Over nine seasons, the Walton family probably spent more time in the kitchen than in any other part of the family home.
The Waltons is a historical drama about a family that lives in rural Virginia. It is set during the Great Depression and ends near World War II. The family lives in a fictitious community called Waltons Mountain in Jefferson County, Virginia. The setting is based on Schuyler in Nelson County, Virginia.
The kitchen was a primary focus for the family. It was a place where the family came together to cook and eat. It was also a place where the parents bestowed some of their most memorable advice to the younger siblings.
Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen on the show, recently said on her YouTube channel that the kitchen was also one of the busiest filming sets, too.
“There would always be one whole day of filming each episode devoted to scenes in the kitchen,” she said. “We would start first thing in the morning, and some days go all day long filming scenes in the kitchen. And most of those scenes involved food.”
While fans of the show have always been curious how the family managed to cook such large meals every week, Norton dished out some of the secrets in an interview.
How the Food was Prepared on ‘The Waltons’
Feeding 11 people on a nightly basis is a tough assignment for any home cook. However, Olivia Walton, played by Michael Learned, made it look easy.
Norton said that most of the food used in these scenes came from two sources. Either the producers picked it up at the store and re-heated it, or they made it in the kitchen.
“We had a working kitchen on set,” Norton recalled. “It was behind that door between the stove and the kitchen counter, toward where the sink was. It was that sort of “mystery door” that we talk about sometimes. Every once in a while, that door would be used for a pantry or something similar. But, through that door was another part of the building that was used by the property department as a kitchen.”
Whenever scenes with food were slated to be shot, the show’s crew would prepare meals in there, Norton added. Most of the time, the crew made the decision about what the cast would eat unless it was specified in the script.
Food You Have to Keep Eating
Norton said it was “difficult to keep eating” on days where The Waltons would film scenes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At some points, cast members would stop eating when the camera wasn’t on them, Norton continued. That way they could keep stuffing their face once the lights were back on them.
“Usually when someone was off-camera, their plate would be covered,” Norton said. “Then, once the camera was back on them, the plate would be uncovered and they would continue eating. Sometimes it was warmed up, other times it was just cold.”
Luckily, there are not many scenes where any of the cast is “shoveling-in” food, Nelson continued. However, she said she learned early on in the series not to “overdo it” in the morning.