Tag Archives: Southern History

New Book on Tabasco legend

3 Mar

tabasco

We received a wonderful new book from University of Mississippi Press yesterday. It is a beautiful coffee table volume detailing the long and glorious history of my favorite condiment — Tabasco hot sauce. The writers have obviously done their research and the book is filled with amazing photos and period pieces of all kinds. Don’t miss this one if you’re looking for a red-hot read!

Here is the product description from Amazon.com …

Tabasco®: An Illustrated History is the first and only book about the McIlhenny family and company based on previously untapped documents in the McIlhenny Company Archives. This chronicle examines the origin of Tabasco® sauce, from its post-Civil War creation on Avery Island, Louisiana, to its evolution into the “gold standard” of pepper sauces and a global culinary icon.

It also examines the often stranger-than-fiction stories that are inexorably bound up with the rise of Tabasco®–Edmund McIlhenny’s creation of the sauce in the midst of Reconstruction- era economic ruin; John Avery McIlhenny’s adventures in Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders volunteer cavalry regiment; Edward Avery McIlhenny’s explorations in the unforgiving Arctic; and Walter S. McIlhenny’s amazing heroics in World War II, which eventually secured him the rank of brigadier general, even as he modernized his family business and ensured its success into the late twentieth century.

In addition to the central narrative, Tabasco®: An Illustrated History contains numerous detailed sidebars, as well as over a dozen historical recipes selected from handwritten McIlhenny family cookbooks and other archival sources. This book boasts hundreds of fascinating photographs, both in color and black-and-white, many of which are previously unpublished.

Advertisements

Florida’s Forgotten Coast

27 Oct

We just returned from a wonderful weekend along Florida’s panhandle. Our home base was the historic fishing village of Apalachicola. What a great little place — lots of history and character. Also lots of characters! The area is inhabited with very prideful, down to earth folks who are clinging to their time honored ways of life. Development is rapidly encroaching around them, but these residents remain hopeful that their delicate eco-system will not be spoiled. They celebrate the slower pace and older ways of doing things and are fighting hard to protect it all.      

The economy here has always been based on the seafood industry. Apalach oysters and Alligator Point clams are quite famous to foodies everywhere. The area boasts countless seafood markets, oyster houses, bait & tackle shops, and the like. But there are also a growing number of trendy book stores, elegant cafes, and coffee shops. Oh yes — and antique shoppes — everywhere you turn. It certainly appears that the yuppies are coming.

We witnessed a beautiful Saturday sunset on the Apalachicola Bay. There is such a simple charm to watching the sun disappear in the evening … especially when you’re also looking at boats and shorebirds of all kinds. Herons, gulls, pelicans — they’re all here in bountiful numbers. They are no dummies, these feathered friends. If I was a bird (or a cat for that matter), this would make for a pretty nice hangout.

We got a chuckle out of this diver chilling out on a downtown sidewalk. This snapshot was taken just outside the entrance to the Apalachicola Sponge Company. Yes folks, there is a store here that caters to all (well, virtually all) of your sponge needs. The sponges are all-natural and harvested from the surrounding brackish waters. You can pick up a shower sponge and an oval of magnolia-scented goat’s milk soap for about $8. Put a few of these combos on your Christmas list for those loved ones you deem either in need of a good bath or “spongeworthy.” 

Room 309 in the Gibson Inn is said to be haunted by an old sea captain. We learned that he booked that room so he could keep an eye (Get it? Eye??? RRRRRRRRRRR!!!!) on his ship, which was usually docked just a block or so away on the waterfront. The old salt once dated one of the early innkeepers and he’s said to have quite a sense of humor. For example, some guests have sworn that someone was tickling their feet at night. Room #309 is the most asked-for unit in the inn, so make your plans well in advance if you wish to spend a night with this friendly sea-faring ghost.  

The town’s graveyards are shaded by live oaks & creepy hanging moss. We learned that a number of the graveyard’s “residents” were victims of shipwrecks and other ghastly ways to go. Our two sons were a little spooked and didn’t stray too far from us that night. It’s a good thing. Our bed & breakfast (the exquisite Coombs House Inn) was situated directly across Avenue E from the cemetery. OOOOOOO!

We came across this star fish on the secluded beach of St George Island. It was huge and still very much alive. We admired it for a while and then let it slowly move on. The white sand beaches of St. George Island were simply loaded with great shells and all varieties of tiny sea creatures. We spotted horseshoe crabs, slimey sea cucumbers, clams, sponges, coral, olives, sea pansies, cockles, tortoise eggs and scallops. A fellow adventurer even spotted a black bear roaming nearby as we were combing the shores of Alligator Point on Sunday morning. That news sent all of us scurrying for the comfort of Momma’s Ford mini-van. Sorry, I don’t mess with bears or snakes.   

This oyster boat was floating off the deck of The Boss Oyster restaurant. Look for my review of the Boss in the next few days. This trip provided so much great material — it will take me days .. maybe weeks to get it all out. The caption on the side of the boat stated, “Shut Up and Shuck!”

I snapped this sign on the facade of the historic Indian Pass Raw Bar. This is an awesome old place located way, way out in the boonies. You will pass a gazillion (no lie, I counted them) towering pine trees on your drive from beautiful downtown Apalachicola. Grab a cold brew from the cooler and then watch with admiration and awe as a master shucker prepares your heroes on a half shell. This joint is rumored to be haunted as well, so slurp quickly before the house goblins re-develop a taste for these fresh, briney bi-valves.

“Savage Barbecue” Makes for Interesting Reading

26 Aug

Savage Barbecue
“Race, Culture, and the Invention of America’s First Food”
by Andrew Warnes

America’s first food as an invented tradition Barbecue is a word that means different things to different people. It can be a verb or a noun. It can be pulled pork or beef ribs. And, especially in the American South, it can cause intense debate and stir regional pride. Perhaps then, it is no surprise that the roots of this food tradition are often misunderstood.

In Savage Barbecue, Andrew Warnes traces what he calls America’s first food through early transatlantic literature and culture. Building on the work of scholar Eric Hobsbawm, Warnes argues that barbecue is an invented tradition, much like Thanksgiving-one long associated with frontier mythologies of ruggedness and relaxation.

Starting with Columbus’s journals in 1492, Warnes shows how the perception of barbecue evolved from Spanish colonists’ first fateful encounter with natives roasting iguanas and fish over fires on the beaches of Cuba. European colonists linked the new food to a savagery they perceived in American Indians, ensnaring barbecue in a growing web of racist attitudes about the New World. Warnes also unearths the etymological origins of the word barbecue, including the early form barbacoa; its coincidental similarity to barbaric reinforced emerging stereotypes.

Barbecue, as it arose in early transatlantic culture, had less to do with actual native practices than with a European desire to define those practices as barbaric. Warnes argues that the word barbecue retains an element of violence that can be seen in our culture to this day. Savage Barbecue offers an original and highly rigorous perspective on one of America’s most popular food traditions.

Purchase your copy today at: http://ugapress.org/0820328960.html