In January when I visited the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic Site near Gainesville, Florida, I blogged about the visit and made some wild promises about cooking my way through Cross Creek Cookery to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the cookbook. The staff at the site had planned a year filled with celebratory cooking and cultural events, to celebrate the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Yearling. But then came Hurricane Irma, plowing a swath right through that part of Florida.
Now I’m wondering if the hurricane left anything of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings – her
lovely 1930’s writing cottage, furniture, priceless first editions, antique car, chicken coops, farm and orange grove. The park is one of 168 closed in Florida due to Hurricane Irma, and there’s no posting of when it will reopen.
Like the name of the novel and companion cookbook, her home is located on Cross Creek, which connects two large lakes, Orange and Lochloosa. Cross Creek (the nearest town is Hawthorne) sits on an isthmus between the two lakes. Walk down a path behind Rawlings’ house, and there’s water, lots of water, shallow swamp water, then deep lake water.
Ironically, an upcoming event was entitled Cross Creek Rising. Photos published by the Gainesville Sun, show plenty of high water and downed trees in Alachua County – that’s the county in which Rawlings’ farm is located. Of course, her home has survived its share of hurricanes. When MGM’s 1947 production of The Yearling was being filmed nearby, a hurricane destroyed the set.
So, while the official historic site is on “disaster leave” I can at least keep the celebration going in a small way by sharing a few of my Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings cooking adventures. My Gulf Breeze kitchen is dry – Irma went the other way.
In March, I tried Rawlings’ Flank Steak recipe (pages 112-113). For the first time ever, I
cooked flank steak that came out tender. Following her instructions, I scored, added water, boiled, simmered, then repeated the steps. The entire time I kept thinking this is never going to be tender – but, in the last ten minutes – voila! – tender flank steak.
My latest tribute to Marjorie was recreating Sour Orange Pie, popular at The Yearling Restaurant down the road from the historic site. I had given up making the pie because I couldn’t find sour oranges. That’s when my hairdresser Emilie brought me a plastic grocery bag filled
with green calamondin from her tree. Florida cooks recommend a recipe substituting calamondin, a Filipino fruit, for Florida sour oranges. Emilie brought me enough for two pies – the first from the green unripened calamondin and the second when remaining citrus ripened to orange. Both pies were delicious and the juice tastes the same, regardless of the fruit’s color. Best of all, Emilie reminded me of another benefit of the calamondin – marinating flank steak. Upcoming state park events (that may well be cancelled) are a porch party, a concert, art exhibit and Food Truck Rally. So, I’m off to research suitable recipes in Cross Creek Cookery for casual outdoor dining. While I can’t
predict the weather or how a recipe turns out, maybe I can predict what the park rangers would have served.