Zora Neale Hurston on Florida Food- Recipes, Remedies, and Simple Pleasures by Frederick Opie - 2015 - 167 Pages
Zora Neale Hurston
Born - January 7, 1891. - Natasulag, Alabama
1937- Their Eyes Were Watching God published
Dies - January 28, 1960 - Fort Pierce, Florida
Fred Opie, drawing on the fiction and anthropological studies of Zora Neale Hurston, has produced a very interesting highly informative account of the food heritage of African Americans in Florida. Both of Hurston’s parents were born enslaved. Hurston attended on a scholarship the very prestigious Bernard College. While at Bernard she conducted ethnographic research under the noted anthropologist Franz Boaz. She also worked with Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. She applied the methods she learned to field studies in Florida and Haiti. Opie details why he found her an ideal subject to center a study of the African American food heritage of Florida upon.
Opie gives us an elegant intriguing synopsis of his efforts:
“There is enormous variety in American cookery. This book focuses on Florida cooking in Zora Neale Hurston’s early twentieth-century ethnographic research and writing. It emphasizes the essentials of cookery in Florida through simple dishes. It considers foods prepared for everyday meals as well as special occasions and looks at what shaped the eating habits of communities in early twentieth-century Florida. It investigates African, American, European and Asian influences in order to understand what they contributed to Florida’s culinary traditions.”
Opie begins with a chapter on corn bread. No proper African American meal was complete without corn bread. It was used to soak up the liquids remaining in pots of various stews. Called “Pot Liquor” etiquette required it be soaked up with corn bread. Here is his recipe for Collard Greens
“Collard Green Recipe - Collard greens and Bacon
Wash collard leaves. They should not be too old and coarse. Cut finely. Boil until extremely tender, a matter of at least an hour, preferably longer—they can scarcely be cooked too long, and are equally good “warmed over”—in enough water barely to cover, with several thin slices of white bacon to each market bunch of the leaves. The water should almost cook away, leaving a delicious broth known to the South as “pot liquor.” Cornbread is always served with collard greens and it is etiquette to dunk the cornbread in the pot liquor.”
Fried chicken was very important in African American traditions. Cooked by women and raised at home, chicken was the everyday main dish. Opie devotes a chapter to barbecue as a food and as a social event. African Americans often could not afford doctors so they drew on traditional food based remedies.
I found this a fascinating book. Anyone interested in Florida history will be grateful for the work of Opie. It belongs in high school libraries in Florida for sure. I learned a lot from it and for sure want to try out several of the recipes.
Former Syracuse University and US National Lacrosse team player, Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie/AKA Fred Opie, is a Blogger, Podcaster, and Professor of History at Babson College. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook: