Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

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Ben Starling’s Blog

August 26th, 2008 · 4 Comments

I’ve been vicariously cooking this past week as I’ve read all the food stories and recipes on the Living2Eat blog, written by my buddy Ben Starling. Ben’s a Florida guy, who grew up in Immokalee – one of the towns south of Lake Okeechobee. He worked at Northwood University and now is with Scripps in Jupiter.

As he notes, the only people who know where Immokalee is are private pilots (I’m one – and recall doing my first “perfect” touchdown at that middle-of-Everglades airstrip) and vegetable workers and/or the town natives. Bean City is nearby – and the whole place is surrounded by vegetable fields, sugar cane and more cane, telling you pretty much all you need to know about the area.

Ben’s web site is filled with Southern stories, even though he’s from Florida. Only another native would understand that anomaly. Outsiders view Southern Florida as South New York, or South Jersey — take your pick. It’s true — there are more people from outside the state than natives, at least in this area. Little do they know that the center of the state, all the way up to the Georgia border, is as Southern as it gets. Florida Crackers are we, and Southern food is our second religion.

Ben talks up a number of restaurants and other food sources, such as Famous Amos and Brenda Starr’s cakes, as well. Definitely a good read, though not when you’re hungry – it’ll only make things worse!

Oh, and check out the West Indies Salad recipe. It’s unique. Read the comments and you’ll learn all about Mobile Bay’s famous “Jubilee.”

Tags: Recipes: What's Cooking!

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ksteinhoff // Aug 29, 2008 at 3:25 am

    I spent more than a month in Immokolee over the years doing stories on farm workers, immigration and the town itself.

    A lot of the pictures at http://ken.steinhoff.net/Deportees/ were taken there.

    I needed some aerial photos of the town for one story and headed 0ut to the airport you mentioned where I ran into cropduster Joe Brown, who must have been in his 80s.

    We hopped into his Piper Cub (which he refused to taxi on the concrete runways built for WWII bombers “because it wears the tires out”) and took off.

    While we were flying over the downtown, I asked if he could get a little lower. He put the thing in a steep dive until I swear I was looking UP at the street signs.

    I decided he was worth a story by himself. I tried rigging a camera with a remote shutter release onto a strut on the wing of his biplane cropduster, but something was wrong and it wouldn’t fire.

    “I used to fly wingwalkers in the old days, “he said. “Let me lash you to the wing and you can shoot the pictures without all that fancy stuff.”

    I thought THAT would be a great story to tell my grandkids. Then, I calculated that I’d have a whole lot better chance of HAVING grandkids if I opted not to do that.

    Food content: There was a great Mexican restaurant in town that served a green salsa that would flat light you up. I swear you could see it roiling and boiling – and that was BEFORE it hit your innards.

  • 2 Ben // Aug 29, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    This comment about the photographers experience with Joe Brown is pretty funny. Anyone who knew Joe could certainly understand and appreciate Ken’s comments.

    Sadly, Joe passed away a number of years ago. His wife and I attended the same church and she baked one of the best apple pies that I have ever put in my mouth. Mrs. Brown was the ‘Avon lady’ and drove a little stationwagon that was always full of perfume, lotions, potions and catalogs.

  • 3 Denise Rinaldi // Oct 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Hey, Benji!

    So glad to hear you’re alive and well and still talking about Immokalee. Those were some of my favorite years of teaching, and you guys were the Best! Do you remember when you got me a bunch of black balloons when the Red Sox lost the World Series? HA! I’ll never forget it!Hope all is well with you and your family; how is that sister of yours, Brundi? Are you guys still connected to Immokalee? Some day, I’ll get back there for roast pig, swamp buggy races and Immokalee salad.

    Miss you/keep in touch (Believe it or not, I’m still teaching11th and 12 grade outside Hilton Head! And Billy, that child we welcomed into our family in 1987, is headed to Medical School!)

    Denise R.

  • 4 rooney family // Sep 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Ben, your food was great but Mickey Rooney thought you lived in a pig pen.

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