Friday, November 27, 2009

Great Aunt Clara

My earliest recollection and interest in cooking was standing by the kitchen sink next to my Great Aunt Clara at our family beach cottage on 55th Street in Virginia Beach. I was 6 and my eyes were level with the countertop as I watched intently as Aunt Clara peeled peach after peach to feed family that had congregated for summer supper. I can remember chewing on a discarded peach peel and marveling at the perfect combination of size, color and texture that only comes from locally ripened fruit. Her hands methodically peeled and sliced until the large paper bag on the counter was empty. A warm summer afternoon in 1966 with everyone assembled at the big table on the screened porch. The worn paper bag and the smell of peach juice. She served the peaches in small saucers accompanied with the slightest sprinkling of sugar, just enough to enhance the natural juice.

Clara Meade Vick was the eldest of 16 children, she was born in 1900. The Vick family lived in small two story houses side by side in Port Norfolk. Clara and her mother divided the children between the 2 houses. Clara, out of neccessity, learned early on how to manage a household. She worked full time for VEPCO as well as cared for the youngest siblings that were in her charge. When I consider Clara and observations of her cooking and preparing meals over the years, her motivation was out of need and purpose rather then inspiration or joy. Her joy was in a job well done coupled with an unceasing work ethic that was ever present in the daily rituals which she carved out for herself, among those I recall her washing the mealtime dishes by hand and gardening. Her cooking style was basic and wholesome. Eager to bring on a second serving and always the first to start to clear the table.

She remains a strong inspiration in the way she cared for family.