Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Yearling, also wrote a cookbook — Cross Creek Cookery. She doesn’t include a gumbo recipe, but she does drop a few clues as to what gumbo she might enjoy.
A native of Washington, D.C, Rawlings is considered a Florida writer, having spent most of her life writing from her home in Cross Creek. She writes about “Florida Crackers,” the pioneer settlers of wild Florida; most of the recipes in Cross Creek Cookery reflect their tastes.
Though some seafood recipes, even lobster, are included, the closest thing to gumbo is turtle soup. The book, which includes humorous anecdotes, sold almost as many copies as Cross Creek and The Yearling. They sold nearly half-a-million copies apiece. Eighteen years after Cross Creek Cookery first appeared, Rawlings came out with a British edition.
Before moving to Florida, she was writing about cooking, kitchens, housework and
gardening in “Songs of a Housewife.” Six days a week for almost two years, she penned humorous “newspaper poems,” a total of 495, for the Rochester Times-Union. The poems proved so popular, they were syndicated.
Her short stories (one won the O. Henry Award) also include references to Florida foods – pecans, quail, oysters and gophers. No, not furry, rodents – dry land turtles.
So, for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings I recommend Gopher Gumbo – akin to turtle soup – a Florida favorite according to Northwest Florida’s First Poet Laureate, Adelia Rosaco Soule.
Turtle soup is more popular nowadays, and often served in fancy restaurants, but turtle gumbo is still around. Here’s a recipe for gumbo, but the biggest challenge might be finding turtle meat. Click here for tips on finding turtle meat that’s not endangered.
Gopher gumbo was a popular dish in the Florida Panhandle in the early 1900s. Gopher Tortoise. State of Florida Archives/LaHart DL0101