Mobile’s Own Eugene Walter Lives Again with the Release of “The Happy Table”

9 Oct

Talk about a renaissance man! Eugene Walter was surely that. The term “Bon Vivant” comes to mind. Walter loved life – and fine cuisine. But he was no food snob. Sure, he had a palate that was appreciative of the gourmet. After all, he traveled the globe and rubbed elbows with the rich and famous. He even appeared in a prominent Fellini film. Yet Walter was a man unafraid to crack open a can of Campbell’s Soup (or “Mr. Campbell’s Soup” as he called it) if he felt it could elevate a home recipe.

Eugene’s book entitled “Hints & Pinches” has long been one of my favorite “cookbooks” (if you could call it that). And his novel “The Untidy Pilgrim” is a wonderful look at the Mobile AL of days gone by. So I was pretty excited when I learned that “The Happy Table” was being prepared for release. It is essentially the posthumous release of boxes full of recipes, drawings, and anecdotes from Walter’s exceptionally creative mind and kitchen. The editors have done a fine job of piecing all of this together. No small task. The common thread is booze — or perhaps spirits is a better word. Eugene Walter had spirit in spades. And he knew how to best employ alcoholic beverages in both food and cocktails.

So consider this your formal invitation.

Raise a glass and join the ever-jovial Eugene Walter in a toast and a belly laugh.

This is one party you do not want to miss.

The Happy Table of Eugene Walter

Southern Spirits in Food and Drink

By Eugene Walter

 Edited by Donald Goodman and Thomas Head

Awards & Distinctions

A Fall 2011 Okra Pick: Great Southern Books Fresh Off the Vine, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

A southern Renaissance man, Eugene Walter (1921-98) was a pioneering food writer, a champion of southern foodways and culture, and a legendary personality among food lovers. The Happy Table of Eugene Walter, which introduces a new generation of readers to Walter’s culinary legacy, is a revelation to anyone interested in today’s booming scene in vintage and artisanal drinks–from bourbon and juleps to champagne and punch–and a southern twist on America’s culinary heritage.

Assembled and edited by Walter’s literary executor, Donald Goodman, and food writer Thomas Head, this charming cookbook includes more than 300 recipes featuring the use of spirits in the food and drink of the South, as well as numerous asides, lovely short essays, and countless witticisms that make for great reading as well as good cooking. A wellspring of southern eating and drinking traditions lovingly collected by Walter over the years, the volume is also a celebration of Walter himself and his incomparable appetite and talent for life and its surprising pleasures. The Happy Table showcases Walter’s remarkably contemporary gustatory sensibilities and the humorous and quirky yet incisive voice for which he has long been embraced.

About the Author

Eugene Walter (1921-98), a native of Mobile, Alabama, and author of the classic American Cooking: Southern Style, was a pioneering food writer and editor who enjoyed long sojourns in New York, Rome, and Paris when he wasn’t at home in the South. A translator, screenwriter, novelist, puppeteer, artist, costume designer, actor, and more, Walter was a man of arts, letters, and food. The Happy Table of Eugene Walter, a cookbook that Walter was working on in the final years of his life, is the first new book by Walter to appear in more than a decade.

Donald Goodman was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and his wife currently live in the Washington, D.C., area, where he manages the Eugene Walter estate.

Thomas Head, a native of Louisiana, is a food and travel writer based in Washington, D.C. Former executive wine and food editor of Washingtonianmagazine, he has published articles in many nationally distributed magazines and newspapers.


“This cookbook contains over 300 Southern-themed recipes for foods and libations that not only inspire but offer a history lesson. . . . this collection shines. . . . It uniquely captures the history and culture of the South and is highly recommended.”
Library Journal

A top “10 Must-Read Fall Books for Food Lovers.”

“Any cooking lover should know the work of Eugene Walter, a great Southern food writer and notable character in the foodie community.”

“Eugene Walter was a southern writer of dazzling gifts. He possessed an uncanny ability to make the English language dance the flamenco across the page. He loved great humor, clowns, monkeys, food, and bourbon, in no particular order. He acted in Fellini movies, wrote screenplays, poems, cookbooks, translations, novels, and short stories of rare but complete genius. Eugene was one of the cofounders of The Paris Review and lived one of the richest lives of any American writer that I know of. I only wish he had written more. This book is a wonder. I love Eugene and I’ve always loved his writing.”
–Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides and Beach Music

“Eugene Walter was not too timid to live life to the fullest, and we are indebted to him for sharing his flamboyant insights into this wonderland of food and drink. The Happy Table captures a history of southern culture that might otherwise be lost and most certainly needs to be preserved. I envision readers using these recipes and throwing Eugene Walter parties as a salute to this great, eccentric Southern man–and I hope to be invited.”
–Frank Stitt, James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, and Chez Fonfon, Birmingham, AL

 “This is just like sitting at a table with Eugene Walter, hearing his stories about Rome, Italy, and the pursuit of Southern food. His charm and wit show throughout! And he was a first-rate author–without him, we would never have had the Time-Life Foods of the World volume American Cooking: Southern Style, which is a masterpiece in itself.”
–Nathalie Dupree, author of New Southern Cooking

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