‘The Waltons’: How the On-Screen Menu Was Decided for Dining Scenes

by John Jamison
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As often as dinner meals are used in TV shows to get the whole cast into a single scene, it’s easy to overlook the food selection itself. In reality, there are multiple factors that go into what a family like the Waltons eats as they sit around the table.

In the past, cast members of “The Waltons” have talked about how challenging it was to film dinner scenes from a logistical standpoint. Any time the whole family was together for a scene, the difficulties only increased. There were up to 11 people to keep track of, and everything had to match from shot to shot. On top of all that, much of the Walton family consisted of kids. Kids are notoriously hard to wrangle, actors or not.

Further, whenever they did manage to wrangle one group, the other had managed to wander off. Whether they were grabbing a coffee or simply gathering their thoughts, people were constantly walking away from the table.

What Went into Food Choices on ‘The Waltons’

All of that said, one of the more controllable aspects of family dinner scenes was the menu. Aside from dietary restrictions, the menu wasn’t limited by the whims of the cast. In a video, “The Waltons” star Judy Norton talked about how the menu decisions were made on a case-by-case basis.

“There wasn’t so much a plan for the menus unless it was specifically mentioned in the script. Otherwise, it was kind of up to the prop department. Who took care of all the food that needed to be used in breakfast, dinner, lunch, whatever scenes,” Norton said in the 2020 video. “So, depending on whether- some meals were at the beginning of a meal. Where we were putting things on the table, and grace was being said. Other times we were well into a meal.

The ideal food choices depended entirely on the situation at hand. Apparently, things they avoided things like eggs because they got cold so quickly. And the cast had to slowly eat the food for however long it took to get the shot. That was the source of most frustration, as plates of food went cold by the time they finished filming. And whatever they were eating at the beginning, they had to be eating at the end for the sake of continuity.

“And I’m sure a lot of it had to do with what would keep, what was easy to prepare,” Norton finished.

At least the prop department didn’t have to worry about wrangling the cast. All they had to do was cook a meal and set the table.

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