Even Papaya’s Leaves Are Tasty… Breakfast at “The Kampong” with Dr. & Mrs. David Fairchild

“The papaya is one of the tropics’ most extraordinary plants. It is not a tree despite its appearance, but rather a woody herbaceous plant, one of the fastest growing species known.” — Alex D. Hawkes

Imagine sitting in a botanical oasis in Coconut Grove, enjoying breakfast papaya, under a Javanese Ficus tree. Not just an ordinary ficus, for this one was planted by the late Dr. David Fairchild, the “Columbus of American Horticulture,” at his Coconut Grove home, “The Kampong”. The seeds were undoubtedly collected during one of his innumerable botanical expeditions around the world. His home, “The Kampong”, is preserved, and still open for one’s amazement and enjoyment. The Fairchild’s Coconut Grove retreat, “The Kampong”, faces the serene Biscayne bay. Let’s reminisce of the Royal Palms (Roystonea regia) that lured the Fairchilds to phone Marian’s parents, and ask them for a loan to secure the property. Marian Hubbard Graham Bell, Dr. Fairchild’s wife, is the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, who stayed at “The Kampong”, like many other distinguished characters of the time, on several occasions.

“The handsome, big, hand shaped leaves are edible, when boiled in several changes of water, and the late great horticulturist David Fairchild often advocated that all of us eat them regularly, whether at his table in his home, “The Kampong.” Where I lived when I first came to Coconut Grove, or at our own.” —  Alex D. Hawkes

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“The royal palms which so took my fancy when we first saw the place were photographed often in the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, after mangroves had begun to line the canal. But a change in the land level flooded their roots too frequently with saltwater and they perished.” — David Fairchild (1947)

Dr. Fairchild authored books with alluring titles such as,“The World Was My Garden: Travels of a Plant Explorer” (1938), and “The World Grows Round My Door: The Story of The Kampong, a Home on the Edge of the Tropics.” (1947) . These ideals are not easy to claim. Dr. David Fairchild exceeded them by far. Dr. Fairchild introduced over 200,000 plants & varieties of established crops into the United States. He continued to play a pivotal role in the horticultural world during his retirement at “The Kampong”.

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PAPAYA ~ A Tropical Tree Melon ~ On Dr. Fairchild’s desk in his laboratory at “The Kampong” in Coconut Grove.

After Dr. Fairchild left his managerial role with the Department of Plant Introduction program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., he continued to author occasional botanically inclined papers, & National Geographic articles from his Coconut Grove laboratory. Few people shaped the way the United States eats as much as Dr. Fairchild, having introduced countless culinary staples, such as soybeans, mangos, dates, blueberries, talinum, broccoli and many more, which would be difficult to live without. Fairchild is among the champions we must thank for shaping that way America eats, having introduced countless vegetables often enjoyed, and neglected by children all across the states.

Upon stepping on the soil at “The Kampong”, the Fairchild’s footsteps can be traced by observing the beautiful trees still standing, that they collected, brought home to be planted, introduced, & shared. The word Kampong means “cluster of houses” or “village” in Malay. The Indonesian touches in the garden, adds a subtle contrast, against the backdrop of lovely flora found on the property. When visiting, one can observe the beautiful flowers of the royal poinciana / flamboyant (Delonix regia), from Madagascar. It is the official flowering tree of Miami-Dade County, and was planted by Marian Fairchild at “The Kampong”, in 1917. Marvel over countless mango varieties, as one would expect… palms, aroids, bamboo, ficus, & what seems like an infinite quantity of flowering trees. A mammoth tamarind tree around the vicinity of where Capt. Albion Simmons’ guava grove & factory once stood, prior to Dr. Fairchild purchasing the property. Miami’s first international export, guava jelly sold abroad to Europe, from a then unassuming property in “The Grove”, soon to become “The Kampong”. Wander to corners of the world through the flowers and fruits abound, welcome to “The Kampong”, stay for breakfast will ya?

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“The Kampong” Home of Dr. David & Marian Fairchild in Coconut Grove, Florida.

 

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Papaya plant growing in South Florida. Over 20 feet tall. Fruits weigh several pounds.

Alex D. Hawkes stayed at “The Kampong” with the Fairchilds while still in High School. He was able to enjoy more than an awe inspiring horticultural experience, since there was so much papaya to be enjoyed. Dr. Fairchild returned form the “The Isle of Singing Children”, the island of Siaoe / Siau Island in Indonesia, with a fascinating account of the island’s Papaya-leaf eaters, and its singing children. Fairchild sat with the Radja of Siaoe and his jolly wife who couldn’t “understand why people in other lands eat only their fruits” (Fairchild, 1943). Thank you Alex, for holding onto these recipes and publishing them in The Miami Herald, 18 years after your stay with David & Marian Fairchild  at “The Kampong”. What better way of honoring the late Fairchilds than enjoying some delicious, tropical Papaya? David Fairchild left us in 1954, Marian shortly after in 1962, they both lived their final days at their Coconut Grove oasis.

“The papaya is one of the tropics’ most extraordinary plants. It is not a tree despite its appearance, but rather a woody herbaceous plant, one of the fastest growing species known.” — Alex D. Hawkes

Were you aware that papaya can also be eaten as a vegetable, when green, and freshly picked? Also known as Paw Paw in Jamaica, & Fruta Bomba in Cuba, the “Confused Papaya Is Exotic Herb”, and the source of “papain”, the main ingredient in meat tenderizer. More papaya recipes will be shared on the blog, including accounts from Dr. Fairchild’s trip to “The Isle of Singing Children,” and the attention getting, boiled papaya leaf preparation, that David & Alex both advocated. For now let’s start with this simple, and delicious breakfast papaya.

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“Papaya is a strictly acquired taste for many people, it seems, but I was lucky in my initial experiences with the fruit, for I at once very much liked Dr. Fairchild’s way of serving it when I stayed with him.” — Alex D. Hawkes
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Ripe Papaya

David Fairchild’s Breakfast Papaya

1     medium ripe papaya

2     tablespoons sugar

2     Key (or Persian) limes, sliced

Peel papaya, Scoop out seeds, slice into rather thin, bite-size pieces. In a large shallow bowl, arrange papaya pieces, sprinkle sugar over them. and refrigerate overnight. Serve with lime slices for breakfast. Serves four.

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Rainy day at “The Kampong”, thanks for visiting Sub Tropic Cookery.

 

Take Full Advantage Of Kumquat Season – Preserved Kumquats

“The other day a good friend presented me with a marvelous quantity of beautiful fresh kumquats. These little citrus fruits are to be encountered in many good Florida markets now, too, and the enterprising cook should take full advantage of their availability while they are still on the trees. Perhaps you still have some left in your yard.” Alex D. Hawkes (1967)

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The fruits of being a Floridian. Kumquat, Citrus japonica, is part of the Rutaceae citrus family. “Fortunella is the name given to the kumquat genus in honor of Robert Fortune who in 1846 was the first person to import kumquats into Europe. The name “kumquat” is a synthesis of the Chinese words gam (金), meaning gold, + gwat (橘), a term for tangerines” (UF IFAS). These small, delicious, sweet, and tart, citrus fruits can be eaten whole and turned into a fine array of preserves. Not to be confused with Calamondin, another one of the small and magical citrus fruits that are to be enjoyed.

“The other day a good friend presented me with a marvelous quantity of beautiful fresh kumquats. These little citrus fruits are to be encountered in many good Florida markets now, too, and the enterprising cook should take full advantage of their availability while they are still on the trees. Perhaps you still have some left in your yard.” Alex D. Hawkes (1967)

Let’s discover the way Alex D. Hawkes explained and prepared kumquats in his 1967 article “Taking Full Advantage Of Kumquat Season”, for the St. Petersburg Times, in North Florida. Alex, a South Floridian, from a small, botanically lush neighborhood, known as Coconut Grove, in the City of Miami, facing the Biscayne Bay. But why was Hawkes writing for the St. Petersburg Times and The Lakeland Ledger, in the north of The Sunshine State? Mr. Hawkes was a botanist, and was involved with the Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society, that gathered in northern Florida. Alex also divided his time between Coconut Grove “The Tropics”, and Jamaica in the Caribbean, his second home. During his Jamaican getaways, he would submit his recipes by post to Jane Nickerson, Lakeland’s food editor. His last columns kept running for several weeks after his untimely 1977 death in Jamaica.

Alex was a devoted orchidologist and specimen collector, with a wide range of interests. Alex’s botanical adventures took him around the world, into the the jungles of Latin America, the Caribbean, and countless other places, which will be discovered through A.D. Hawkes’ recipes. When taking the larger view, then, it becomes clear that the very personal magic he’d bring to life in his small immaculate Coconut Grove kitchen, partook of a larger outside world, and might help explain why, after all these years, his recipes refuse to be contained. This is where Alex would test and adapt the recipes he collected from his botanizing adventures. Alex would go on to share these recipes via Florida’s newspapers as a food columnist, and through the cookbooks he authored, leading up to being cited by food writing heavyweights such as Cecily Brownstone, in her highly syndicated AP food column.

Alex D. Hawkes carved his path within various botanical circles related to orchids, bromeliads, ferns, palms and more. Alex established the South Florida Bromeliad Society (BSSF), alongside Nat DeLeon and Bob Wilson in 1959. Alex’s botanical connections around the state very well could have linked him up with the St. Petersburg Times paper, the rest is delicious. The BSSF still meets monthly at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG), in Coral Gables.

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“Wash the firm kumquats, and using a big darning needle, prick each fruit several times.” Alex D. Hawkes (1967)
“The vivid orange rind is piquant, yet edible, hence whole fresh Kumquats can be served as a very distinctive fresh accompaniment with any festive meal, from fish or fowl to roast red meats. Marmalades and jellies are also prepared from these attractive fruits, and when crystallized or preserved, kumquats are increasingly popular with many of us.” Alex D. Hawkes (1967)

Enjoy Alex’s recipe, while we add another book to his list of unpublished cookbooks. Was Hawkes pulling our leg when he mentioned he was writing a “Citrus Cookbook”? Nonetheless, Alex’s 4 published cookbooks, and his hundreds of newspaper columns for the Miami News, The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times, Lakeland Ledger, and The Jamaica Gleaner will satisfy anyone’s desire to explore the lovely world of citrus fruits, with the wide array of recipes Mr. Hawkes shared with his readers during his food writing career.

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FLETCHER’S PRESERVED KUMQUATS. Who was Fletcher, perhaps Alex’s nice friend that gave him the marvelous quantity of beautiful fresh kumquats?

FLETCHER’S PRESERVED KUMQUATS (MAKES A LOT)

2 quarts fresh kumquats

   Boiling Water

5 cups sugar

1 tablespoon lime (or lemon) juice

Wash the firm kumquats, and using a big darning needle, prick each fruit several times. Place fruit in a large heavy saucepan, add boiling water to cover. Simmer until the fruit is tender – (usually about 20 minutes). Remove kumquats from water with slotted spoon. Add sugar and lime (or lemon) juice to water, and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for five minutes, then return the kumquats, and cook them over very low heat until they are semi – transparent, usually about an hour. Allow kumquats to stand in syrup overnight. Next day, bring fruit and syrup back to the boiling point. Remove kumquats from syrup with slotted spoon. Pack them into hot sterilized jars. Cook syrup until thickened. Pour over, the kumquats. Seal the jars.

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“Allow kumquats to stand in syrup overnight. Next day, bring fruit and syrup back to the boiling point.” – Hawkes (1967)
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“As a decorative fruit when used fresh, the kumquat is very beautiful. In using the kumquat, as in other citrus fruits, the length of time and quantity of water to be used in extracting bitterness from peel varies with individual fruits; some requiring more and others less. This can only be regulated by testing the liquid and changing until palatable.” – Florida Tropical Cookbook – First Presbyterian Church of Miami (1912)
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We prepared Florida Kumquats from Dade City. Nature’s Sweet Tart An exciting new taste treat. Eat it all except the seeds. Sweet peel and tart pulp. Kumquat Growers, Inc. ~ Fresh From Florida

Holiday Shopping in 1967? Cookbook South Florida Cookery (1964) by Alex D. Hawkes now at all bookstores!

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The late Alex D. Hawkes wrote a magical first cookbook, ‘South Florida Cookery‘ (1964). ‘SFC’ was published and hand bound with enchanting cloth covers by Wake Brook House (WBH), local Coral Gables publisher at that time. Alex lived in Coconut Grove, a relatively colorful neighborhood next to Coral Gables. More info about WBH will be linked at the bottom of this post. ‘South Florida Cookery‘ was advertised by The Miami Herald for the 1967 holiday shopping season with the ad seen above. Alex’s cookbook is certainly that, plus much more. The promotional quote, “How To Use Florida’s Glamorous Foods” is both highly evocative and a sign of the times. It was Alex’s time to shine, and indeed he did, becoming one of Florida’s most esteemed cooks. Who else would be keen enough to publish Papaya recipes by non other than David Fairchild, that were enjoyed in his legendary Coconut Grove, retreat, “The Kampong”? Amazingly, the lush botanical oasis on Miami’s beautiful Biscayne Bay has been preserved, and is used for ongoing plant research, and special events. Dr. Fairchild’s recipes will be shared soon.

Alex D. Hawkes dedicates ‘South Florida Cookery’ (1964) “I would like to dedicate this book to the fond memory of Dr. & Mrs. David Fairchild”

Where have the culinary traditions that once thrived regionally, and across the whole of the United States of America (U.S.A.) gone? The age of convenience has stripped away both a way of living, and also any number of lovely staples that adorned proud dining tables across the country. The countless generations of the cooks in our families that painstakingly perfected and passed these recipes down, must be rolling in their graves! They didn’t have the facility that television and the internet offers, like current generations thoroughly enjoy. The concern at hand is not that we’ve stopped eating or have began to create non glamorous dishes. Among the concerns is that we’ve become increasingly reliant on chefs and restaurants to provide us with these delicious experiences. We look for convenient and simplistic satisfaction when cooking for ourselves either due to lack of experience in the kitchen, or not having enough time. There are other factors and perspectives to keep in mind as well, we do all have to eat everyday.

Like many of the great cookbook authors that have strived to influence our eating habits by introducing foreign cuisines to North America, Alex D. Hawkes ranks high in the list of people that influenced the culinary landscape in all of Florida, and the U.S.A.. From Florida’s northern panhandle to the southern tip of Key West, Alex served us with an avid sense of all things botanical that could be of interest to cooks in the kitchen. Alex found himself to be widely useful and well liked by his colleagues in the world of food writing at the time. This is noted through their various citations and acknowledgements made during his lifetime, and thereafter.

By presenting delicious recipes from his world travels, using a variety of rare fruits & vegetables that were then just beginning to appear in our markets, Alex helped all those raising their hand or eager to jump into the kitchen to experiment. His botanical background literally left no leaf unturned or nut untasted, which ads something fun and interesting to the cooking experience. Alex Hawkes accomplished something like what Alton Brown, current Food Network TV host that shares scientific and botanical tidbits in his cooking show, has successfully done. Alex exemplified a spirit bringing to mind a cross between Alton Brown, Anthony Bourdain, chef and world traveller, and Julia Child, beloved American author and TV host that trained professionally at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, a maven for any cookbook author interested in taking on the role of presenting foreign cuisines to Americans.

The authors mentioned above all served important roles introducing Americans to the cuisines of foreign lands. Many were American, others were foreign, but in the end they shared a common goal of promoting the positive attributes of the U.S.A. through cooking. A few prominent examples: Julia Child – French Cuisine, Diana Kennedy – Mexican, Joyce Chen & Barbara Tropp – Chinese, Felipe Rojas-Lombardi – Peruvian, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz – Caribbean & Latin American. Elizabeth also compiled Alex’s final cookbook posthumously, Alex D. Hawkes – The Flavors of The Caribbean & Latin America: A personal collection of recipes (1977) Viking, New York. There are of course many more such authorities and examples that can be shared. The names mentioned above will help contrast between foreign cuisines and the heritage of the diverse fare that is still alive and well in the U.S.A..

Alex D. Hawkes Cookbooks

To hook Americans on how rich and diverse our own cuisine was, food writing heavyweights such as James Beard, Edna Lewis, Cecily Brownstone & Jane Nickerson were among those doing their part to help Americans understand, how rich and diverse our ancestors cooked, while promoting the eclectic regional cuisines of the U.S.A.. James Beard covered all of American regional cuisines like his colleague & dear friend Cecily Brownstone who wrote several highly syndicated columns for the Associated Press (AP), over the course of a staggering 39 years. Cecily Brownstone, the most widely published of syndicated food writers, loved to reference Alex’s botanical tidbits whenever she was writing brussels sprouts recipes. We cannot forget Edna Lewis who continued to enamor us with the delights of Southern Cooking. Jane Nickerson who became a Floridian by adoption in 1957 when she handed off the New York Times to Craig Claiborne.

Claiborne who had worked with Ann Seranne and Eileen Gaden prior to Gourmet and the New York Times, was an excellent succeeding writer to Nickerson. The fact that all these writers and characters knew about one another, only makes richer the broth, and helps put into perspective what Alex Hawkes was up to. Craig Claiborne would eventually cover Alex in The New York Times of the 1960s. That article will be shared in another post, stay tuned!

There is no country that devotes more time to watching foreign foods being prepared on television than the U.S.A.. There is no country that investigates and welcomes foreign cuisines to the extent that Americans do, but we leave it up to restaurants and chefs to do the cooking. How does this relate to Alex Hawkes and his ‘South Florida Cookery‘ (1964) cookbook? Simple, Alex was showing us that the cuisines from all over the world simply tasted better when prepared at home with a good recipe and quality produce, such as the bountiful heaps of fresh Florida fruits and vegetables that were abundant in markets of the 1950s & 1960s. Times haven’t change in Florida, and the farming networks although some say are diminishing, are at least for now providing quality produce all across the states. Historically, Florida “The Sunshine State” has proudly served winter cooks with splendid harvests, when most of the country is having snow pile on their yards.

Many Americans and Floridians are unaware that the great “Sunshine State”, was and still plays an integral part in the agricultural network of the U.S.A., not just in the winter, but all year long. Alex shared a variety of recipes, often times his newspaper food columns were seasonally themed which was fitting, since they were titled ‘Florida Cookery’ and ‘Sub-Tropical Cookery’. Alex also played another role for those that wanted to experience culture through cooking and explore the world via fruits and vegetables, by enjoying foreign fare that they cooked themselves at home.

Here’s some of the cuisines found in ‘South Florida Cookery‘ (1964) aside from Alex’s American interpretations, international delights & his personal culinary creations. Recipes for Haitian, Jamaican, Bahamian, Cuban, Spanish, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, Argentine, Brazilian, Italian, Japanese, Nipponese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Javanese, Indian, French, Hawaiian, Singapore, Philippine, Burmese, Lebanese, Turkish and Syrian dishes are offered. Alex D. Hawkes was a character of sorts, a cross between Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain, befitting since he travelled the world as a botanist, pleasing his palate and returning back to the U.S.A., eager to share his discoveries with fellow Americans, as did Child.

Here are three full shots of the four known hand bound covers by Wake Brook House of ‘South Florida Cookery‘ (1964). The fourth cover is partially visible on the photo displaying the stack of some of Alex’s cookbooks. Catch you in “The Tropics”.

Please subscribe to this blog and check out Recipe Lost’s other social media pages via links located at the top, right and bottom of this website. Don’t forget to run out and grab Alex’s book for $5.00…

Miami Herald – Sunday December 3, 1967
South Florida Cookery (1964)
How To Use Florida’s Glamorous Foods
The Ideal Gift
A Handmade Book published by WAKE-BROOK HOUSE (Coral Gables)
At All Bookstores $5

A list of Alex D. Hawkes’ published works can be found via this link. – More books!

For more information about Wake Brooke House visit David Burkam’s website on the subject. Click this link.

What is Sub-Tropic Cookery? Who was botanist & cookbook author Alex D. Hawkes, from Coconut Grove?

“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)

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Exploring the fruit and vegetable kingdom with the late botanist, and cookbook author Alex D. Hawkes (1927-1977). Recipes, botany and lore of the fruit and vegetable kingdom.

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)

Welcome to Alex’s garden & kitchen… palm and bromeliad expert, orchidologist Alex D. Hawkes shared a lot with us, especially through the recipes he collected, from his world travels as a botanist. We “RecipesLost” hope you get to try some of Alex’s recipes, let us know, try it out, take a chance, have a taste will ya?

Alex D. Hawkes graduated from the University of Miami in the late 1940s as a Botanist. Among his first assignments for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG), in Coral Gables, was documenting the Palms all over the globe. Alex compiled this breathtaking task in a 9 volume work in the early 1950s after traveling the world, while enjoying it quite thoroughly, for the botanical garden. Alex also gathered some papaya “pawpaw” recipes, that will be posted, from his stay at Dr. David Fairchild’s “Kampong” in the Magic City’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. Hawkes was keen enough to collect recipes everywhere he went. His vast recipe file, wherever it may be, will reveal a treasure of recipes. To the person guarding it, thank you. The recipes Alex collected, whether if it was from a hotel he stayed at in Nicaragua during one of his botanical adventures discovering colorful orchids, or from the mountains of Peru and Mexico, were wholesome and honest.

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Dr. David Fairchild & Alex D. Hawkes in the former’s garden “The Kampong” in Coconut Grove, Florida. (1945-02-15)

The caribbean captivated Alex, it’s influence is shown through Alex’s grasp of the many cuisines that make up the West Indies. The caribbean is the home of many beautiful places, but Alex lived only in two, Cuba & where he passed away, Jamaica, his second home away from beautiful Coconut Grove, FL. in Miami. An adventurer, botanist, cook, writer, columnist & more, Alex D. Hawkes left us recipes, to enjoy cultural experiences, and a taste of the past, which is still as delicious as it once was. He traveled the world, Europe, South America, Latin America, India, Japan, & beyond.

Alex played an integral role in South Florida’s bustling botanical circles. He mimeographed and published several independent papers that are now considered collector’s items, on various subjects. Orchids, Bromeliads, Palms and his culinary writing, the elusive, “COOKERY NOTES”. Alex was the coordinator of The Bromeliad Society of South Florida, Inc., serving as temporary Chairman of the Board. Alex was known for hosting high tea in his Coconut Grove backyard garden. These occasions must have certainly called for lovely Floridian menus.  Alex’s notoriety allowed him to maintain a constant flow of correspondence with his colleagues and readers. If you have found any of Alex’s letters, please contact us.

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“Did you know I receive more fan mail weekly than does Marilyn Monroe? … she is now receiving only 80 or so letters a week, while mine runs at least double that!” — Alex D. Hawkes (1962)

Alex’s recipes have been shared and adapted in newspapers by food columnists & cookbook authors in their works. Alex had many friends and shared his mimeographed COOKERY NOTES with countless of acquaintances and food professionals of the era. Authors such as Elizabeth Alston, Nika Hazelton, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, Elizabeth Schneider, Bernard Clayton Jr., Cecily Brownstone, Jane Brody, Ruth Gray, Bertha Cochran Hahn & Jane Nickerson have cited Alex or exchanged letters with him. There are more, we hope, do let us know if you find one folded up inside a cookbook while you peruse it. Contact Us -> #RecipesLost In the late 1960s Mr. Hawkes humbly had lunch with Julia Child and James A. Beard at Joyce Chen’s restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was covered by Craig Claiborne in the New York Times (1960s), and Alex’s cookbooks were mentioned thereafter by Claiborne.

Gourmet the Magazine of Good Living, was at the time the premier magazine for food talk. The magazine featured many seminal figures that helped shape the way America eats. Among the many writers to mention, Gourmet would showcase columns by Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (M.F.K. Fisher), and her occasional wine musings. It was not odd for these pieces to appear alongside writings on an endless variety of culinary ‘Delights And Prejudices‘, by none other than the Dean of American cookery, James A. Beard.

In the October (1964) issue of Gourmet, Alex D. Hawkes joined the ranks of several of the cookbook authors he esteemed. With his first cookbook ‘South Florida Cookery‘ (1964) hot off the presses, Alex’s food writing career couldn’t have begged for a brighter red carpet. Alex’s piece for Gourmet featuring the squash like Chayote, ‘Sechium edule’, Cucurbitaceae, was as exciting to read, as it was to prepare. The recipes Alex discovered in Mexico & Nicaragua, during his botanical adventures, are culinary time capsules. After being introduced how to prepare chayotes in quite culturally distinct fashions, Alex returned to his Coconut Grove kitchen with the recipes, and shared them with the world. Chayote recipes will be featured in a later post, stay tuned.

Alex continued sharing his recipes, which landed him a food columnist gig for The Miami Herald, after he won a Cook of the Month title in 1963. Alex continued onto the Miami News in the mid 1960s. Then, via his horticultural society connections, he penned a food writing column in North Florida, for the St. Petersburg Times in the late 1960s, via his column ‘Florida Cookery’, seldomly ‘Southern Cookery’. By the 1970s Alex was dividing his time between Jamaica, and Coconut Grove. In the Caribbean, he was maintaining a daily radio program ‘What’s Cooking’ on Radio Jamaica, cooking TV appearances, & varied columns for The Jamaica Gleaner, on topics such as sightseeing, horticulture, botany, & of course recipes.

Never forgetting his Floridian roots, Alex, simultaneously maintained his ‘Sub-Tropic Cookery’ for The Lakeland Ledger, in central Florida. Jane Nickerson, ex Food Editor of the New York Times, moved to Lakeland, and took on the role of food editor at The Ledger. ‘Sub-Tropic Cookery’ by Alex Hawkes, was an excellent column for Jane Nickerson to have in her food section, since the cuisine in Florida was being shaped quite differently than the rest of the United States of America. This is due in part to the rather recent availability of imported varieties of lesser known rare fruits & vegetables in markets across the U.S.A.. The state’s markets were being influenced by the various cultures, that were all then, calling “The Sunshine State” their new home.

“Though I have been collecting recipes for the use of all types of vegetables for a considerable number of years, it is only comparatively recently that many of the less familiar ones have become available in the United States. This is, to me, very exciting, since this condition opens up a wondrous new field of inventive cuisine.” – Alex D. Hawkes (1968)

Florida also was increasing their production of various culinary staple items that are integral to the cuisines of many foreign lands. Crops such as ginger, chayotes, green beans, radishes, watercress, corn, zucchini, squash, strawberries, guavas, papayas, mangos and plenty more delicious gourds were being grown commercially in the 1960s & 70s in Florida. Alex’s column was surely there for you during Mango season, of course! He’s from Coconut Grove like Mr. Haden, whose wife Florence cared for the mango seedlings brought down via sailboat from West Palm Beach. After her husband’s passing, she had the varietal named “Haden” after the good Captain from Coconut Grove. It is claimed that the original Haden Mango tree is still standing in “The Grove”, on land that was once lived on by the Matheson family. – Photograph of what is believed to be the original ‘Haden’ tree, located in Coconut Grove, Florida

The United States has always been regional, The Great West, The North West, The Eastern Heartland, New England, Creole & Acadian, Southern Style & Florida somehow gets left out of the South. Although not part of the Caribbean, it’s the only subtropic state in North America. Alex Hawkes took full advantage of the knowledge he picked up during his world travels, and assisted Americans with the bountiful heaps of tropical fruits and vegetables that were to be found in their markets.

The United States is perhaps the first country to seek out cuisines from all corners of the globe and make it possible via cookbooks, supermarkets and strong agricultural networks. Alex was interested not just in bringing the recipes home, but also sparking curiosity about how something grew or where it originated. He was able to highlight a vegetable, whether it was misunderstood, or avoided and create something unique yet simple.

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Alex authored hundreds of articles & botanical books. For a list of his cookbooks follow this link -> Alex D. Hawkes – Botanical Works & Cookbooks.

Sub-Tropic Cookery‘ is maintained by the Recipe Hunters @ #RecipesLost. A food history & recipe scavenging project. Share with us via the tag #RecipesLost or send us your recipe request. Have a question or request of what do make or what to do with a fruit or vegetable? Looking for an interesting side dish? Send us an email at RecipesLost@gmail.com ~ Oh yeah! If you have any copies of Alex’s COOKERY NOTES please let us know! Thank you.

Image: Cookery Notes – November 1967 – Vol. 4, No. 1 – Fondues For Everybody!We would like to thank Mr. John Banta who provided us with a few Volumes of Alex Hakwes’ COOKERY NOTES. If you find any pages, please let us know, thank you!

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