Mullets, Jumping into the Stream of Life

The Gulf of Mexico lies 60 miles southwest of here. A joy to behold on a clear day, no matter what time of the year, the water there sparkles with the intensity of a stash of De Beers diamonds. And the wetlands that lacing its edges harbor a most fascinating array of life, gems, if…

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Pumping Sunshine: Susie H. Baxter’s Rural North Florida Childhood

Memory, fickle memory. To recall the long-ago past becomes a journey into a place where truth flits behind trees or ducks into closets, an exhausting game of hide-and-seek where no player easily becomes “It.” Do you remember going to the Saturday afternoon movies when you were a kid? How you got so engrossed in the…

Birds of a Feather: Proverbs and Idioms

Birds fascinated my father. I could never quite understand why. Not until he died. My mother dumped his bird-watching books on me. Then I knew what the scientist in him saw when he watched birds in their natural habitat: great variety, adaptations to environment, the living proof of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, at least…

Bulow Plantation, of Florida’s Flagler County

In 1821, Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow found himself the master of all he surveyed, near what is now Flagler Beach, Florida. He ordered his slaves to clear the wilderness, which they did, over 2200 of the 4675 acres belonging to him. Such a task would challenge even the largest earth mover today. Thick, sharp, insect-ridden, the…

A Murder of Crows, An Unkindness of Ravens

They're not visible to the naked eye, but I hear their raucous cawing every day, the very second I open the door.  Crows, maybe ravens. No matter where I live, these glossy black birds congregate. The only place on earth to escape these intelligent creatures lies far south, in Antarctica. Crows and ravens eat whatever…

Muses: Cross Creek and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Although I'd read her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling (1938), in high school, I came to admire Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's work more via the great unifier - food. I bought a paperback copy of Cross Creek Cookery nearly forty years after Charles Scribner's Sons first published it. Now the spine on my cheap copy splits…

William Bartram and the Nature of Florida

There's something about explorers who ventured into the New World that always grips my imagination. Maybe it's because men could leave home for years, move from place to place, free to be the souls they were born to be. As a woman, I could never have done that. Nor would it be easy today, either.…

Traces of Old Florida

I left the house this morning, seeking a sense of normalcy in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. What I found in my neighborhood proves the resilience of old houses in Florida. Battered off and on for over 65 years by hurricanes of all strengths, these gems still stand. And so does the natural setting around…

Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part IV: Going Green: a Riff on Salsa Verde

I, non-Italian, cook a mean roasted pork thing, slathered with ground fennel and coriander seed and white peppercorns, an Italian dish dubbed "Forever Roasted Pork" in Michael Chiarello's Travigne cookbook. And I also see definite correlations between that meltingly soft meat and Southern barbecue, between mechoui and other long-roasted meat dishes from around the world.…

Florida Oranges, and Other White House Desserts

Desserts and sweets served in the White House reflect the culinary history of the United States. The patterns of cooking, eating, and serving food in the White House originally relied heavily on the British heritage of the Thirteen Colonies, a pattern that generally continues until the present day.  Although wars and economic depressions plagued the…

9 Years of Writing about History … A Celebration!

Nine years ago, I decided to poke a toe into the world of food blogging. I settled on the name, "Gherkins & Tomatoes," based on a painting by Luis Meléndez, a tribute to the period of history known as "The Age of Exploration." Faced with a blank screen demanding something, anything, the first words that…

Tales of Alligator Flesh and Tails

Alligator meat is quite varied in itself The meat found in the tail is white and sweet, and can easily fried or sauteed. The leg meat is dark and less tender, with a color and texture similar to a beef shank, best used in soups and stews. The body meat is more like that of…

It’s the Environment, Stupid

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That's true, now more than ever. Mother Earth needs our voices, now more than ever. Yours, mine, everyone's. And so do all the creatures , great and small, the flowers, the trees, the rivers, and the seas. Now, more than ever. The fragility of the environment…

Fussy Eaters, or, The Plants in My Garden

You know how some people are fussy eaters? The ones you hesitate to invite to your table because you’ll end up making three dinners instead of one? Well, I’m learning that plants are worse, much worse. At least some are. Very picky. Very. As a neophyte gardener, for that is essentially how I must describe…

The Food of Florida: A Grand and Ongoing Experiment

I didn’t know it then, but when I was much – heck, I’ll be really honest here and say a lot –  younger, I began participating in a grand social experiment, one that I understand more with each passing year. Given my nature, the experiment naturally involved food. And that experiment began with a road…

Art, Spirit, Life: The Joys and the Sorrows of Trees

My mind fills with thoughts of trees these days. I hear of plans to destroy the landscape here and there across the planet. Greed now claims the upper hand over compassion. You might ask, "Why trees? Surely there are far greater issues around which to rally?" Perhaps. For the moment, I just ask one thing…

The Seminoles, Eli Lilly, and the Ancient Saw Palmetto of Florida

Florida's vegetation reminds me of a willful, obstinate child. You know, the one who seems to be everywhere all at once and defies  all the rules, crossing the line on limits, chocolate smeared across her face, filched from a secret and forbidden stash. Wild and ungovernable, in other words. And saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is one of the wildest…

Swamp Cabbage and Sunshine: Craziest-Ever Hearts of Palm Salad Sums Up Florida’s Food History

Two baseball-sized scoops of green peanut-butter ice cream grabbed my attention right away. Resting on shredded iceberg lettuce, they were melting fast in the Florida heat. Beads of condensation dribbled across the white plate, like a pearl necklace ringing the throat of a marble Venus. Ice cream and lettuce? What a crazy combination! What sat before…

Coming Home to Roost: The Chickens of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

"If I had to choose between trees and people, I think I should choose trees." ~~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings If you've ever read The Yearling, you know the name and work of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Miz Rawlings owned a 72-acre homestead and citrus grove in Cross Creek, Florida, not that she was a native Floridian or…

Majorie Kinnan Rawlings and Cross Creek

No longer a well-known writer, Pulitzer-Prize winner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings deserves more attention. Author of the popular coming-of-age novel, The Yearling (1938), Rawlings immortalized the lives of the rural people of north Florida, often derisively called "Crackers." This photo essay grew out of my recent trip to north central Florida, as well as from long-term…