An article in today’s Tampa Trib has my attention:
Florida food is apparently hip now. I guess that’s a good thing. Here’s what I wonder, though: how does one open a Florida restaurant with no mention of consulting with Florida Food historian “Father Gary” Mormino, or noted Florida food author Andy Huse? I also wonder why this article fails to mention the recipes from Cross Creek Cookery, sour orange pies, or any number of old-school Florida dishes us Florida Studies folk know to be the real deal. Cuban food, whole roasted hog, field peas, and sweet corn? Celery and strawberries? Please tell me the writer just couldn’t include that all in the article.
Or, perhaps because real Florida dishes also include gopher tortoise, black bear, and a number of other dishes that you’d go to jail for making – much less serving – today, the owners will focus on other types of what they call “Florida food.” I find it interesting (and a little disheartening) where this chef focuses. I’m not saying he’s wrong; just uneducated and, resultantly, offering an incomplete Florida menu.
Also, this perplexed me:
“One ingredient that keeps escaping the chef’s ambition is coontie flour, used by Seminoles and early pioneers as a baking substitute for wheat flour. The fern-like plant takes three years to mature, with very little of the root being edible.
“If processed incorrectly, the plant has toxic properties. The “black water” by-product resulting from the flour-making once was a Seminole ritual drink that caused hallucinations. For those and economic reasons, no one bothers to mass-produce coontie in modern times.”
Yes, because we all know no one will go through any trouble to produce a hallucinogen.
I wish this restaurant the best of luck, but I hope the owners do take the time to talk to people like Father Gary and Andy to learn about “real” Florida food. Because the quote “We’ll buy the whole field, can it and put it in the pantry like any other Florida Cracker family would have done,” tells me they lack a full understanding of how many, many Crackers lived.
Until then, I’ll satisfy my Sunshine State desires with Ted Peters smoked mullet, The Yearling restaurant in Cross Creek, or Joannie’s Blue Crab in Ochopee.