Three years in the sunshine and the only authentic dish I can report is smoked mullet, sublime at its prime. Most of the other semi-indigenous stuff was transplants, like black beans and rice (Cuban) and soft boiled pnuts (Good Ole Southern Chow).
At least I got to appreciate cheese grits, with Crystal pepper vinegar of course.
To my taste, the shame of most cuisine in Florida (excepting the fancy places) was how much the chain places serving transplanted Northerners have, like so much strangler fig, choked all the native flora to death.
I've never been a more frustrated eater in my life than looking for a good seafood place on the Gulf Coast. I spent three years just north of St. Pete (Pasco County) and there were two places on the water that served blue-collar seafood. One of them closed while I was there and the other one was (shudder) Hooters.
Now, I'm not talking about places that could charge you $15.95 for a piece of grouper. There were lots of those. I'm talking about daily eats.
Even more frustrating: try to buy a piece of fresh fish to cook yourself. Publix, the Death Star of Florida groceries, had snuffed out all the little local seafood shops (I'm talking places that have docks out back for the boats to pull up, and a counter up front to sell the goods) except for this one up in Hudson, which was just the ticket, but a bit far to go for daily foraging.
My wife saw me come home one day and I was grinning so hard she thought I was drunk. Then I opened the car trunk and showed her my treasure: 10 pounds of boat-run shrimp, utterly fresh, from a guy who ran his own boat out when he needed alimony money and sold them on the sly to cheat the revenooers.
I pricked myself plenty deheading them, but they were stabs of glory: I realized that I had never before seen really fresh shrimp, which can stab you with their heads and their tails if you're not careful.
But how do you cook 'em when you want the best, I had asked the grizzled shrimper, bracing myself for a transporting flood of shrimp recipe wisdom.
Oh heck, I just go up to Red Lobster when I want shrimp, he said. Just easier that way.
I wish I was kidding.
[This message has been edited by Live_to_cook (edited 12-28-2000).]