Conchs are eatable gastropods very popular as a seafood dish in southern Florida and the islands. People see conch shells on the beach in Florida and don’t identify them with the food.
The Queen Conch, also called the pink conch, have been so over-harvested for their meat and beautiful shell that they have no been fished since 1985. Yet, the food is so popular that conch meat is shipped into Florida from the Bahamas. They are found in sea grass and some coral rubble at moderate depths.
There are smaller versions of conch, including the Florida fighting conchs. The male conchs crash together in combat during mating season, which is where the “konks” got their name. They are snails and there are experimental farms raising fighting conchs as a food alternative for the ravenous conch eaters of Florida.
Years ago when I attended FSU I went to a June Watermelon Festival in Chipley (Washington County). I see that after 57 years the Watermelon Festival is still going on strong – this year on June 28-29th.
In the winter Florida caters a lot of food festivals for the tourists with seafood, Cuban, Latin, Greek, and fancy wine.. In the summer, however, it’s time for Southern food, particularly in Panhandle and Northeast Florida.
Expect a big parade down Main Street, plenty of country, blue grass, and gospel music, country crafts and food eating contests. Most of the action will be northwest of downtown at Pals Park.
Summer visitors to Florida can expect a lot of outdoor grilled Southern food and country music if they look up Florida food festivals on the Internet.
The Key West Express (photo above) is a high speed catamaran that takes travelers from Fort Myers Beach to Key West in less than four hours. It is presently Florida’s only long distance coastal above-water boat.
I am sad to say the Cloud 10 Bahamas Ferry, which was a 365-passenger Swath ferry no longer runs from Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island. Maybe it was a little too soon to convince vacationers this was the way to travel or perhaps Nassau was the needed destination.
Swath boats, with their motors in the bottom of each wing offer a smoother ride than regular craft and even catamaran as people who have traveled on them in Canada and Europe already know. I suspect that when travel restrictions change with Cuba, Florida will have the neatest SWATH ferries going between Key West and Havana.
Sitting on the quiet banks of the Ancloate River in Tarpon Springs is St. Luke’s Cataract & Laser Institute, a tribute to the work of Dr. James Gills, the man who has performed more surgeries than any other eye surgeon in the world.
Ronald Reagan, Rev. Billy Graham, Margaret Thatcher, and more have visioted Dr. Gills. But his career doesn’t just envolve medical books, medical awards, and innovations in eye operations.
Dr Gills is the author of over fifty Christian books, which he gives out to patients and visitors. He has built 2,500 churches around the globe.
Some of you may recognize his name with the Iron Man endurance races. Dr. Gills has been a marathon runner and even ran two Iron Man races in one day. Today he just bikes many miles over to his Institute and clinics.
Summer is on the way and its time for Floridians to hit the beaches. Instead of giant and costly resorts and high rise condos, we like those rare commodities: a great bed and beakfast inn DIRECTLY ON THE BEACH.
Here are some choices: Amelia Island Oceanfront B&B (see pic) on the Atlantic in a historic structure is just a mile away from historic Fernandina Beach.
A 1925 coquina block beachfront gem on Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island Harrington House is highly rated for good reason. Over on St. Augustine Beach is the delightful Beachfront Bed and Breakfast with heated pool, Jacuzzi, and big waterfront lawn.
If you like the Florida Keys, try the Conch Key Cottages, a great place to take a kayak off a private piece of sand beach. If you like Panhandle seclusiuon, it’s hard to beat the Turtle Beach Inn, a low key wonder on secluded Indian Pass Beach.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands are well known for their strong rules protecting the environment, but the islands are equally supportive of preserving the islands’ past.
The Sanibel Historical Village and Museum has saved an entire village of island history: 1896 Schoolhouse, 1900 Sanibel Packing House, 1926 Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room, 1927 Old Bailey General Store, and several pioneer cottages.
Equally impressive is how landmark resorts have saved original buildings. The 1890 Thistle Lodge is the restaurant at the Casa Ybel Resort. The Charles Linbergh Cottage and the Old Captiva House stand at Captiva’s Tween Waters Inn. The Island Inn and the South Sea Islands Plantation feature original structures.
In a Florida where high rise condos have replaced Old Florida architecture, it is nice to visit a progressive resort that recognizes the value of historic preservation.
South of Disney World is “cattle country” in Florida and more and more cattlemen are turning to “Cracker cattle” – the wild ancestors of cattle brought to Florida by the Spanish for local consumption.
After the Civil War bigger breeds (even Brahman) were brought into the state since Cracker cows are small (under 1,000 pounds) and a little wild. By the 1950’s Floridians raised Angus and other breeds for shipment to the Great Plains to be fattened.
But in recent years, as the acreage for farming has declined across Florida, the pioneer cows on on the rise. They are low in fat and tasty, with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids from eating Florida grass, not formulated corn and grains.
So next time you drive across Central Florida and see a herd of mangy little cows, don’t laugh – they may be on your dinner plate later that day.