Digging into the mailbag, we range from a favorite lost lunch spot to sweeping sagas involving Florida's past.
Where was The Rowena?
Longtime area resident Susan Zwer sends memories of a bridesmaids luncheon at The Rowena in Orlando, also fondly remembered by Liz Doyle of Florida House, our state's "embassy" in Washington.
"My mother used to love to tell the story of my grandmother pushing my stroller downtown through Dickson & Ives and Ivey's and then going to Rowena's for lunch," Doyle writes.
The address, 126 E. Jefferson St., faces the condo complex that began as the Robert Meyer Motor Inn. An office building now occupies the site, at Jefferson and Palmetto Ave.
The thought of the homemade rolls at The Rowena reminds me of food, which reminds me to tell you about an upcoming program.
'500 Years of Eating in Florida'
On April 2, 1513, Ponce de León found the peninsula he named La Florida, and the Orange County Regional History Center is kicking off their anniversary salute on Thursday, April 11, with a talk by eminent Florida historian Gary Mormino titled "500 Years of Eating in Florida: A History of Florida Foodways."
Declared a "Florida icon" by Florida Trend magazine, Mormino knows Sunshine State cuisine from Apalachicola oysters in the north to Indian Key conch in the south. He also understands the big picture: The years when Europeans arrived in the New World "brought together not merely humans but plants and animals, microbes and cultures," he writes.
This "Columbian Exchange" between the hemispheres had monumental consequences. In the realms of agriculture and food, it's the reason there are tomatoes in Italy and oranges in the United States, and a whole lot more.
Mormino's April 11 program is free for History Center members and $5 for nonmembers. It's from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at 65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando, and includes Florida-related hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. Call 407-836-7010 to register.
Setting the record straight
A recent Flashback featuring the new book "Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State" also discussed the old clash between Floridians and "the folks Up North." The author, journalist T.D. Allman, writes that he is not of the "Up North" ilk; born in Tampa, he resides in Miami Beach (and Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., and Lauzerte, France). Here's his letter (edited for length).
"I am grateful you gave 'Finding Florida' a place of honor in your column. . . . I did find the Up North riff inappropriate because, in truth, I am one of the very few historians of Florida who was actually born here. This puts me in the good company of one of my Florida heroes, Gov. Ossian Hart, who throughout his career was harassed by outsiders claiming to be to more 'Floridian' (that is, racist) than he was. It also puts me in the hallowed company of Florida's best living historian, Canter Brown.
"In my experience, the Up North criticism is but a euphemized incarnation of the old Outside Agitator approach. If someone dares criticize anything in Florida, they must be someone who has no right to be here. During the Civil War and Reconstruction, the worst extremists were often people from outside Florida. . . .
"I may be an agitator, but no one can call me an outside agitator. I was born in Tampa; I reside and vote in Miami. The fact that I am at home on the world stage, am respected nationally and internationally, am fortunate enough to have homes in several countries, and to have a career that, while including Florida takes me far beyond Florida, does not make me a bad Floridian. It makes it me a better Floridian."
— T.D. Allman
Don't miss UCF Book Festival
The program for the 4th University of Central Florida Book Festival on April 13 brims with authors of fine books of historical interest, and more. Go to education.ucf.edu/bookfest, or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joy Wallace Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com or by good old-fashioned letter at the Sentinel, 633 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL 32801.