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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Real Food Of Florida

As life slowly returns to normal, I find myself once again glaring at my computer screen getting caught up on current events. One of those events was a segment on the Cooking Channel blog entitled, Favorite State Foods.

Apparently viewers across the country were asked to weigh in on what foods they felt were most closely associated with the state they were in. I should clarify that this poll referred to the state of the union, not their state of mind or lack thereof. Cheese Puffs after puffing a doobie did not get included. Oh well, maybe on the next Cooking Channel survey.

I was particularly interested in the food most closely associated with Florida. To my surprise and amusement the winning dish was the ubiquitous Key Lime Pie. My first thought was to say, "No way Josey Wales!" On my second thought I had to admit that a Key Lime Pie of varying quality and authenticity can be found from the Florida Keys, up to Jacksonville, over to Pensacola, and at all points between.

That pie would not have been my first choice, but if not the Key Lime Pie, what then? As I pondered this question my mind raced around the state searching for the Florida State Food. It was here that I ran into trouble. I had to ask myself, "What part of the state?" Pausing to ponder some more, I came to the realization that Florida could actually be split into at least five separate states. Well, maybe four states and one independent country.

Dribbling off the phallus of Florida like golden drops of dew on the island nation of Cuba we have the Keys and the Conch Republic of Key West. I suppose it would be fair to say that the pie is closely associated by many with the Keys and Key West, although my first choice would be the Florida Spiny Lobster.

Picking a state food becomes somewhat problematic the farther north you travel. As someone recently stated, "The farther north you go in Florida, the farther south you get," or words to that effect. In Miami, the iconic food is really a food and a beverage: Cafe con leche with buttered and cheesy toasted Cuban bread. Once you get to Central Florida, in Tampa there is but one choice - the Cuban sandwich.

I have no idea what they eat in the Orlando area. That is a whole separate World inhabited by all sorts of alien critters, but when you get north of Gainesville you arrive at the state lines. To the east is the State of South Georgia Annex with Jacksonville as its capital. I think they eat peanuts and pecans.

Turning to the west takes you to L.A. No, not the one in California. I'm referring to Lower Alabama with its capital in Tallahassee or Sopchoppy. I can never remember which. In these parts, the iconic food has to be Apalachicola oysters, shucked all the way from Perry to the outskirts of Pensacola.

Texas may have its brisket, Georgia its peaches, Vermont its apples, and Minnesota its hotdish (pronouned hoddish), but Florida is too diverse to have just one iconic food because there are at least five separate and distinct parts of the state.

There are even more if you break the state down into sub-regions, and sub-sub-regions. Then of course there is Yeehaw Junction where I have heard they eat their young. That's just a nasty, unconfirmed rumor...I bet.

So there Cooking Channel! There is the real "Food of Florida." We refuse to be pigeon holed, or holed in any other manner.

And, you are welcome.

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