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Florida For Tourists, Invalids and Settlers, Part I

by: Steve Fussell

Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 22:50:03 PM EST

The Ocklawaha, 1881

In January 1880, Chicago Times correspondent George M. Barbour followed ex-president Ulysses S. Grant on a campaign tour that criss-crossed Florida, cruised down the Ocklawaha River and ventured into the wilds of what are now Lake and Sumter counties on their way to Brooksville.

Here's Barbour on the Ocklawaha:

The steamer began its journey late in the afternoon, to give us a night view of the river, and we all spent the evening, night and morning on deck, deeply interested in watching the scenery, which begins its strangeness at the very outset, and is worth the seeing every rod of the route ["rod" is a surveyor's measure of 16 feet].

It is grand, impressive, strange, tropical---now gloomy and awe-inspiring, now fairy-like and charming, and again weird and wild.

The great forest trees of that region are all of immense size, oaks, gums, magnolias, cypress, etc., interspersed with the more tropical palmetto and palm, all laden and interlocked with a perfrct network of immense vines, too tangled for description, brilliant with vegetation---leaves of all colors, flowers of all shapes, sizes and hues, and loaded with great clusters of mosses.

Every visitor to Florida should make the famous excursion "up the Ocklawaha," and no one who has once made it will be likely ever to forget a night-journey upon what has been called "The Mysterious River."

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The Origin of Buffalo Chicken Wings and Frank's Hot Sauce

by: Steve Fussell

Fri Oct 09, 2009 at 12:00:25 PM EST

Buffalo Chicken Wings were invented by a guy named Frank Bellissimo in Buffalo, NY in the 1940's.

BuffamontiFruitland Park Cafe regular Dick Buffamonti, left, knows how it happened. He was there.

"It was 1946 or 1947, right after the end of World War II," Buffamonti remembered. "I was a kid, 14, 15 years old. We lived on the West Side. I was always hungry."

One evening Buffamonti scored every 15-year old's dream---a date with the Girl Next Door.


"Around the corner from where I lived there was a place called the Anchor Bar, you could get lunch or dinner there," Buffamonti said. "I only had a dollar to my name. I figured we'd get a soda for a nickel."

Anchor Bar owner Frank Bellissimo recognized the young Buffamonti as his next-door neighbor's kid.

Bellissimo brought two plates of fried chicken parts. "They were the pieces nobody wanted," Buffamonti said. "He dipped them in a tangy tomato sauce. It was delicious!"

Bellissimo's grandson turned Frank's Original Sauce into a national condiment, and put Frank's Hot Sauce on the tables of discriminating cafes and diners such as the Fruitland Park Cafe.

Dick Buffamonti was there. 


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How Good Cooks Changed the World

by: Steve Fussell

Fri Oct 09, 2009 at 11:18:23 AM EST

book coverAbout two-and-a-half million years ago, scientists theorize, something odd and wonderful began happening to our earliest human ancestors: little by little, generation by generation, the brains of these short, squat ape-like creatures began to grow larger. That meant our ancestors could think more.

Over the next million years, our posture became more erect, our gait changed to something more like walking, our jaws shrank, our teeth grew smaller and soon-to-be-humans grew taller.

Richard Wrangham thinks it's mostly beacuse we learned to cook our food.

Martha cooksCooking (like Martha, left) makes life better: we can eat a much wider variety of foods year-round. Over a lifetime, it means more nutrition, more energy, longer lifespans and way better health. Over millions of years it means bigger, brainier humans who could learn to adapt to almost any condition and travel to the moon in our spare time. Cooking literally powered our evolution, Wrangham thinks.

His new book---Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human---offers some powerful ideas. Women still do most of the housework these days. What's for dinner and how it's cooked---or why there isn't any dinner on the table tonight because you spent last week's paycheck on new wheels for your Harley---is still one of the biggest reasons husbands and wives argue. Why is that?

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Fruitland Park Cafe
...celebrates honest, hard-working families every day from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., earlier if it's not busy, later if we have customers. We serve a great cup of coffee for 50 cents (you gotta pour it yourself, so "serve" is ambiguous), breakfast for $3, lunch for $5, and it's all cooked to your order. But the best thing about our place is our customers.

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