I love emails like this!
Hey everybody–ya know–what makes this blog exciting for me is learning new stuff. I am only 35 years old. I am currently working on a major project to document the memory of Southern food…see my Indiegogo Page and please support my project! http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Cooking-Gene-Project-The-Southern-Discomfort-Tour and visit http://www.TheCookingGene.Com to learn more!
Note: Florida “Crackers” is a cultural designation used to describe mostly non-slaveholding whites who migrated into Northern and Central Florida in the 19th century. It is not pejorative. Farming, timber, fishing, hunting and trapping made for a unique Southern backcountry culture carved out in the palmetto and pine forests formerly inhabited by the Timucua and other subtropical Southern tribes. Linnie’s narrative is interesting because Florida has a very unique food history in terms of white settler, African-Floridian and Native American (read Seminole/Mikasuki) traditions along with the long influence of the Spanish. The Seminole harbored many Maroons—formerly enslaved Africans–and the Seminole Wars were fought to drive this unique mixture out of the state after 1819. Many enslaved Africans came into Florida from South Carolina and Georgia and many were Gullah-Geechee. Others were imported directly from Africa to early plantations. In either case, the Seminole grew an exotic mixture of plants in their gardens on the hammocks of the Everglades including bananas, sugarcane, rice, cowpeas and sweet potatoes to accompany their staple, the kunti root.
So says, Linnie:
Oh Yes – I am very much a “Cracker” on my dad’s side of the family. My mother’s family was upstate New Yorkers. My grandfather taught horticulture/ag at Univ of Florida.
The ones you described for the “running acre pea” sure sounds like the one I am looking for. We just need a “starter” to be able to save our seeds again. We pick the dry peas toward the end of the pickings and put them in a paper bag and store them inside where the mice can’t get to them.
As to being a “Cracker”, when my dad’s family came here they had a few African-Americans with them, but I don’t think they were slaves. I will have to ask my brother about that part of the family history. I was just a little girl when we moved out to the country near the Suwanee River. My brothers remember an old African-American man who lived in a shed-like house out in the back of the property. They loved to go eat sweet potatoes with him. He cooked on an open fire and put the sweet potatoes in the hot coals to bake.
My dad was not a farmer, but rented our land to other farmers and we had vegetable gardens and the cane. We had the young field corn which we called “roasting ears” although we just boiled ours.
We had a syrup kettle and made our own syrup. Daddy and Granddaddy were super good syrup makers. We had hogs and once a year had a “hog killing”. All the neighbors got together to help and we used everything but the squeal. I personally know quite a bit about both these processes.
We also had something called “chuffers”, which I know came from Africa, but have no idea where we got them from. They were very tasty little nutty things which grew undergrown like peanuts.. (What Linnie is describing is called chufa–it is a New World plant that is known on both sides of the Atlantic because it has botanical cognates….In West Africa chufa is called “tiger nut.” It is a food both Native Americans and Africans knew about before they met one another in the South.) They were grown for hog food. We also grew peanuts mainly to feed to the animals. We did gather them when they were green and boiled them for a treat.
We had a little hot pepper called a “birds eye” pepper. (What Mexican cooking called chiltepin —a kind of small wild pepper that birds are known to spread. The birds eye pepper was supposedly introduced to Jefferson and then took off, but there was a similar pepper in Jamaica in the 18th century grown by enslaved people there.) The peppers were crammed into little bottles. Then vinegar was poured in. We sprinkled some on our greens. We liked mainly mustard greens, but also grew turnips and collards. Okra is one of my favorites. We have always grown okra.
Yummy–peanuts, okra, collards, mustard greens, turnips and turnip greens, chufa, birds eye chilies, watermelon, corn, hogs and chickens…what a history!
Give us more Linnie!