This month, our book group read Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I'm sure you know her name as not only was there a movie made of this particular book, but she is most famous for her 1939 Pulitzer Prize winner, The Yearling, which I'm sure you've all read; it also was made into a movie.
I'd never been to this part of Florida so here's a map: (so you're not lost, notice Gainesville a bit north of it)
I added Micanopy to the map, as that's where we stayed (at the Herlong Inn, photo below), practically the only place in the area to spend the night. Cross Creek is about 10 or 15 minutes away. (Micanopy is a Florida town with an interesting history. That history includes Chief Micanopy who was the chief of the Seminole Nation during the 2nd Seminole War from 1835-1842.) They have some nice antique stores and one other gem of a shop, a small bakery, a general store where you can eat a snack during the day, but not much else.
We ate one meal at the famous Yearling restaurant, definitely a Florida cracker type restaurant featuring gator meat, frog legs, catfish, fried green tomatoes, etc. Great fun and we got to hear Willie "Big Toe" Green, who appears to be the entertainer here. He specializes in blues music on the guitar and harmonica, and is quite good. I took a short video with my iPhone, but found this on utube....much better.
When you visit Rawlings' Cross Creek homestead you can walk back in time and experience Florida farm life as it existed during the 1930s. Her cracker-style home and farm, where she lived for 25 years and wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Yearling, has been restored and is preserved as it was when she lived there. In 2007, the house and farm yard were designated as a National Historic Landmark and is a Florida State Park.
She moved to Cross Creek in 1928. (Her first husband was not fond of the isolation and left her soon after. She did remarry....hotelier Norton Sanford Baskin, happily, although she died in her 50's.) She was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and had been living in New York. She immediately fell in love with the isolation of Cross Creek. She felt like she was home for the first time in her life. The Florida Crackers who lived in the area became not just her friends, but the subjects of her books. And also a 5 year long lawsuit....which you can read more about HERE if you're interested.
Some photos of the area; the house and living room are of the Rawlings homestead.
As we toured the home, there was a young woman in the kitchen cooking, on the original wood stove, a recipe from Marjorie's Cookbook, Cross Creek Cookery. (Marjorie was famous for her cooking.) The young woman informed us she did something different each day and today we were having okra and broccoli with hollandaise from the cookbook. The next day she was going to make jelly.
Below is a photo of the original kitchen, laid out with ingredients ready to make for us, and below that, a photo of the recipe in the cookbook, which was outside on the serving table. The hollandaise had a more distinct lemon flavor than mine, which is why I chose to make it for you.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' Okra with Hollandaise
From her cookbook, Cross Creek Cookery
1/2 cup butter
juice of 1 lemon
2 egg yolks
Divide butter into 3 pieces. Put one piece of butter along with the egg yolk and lemon juice in the top of a double boiler over boiling water. Whisk rapidly and constantly. As the butter melts, add another piece of butter. When it begins to thicken, add the third piece of butter and the salt. When thickened, remove from stove immediately and serve.
Have some boiling, salted water going on the stove. Choose fresh okra pods, wash, but do not cut the tops off. Drop into the water and boil exactly 7 minutes, no longer. Drain quickly and serve with hollandaise.
Cooks notes: Choose okra all the same size so they cook evenly. And I dumped them in ice water after the 7 minutes to stop the cooking.
And here we are on the porch of the Herlong Mansion: (only 8 of us were able to go, we have 14 in our group)