Columbia Restaurant Cookbook

The original Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City is Florida’s oldest restaurant. They expanded their operation to St. Augustine’s historic district in the 1980s bringing the family’s traditional Spanish recipes with them. The cookbook is full of recipes for many of their signature dishes.

The restaurant has remained in the same family throughout its history and Adela Gonzmart, one of the authors, is part of that family. Ferdie Pacheco, the other author, is a Ybor City native who spent a good part of his life in and around the Columbia. Both add many anecdotes about the restaurant and the family. It is a delicious reading experience.

Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie

Anyone interested in traditional Florida cooking will find Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ classic, Cross Creek Cookery, a delight. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because she is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Yearling. After her success with The Yearling, she wrote a non-fiction account of her life at Cross Creek in rural central Florida. Since she enjoyed entertaining and was quite proud of her cooking skills, Cross Creek described many of her favorite dishes. That book was published in 1942 and was picked up by Book-of-the-Month Club. A special armed forces edition was sent overseas during World War II. As a result, she received a lot of mail wanting recipes for those dishes. Cross Creek Cookery was published later that same year. From the introduction:

Men in the Service have written me from Hawaii, the Philippines, Australia, Ireland and Egypt. Always there was a wistful comment on my talk of foods; often a mention of a boyhood kitchen memory. Eight out of ten letters from Cross Creek ask for a recipe, or pass on a recipe, or speak of suffering over my chat of Cross Creek dishes.

Although there are many “Old Florida” recipes like Spoonbread, Poke Weed and Gopher Stew, you’ll also find some of her prized recipes like Lobster Newburg, Steak and Kidney Pie and Utterly Deadly Pecan Pie. Of course there’s many a story to go along with these recipes so the book is both delicious and entertaining. Here is Marjorie Rawlings’ recipe for pecan pie – and yes, it is “utterly deadly”.

Marjorie Rawlings' Utterly Deadly Pecan Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups Southern cane syrup
  • 1 ½ cups broken pecan meats
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Boil sugar and syrup together two or three minutes. Beat eggs not too stiff, pour in slowly the hot syrup, add the butter, vanilla and the pecan meats, broken rather coarsely. Turn into a raw pie shell and bake in a moderate oven about forty-five minutes, or until set.

Her comment about this recipe – just before she offers her “reasonable” pecan pie recipe – is priceless:

I have nibbled at the Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie, and have served it to those in whose welfare I took no interest, but being inclined to plumpness, and having as well a desire to see out my days on earth, I have never eaten a full portion.