Monday, June 13, 2016

Cuisine Of The Sunshine State

Florida is known for many things, sugar white sands, the mysterious Everglades and a fascinating history.Yet it also has some interesting dishes, influenced by the South and the many people who have immigrated there. It is not only a snowbird's retreat,it is a foodie's one too.

Many forget that the state is also part of the South and with that comes Southern cooking The northernmost counties border Georgia and Alabama.Grits are a  staple  but the grunt fish , popular i n the area is added in. People from Jacksonville to Pensacola also enjoy barbecue along Brunswick stew. That true southern dessert chess pie ,a custardy treat rich with sugar, cream and eggs is found in many bakeries along with being made by many home bakers.Georgia's pecan pie drifted south and is also enjoyed in northern Florida. The indigenous people, the Seminoles also contributed to the table. They showed settlers how to cook boiled swamp cabbage or the nicer name heart of cabbage palmIt's cooked with water salt and a little sugar. The greens can also be bought, already soaked in a vinaigrette  and relabeled hearts of palm.The tribe also contributed a fried bread made only of flour water and oil along with softkee a kind of hominy made with wild rice, baking soda and cornstarch.It can be served with meat or just plain. Some of the indigenous meats from alligator to deer are served with skillet corn stuffing, possibly influenced by intermarriage with former enslaved Africans.Cajun and Creole influences have also impacted the cuisine too

The southern part of the state has been so richly influenced by the Caribbean that the cuisine is now called Floribbean.One of the main influences is Cuban, thanks to many migrating from Castro's Cuba for almost sixty years. The hallmarks are an emphasis on fresh ingredients, namely chicken and fish and ,a melange of spices.especially strong flavors offset by milder ones. Also the cuisine uses a lot of fresh fruit juice, namely citrus such as lemon and orange. This is the Cuban and Haitian influence wit their love of sweet and tangy. However unlike some Cuban and Jamaican, the heat is less intense.It's not as eye watering as Jamaican jerk. The fieriness is almost always mitigated by the addition of mango,papaya, rum, almond , key lime or honey. A typical Miami dinner might be paella, with fresh caught fish  or pernil, roast pig accompanied by arroz con gandule -rice and peas. Barbacoa, the original barbecue is also featured and done in many backyard cookouts.What makes it different from regular grilled meats is the   use of  fresh juice as a marinade for the meats. Of course the most famed Southern Florida dessert is the drool worthy Key Lime pie. It comes from the Florida Keys, Papa Hemingway's hangout. This is a tart, yet rich and custardy pie thanks to the limes and eggs used along with condensed milk and topped with whipped cream The crust is almost alwaysnmade of graham crackers.

Florida gives us a panorama of different scenes, from ritzy beaches to gator filled swamps. It also gives us a variety of different dishes, each as unique as the people who make them. They are diverse and tasty, exciting and flavorful,

Stay strong, my Orlando readers. Show bravery and heart. Show love when others want hate, courage when others want fear. We're behind you.

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