Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Eva Auld Watson was a painter, muralist, and print-maker.  ( many other Google sites.)  Eva's forbears were people of business: entrepeneurs. As with so many other artists, Eva's career was the exception rather than the rule in her family.    

The roots of her interest in food, on the other hand, seem to me perfectly obvious.  Eva was born in Bandera, Texas, where her father, Cassius C. Auld, owned a gigantic cattle ranch.  It was there that Eva spent the first nine years of her life.  Ranch  life was rugged, outdoors, and self-sufficient.  The Aulds made their own soap; repaired their own machinery; made their own harness.  Except for staples like salt and sugar, they most surely provided for all their own food and drink.  Surely this was where Eva began her life-long enchantment with the art of culinary creation.

Eventually Cassius discovered that his partner had been fiddling with the ranch's financial books.  The family returned to Pittsburgh--the city.  Later, as a young woman, Eva went to study art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York---another city.  One of her instructors at Pratt, Ernest W. Watson, became her husband.  When Ernest co-founded the Berkshire Summer School of Art in Monterey, Massachusetts, and the Watson family began spending summers at Greywold, their summer home in the Berkshire hills, I feel certain that Eva must have been ecstatic to be once more intimately connected with a rural landscape.
Greywold became the Watson's print-making studio.  Here they created their editions of prints---carved on linoleum blocks by Eva or Ernest, then printed jointly.  
And as with all artists, life and art were often commingled.  Here in this photo of the empty studio it is clear that Eva's prized cherry table, under the draped fabric, has been commandeered to provide an extra surface for the print run. It is the perfect metaphor for the coming together of art and food that was so prominent in Eva's life.
In the summertime, visitors could visit Greywold on Sunday afternoons to peruse the latest Watson prints, and perhaps purchase a few.  But for Eva, no open studio was complete without refreshments; and so after visiting the studio, guests would adjourn to the terrace and partake of delectable cakes, iced tea, and lemonade.  (And take note of the boy sitting in the center of the photo: my father.) 
I have a handful of Eva's recipes, written out in her vigorous hand on large index cards.  One card reads:  "Dry Cooking Wine and the Ingredients for a Savory Sauce. [The recipe for the dry cooking wine is on another card.] Cooked in the same dry wine with a handful of spring onions, a bay leaf, a slice of lemon, and a sprig of thyme, a fish (or any desired meat) came to the table with a flavor of indescribable delicacy."  Another card reads "Rhubarb Dedicated to Bacchus.  When past its first tender succulence, charged slightly with one capsule of carbonic acid gas, the wine by winter became somewhat like champagne.  A ham constantly basted in it is an Epicurean masterpiece."  A third recipe is for Orange-Cream Cakes, perhaps something that she served at one of the Greywold open studios:

2/3 c butter 
1 1/2 c sugar
3 eggs
rind of 1 orange
rind of 1 lemon
2 1/2 c cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs lemon juice
5 Tbs orange juice
2 Tbs water

Cream shortening, beat in sugar til creamy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add lemon and orange rind. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt, add alternately to butter mixture with lemon juice, orange juice, and water.  Bake in small or large cup cake tins at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.  5 dozen small cakes; or 2 9-inch layers.  When cool, cut out centers and fill, then replace top and dust with confectioners sugar.  Filling:  Combine 1/2 c whipped cream, 3 Tbs honey, 1 tsp grated orange rind.  [Eva's notation reads: "Small and filling."]
Eva's prized cherry table is now mine.  I keep one leaf up for my everyday meals.  When company comes, I lift the other leaf for additional seating.  And like my grandmother, I sometimes press the table into extraordinary service when I am working on an art project that overflows my usual working surfaces.  Food, and art: it is impossible to separate one from the other.  They are both served with the same the same hands...and from the same table.

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  1. Wow, fascinating! The link to the article about printmaking was so cool for me. I hope this summer we can talk more about that. The bits about using the brayer as a 'brush' were particularly interesting.
    Thanks for this thoughtful post about art and food. Those cream cakes sound divine and I want to know more about rhubarb dedicated to Bacchus!

  2. you have inherited more than that beautiful cherry table from your grandmother.

  3. It was fascinating learning the history of Greywold. I am the current housekeeper of Greywold and seeing what the grounds looked like back then is amazing. The interior is pretty much the same as the pictures above.

    1. Pat, thank you for your comment! I am back East for a month or two, and wishing I could see Greywold again...

    2. The house is for sale through Berkshire Property Agents in the Homebuyers Guide. Maybe you could get a showing!