Savor some local history at the DeSoto County Historical Society’s 2nd Annual Florida Cracker Meal on May 11 at the Turner Center Exhibit Hall, 2250 NE Roan St. The buffet will include traditional Florida Cracker foods such as roast pork, greens, tomato gravy and rice, cornbread, and more. The event begins at 6 p.m.
Related to — but distinct from — Southern cooking, Florida Cracker cuisine dates from the 19th century when our state was a frontier and home to the cowman or cowhunter. To drive his herds, he cracked a cow whip, and the noise reverberated a mile or more. Folks took to saying, “Listen. Here come the Crackers.” That’s a likely origin for the name given to native-born-and raised Floridians.
Some Florida Cracker recipes are wild-harvest. For example, the State tree — the Sabal palm — is also known as the “cabbage palm” because its terminal bud is cut and cooked into a dish called swamp cabbage. (New York restaurant menus sell it as “hearts of palm.”) Other recipes rely on crops — such as corn, rice, and collards — and livestock raised by early settlers.
Those attending the event are invited to enter two contests: the Arcadia Albritton Coker Cake Baking Contest and the Dress-Like-A-Pioneer Contest.
In 1883, when the Rev. James M. Hendry moved to this area’s first settlement, he suggested that the post office be named Arcadia because Arcadia Albritton Coker had baked him a birthday cake. Prepare your traditional “from scratch” cake recipes and enter the Cake Baking Contest named in her honor. Winners will be announced, and all cakes will be plated and served.
Those attending the dinner are also invited to dress like a pioneer and compete in the historic costume contest. Judging the contest will be Claire A. Miller, a librarian at South Florida State College by day and a costume designer by hobby. From 2002-2006, she served as chief costumer for the New College Minimalist Theater group. Her award-winning costumes appear at fan conventions, and she performs annually as Arcadia Albritton Coker at the DeSoto County Historical Society’s Pioneer Day.
Carol Mahler, a professional storyteller and published author, will present the history and traditions of Florida Cracker foods along with food-themed music by Florida Cracker Luke Wilson.
Fifth graders from West Elementary School will portray Florida’s historic characters as “wax museum figures.” Each will come to life and tell their character’s story as part of the evening’s entertainment.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for children 6-12 years, and available at Crews Bank & Trust, Member FDIC, 400 N. Brevard Ave. and the DeSoto County Historical Society’s Research Library, 120 W. Whidden St. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays, May 9.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the programs and projects of the DeSoto County Historical Society. 863-266-5774, www.historicdesoto.org.