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Like many people who visit or live in Pinellas County, I love the Gulf Beaches, Tampa Bay side parks, and wide range of places to eat and enjoy life. Florida's densest, smallest and only peninsular county is also one of its most historic. People have been hunting, gathering, transporting, processing, preparing and eating a wide range of foods, native and imported, for thousands of years. Pinellas was Florida's most agriculturally productive area for decades. Follow my trail from Pinellas Point to Pass-A-Grille north to Tarpon Springs and back south to St. Petersburg. In a 1885 speech before the American Medical Association, Baltimore physician "W. Chew Van Bibber, praised Pinellas Peninsula as "the healthiest spot on earth." This helped spur the phenomenal growth that continues well into the 21st century. Curiously of the many generations of residents and visitors who have been drawn to this healthy spot and well nourished in Pinellas include several men who made their fortunes in sweets elsewhere before moving to St. Petersburg. They include a salt water taffy king, a chewing gum millionaire, the inventor of the Clark Bar and the creator of the Fig Newton. Pinellas has also been home to two women associated with the important issues of over eating. Terri Schivo put the spotlight on living wills as a result of falling into a coma after taking severe measures to lose weight. Sara Blakey, founder of the Spanx foundation garment business, is the first self-made female billionaire.Others encountered on this Pinellas County food heritage trail are: a Spaniard who may have inspired the Pocohontas legend; the "last of the pirates;" notorious explorers Panfilo de Narvaez and De Soto; a man famous for his smoked fish; a band of brothers who rode with the Confederate "cow cavalry;" citrus industry innovators who created the first orange crate, packing assembly lines, tangerine and grapefruit varieties and frozen concentrates. Alan Lomax, who selected Earth's music that was sent out into the Universe, lived his later years in Pinellas. So did Milan Hodza, the agrarian reformer and former prime minister of Czechoslovakia. Automotive pioneer Ransome Olds spent much of his Oldsmobile fortune creating a model farming community. Greek immigrant and former cook in General Pershing's army, Louis Pappas made it big in the restaurant business. Cereal King W.K. Kellogg wintered here. So did other millionaires, William Webster (industrial heating systems), John Wanamaker (department stores), medical textbook publisher F. A. Davis to name just a few. Others include Scientologists (Clearwater is their spiritual headquarters), the Doors' Jim Morrison, stuntman Evel Knievel and pro wrestler Hulk Hogan. The Rolling Stones in 1965, composed their hit song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" while staying at Clearwater's Fort Harrison Hotel.Many of the nearly 100 places mentioned in this tour are long gone. A few have been saved and moved to several heritage parks. The tour is a journey through time that chronicles the development of the county.Join me in exploring the history and food heritage sites of Pinellas County, Florida.
About the Author
Teacher, researcher and presenter, Tom Hughes created The Potato Museum in 1975, with his students at the International School of Brussels, in Belgium. The museum's research, and its collection, said to be the world's largest on the history and social influence of the spud, have been featured in three major museum exhibitions. In 2000 Tom and his wife, writer Meredith Sayles Hughes, launched The Food Museum Online and a few years later The Global Food Heritage Project. The couple collaborated on the book Gastronomie: Food Museums and, Heritage Sites of France, published by Bunker Hill. Their book Food Heritage Matters: personal, family, local and global food history 101 is part of their EATS Publishing series.