Jill Krementz Photo Journal: Kitchens — The Room Where It Happens

Featured image
Eleanor Ross Taylor flipping a crepe. Eleanor and her husband Robert Penn Warren, called “Red,” spent much of their time in West Wardsboro, Vermont.

The Days of COVID-19 have transformed our nation’s kitchens into the new epicenter of broadcasting. TV correspondents have transformed their granite countertops into bully pulpits from which they dispense their wisdom.

I love Peter Baker’s cuisine décor accented with an uncut pineapple and a vase of sunflowers. While others like John Heilemann are bemoaning the coming elections I’m often drooling over those large in-wall microwave ovens.

Over the years I’ve photographed numerous kitchens whose occupants never dreamed of setting up a communications center in their midst.

Chrissie Evert cleaned up on the tennis courts in Forest Hills as well as in her uncle’s kitchen where she stayed during the tennis matches.
Glenway Wescott cooking dinner at his Manhattan pied-à-terre for Monroe Wheeler, Janet Flanner, Natalia Murray, my husband Kurt Vonnegut, and me.
Janet Flanner and Glenway Wescott post dinner party.
Ida and Studs Terkel in Chicago.
Tennessee Williams preparing gumbo in Key West.
America’s celebrated playwright was an accomplished cook with a penchant for anything “fattening, illegal or on fire.”
According to Rex Reed: “Tennessee Williams’ favorite memory was of the summer he and Carson McCullers rented a shack on Nantucket, where they survived on Jack Daniel’s, canned green pea soup with weenies in it, and an innovation dubbed ‘spuds Carson’ (mashed potatoes with olives).”
Eudora Welty cooking dinner for the two of us — pork chops and butter rolls followed by blueberries with cream.
Miss Welty had invited me to stay with her at her house when I visited her in Jackson, Mississippi.
Dr. Virginia Masters, half of the Masters & Johnson sex therapy duo, obviously thinks there’s more than one way to satisfy those primal urges.
Dr. William Masters agrees: “Happiness is having a quiet dinner with my wife.”
In the midst of preparing dinner, Ginny Masters answers one of the couple’s 14 phones. Their six-and-a half acre surburban estate in St. Louis included a swimming pool, a stable, and a horse track where Bill Masters jogged daily.
“If he is at the sex clinic we talk over the intercom.”
Terrence McNally’s kitchen was so tiny that there was hardly room for him.
On September 5, 1974 I was one of 200 photojournalists assigned by Life magazine to capture the life of a nation on film in a single day. I began my day photographing Barbara Walters in her kitchen at 4 AM where she had a chocolate brownie and a cup of coffee for breakfast while going over her script for the Today Show. Then off we went to the NBC studio where she interviewed Betty Friedan.
Anthony O’Reilly, Chairman of the H. J. Heinz Company, practicing what he preaches when he’s sampling his wares at home in Pittsburgh.
Pam Hill and Tom Wicker in their Manhattan townhouse. At the time Pam was an ABC documentary producer and her husband Tom was a writer at The New York Times. Nevertheless, as busy as they were with their high profile careers, they loved to have dinner parties for which they did all the cooking.
Christopher and his sister Cathy Hart with Kitty Carlisle enjoying lunch at their mother’s apartment on East 64th Street. The kitchen remained the same until Kitty died. I’m guessing that Mr. Zucker has spruced it up, but what’s not to love about that linoleum floor?
Elaine Kaufman in the kitchen. Her restaurant was better known for its clientele than its cuisine. The caption under this photograph in People magazine read: “She prefers the restaurant’s food to her own cooking, but Elaine jokes that her chef has ‘off days when it could kill you.’”
Elaine adding a personal touch to her cuisine.
Alma and Isaac Singer breakfasting in their apartment at the Belnord apartment building on West 86th Street. The Upper West Side was the locale of many stories by the Nobel Laureate.
Bill Styron stuffing a chicken while his daughter Alexandra (known as “Al”) looks on with feigned horror.
The Styrons’ Roxbury kitchen was a salon of sorts where neighbors such as Arthur Miller dropped by.
John and Martha Updike on Christmas day in 1979. Recently married, Kurt and I had been their houseguests in Georgetown, Massachusetts.
Reverend Peter Gomes visiting his mother, Orissa Jones, in Plymouth, Massacusetts to celebrate her birthday. The Harvard minister was preparing a tea party for the happy occasion.
I admired the lovely pewter demi-tasse spoons used that afternoon and weeks later, after having sent some photographs to Peter, I received a package with a dozen of them as a gift.
His letter to me:
“Under separate cover I am sending you twelve demitasse spoons of late Victorian plate. Please accept them as a small token of my appreciation. Should you ever be tempted to Plymouth, I will happily show you the special shop where I got them.”
Walter Cronkite juggling breakfast and a phone call, aided by his wife Betsy. The Cronkites lived in a townhouse on the Upper East Side.
A last minute touch up before heading over to CBS office.
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher — Glen Ellen, California.
M. F. K. Fisher, the author of over two dozen books, is a national icon with so many admirers that North Press has reissued most of her titles.
When I returned to New York everyone asked me if the legendary gormand had cooked a meal for me. The answer is No. she did not. Two of her friends had dropped off a pizza the night before — more than she could eat — so that’s what we ate.
During these times we should all be reading Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf, published in 1942 and intended to rally home cooks “with grace and gusto” during the Second World War. The wolf of the title is the one at the door.
B. F. Skinner in his Cambridge kitchen. The 79-year-old behavioral scientist’s daily routine consisted of walking two miles to Harvard University, working until noon, and then catching a bus home to spend the afternoons reading, watching television and listening to classical music.
“People my age all find it harder to do many of the things we like to do. Even so, we can design a world in which we can behave reasonably well in spite of our deficiencies.“
Ann Petry who lived in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, liked to write in her kitchen.
Her novel, The Street, published in 1946, was one of the first books written by an African-American author to sell a million copies.
Veronica Chambers.
“It’s no accident that, so far, I’ve lived on the top floor of three walk-up buildings in Brooklyn. A friend of mine once compared me to a cat, saying I like to climb up high and feel like I’m queen of all I survey. I often felt like that when I was writing Mama’s Girl — I needed somehow to find a place, a perch that was high enough so I could look at this incredibly painful history with my family, especially my mother, and write about it. I was afraid of digging too deep, that somehow I could lose myself in all the hurt — like so much quicksand. So I would find high places to curl up in like a cat — the loft in my apartment, the roof of my brownstone, even the kitchen counter.”
Allegra Goodman and Gish Gen in Gish’s kitchen. I was in Cambridge for the day photographing both writers for separate projects. Allegra offered to drive me over to Gish’s house and they subsequently became, and remain to this day, very good friends.
Allegra’s most recent novel is The Chalk Artist; Gish’s The Resisters.
Oliver Sacks, in his kitchen/greenhouse, tends to his beloved plants. On the wall, photographs of his favorite composers.
Jonathan Thomas, a sculptor and longtime partner, in Edward Albee’s Montauk kitchen. On the wall is a framed Susan Rothenberg.
Edward preparing a feast for his cats.
James McBride, author of The Color of Water, was influenced — in both his culinary and writing skills — by his mother’s Jewish heritage.
Monique Truong with Damijan Saccio in Brooklyn, NY.
“My kitchen is the closest thing I have to a workshop in my home. Because I love to cook and it’s a space where I know I’ve produced something good in the past, I write there with the hope that I can produce something good again. I’ve told my husband that the role of a first reader is just to say, “This is fantastic. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read.”
A Vietnamese-American writer, Monique wrote The Book of Salt.
Susan Minot making good use of her kitchen.
In case you are all asking what’s for dinner — let’s hope it’s a new short story by Ms. Minot.

Recent Posts