tree to release the berries (any that don't fall aren't ripe). Gather up the sheet to transport the fruits to the kitchen. Place them in a colander and submerge in a sink full of cool water to rinse.

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., 9th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001. Questions may also be sent by email to: mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.

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