Eudora Welty, Photographer
“Making pictures of people
in all sorts of situations,
I learned that every feeling
waits upon its gesture,
and I had to be prepared
to recognize this moment
when I saw it.
These were things
a story writer
needed to know.”
“The camera was a hand-held auxiliary
“While I was very well positioned
for taking these pictures,
I was rather oddly equipped
for doing it.”
Eudora Welty in New York: Photographs of the Early 1930s
Now on view at the Museum of the City of New York, through Feb. 16, mcny.org, featuring the privations of the Depression and patterns in the New York City streetscape.
Excerpts: One Writer’s Beginnings, Eudora Welty
While the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, Eudora Welty, possessed observational skills with both words and images, it is her gift as a human being, a gracious and charming Southern woman, that she is most remembered for. In a wonderful tribute: “A Shrine to Southern Literature, Slightly Frayed.” NY Times, May 4, 2006, former anchorman, journalist and friend, Roger Mudd, tells of an evening he and his wife spent with Eudora and a friend as dinner guests at her home in Jackson, Mississippi, the house her father built in 1925, where she lived until her death in 2001.
“The evening E. J. and I came for supper, we learned that nothing gets started at 1119 Pinehurst without a sip or two or three of bourbon. It was Maker’s Mark and Eudora poured. With us was Charlotte Capers, Eudora’s best buddy and then the director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
On the coffee table was a plate of sun-dried tomatoes and crackers. The conversation was rich, funny and very Southern. After another round of bourbon, Eudora excused herself to put dinner on. I asked if I could help. Charlotte, in that rumbly, throaty voice of hers, said: “Don’t go near the kitchen. It is strictly off limits.” Eudora felt that she and not her guests should be the host. But truth be told, her kitchen was not only too small for two but also in a state of permanent disarray.
So I stayed seated, sipping, munching and applying the sun-dried tomatoes to the crackers. Then from the kitchen came a sharp crash. Without missing a beat, Charlotte said, “Well, there goes dinner.” I went to the kitchen, despite Charlotte’s warning. On the floor lay our dinner — a shattered Pyrex baking dish and Eudora’s crab casserole. I grabbed a broom, a mop and a dustpan and cleaned up the best I could, as Eudora repeated embarrassed apologies.
We went ahead with dinner on the walnut dining room table, clear of books and manuscripts and set for four. The menu consisted of more bourbon, sun-dried tomatoes, crackers and a salvaged side of string beans. We laughed through the entire meal.
Two weeks later I received in the mail a recipe for “Eudora’s Crab Dish,” written in her spidery hand.
“Combine ingredients,” it read, “place in buttered Pyrex dish. Top with cracker crumbs & paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, immediately invert dish and allow to reach kitchen floor. Test to see if thoroughly shattered. If Roger Mudd is dinner guest, he will quickly appear and take care of everything.”
The kitchen is now tidied up, of course, but in my mind there will always be Eudora’s casserole on the floor.”