Florida in January

Before my plane landed in Tampa Friday afternoon (where it would be a balmy 74 degrees!), I did a lot of thinking about the last time I’d touched down in the Sunshine State, back when I was an unhappy freshman, and about how strange our life paths are, with mine taking me from Illinois to Florida to Wisconsin and to Illinois again, and how here I was nine years later, wanting to be in Florida for the weekend when before, I had wanted to be anywhere else.

My friend Elizabeth picked me up at the airport. We had lived together in Unit G—the bed bug unit—and reconnected only recently, through Facebook, drawn into deeper correspondence through, well to be totally honest, this blog, and she lives in the same town as one of my roommates from that college in Wisconsin I ended up transferring to, a roommate who also likes to cook, isn’t that crazy?

Over our fast weekend, we did simple things like eat Thai food at Elizabeth’s favorite hole-in-the-wall place, where I tried Pad Thai for the first time (and loved it):

pad thai

and grabbed breakfast at a bagel place (twice!) where Elizabeth and her family know the people by name, that’s how much they love it (that curly-haired girl is her daughter—gorgeous!):

fishhawk bagels
Fishhawk bagels

and, the highlight of the whole weekend, attended the kumquat festival in Dade City, all because I saw it online and thought it was just crazy enough to be fun, which it was, even with the rain that hit us after about 45 minutes there:

kumquat festival
kumquat pie
slice of kumquat pie

Have you ever had a kumquat, by the way? I hadn’t. While they look like baby oranges, smaller than the palm of your hand, you eat them like apples, skin and all, and they’re sour, not as much as a lemon, but sour. I didn’t hate them, although a few unnamed people in our group certainly did, but on the other hand, at least one of the five kids being carted around with us absolutely loved his. I bought a whole bag for $1, and I still don’t know what to do with them (ideas!?).

kumquat in my hand
kumquats in bag

There was pizza:


and a full night of cooking at Rachel‘s house, where she let me photograph her every move while we made vanilla cookies and kumquat-glazed chicken with rice and grilled pears that were as simple to make as coring, stuffing with cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, butter and coconut and wrapping in tin foil before throwing on the grill in her screened lanai (where it felt like summer outside!):

rachel measuring
rachel and the recipe
rachel with the cream of tartar
rachel cleaning off the chicken
pears baking
grilling at rachel's
grilled glazed chicken
grilled caramelized pears

Anyway, fresh from this Florida weekend, I have to say: there are a lot of big-picture things I can’t comprehend about the way Providence works, about why it is good to have life paths that at times seem nothing but good, but I am glad for glimpses—like the ones I had this weekend, spending time with kind and generous friends I could have never met but, did.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Celeste

    Never had kumquats while living down there but did enjoy Pad Thai with my friend Rachel who lives in Sarasota.
    Rachel had an avocado tree in their yard and I could pick them to my hearts content. So good.
    And, yes I miss that weather and my screened lanai.
    I even miss the geckos.

  2. Amanda

    Could you make a “kumquat” meringue pie? Are they juicy and citrusy like lemons? Thanks for the feast of lovely pictures. Looks like a wonderful time!

  3. Janet

    The one thing my grandma loves about kumquats (good timing as Chinese New Year is coming up!) is preserving them in big vats of water/sugar or simply tossing them into salads with cabbage and even just popping them into your mouth like candy. What about a kumquat drink or cocktail with club soda or something?

    Your post reminded me how much I miss that bond with friends – the incredible joy from making something together and just hanging out. We would make brownies from the no-pudge mix, eat chips, drink margarita’s and whip-up quesdilla’s from her quesdilla maker to watch old episodes of Alias.

  4. Tim

    Hmm… what to do, what to do. You could bring them over and I will be happy to eat them… um… with you. Or you could saute them in olive oil with rosemary and sage and then pour it over potatoes and roast em to make citrusy something potatoes… that sounds good.

  5. rachel

    HI! yeah!!! I love cooking and I ate toast with kumquat marmalade this morning!!
    and i totally found a recipe for a citrus chocolate cake in which the photographer used kumquats instead of oranges and I was all excited… but the recipe only called for oranges.. LOL

  6. AllisonMN

    how about oven-roasted kumquats over greek yogurt. oven roast with butter and brown sugar perhaps…

  7. Shannalee

    Celeste, An avocado tree!? That is something I dream of. Literally.

    Amanda, I think the kumquat pie I tried at the fair was kind of like that, maybe a little more like an icebox cake, and oh my word it was going like hotcakes.

    Janet, Yes. I love the way you put that. There is something so great about the commuting of cooking with friends.

    Tim, That sounds perfect, and I think I will try that this week!

    Rachel, Toast with kumquat marmalade! yum! Thanks again for letting me shadow you in the kitchen – you’re amazing to cook all that with all your kids and everything. So good to see you!

    Allison, Oooh I wonder how that would be? I’m comparing it to oven-roasted lemons in my mind, which makes me apprehensive…

  8. Shannalee

    Ha! Janet – make that COMMUNITY of cooking with friends. Commuting is kind of what I did to get to Florida I guess, but not at all what I meant here.

  9. Kim

    Holy cow – that kumquat pie looks amazing! What a fun trip!

  10. Jessica

    Oh my gosh kumquat festival?? I LOVE that idea. I’ve only had them once and they were delish.

  11. kameran

    my future sister in law made a chocolate orange marbley-cake once that if I recall correctly, actually used a kumquat syrup, or candied kumquats something like that. I don’t mean to plug our own website (sorry!!) but for the sake of a delicious bakeable item, it’s here: http://wongfood.blogspot.com/2009/07/fabulous-orange-chocolate-cake.html

    and if you like pad thai, you should try making it! it’s really not that hard and it’s CRAZY delicious, homemade. I’ve found good recipes on allrecipes before.

  12. Jacqui

    i knew you’d love pad thai. :) great photos!

  13. Megan Gordon

    Well I’ll be darned! Look at all these things people do with kumquats. I had no idea. Pizza?!? Pie?! This was really fun to see–who knew they even had entire festivals devoted to the little guys? Looks like a great trip! Good for you for taking advantage of little, quick trips…that’s the way to do it in the winter!

  14. Jennifer

    Have you been to Baisi Thai in Oakbrook Mall? It’s down the escalator from the main mall part. They have the BEST Pad Thai. My favorite dish there is actually Pad See Ieew, but Pad Thai is a very close second. That restaurant is so good that I dream about it and want to visit Chicago just to go there. Try it some time!

  15. Shannalee

    Kim, It really was a fun trip!

    Jessica, I’m pretty sure any festival celebrating any fruit is a good idea.

    Kameran, Plug away! Thanks for the info!

    Jacqui, You did! You did! You knew it all along! I even told Elizabeth about our Thai experience!

    Megan, Ha! Well to clarify one thing, the pizza was just regular pepperoni, bought at the one restaurant in Dade City where there was room for all of us with a group of kiddos. How awesome would a kumquat pizza be though? Maybe YOU should be in charge of this festival! And yes, I totally agree about little, quick trips. It makes winter go faster.

    Jennifer, I haven’t, but I am making a mental note now! Thanks!

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