Alex D. Hawkes was an epicure of the times, having written for Gourmet food magazine in the 1960s. His career prior to becoming one of America’s foremost horticulturally inclined cooks, was Botanizing. Alex could be found trekking through our world’s lost jungles, scouring lush forrest canopies in the Caribbean and beyond, for rare plants, orchids, bromeliads, ferns, and palms. If it was green, Alex was keen to take notice of not just the plant’s botanical tidbits, but of their origin, history and quite often their culinary potential.
Alex Hawkes was known for collecting recipes, and his receipt collection from the 1940s – 1970s would have been much different than internet bookmarks. Then, it was normal fashion to clip and collect newspaper clippings of the food section and hand written receipts, usually instructions from a relative, friend, if lucky the Chef of a local restaurant, or in Hawkes case, during one of his botanizing trips. Perhaps he sat in a Cuban cafe and noted one of their specialties in the 1940s, after indulging in Cayo Coco’s landscape? Flying beautiful white ghost orchids, Dendrophylax varius, as the Atlantic Ocean pounded the luscious Cuban archipelago. Another recipe after exploring a tropical rainforest in Brazil or South America? Indeed, Alex surely enjoyed these adventures with the famed ghost orchid, one of Florida Everglades’ extirpated orchids, and here it is seen calmly flowering in Cuba, as if nothing ever happened.
“A World of Vegetable Cookery is a result of combining my interests in botany and cooking over a number of years. My researches on my particular botanical specialties- orchids, palms, bromeliads, and certain other groups of plants have taken me to many parts of the globe. Everywhere I have traveled I have had the opportunity to note the good things that appear from the kitchen or campfire.” – Alex D. Hawkes (1968)
Perhaps Alex’s Basque Eggs recipe was scoured from a Woman’s Club Cookbook, a local Junior League, or a Jamaican housewives society? Presumably, all of the above. We know his affinity for adapting recipes, from newspaper column hints Alex would leave us in his Floridian themed food columns (Florida Cookery, Sub-Tropic Cookery), for the Miami News, the Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Lakeland Ledger, Jamaica Gleaner, and in his elusive self published subscription / mimeographed culinary musings COOKERY NOTES. We know that he collected thousands of recipes and how much he enjoyed reading, reviewing and recommending cookbooks, either by adapting their recipes for his Coconut Grove kitchen, or by citing an author and offering cherry picked recipes to the Floridian readers of his American food column.
All this eclectic culinary diversity in an era prior to James Beard Foundation food writing awards, the namesake, a champion in the food writing field, whose column “Beard on Food”, would appear on occasion alongside Alex’s “Sub-Tropic Cookery” since James Beard’s recipes and musings for the Associated Press (AP), would be printed by hundreds of papers across the states. Alex wrote in a time that only the noble could relish in, having his recipes printed next to Beard’s, the dean of American cooking, is enough to raise our hands and acknowledge Alex as one of the gourmands doing their part to introduce us to cuisines from lands far, far away, but as close as a succulent bite. Alex would have been a James Beard writing award winner. His wise approach was warm, and where else would he have been a better fit than Miami’s enchanting Coconut Grove neighborhood? Today we are off to Spain, one of Europe’s most delicious countries, and home of the world’s oldest restaurant, Botin Restaurant in Madrid serving dishes since 1725. Perhaps Craig Claiborne and Alex Hawkes chatted about Spain’s Botin when they spoke on the phone?
Well, for this egg recipe we are sharing with you today, the source is yet known, and after perusing the pages of our Gasparilla Cookbook, we can assure you that Alex didn’t adapt this recipe from the Gasparilla ladies. The source of the cited column from 1965, “Omelet Is Now Happy” (St. Petersburg Times), will be shared in a subsequent post. For now enjoy these superb Basque Eggs as published by the Miami Herald in the 1960s.
3 medium potatoes, cooked and peeled
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, sliced wafer-thin
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup scallions, with tops, chopped fine
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
Slice the potatoes less than one-quarter inch thick, and in a large skillet saute them in the butter with the onions, until they are browned. Add salt and pepper during this cooking process. Pour the beaten eggs over the potatoes and onions, and sprinkle with the chopped scallions and minced parsley. Lower heat, cover, and cook until the eggs have – set about ten minutes. Serve at once to for persons.