Florida Food Adventures

Where do you go when you’re heading out on vacation for the first time in 10 years?  Tim and I debated this question for months. In the end the answer was . . . Florida!
Florida, with its warm sun, fun family, endless ocean fronts, and wild Everglades. And, of course, with its year-round seasonal foods harvested fresh from land and sea. We couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into slices of Pineapple Orange picked ripe off the tree and dig our forks into Mahi Mahi hand-delivered from boat to restaurant.
alligator everglades

The sawgrass prairie, the river of grass of the Everglades.

But after a couple of days in Florida, we began to question our notion of the Florida foodie Xanadu. We had assumed that this region, being the warm tourist destination that it is, would be a haven of year-round fresh, local foods. But we were having trouble finding farm-to-table restaurants or even restaurants featuring some local foods. Fresh? Well, it was fresh off the truck. Did that count?

And after the first couple of days in Florida we also began to question our notion that the rest of the world is into fresh local foods as much as we are. We had assumed that everyone naturally shared our opinion that eating on vacation is all about getting the most fresh, most local, most seasonal foods possible onto your plate so you can revel in adventurous tastes you just can’t get back home. But when we consulted with the locals on where to find “good food,” few naturally concluded that “good” meant fresh and local. You can only imagine my reaction when not once, but twice, well-meaning Floridians suggested that we might find good food at Pizza Hut. (Pizza Hut!)

Discouraged but not defeated, we pressed on in our quest for the fresh, the local, the tasty. Our perseverance paid off. Once we explained what we were hoping to find, friends and relatives led us directly to it.

florida foodies farmers table

A farm-to-table find in Boca Raton.

And eventually, while wandering the highways of southern Florida, we stumbled across a couple of roadside fruit and nut stands. The fresh local food was there, but we had to go find it instead of letting it find us.

florida foodies juice stand

A local citrus grove’s roadside store.

Our Florida food adventures got me to thinking about food back home. Is eating local really that big of a deal in Iowa? Maybe I just see what I want to see; maybe I’m just really good at noticing the Buy Fresh, Buy Local signs. Maybe local foods are not as abundant as I believe them to be; maybe it’s just that I know where to look for them. Maybe it’s just as hard to find local foods in Iowa (especially in the warm days of Iowa) as it is in Florida.

And then I got to thinking, do I even eat local foods at home as much as I think I do? I like to source local when I can because I’ve found that local foods usually are fresher and taste better, and I’ve learned that better taste usually derives from better nutrition. Also, I like to know how my food is raised. I like to support farmers whose practices build soil and emphasize sustainability.  I want to know my food is good for me and my world. And I like to support my local community.

Our Florida food adventures inspired me to take a closer look at how I eat at home. How we as people eat affects our bodies, our land, and our neighbors in ways we don’t even realize. How we eat absolutely matters. Now more than ever I’m striving to become more aware, more active, and more deliberate in my food choices. I have Florida to thank for that!

florida foodies cover

Not pictured: awesome key lime milkshakes!

What do you think? Do you have an eating philosophy?