I was cooking at Louie’s Backyard in Key West when the real awakening to my love of specifically tropical produce came into full flower. It should not have taken me so long to become the evangelical I did given the bounty of the fruits and historical use of them in that old town. My first experience with the fruit of which I celebrate this show which I likely had not seen in whole form. It was in a batido that first time. Batidos, or fruit shakes if you like are a tremendous way to get to know the myriad fruits utilized in the fruterías and such that produce them for thirsty guests. I was in a small, family owned Cuban restaurant on Duval Street when I had my initial batido. The place was called, “El Cacique”. The Chief. I typically sat at the counter so I could get a good place to study the hand painted sign hung high over the open front kitchen and service area. Brightly colored renditions of mamey sapote, tamarindo, guanabana, pineapple, sapodilla, passion fruit, mango and more illustrated the tilted expanse of wood there. I loved that place and miss it still. But … the beat goes on in many places in Miami to satisfy your curiosity if not outright love for mamey! And to see and hold this fruit is an act of wonder even before tasting it. It is a large, heavy fruit with a football shape. I held one for the first time at the Homestead area farm of Marc and Kiki Ellenby. They gave me an education that day on checking for ripeness along with some exquisite tastes of the mamey they grew. In Edible South Florida magazine I was charmed to read that, “Marc was not always a farmer. He met his wife, Kiki, when they were in their early 20s in Chicago, followed her to Colorado, then moved to Indiana, where they taught transcendental meditation. Her mother, Lois, wanted a vegetable garden, so they made a garden. “She planted the seed,” he says. Marc went back to school at Clemson, then moved to Gainesville, where he took a tropical fruit course with Carl Campbell, fruit expert Richard Campbell’s father.” Farming is a hard and uncertain life but I’m delighted to see them prevail and how the next generation of Ellenby’s are carrying on the legacy.
Now it’s time to hit the ‘Listen on WLRN’ button at the top to hear the remainder of my show. ‘A Word On Food’ airs on WLRN every Saturday around 8:30 a.m. at 91.3 and also 91.5 on the radio. I want to thank so many of you who tell me in person how much you are enjoying the show! Please check out my Instagram photos and my new IG TV cooking videos @normanvanaken