I wanted to know more about the history of small Florida towns in the 1930s, so my friend Sally, who grew up around here, took me to a Gulf Breeze Area Historical Society meeting. I hoped the presentation on the “founding fathers” would give me a better insight into Majorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek. After all, two Florida towns only 375 miles apart surely share some history.
Two weeks earlier I had visited Cross Creek, about 20 miles southeast of Gainesville. Now a Florida Historic Site, that’s where Rawlings lived and wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling, among others.
There I fell in love with her writing lifestyle – typing stories on the screened front porch of her clapboard house, surrounded by an orange grove. Maybe I could channel some of those vibes on my back porch.
Inspired, I decided to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Rawlings’ books, Cross Creek and Cross Creek Cookery, with a reading-cooking adventure for my blog. There won’t be as many gumbo recipes as last
year’s 52 American Writers, but I hope to cook up some authentic Florida dishes following her cookbook recipes.
I didn’t discover much in common between Gulf Breeze and Cross Creek, probably because we didn’t get a bridge to the mainland until 1931. By that time the produce industry in Cross Creek was thriving with well-established citrus groves and farms. Cross Creek boasted vast orchards while our first families were planting single trees — fig, satsuma, grapefruit, avocado, pecan — in front and back yards. Our wildlife is similar too– gopher turtles, bear, raccoon, fish, alligator.
But my town, once inhabited by Native Americans and lumbermen, is basically a cottage resort village – a summer vacation spot ever since that first bridge enabled city folks to live at the beach during the summer. We sold sea shells. Cross Creek sold oranges. They welcomed Cross Creek the movie, and the likes of Robert Frost and Margaret Mitchell. We hosted Jaws 2 and UFO sightings.
While the evening at the historical society didn’t provide much information for my cooking adventure, I’m looking forward to learning more about the Gulf Breeze founders. Sally tells me the first Mayor Pro Tem was an alligator wrestler. That fact makes me realize one thing: I am not ready to fry gator like Majorie did.