Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Features and More

Gulfport's Bob Worthington shares his secret recipe for fried mullet

WHO: Bob Worthington, 64, of Gulfport, a retired Honeywell mechanical engineer, fire captain, vice mayor of Gulfport and council member; married with four children.

WHAT: Fried mullet.

ABOUT THE RECIPE: Worthington's family has been in Gulfport ever since his great-great-grandfather, a wounded Civil War soldier, "settled down by the shore" in 1865. He was the first white settler of Gulfport, and his family never left. He said he grew up learning to fish with the tides, catching clams and scallops or casting for mullet. Fried mullet is "what we grew up on," he says, adding that he and his five siblings often ate grits and mullet for breakfast.

Today, he and older brother Lou still fish as much as they can, although Bob says they "don't do it near enough."

As they cast for mullet in Lou's 22-foot Carolina skiff — Bob has a boat, too, but Lou says it's too fancy — they "just talk quietly" and "think about ideas." Fall is the best time for mullet fishing, since that's when the mullet are fat and full of roe.

In the spring, Bob fishes for shrimp in the grass flats near Fort De Soto, wading knee-deep in water during the night with only a spotlight to help him find the tiny crustaceans. When July comes, the brothers go scalloping at Horseshoe Beach, a tiny North Florida community with one restaurant and no stoplights. It's the ideal place to get away, Bob says. They snorkel in water that is about 5 feet deep and so clear and pristine they can see all the colorful sponges on the sea floor as they scoop scallops with a dip net.

Fishing isn't just a way for the brothers to bond. It's also a chance to connect with their community. The Worthington brothers serve their famous fried mullet at their annual February fish fry, as well as at Gulfport's Birthday Bash each October. The fish fry began as a birthday celebration for Lou's daughter, which she expanded into a canned foods drive. Now, politicians, neighbors and even family from Washington and New Jersey flock to the event for hush puppies and fried mullet. This year they had 175 guests.

"They love it," Bob says. Since he removes the skin before frying, it doesn't taste too fishy. Some people even say it's as good as grouper.

Hosting large gatherings "kind of came out of our roots," Bob explains. Growing up in a house without air-conditioning, the Worthington family escaped the sweltering summer heat by heading to the beach on Saturday nights. The whole community came out and had a picnic.

"All us kids would go play at the water … and everybody would sit down there till 9 or 10 o'clock at night just to be cool, just to stay out of the heat," Bob says.

ON THE SIDE: Hush puppies. "As easy as they are to fix, it seems to be a favorite," he says. At the last birthday bash, they made more than 1,000 hush puppies and still ran out. "I don't think I've eaten one in a long time because they keep going."

CAN'T FISH WITHOUT: Unsweetened iced tea. "We carry our iced tea everywhere with us. We make it fresh just about every day."

Emily Young, special to the Times

If you have a recipe that you would like featured, or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, email [email protected]tampabay.com with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line.

Comments
Philip Roth, towering novelist who explored lust, Jewish life and America, dies at 85

Philip Roth, towering novelist who explored lust, Jewish life and America, dies at 85

Philip Roth, whose sexually scandalous comic novel "Portnoy’s Complaint" brought him literary celebrity after its publication in 1969 and who was eventually hailed as one of America’s greatest living authors for the blunt force and controlled fury of...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Despite hurdles, Ballet Nacional de Cuba returns to Tampa after 15 years

Despite hurdles, Ballet Nacional de Cuba returns to Tampa after 15 years

For decades, the reputation of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba has never dropped below excellent. In a country that prides itself on art, the company represents the best of the best, with a colorful style all its own, a blend of Russian precision and an ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Memorial Day tributes, parades, deals and more around Tampa Bay

Memorial Day tributes, parades, deals and more around Tampa Bay

Bay Pines VA Memorial Day CeremonyFlorida Department of Veterans’ Affairs Executive Director Glenn Sutphin serves as keynote speaker over the event with featured speakers including U.S. Rep. Charlie Christ, military tributes and music by the Suncoast...
Published: 05/23/18
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since."Back in the ’80s, I had a couple of songs that kind of fell on deaf ears. I said, Well, I gu...
Published: 05/23/18
Transform your weeknight cooking with this kitchen tool

Transform your weeknight cooking with this kitchen tool

Once upon a time, way back in the annals of home cooking, there was an era before sheet-pan suppers.In that dark age, even well-equipped kitchens did not have so much as a single professional sheet pan, let alone the two or three deemed indispensable...
Published: 05/23/18
Vanilla is complex, even smoky, and may be a baker’s best friend

Vanilla is complex, even smoky, and may be a baker’s best friend

By Kim OdeSomewhere along the line, vanilla became synonymous with bland or ordinary.Which is just plain wrong.Blame it on a world of Chubby Hubby ice cream and Candy Cane Oreos, where "more" sounds like "better," where fake flavors bolster profits.I...
Published: 05/23/18
8 ways to get on the water in Tampa Bay if you don't own a boat

8 ways to get on the water in Tampa Bay if you don't own a boat

According to the old wisdom, the two happiest days of a boater’s life are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell it. There’s also an argument to be made for the day when a generous friend buys one. Boating, from the sun to the bre...
Published: 05/22/18
Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

Cress Williams of ‘Black Lightning’ talks Season 2, being recognized as a superhero before MegaCon Orlando

No matter what Cress Williams does the rest of his acting career, he’ll always be remembered as the first to play Black Lightning.The 47-year-old actor with roles on ER, Grey’s Anatomy and Friday Night Lights is now that face of a DC comics franchise...
Published: 05/22/18
Give your arms a workout, too

Give your arms a workout, too

In addition to appearance, it is very important to maintain strength in those arms, as they are needed for practically every upper body movement we perform. We often take our 23 arm muscles for granted, until we reach a point where it suddenly become...
Published: 05/22/18
Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Going long hours without eating isn’t good for us, we are often told. Our bodies need fuel regularly. Otherwise, we may become lethargic, tired and hungry. Our thinking can become mushy, our ability to work, and even play, hampered.Not so fast.A new ...
Published: 05/22/18