Aunt Tark

Martha Ruth “Tark” Devillers Smith Moss, October 20, 1919  – April 20, 2010, R.I.P.

This past Friday we buried my maternal aunt, Martha Ruth “Tark” Moss.  

Aunt Tark was a huge influence on my attitude about cooking, food, and the joy of sharing both with friends and family. 

Tark was what today might be called a “Foodie” but without the connotation of affectation or pretention that term might conjure.  She owned a KitchenAid Mixer decades before they showed up as standard set dressing on Food TV.  She was the first person I knew who belonged to a “dinner club” wherein the members of the group would gather at regular intervals to share meals and experience foods from outside of their normal cuisine.

Tark and her first husband, Aron Smith, for awhile lived on and worked a farm where they raised their own chickens, hogs and steers.  Later in their lives, before Uncle Aron passed away,  they acquired a small piece of land on which they planted an extensive garden and could again raise a pig and/or steer for slaughter and their own consumption. She baked; cooked down-home, family style foods and gourmet fare with equal ease and success; and preserved all manner of fruits and vegetables in season. 

Decades before there was a “Slow Food” movement, Aunt Tark followed the tenets of using locally produced, seasonal items to feed family and friends.  She did this not because it was popular or “cool.”  Rather she was merely carrying on the tradition she had grown up with; not out of necessity, but because it was better tasting, better for us (the consumers) and the land and because it just made sense.

During a visit one summer during my childhood, Aunt Tark and Uncle Aron took us to a “trout farm” where you could (and we did) pay to catch live trout right out of the ponds.  The fish were filleted and pan fried in the adjacent picnic area just minutes after being hooked.  It was an experience that taught just how wonderful truly fresh fish can be. This was also the meal that introduced me to hush puppies.

Using Tark’s recipe for what some call a “beer-rita” I once won a friendly neighborhood competition for the best Margarita.

As my interest in cooking and eating grew, I always found that I could engage Tark in discussions of food items and preparation.  Her appreciation for and proficiency at preparing fine food has always been an inspiration to me.   I only hope that those I have cooked for and supped with over the years could know just a fraction of the joy that I have received from sharing the bounty of her table… seasoned with the preparer’s love and spiced with a sense of humor. 

It is never easy to lose a loved one, especially those with whom we share a special bond.  I take comfort in knowing she most assuredly will be with me whenever I am at work in the kitchen and I hope I can achieve but a small portion of the talent she demonstrated for living a good life.

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One Response to “Aunt Tark”

  1. Salmon cakes « Dj'eat? Says:

    […] specific, slightly healthier version…try this recipe given to my Mom by her late sister, my Aunt Tark:   Oven “Fried” Salmon […]

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