Like many Floridians, Betsy Crisp traces her roots to other parts. Her mother brought her own traditions from Iowa. Her dad was famous for serving family recipes from Pennsylvania, which he passed on to his daughter when he taught her how to cook.
Even so, some of Crisp's best memories of growing up in Florida happened when Northern relatives came to visit. Then it was all about good, old-fashioned Southern cooking.
"We always made sure to serve the local foods," Crisp said. "We loved introducing them to the things we have here."
Buying local is back in vogue these days, and as the family and consumer sciences agent for the Pasco County Extension Service, Crisp is promoting it at a "Simply Florida Foods" event to be held Saturday morning at the Pasco County Fairgrounds.
"With the rising cost of food and everything else, we know that buying local is economical, of course. And it's better for you," she said, adding that the less time a fruit or vegetable spends on a truck, the more nutritional value it has and the better it's likely to taste.
"Certainly Florida has a great abundance," Crisp said. "There's Ruskin tomatoes. Strawberries from Plant City. Florida citrus. Cattle is raised all over the state. Pasco has all those things, too, but we're also known as the undisputed top grower of kumquats in the United States."
Newcomers and long-timers are invited to come out and learn more about the local offerings, said Crisp, who will present a demonstration on cooking with Florida herbs.
Cool weather gardeners might be planting some of the herbs right about now, Crisp said. "And I'm going to show what they can do with them."
And maybe those kumquats, too. Those who turn out will have the opportunity to taste some foods featured in the Simply Florida cookbook, a collection of recipes compiled by extension service offices throughout the state.
On the menu?
Dilly Casserole Bread, Tomato-Onion-Basil Salad, Suwannee County Black Bean Soup and Grapefruit Compote with Rosemary. Add to that a few Kumquat Festival winners from years past: Betty Hayner's Kumquat Pumpkin Pecan Cake Roll (first place, 2003), and Janet Collura's Kumquat Flan (best of show, 2003) and her Kumquat-Bulgur Salad (first place, 2000).
Simply Florida will also feature a variety of exhibits from the local food industry — beef, citrus, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tomatoes, and so on — and some free old-time and holiday recipes.
There will be some educational offerings, too, such as Cooking for One or Two, How to Reduce Salt and Sugar in Your Diet and some "back to basics" information for people who want to cut processed foods from their diet and whip up healthier alternatives in their own kitchens — often at a fraction of the cost.
"I'm hoping for a good turnout," Crisp said. "And the chance to introduce to the newcomers what the Family and Consumer Sciences Nutrition program has to offer."