Wednesday, November 21, 2012

CAUTION: Writer at Work

For the last few weeks our Story Farm crew has been been [happily] laboring away on a cookbook for John Rivers, of 4Rivers Smokehouse fame.

At a recent photo shoot, when not capturing brilliant images of brisket and cornbread salad and chocolate bread pudding with bacon on top (killer!), photographer Diana Zalucky found me scribbling away in my notepad and asked me to hold it up for the camera. Someone quipped that it looked like the blackboard after Russell Crowe got finished with it in "A Brilliant Mind." I won't go so far as to say that my notes are a brilliant mess -- they're just a plain ol' mess.

But with luck, the photos, the stories and John Rivers' brilliant cooking will all come together over the next few months so we can trot everything out for public consumption in August 2013. Working title: "SOUTHERN COWBOY: The John Rivers Cookbook." But we're still playing around with that. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Recently visited a tropical island where I did all the good things that one should do on a tropical island: I walked and walked and walked; I swam and swam and swam; I ate and ate and ate; and yeah, I had myself a couple of tropical-island drinks, too.

Let's turn this into a contest. First person to identify this tropical island wins a free copy of BAJA FLORIDA. Or the e-book of your choice.

So let the guesses begin...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Carnivore's Defense

A recent story in the New York Times asked if any of us who call ourselves carnivores could offer an ethical defense for eating meat. Here’s mine:

As human beings, each of us has an ethical duty to help guarantee that our seven-billion member tribe retains a toehold on this planet. Just as we wouldn’t stop ingesting oxygen because it makes us emit carbon dioxide, nor should we stop eating meat because it makes us harvest lower life forms. Eating meat, for better or worse, got us to where we are today. With judicious application, it will help insure our ongoing survival. To wholly castigate the consumption of meat is to mark our kind, if not for extermination, then at least, in the short run, with less favorable odds for enduring. Where is the ethos in that?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


So what happened was: I made deviled eggs on Easter but they turned out a tad too runny. Kinda like egg-salad soup. On account of I put a bit too much sweet pickle juice in the mix and maybe a tad too much sour cream, too.

So how do you fix that? Adding flour would be unspeakable. Didn't have any bread crumbs. What kind of thickener could save the moment?

Then I remembered the bag of pork rinds that I'd bought a couple of days earlier on a road trip back from Gainesville. They were still nice and crispy. Heck, pork rinds stay nice and crispy almost forever.

What if ...

So I made pork rind flour. Took a bunch of them, tossed them in my coffee grinder -- along with a little coffee dust -- and then added the somewhat gooey result to the eggs. Problem solved. The pork rind flour sucked up the extra liquid and the deviled eggs took on a smoky, meaty character that gave them real stand-up-and-salute substance. In other words: deviled eggs that were even deadlier than the normal deviled eggs, two-bite cardiac bombs.

I put a tray of them out for my luvverly wife to sample and asked if she could i.d. the secret ingredient. She ate two of them before I told her, and then she ate another. So I would judge them a raging success.

Now I'm thinking what else would benefit from the goodness of pork rind flour? Pancakes perhaps?

Friday, March 30, 2012


I'm stealing this one from my pal, Jim Swain, and retelling it here in honor of the upcoming Florida Film Festival. Forgive me, but

Guy comes home from work and his wife greets him at the door with a lustful embrace and says: "I want you to make love to me just like they do in the movies."

So he rips off her clothes, drags her to the bedroom, and spends the rest of the evening making love in every way he has ever imagined. And then some. The next morning, he wakes up to find that his wife has packed her bags and moved out.

"Why did she do that?" his buddy asks.

"Beats me," the guy says. "I guess we just don't watch the same movies."

Monday, March 26, 2012


That's Charles Portis in the photo, former newspaperman, Arkansas hermit, and author of "The Dog of the South," "Norwood," "Masters of Atlantis," and "Gringos." Yes, he also wrote "True Grit," which, despite its various film interpretations as a western, is really, at its heart, a crime novel.

In my Crime Fiction class at Rollins College, students write the first 25 pages of a crime novel, and I teach them to pay particular attention to their opening pages. Most readers these days -- and that includes agents and editors -- have really short attention spans. If you don't grab them from the get-go, then all is lost. They certainly aren't gonna hang around for more than 25 pages to see if the book gets better. Nope, everything hinges on that first page.

Each term, I share with my students the opening paragraph of "True Grit." It has everything you could possibly want in an opening paragraph: conflict, setting, a strong and compelling narrative voice, and a terse summation of what the reader should expect in the pages ahead. Here it is:

"People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band. Here is what happened."

I tell my students that if they succeed in writing an opening paragraph better than that one, they'll get an automatic "A" and don't have to attend class for the rest of the term. Hasn't happened yet, but there's always hope.

Thank you, Charles Portis.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

(One of my) New Favorite Florida Artists

This is what I took home from the Winter Park Art Festival. It's called "Blowin' In" and it depicts one of my favorite Florida sights: Sandhill cranes lighting down on Paynes Prairie, just south of Gainesville.

It's a relief print made from original carved blocks of wood by G-ville artist, Leslie Peebles. I had a really tough time picking just one of Leslie's prints. I loved the one of mullet swarming above a spring boil in the Itchetucknee. Ditto with her depiction of pileated woodpeckers and black skimmers and palm trees and gopher tortoises. If you would like to see more of her work -- and this is something you really need to do -- then go here.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I mean, just because I've got four -- count 'em, four -- pairs of glasses sitting on my desk and close at hand, that doesn't mean a thing. Nor does it matter that I probably have another three or four located at strategic locations around the house (Downstairs bathroom? Check. Master bathroom? Check. Office bathroom? Hells to the yeah.)

Please note that up there in the left-hand corner I also have a knife. A very sharp vintage Florida fruitpicker's knife. I hone its blade each day.

It's at the ready should anyone choose to mock me for keeping so many pairs of glasses at my beck and call. 

Not to worry. I have no intention of posting about how many times a day I have to stop work in order to pee. Or how I can never find a damn thing. Including my glasses.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


So this guy is driving down the Florida Keys and he stops at a roadside joint. There's a good-looking woman working the takeout window. Sign on the wall behind her says:

Conch fritters: $5
Grouper sandwiches: $10
Hand jobs: $15

Guy asks the woman: "You the one who gives hand jobs?"

She smiles and says: "Why, yes, I am."

Guy says: "So wash your damn hands and give me a grouper sandwich."