Compared to other cities like Boston and New York, Miami is a mere teen. But that doesn't mean we haven't amassed a rich culinary culture that's as sizzling as its sands in July.
Author Mandy Baca explores Miami's food scene, starting with Pre-Columbian south Florida and working up to today in The Sizzling History of Miami Cuisine: Cortaditos, Stone Crabs, & Empanadas, a book that combines Miami food, history, and culture in one tome.
People who grew up in Miami (or vacationed here as kids) will enjoy taking a walk down memory lane with the beginnings of Burger King (starting out as Insta-Burger King) and Royal Castle. Baca, who wrote for Short Order and Broward-Palm Beach sister blog, Clean Plate Charlie in 2011 and 2012, had been researching the book for years. "I've had this project on my mind since about 2007. There were cookbooks and history books, but there were no books that merged both subjects in Miami."
Feeling overwhelmed, Baca took a break from the book, but kept the information and research she had already complied. Then, Baca started the project again in October 2012 and, refreshed, completed it in six months
"It was a very quick turnaround, because much of the research was already there."
What did Baca learn from all those years of research and chef interviews?
"I was surprised at how much history does play a part in how and what we eat," she says. "Back in Miami in the 1920s, people had no money for food so they lived on what they caught in the sea and grew in their backyards. I think people forget that living their daily lives now. I mean I'm stuck in traffic so I'll just stop and grab a sandwich on the way home. In the past, it wasn't so easy."
Baca said the easiest part of the writing process was getting people to talk to share their stories. "It was fantastic that chefs were so open with me," she says, "but then I really had to choose what to include in the book because I was getting too many stories."
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Although it looks like there's enough material for a sequel, Baca's next project is a novel. "I can't tell you anymore right now, because I'm still trying to see where the story takes me," she says.
The Sizzling History of Miami Cuisine is available on Amazon.com for $13.01 and at Barnes & Noble.