by Tamara Kaye Sellman
Connie May Fowler is the author of the soon-to-be-released novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly (April 2010) plus The Problem with Murmur Lee, Remembering Blue, When Katie Wakes: A Memoir, Before Women Had Wings, River of Hidden Dreams and Sugar Cage. She also served for two years as the author behind the food column, “Savoring Florida” and in her earlier years worked as a caterer and a bartender. She is the founder of Below Sea Level: Full Immersion Workshops for Serious Writers http://www.writingbelowsealevel.com/). She reveals at her website that, “…if this writing thing doesn’t work out, she fancies herself attending Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy not in Atlanta, not in Miami, but in Paris.” Looks like the writing thing worked out after all, but maybe Ms. Fowler will still find a way to make her way overseas for some cooking lessons…
Kalon Kitchen: How do you describe the Floridian style of cooking?
Connie May Fowler: Florida cooking is as diverse as the people who live here. In coastal communities, there is an abundance of fresh seafood. In the interior, we have citrus, cattle, and vegetables such as Ruskin tomatoes and Zellwood sweet corn. We’re blessed with a long growing season. Because we are a cultural gumbo, every group who makes Florida home, puts their own stamp on the fresh ingredients grown and raised here.
KK: Do you mention food as a cultural element or influence in your new novel? What about your other novels?
CMF: In How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, Clarissa can’t figure out how to make her mother’s blackberry cobbler, which was the only thing her mother cooked that was edible. But at the end, during a cataclysmic event, as she sees her life pass before her, it comes to her: The dessert wasn’t a cobbler at all but a blackberry-and-dumpling divination.
Probably the book that centers most fully on food is Remembering Blue. It’s set along the shores of the northern Gulf of Mexico, in the panhandle, so seafood is terribly important. The book features a robust Greek American fishing family who partake in the local bounty with near religious fervor: Apalachicola oysters, bay shrimp, blue crab, stone crab, flounder, and more. My protagonist, Mattie, doesn’t know how to cook, so when she marries into this amazing family, she’s introduced to both Florida and Greek cuisines.
KK: If you could celebrate one thing that best epitomizes American food culture, what would it be?
CMF: Again, diversity. It’s our strength as a nation and is the backbone of our culinary heritage. Each culture brings with them a treasure trove of knowledge, much of it food-based. The individual cuisines and the resulting fusions are what American food culture is all about.
Bio: Tamara Kaye Sellman is a creative writing coach and developmental editor living in Bainbridge Island, WA. She writes the blog, BuzzFood: Feed The Obsession (http://buzzfood.blogspot.com).