Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gift Recommendations for Christmas: Seasonal Florida - A Taste of Life in North Florida

If I were going to pick a single cook book about North Florida cooking to recommend as a Christmas present to a discerning loved one, Seasonal Florida would be my hands-down first choice.

The cook book's encapsulates the collective culinary gems of five generations of a northeast Florida family residing in Duval and St. Johns counties. The book had its genesis when the book's author, Jo Manning, and her five sisters purchased the Stuart Knox Gillis Home in DeFuniak Springs. The house, built in 1901, had essentially been vacant for years and the family bought it in 1989 with an eye towards ultimately restoring it as a bed and breakfast.

As many other people learn quickly when such dreams run into the wall of reality, the costs and difficulties of restoration were way too costly and overwhelming for them to continue without finding ways ease the financial crunch of their dream restoration. This cookbook was one of their fundraising tools for their bed and breakfast-to-be.

Northeast Florida cuisine has a number of excellent cookbooks, most of them focusing on St. Johns county and St. Augustine in particular. Seasonal Florida stretches further in-land than the others and better encapsulates the community recipes that make up a long revered cuisine valued by generations of Floridians. Local families, many of whom can trace their ancestry to early settlers, quietly point to this book as the one to own if you love the culture and food of the is part of Florida.

The book touches on the many recipes that have been honed by area residents who have benefited from the bountious truck farms inland from St. Augustine in towns like Hastings, Spuds, etc. Nearly every part of the culinary lore is explored and the fundemental and best recipes for those areas are included here.

From Perlo (their spelling) to fried shrimp, to grits, to many area vegetable recipes, to Minorcan Clam Chowder, they have all the angles covered. The recipe for datil pepper sauce (made from a pepper said to grow only in St. Johns county) is worth the price of admission. "Bottled Hell" is a must-make for any self respecting Floridian.

Local restaurant favorites are also included including Gypsy Chicken from the famous Gypsy Cab Company along with their recipe for Tamari Salad.

This cook book is not easy to find and I bought my copy at my local libary's semi-annual book sale. I have supplied a link for it in My Favorites section on the left side of this blog . If you love northeast Florida and its cuisine, you simply must own this book.

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