Last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Clara (Claire) Shenefelt Williams, whose collection of 1930s recipe cards inspired The Clara Project that has unfolded here since August 2012. Claire’s daughter, Jan, and I had a lovely lunch together, and then we spent the afternoon visiting Clara at the Mt. Pleasant Retirement Village just north of Cincinnati.
Claire was an absolute delight: sparkly and smiling at age 98. I was struck by the way she spoke so fondly of her husband, Roy, who’d passed away in 2009 at age 96. “He was such a good man,” she said, over and over again.
She didn’t really understand it when we spoke that day, but Claire has been a real source of inspiration for me. Her collection of recipe cards—gathered during her home ec classes in 1934 at Penn State, during her early married life and her later years—is a treasure trove. It represents cooking the way it used to be, in a simpler time, an approach that I’ve come to value greatly. I discovered Clara Shenefelt’s recipes in an antique store by serendipity, but I think it was more an act of fate or Providence. They were just the creative spark I needed at the time, and they continue to bring me joy. I’m so grateful that I got to spend that afternoon with her and Jan.
Claire is back with her good man. She passed away on Saturday.