More Southern Dining: Florida Version

Let’s face it, eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  It’s something you can keep doing long after certain other of life’s greatest pleasures have somewhat…diminished, if not in quality then in quantity. 

Everybody has peculiarities either in the way they eat or in their likes and dislikes, and I find these fascinating.  For instance, in my previous blog on quintessential Southern dining, I mentioned my lunch companion Mrs. H., who included a grilled pork chop on her platter of food.  Upon finding the restuarant had forgotten to order steak knives, and finding that her dinner knife was inadequate, she proceeded to tear the meat off with her fingers.  She said she hoped I didn’t think she was being rude, but she was from the country.  (Translation:  I really don’t care if you think it’s rude or not.)  I was charmed!  I was right there with her!  Go for it! 

One of my quirks is that I’ve always, at least since I left home and could get away with it, eaten only when I’m hungry.  I have never adhered to any schedule.  I believe that eating when it’s “time” is a contributing factor to obesity, since it encourages people to eat when they aren’t hungry.  Of course, the case can be made that by adhering to a schedule, you’ve trained your body to be “hungry” when it’s “time”.  In any case, my method surely saved me from becoming a complete blimp as opposed to a mini-blimp (a subject covered in my blog “How Much Do You Weigh?”) 

However, in the last three years, my method turned out to have a downside.  My appetite went to hell in a handbasket, which forced me to eat because I had to, and that, my friends, is no fun whatsoever.  I used to wander forlornly through the aisles of the grocery store, hoping to spy something that would spark my interest.  I’m not quite that bad any more, but I am to some degree.  Therefore, when I have a food craving of some sort out of the blue, I satisfy it immediately.  After satisfying my craving for fried green tomatoes earlier in the week, I found that I had a craving for oysters, which brings me to lunch at Barnacle Bill’s. 

Barnacle Bill’s is an institution in Tallahassee–it’s been around 30 or 40 years.  It lies on the main drag (Monroe Street), sandwiched between a Wendy’s (ugh!) and an “international” food grocery (translation:  Hispanic).  BB’s manages to replicate quite nicely the kind of seafood houses you might find on the coast, say in Appalachicola.  It has a huge raw bar in the center of the room, surrounded by booths.  The restroom doors read “Maine” and “Womaine”.  There are grains of rice in the salt shaker, to counteract the humidity.  There is a basket of crackers on the table, and they are all saltines.  No variations allowed.  If a sissy thing like some multi-grain cracker were to invade the basket, it would be stomped to death by its saltine neighbors.

I started with a dozen on the half-shell.  (Note re: oyster etiquette.  One does not order a dozen oysters on the half-shell.  One orders “a dozen on the half-shell” or “a dozen raw”.  The word “oyster” is redundant.)  While you wait for them to be fresh-shucked, your server brings you the de rigeur condiments:  ketchup, cocktail sauce, and hot sauce (in this case, Crystal hot sauce, which I totally reject in favor of Tabasco).

The oysters themselves come with an oyster fork, a slice of lemon, and a tiny cup of horseradish, along with a slightly larger cup so that you can mix the horseradish with the house cocktail sauce in case theirs isn’t horseradishy enough for you. 

After that, I had the two item combo and chose catfish and oysters (again).  Those come with French fries, corn fritters (actually little hushpuppy sized balls of creamed corn, dipped in batter and fried) and your choice of cole slaw or cheese grits.  Against my better judgement, I picked the cole slaw.  Which brings me to my rant about cole slaw. 

I am in despair that I will ever find cole slaw in the South which doesn’t have sugar in it.  A proper cole slaw has only five ingredients:  cabbage, mayonnaise, vinegar, and salt and pepper.  However, if they have to put sugar in it, it’s at least better than putting mustard in it.  I consider this to be the unforgiveable sin, right up there with putting ketchup on eggs. 

In this case, they used a combination of green and red cabbage.  I have nothing against red cabbage, but in cole slaw, it turns the mayonnaise pink, which completely spoils the aesthetics.  It took us 50 years to understand that tea can be served without sugar in it, so perhaps in another 50 we will get cole slaw without sugar. 

Despite these minor flaws, the attraction of Barnacle Bill’s is this:  You can trust them.  I don’t know who their suppliers are, but they have some sort of direct pipeline to the coast, 25 miles away.  They know how to handle seafood and freshwater fish as well.  (It isn’t a real big secret, the answer is…lots of ice.  But where other restaurants are casual about it, there is real quality control at BB’s.)  Year-round, they have the best and largest oysters.  You can eat them and know that you will not get sick.  That takes some genius, and it explains why they’ve been in business 30 or 40 years.  My only advice is, if you go–and you should–order the cheese grits.


13 responses to “More Southern Dining: Florida Version

  1. I guess I’ll never make it to Fakename heaven. I can’t eat scrambled eggs without ketchup. My unforgivable sin is putting ketchup in the ice box.

  2. And you would never eat raw oysters either 🙂 My theory about ketchup: if you eat it (which I never do) that’s all you can taste. So you must not really like the taste of eggs.

  3. My “problem” is that I’m usually hungry. At least in my mind. At least, it doesn’t matter whether I’m munching on pizza or an apple. Otherwise, I’d be a complete bloat.

  4. Smoking is good for that problem. Of course, it creates a few other problems…But back to eggs! I see I will never be able to have breakfast with either of you two.

  5. Here at Fakesister’s household, we often have breakfast items for dinner. Country ham, red (or yellow or orange, never green) bell peppers, red onions, parmesan and sharp cheddar omelet for instance. Or country ham, parmesan, and parsley torte. Or French toast. Eggs never go to waste around here!

  6. Remind me not to make coleslaw for you – my dressing has sugar. Not all that much sugar, but a purist like yourself will not approve. It is, nevertheless, much appreciate by my family-in-law!

  7. Is this another genetic thing? Green peppers make me sick.

  8. Fakesister, your family-in-law is from Georgia. This might explain it all.

  9. I used to love green bell peppers; now I Do Not Eat Them. But ripe ones, i.e., red/yellow/orange, are still OK.

    My family-in-law are not only from GA but only a generation removed from the back woods. Although the maternal side of the in-laws is also from Tennessee, like us.

  10. “I have never adhered to any schedule. I believe that eating when it’s ”time” is a contributing factor to obesity, since it encourages people to eat when they aren’t hungry. ”

    Amen sister. That’s my rule of thumb. Eating late is the devil that will grow you a spare ass cheek in one week flat. I live off Smart Ones mostly out of laziness, but they also keep me svelt (to a degree).

    You know what else I did that has made a HUGE difference? I take the Nature’s Bounty Women’s vitamins. They kill my naughty cravings and I have more energy. I think that part of the problem was that I was craving foods because I was not getting my RDA of vitamins and my body was trying to get them from the naughty foods. They come in individual packets with 6 different supplements like vitamin e, iron, omegas, calcium, etc. I swear to god these vitamins have kept me slim:

  11. Fakesister: let us not talk about people one generation removed from the backwoods 🙂 By my calculation, we are only two!
    Anne: I don’t seem to be able to make myself take vitamins. Lack of discipline I expect. But I admire your tenacity, especially since as the mother of a little boy, you must have to do the “regular meals” thing, at least for him.
    In my case, I lost weight due to what I refer to as the cancer diet. 3 1/2 years ago I had appendicitis and had an emergency appendectomy, followed 4 months later by a diagnosis of breast cancer and all that goes with that (2 surgerys, 7 weeks of radiation). That year (2006), I lost 21 pounds. After the end of radiation, I stopped losing, but I’m not gaining either. Okay with me.

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