Soul Food
Ada's Peach Cobbler
Photograph by Lita Davis

4 cups of peeled and sliced *fresh peaches

2 cup of sugar, divided

1 teaspoon of almond flavoring (this is essential because it brings out the flavor of the peaches)

1/2 cup water

8 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups of self-rising flour

1 ½ cups of milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the peaches, one (1) cup sugar, almond flavoring and water in a saucepan and mix well.  Bring to a boil and simmer for ten (10) minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Place the butter in a 9 x 13 inch rectangular or 2 quart round Pyrex baking dish and put the dish in the preheating oven. When butter has melted, set aside to cool for a few minutes. With a wire whisk, combine the flour, one (1) cup sugar and milk. Do not over beat, but make sure that there are as few lumps in the batter as possible. Add a few tablespoons of milk if the batter seems stiff. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Pour the batter into the melted butter. Do not stir together - the batter should rest on top of the butter. Then, carefully spoon the peaches and juice evenly over the batter. Return dish to the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on which dish you use. Oven temperatures may vary, so you may have to adjust the time a little. The crust will rise to the top while the cobbler bakes.

To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

*Since peaches can be few and far between during some seasons, two bags of frozen peaches are a decent substitute. You may have to add more sugar and, where time permits, let the fruit mixture set overnight before baking.

As a young girl, Lita Davis was profoundly influenced by her maternal grandmother's cooking. Today, her name is synonymous with culinary excellence. A growing customer base calls on Davis to fill birthday cake orders, prepare specialty dishes and even cater small affairs. One Christmas, an Atlanta businesswoman placed a unique order. "I had to bake 800 cookies," Davis explains. "Twenty five cookies for each of her clients!"

Following in Grandma's Footsteps . . .

When Lita Davis tweaks a recipe, her friends are all too pleased to sample and provide a critical review. After all, even her culinary works in progress are tasty and never require drastic changes. One of Davis' desserts that clearly merits no improvement is Ada's Peach Cobbler, a mouth watering recipe she patterned after her late grandmother's version of the southern seasonal staple. "My grandma taught me this recipe when I was about 9 years old," Davis confirms.

Though born in Louisiana, Davis spent most of her childhood in South Carolina. The Caribbean/Latin influence of her Cuban father and the Creole and soul food leanings of her African American mother could have easily provided Davis with a boundless repertoire of recipes. Where preparing great food is concerned, however, she cites her maternal grandmother as her most influential mentor. "Most of the recipes that I use to this day are based on her old ones," Davis says. "She was a great woman and a brilliant cook. She was my inspiration and I miss her a lot." As a young girl, Davis fondly recalls the many occasions she assisted her elderly grandmother in the kitchen. Cooking with Grandma not only proved to be educational, but it kept a curious, mischievous girl busy and out of trouble! "It was the only way that she could keep me in one place," Davis adds with a laugh.

The Southern Living Cook-off Cookbook (Birmingham:  Oxmoor House, Inc., 2004) contains Lita Davis' fabulous Lucky 7 Coconut-Lemon Cake recipe. Additionally, the cake is prominently (and alluringly!) illustrated in color on two different full pages. From nearly 34,000 entries, Davis' recipe was one of 434 selected to be published in the cookbook!

Today, Lita Davis cherishes those memories and works tirelessly to imitate her grandmother's cooking. Spending a great deal of time creating the perfect formula, Davis records measuring amounts and other details to ensure that finished products can be replicated. Describing her grandmother as the "little bit o' this, little bit o' that-type," Davis acknowledges that mimicking her grandmother's cooking can be challenging since she did not follow written recipes. Insisting on adhering to the old-fashioned principles she learned as a young girl (even when it proves to be more expensive or labor intensive), Davis uses only ingredients of the best quality and refuses to compromise with shortcuts. For example, all of her creations are made from scratch, and margarine or imitation flavorings like artificial vanilla extract have no place in the Davis kitchen. "If it says butter, you'd better use butter," she insists.

Text:  Greg  Freeman.  Recipe:  Lita Davis. Published May 22, 2007.  Revised July 6, 2015.

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