Pick A State


Looking For (fill in the blank) In Florida
by Rick Vanderpool

Almost 500 years ago, Juan Ponce de Leon was looking for the fabled “fountain of youth” in Florida. For the past 100 years or so, visitors and retirees from colder climes have been looking for their own versions of rejuvination in the Sunshine State. I thought I was just looking for the word Florida, but found a surprise or two.

To begin with, there are parts of Florida from which one cannot see the ocean. And there are parts of the state without orange trees or people from up nawth who talk funny. Finally, there are real cowboys in Florida – at least by Florida standards…

What I certainly wasn’t looking for in Florida, but found in abundance was evidence of a barbecue culture – not the joints I was used to seeing every 100 yards or so in Texas, but nicer-looking places that made me wonder if the patrons could possibly smell of smoke after dining in them. I’ve been informed, since my initial “looking” visits, however, that I really ought to try some Florida “Q.” It’ll make you forget about seafood and citrus, locals claim, but for a Missouri native, living in Texas, I got just two words – “Show Me Real Barbecue.”

In three trips, totaling 12 days, over a 5 month period (December 2002 – April 2003), I covered just over 4,000 miles and collected approximately 300 photographs of the state name – perhaps the most colorful collection of Stateart images so far, for any state. I plan to try the barbecue my very next visit – as soon as I eat my fill of shrimp, conch chowder, fresh fish, oysters and shrimp [sic].