Jett’s Table

My Aunt Jett learned to cook from her mother, whose people settled a wilderness.

Food was their only pleasure not subject to morals or religion. They sustained themselves and their families on corn and pork with whatever else they could grow or kill. They planted and picked, cooked and baked, dried and canned what they could, making the most of what they had season to season, year to year, generation to generation.

Jett always had something fixed for whatever company might drop in: stewed greens, limas, black-eyed peas, or snap beans, new or creamed potatoes, fried chicken, pork chops, or breaded steak. If it were summer, she’d have fresh sliced tomatoes, fried okra or corn on the cob.She served her meals with sliced onion, cornbread or biscuits and sawmill gravy with sweetened tea to drink; she seasoned with streak-o’-lean, salt, black pepper, and maybe a little cayenne and sage.

Jet’s cooking was simple, but not coarse; it had a balance and symmetry all its own, dictated by the teachings of long-ago voices set in concert with the rhythm of the seasons. Jett thanked God before we ate, and that too is elemental of our sustenance.

Aunt Jett (left) with her sisters Maude and Virgie.

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