I'll admit that I picked up The Gasparilla Cookbook: Favorite Florida West Coast Recipes (The Junior League of Tampa, copyright 1961, but mine is from the 10th printing, 1973) partially because this book came with a history. Not only do I know that Pat gave it to Betty Jane as a gift in 1974 (thanks to the inscription), I also know that Pat felt bad because she bought it right after new year's and didn't get around to sending it until March 31. (She's been sick this winter, and she was sad, missing her mom since mom's birthday just passed. The good news is that Joyce got an internship in General Dynamics, but she's the only female in the department.) (And yes, Betty Jane kept the letter with the cookbook, so that's how I know so much.)
When I started reading the book instead of the letter, I realized this was a great pick for a dreary day. Tampa is home to the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a midwinter celebration of pirate José Gaspar. When the book was written, the pirate invasion took place in February, but a quick internet search showed that the festival is still going on, and it has moved up to late January this year. I'm not sure what goes on anymore (other than being repeatedly reminded that whatever is going on was sponsored by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Bud Light Seltzer) because I don't have the patience to dig past all the ads on the official site. Instead, here's a peek at what the Gasparilla Pirate Festival used to involve.
Waiters served trays of Bollitos, "a Spanish appetizer made from ground dried black-eyed peas, flavored highly with garlic, formed into small balls, and fried in deep fat until they are a crusty, crunchy gold."
They sound kind of like a cousin of falafel to me.
The event had a king and queen, and 1960's king was kind enough to lend his salad recipe to the cookbook.
King Gasparilla XLVII was apparently a salt-lover (like me), as this is loaded up with salted peanuts, bacon, dried beef, and bleu cheese. (It must not have hurt him too much, as he lived to age 88.)
Here's a custom that I'm pretty sure has died, based on the number of times the current website reminds festival-goers that they need to support the officially licensed food vendors: "During Gasparilla Week one of the main attractions for tourists is the serving of free Spanish bean soup."
It's interesting that chorizo is now so ubiquitous that we can now buy even vegetarian versions, but back then it needed a bit of an explanation.
And finally, I'm adding a dessert recipe just because no celebration is complete without a sweet. I doubt that this was served at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, but I picked it for a couple of reasons.
While I see a fair number of recipes with fillings in orange cups, they're usually not baked in an orange basket. I can't quite imagine eating a warm marshmallow/fig/coconut pastry from an orange peel. Also, oranges must have been a lot bigger in 1960s Florida than the ones I get from the grocery store! I'd be lucky if cutting "a 2-inch thick slice off [the] bud end" of an orange meant cutting it in half. Usually, that would be the equivalent of cutting a 1-inch thick slice off the smooth end.
Anyway, shiver me timbers (or "Bake me orange peels!"? "Shred me dried beef!"? "Rub me black-eyed peas!"?) and hoist the Jolly Roger! I hope the talk of a Florida pirate celebration shakes off the January blahs for at least a few seconds.