The History of Foodways in Florida
Teacher's Guide for Food and Culture

Background

Florida's foodways have emerged from a diverse range of cultural influences over the course of centuries. Each successive group of Florida residents has brought unique dishes and methods of preparation, many of which have been absorbed into the broader popular culture of the state. Native Americans, African-American slaves, Minorcan laborers, Cuban and Haitian immigrants, and Greek spongers are just a few of the groups whose culinary habits have become part of Florida's menu. Changes in food preparation technology have also been a key driver of Florida's food culture. Prior to the invention of modern refrigeration, for example, many fresh foods were preserved for long-term storage by pickling, salting or drying rather than freezing or refrigerating them as we would today.

About These Documents

Several of the items in this series document certain continuities between the diets of Florida’s historic Native Americans and modern Floridians. Swamp cabbage, also called “heart of palm,” is harvested from the inner core of Florida’s state tree, the sabal palmetto. Several early explorers of Florida documented the preparation of this vegetable matter as food by Native Americans, including Andrew Jackson’s topographical engineer, Hugh Young. Here’s his description of swamp cabbage from 1818:

“In the cypress swamps between Assilla and Sahwanne there is abundance of cabbage palmetto. […] It rises with a single stem to the height of forty feet and supports at the top a large mass resembling an immense pineapple, from which project a number of three-sided stems three or four feet long with leaves like the low palmetto but much larger and without prickles. The vegetable substance from which the stems and leaves are supported has in its center a white brittle mucilaginous mass composed of the centre folds of the leaves forming it, which may be eaten raw and when boiled has a taste somewhat like parsnips. In times of scarcity the Indians live on it, and it is said to be wholesome and nutritious.”

The full report may be found in “A Topographical Memoir on East and West Florida With Itineraries of General Jackson’s Army, 1818,” Florida Historical Quarterly 13, no. 1 (July 1934), 16-50.

Also included in this set are interviews with Floridians belonging to immigrant groups that have introduced new foodways into Florida’s popular culture. These interviews were conducted by the Florida Folklife Program.

Finally, we include several recipes from the 19th century that illustrate how pioneer Floridians used pickling and salting to preserve food in the days when refrigeration was not an option.

The value of these sources is two-fold. Taken at face value, they illustrate changes in Florida’s foodways over time as well as the origins of those changes. When subjected to critical analysis, these sources can also help students to better understand Florida culture at various points in history. Consider having students analyze recipes and photographs to determine why Floridians used certain ingredients and methods at certain times.

Big Questions

  • Where do Florida’s food traditions come from?
  • How do food traditions change over time?
  • How can foodways help narrate the history of a community or group of people?
  • How has technology affected Florida’s food traditions over time?
  • What factors might account for why Floridians have chosen to use certain foods or preparation techniques at certain times?

 

Next Generation Sunshine State Standards

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.
  • SS.8.A.1.7: View historic events through the eyes of those who were there as shown in their art, writings, music, and artifacts.
  • SS.912.A.6.15: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as they relate to United States history.
    Examples are Mosquito Fleet, "Double V Campaign," construction of military bases and WWII training centers, 1959 Cuban coup and its impact on Florida, development of the space program and NASA.
  • SS.912.A.7.17: Examine key events and key people in Florida history as they relate to United States history.
    Examples are selection of Central Florida as a location for Disney, growth of the citrus and cigar industries, construction of Interstates, Harry T. Moore, Pork Chop Gang, Claude Pepper, changes in the space program, use of DEET, Hurricane Andrew, the Election of 2000, migration and immigration, Sunbelt state.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • LAFS.68.RH.2.6: Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
  • LAFS.68.RH.3.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.