Food Through Culture: Mulatto Rice

The dynamic duos of rice and beans and peas and rice have their roots in the Akan, Aja, Yoruba and Igbo kitchens in Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria and Gabon. When Africans arrived in the Americas, they continued cultivating these crops, so rice and beans dishes can be found throughout the African diaspora: red beans and rice; Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice); black beans and rice; and pigeon peas and rice. The popularity of these dishes as staples and special occasion foods continued after the abolition of slavery.

In the seventeenth century, West Africans from Cape Verde to the Gold Coast cultivated large amounts of rice. They grew so much rice, in fact, that they became known as the people of the Rice Coast. White rice planters in the South sought out West Africans for purchase as slaves because of their knowledge of rice cultivation. These West Africans brought their methods of cooking long-grain rice with them to the colonial South. The African cook made her greatest culinary mark on areas like Savannah, where blacks outnumbered Europeans. Mulatto rice is evidence of diasporic links between Africa and several regions of the Americas. Zora Neale Hurston begins and concludes her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God with rice and bean dishes. While Janie tells her friend Phoebe about how her grandmother escaped from slavery in Savannah and migrated first to Atlanta and then to West Florida, Janie is enjoying a plate of mulatto rice. “Mah mulatto rice ain’t so good dis time. Not enough bacon grease, but Ah reckon it’ll kill hungry,” says Phoebe. “Ah’ll tell you in a minute,” Janie says, lifting the cover off the plate. “Gal, it’s too good. You switches a mean fanny round in a kitchen.”

Mulatto Rice Recipe

6 strips bacon
½ cup onions, minced
2 cups water
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 cup rice

Fry bacon in a pan then remove the bacon and brown a minced onion in the bacon grease. Next, add diced tomatoes. After it is hot, add a pint of rice to the mixture, and cook slowly until the rice is done.

Source: Zora Neale Hurston on Florida Food: Recipes, Remedies and Simple Pleasures

Ponce de Leon Explores Florida

Ponce de Leon was the governor of Puerto Rico and due to political intrigue within the Spanish Empire he was encouraged to explore a new “island” that was said to be to the Northwest. On March 4th 1513, he set forth on an expedition that he financed from Puerto Rico. On April 2nd they sited land, and which they called Florida. To this day the exact location of the landing has been disputed, some believe it was where St Augustine is today others believe it is Melbourne Beach. After exploring the area the fleet explored further south. Leon sailed through the Florida Keys and then up the West coast of Florida. After eight months he returned to Puerto Rico. Ponce de Leon was greeted as a hero in Spain and given a further charter to explore Florida. He sailed with a new fleet in 1515, but when Ferdinand died in Spain the exploration was cut short.

In 1521 Ponce de Leon led another expedition to Florida. This one goal was to settle Florida. They arrived at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. There they were attacked by the Calusa indians. Leon was injured in the attack by a poison arrow. He soon died from his wounds and that ended the expedition. Over the years the story has taken hold that Leon was seeking the mythical fountain of youth. That story seems not based on historic evidence

Urban Legends: The Devil’s Chair (Cassadaga, Florida)

Cassadaga, Fla., is known as a home for many spiritualists and retired circus performers but it is also home to a spooky legend. The story of The Devil’s Chair has been passed down for decades. The “chair” is actually a brick graveside bench in Lake Helen-Cassadaga Cemetery. Many local legends surround the bench. One is that “an unopened can of beer left on the chair will be empty by morning,” according to “In some accounts, the can is opened, and in others, the beer is simply gone, through the unopened top.” Another part of the legend says that visitors who dare to sit on the bench will be visited by the devil.

13 Gypsies – Jacksonville, Florida


With a heritage firmly rooted in Spain and dating back more than 35 years, 13 Gypsies strives to bring you a taste of true mediterranean flavors. As many restaurants push food innovation, 13 Gypsies proudly work and strive to preserve traditional recipes and flavors before they are lost. Staying true to his roots, Chef Howard runs his kitchen with a passion for the simple and elegant food of the old world – passing on his love and passion to young new cooks.

887 Stockton Street

Jacksonville, Florida 32204

Land – 904.389.0330

Fax – 904.389.0220



Dockside Seafood Restaurant – Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Dockside Seafood Restaurant (formerly Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant) is perched along the east edge of the Jacksonville Beach Boat ramp where you’re entertained with views of the majestic marsh and lively boating scene.

Located on 2nd Street, Dockside Seafood Restaurant is perched along the east edge of the Jacksonville Beach Boat ramp where you’re entertained with views of the majestic marsh and lively boating scene. Experience a casual setting that boasts the high-quality, fresh seafood you expect from local restauranteurs Benjamin and Liza Groshell. Visit and enjoy a local icon!

If fresh fish and oysters awaken your taste buds, stop in today for an unforgettable lunch or dinner with lively atmosphere, knowledgeable and friendly service, and spectacular views.


2510 2nd Ave North,
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250


Photo Essay : Palm Valley Fish Camp & Marker 32 (Jacksonville Beach, FL)

Palm Valley Fish Camp Palm Valley Fish Camp

Palm Valley Fish Camp and Marker 32 are two restaurants in the Jacksonville area that I frequent.  They are both seafood restaurants owned and operated by the same owners.  Palm Valley is a much more casual restaurant, and usually my preference, but Marker 32 is a great date or special occasion restaurant.

Palm Valley Fish Camp

Broiled Oysters Broiled Oysters
Fried Green Tomatoes Fried Green Tomatoes
Cajun Crawfish Cajun Crawfish
Stone Crab Stone Crab
Flounder Pan Sauteed Flounder With Mashed Skin-On Red Potatoes And Sauteed Zuchinni & Yellow Squash
Fried Shrimp Fried Shrimp, Fries, Hushpuppies, Coleslaw
Bacon Butter Beans Bacon Butter Beans
Cod Roasted Cod with Blackeye Pea Succotash, Squash Puree over a Fried Green Tomato.
Lowcountry Boil Lowcountry Boil : Shrimp, Clams, Crawfish and Andouille Sausage for two.

Marker 32

Broiled Oysters Broiled Oysters Appetizer : with bacon, spinach & sundried tomatoes.
Crab Cakes Southern style Blue Crab cakes with caper dill aiolli, Crushed Portatoes & steamod Spinach
Fried Shrimp & Fennel Fries Fried local shrimp with celery root slaw, sweet fennel salt fries
Seared Scallops with spicy shrimp and corn broth, Grits, Collard Greens and House Dried Tomatoes Seared Scallops with spicy shrimp and corn broth, Grits, Collard Greens and House Dried Tomatoes
Herb grilled Snapper with basil pesto and Hoppin John Herb grilled Snapper with basil pesto and Hoppin John
Bouillabaisse Bouillabaisse

Palm Valley Fish Camp: An Afternoon Lunch (Ponte Vedra, Florida)

Originally published in 2013:

Recently I stopped by for lunch after being out shooting some photos, my other passion.  I was immediately greeted with a smile and an eager server.  I was asked if I’d prefer to sit at the bar or a table.  I don’t sit at the bar often these days after my liver transplant, as it brings back memories of a time in my life I have put into the past.  I chose a booth with the sun nicely warming my side of the booth.  I read down the daily specials board as my waitress went to get me my soda.  My plan had been to order an appetizer as I didn’t feel I was starving.  I was quickly drawn to the fried green tomatoes and maybe a side of their bacon butter beans which I love.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Bacon Butter Beans

Ready to order the waitress returned with my soda and offered to explain the specials.  I agreed even though I was certain I knew what I was going to have.  I smiled and said, “I’ll have the cod special.”  She had sold me on the roasted cod knowing I could have the fried green tomatoes and butter beans anytime.  I realized this would be my first time here not having the bacon butter beans in nearly a year.  I love them that much.  I waited and watched the interactions of the staff as they took orders, filled drink orders, interacted with the cooks and delivered each meticulously designed plate.

Specials Board

Soon my meal arrived, roasted cod with black-eyed pea succotash, and squash puree all resting on a fried green tomato.  I instantly knew I had ordered the right meal today.  There was a voice in the back of my mind screaming out for a side of butter beans, but I ignored it on this occasion.  It is rare when I am at Palm Valley Fish Camp that I will order anything that is not a local wild sustainable fish, but the cod was very fresh and flown in from the west coast.  The cod was lightly roasted with just a bit of color and flaked off easily so you could see how moist it was.  One of the things that keeps me returning over and over again is that they hardly ever overcook a piece of fish.  It sounds easy, but I’ve lost count at how many seafood restaurants server a dry tasteless and thoroughly unsatisfying fish fillet.

Roasted Cod

The cod had a nice salt balance which was perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the fresh corn and black-eyed pea succotash.  My first bite was of the fish alone.  It was very pleasant, but did not blow me away.  When eaten with the succotash the flavors melded into a delightful light tasting lunch.  The squash puree was richly sweet and left me perfectly wanting more.  Then there was the thick sliced fried green tomato upon which the cod rested.  It was nicely crisp and hot inside with just the right amount of breading.  The tang of the tomato was a nice counterbalance to the lightly roasted cod.  After all the fried green tomatoes was what I had planned to order the whole time anyway.  I was very pleased that my waitress had enticed me with her suggestion of the special today.  I would go away with only a slight yearning for their bacon butter beans, but I’ll be back and quite soon I am sure.  It was a great lunch for only $16.00 with the soda.  As I left I made reservations for the Friday after Thanksgiving.  I wonder if I’ll make it the two weeks between visits.  I know those bacon butter beans will be calling me to return sooner…

What and Where is Florida’s First Coast?

I receive much of my information from living on the First Coast, so what and where exactly is the first coast?

Florida’s First Coast is a region of the U.S. located on the Atlantic coast of North Florida. The First Coast refers to the same general area as the region of Northeast Florida. It comprises the five counties surrounding Jacksonville: Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns, largely corresponding to the Jacksonville metropolitan area, and depending who you ask includes nearby areas Putnam and Flagler counties in Florida and Camden County in Georgia. As its name suggests, the First Coast was the first area of Florida colonized by Europeans. The name originated in a marketing campaign in the 1980’s.

The name refers both to the area’s status as the first coast that many visitors reach when entering Florida, as well as to the region’s history as the first place in the continental United States to see European contact and settlement. Juan Ponce de León may have landed in this region during his first expedition in 1513, and the early French colony of Fort Caroline was founded in present-day Jacksonville in 1564. Significantly, the First Coast includes St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited European-established city in the continental U.S., founded by the Spanish in 1565.

The First Coast marketing campaign and identity has been very popular with its spread to other nearby areas, being found as far south as Flagler Beach in Flagler County, Palatka in Putnam County, and as far north as St. Mary’s, Georgia.