A Home without a Family
George Clark, the cook, and Ephraim Derricks, the valet and gardener, lived in this room. Although both men were married, their wives did not live on the estate, a common reality for enslaved families. The heat from the kitchen warmed this space in the winter, but made it unbearable in the hot, humid Virginia summer.
Below is the summer kitchen. Despite its name, this kitchen was used year-round. Here, three to six enslaved workers prepared meals for the Custis-Lee family and their guests. Enslaved workers likely planned their cooking around the daylight hours. Cooking at plantations like Arlington House required specialized culinary knowledge, and cooks used techniques and flavors passed down from Africa. Traditions such as slow-cooking and deep-frying forged in plantation kitchens have greatly influenced American cooking.
According to family tradition, Arlington cook George Clark was born at Mount Vernon and may have worked in the kitchen there before coming to Arlington.