Florida. I’ve heard all the jokes, and probably made a few. It’s not hard because they practically write themselves. When I found out I was moving to Florida, excitement wasn’t necessarily my first emotion. I figured I was moving into a literal Disneyfication of chain restaurants and cultural homogenization, so I prepared for a new life of eating bad food while complaining about endless development. I’ve been here 5 months, and while I do think that many valid complaints about endless development can be made, The Florida that I’ve found is the exact opposite of what I thought it would be. The people are friendly, there is a rich cultural history, and I’m an hour’s drive from the state’s largest undeveloped stretch of beach. It turns out, I actually like living in Florida.
The first thing you learn when you move to Orlando is that nobody is actually from here. I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me given my own family’s history in this area. My great grandparents came to Winter Park when my great grandfather couldn’t find dock work in Ohio during the long Ohio winters. They ended up staying and are actually buried about 15 minutes from where I now live. I also learned that my Maternal Grandfather was born in Florida. The Ohio-Florida connection is a strong one, as I’ve met several people with ties to my home state. Why? I haven’t done the research, but given the past two brutal Ohio winters, it isn’t hard to imagine people wanting to leave the frozen wasteland for someplace sunny and warm.
Is Florida part of the South? I don’t think so, although there is certainly a southern influence here. More than anywhere else I’ve lived, Florida is truly its own unique region. This is a place where I can go to the grocery store and bring home all of these things:
- White Lily biscuit flour
- Duke’s mayo
- Sabrett hot dogs
- Frozen tostones
- Green peanuts for boiling
Aside from the grocery stores, there are the restaurants and other markets. There are many great things about living in the Midwest, but easy access to Vietnamese food is not one of them. I’ve gone from no options to living within 5 minutes of around 10 different Vietnamese restaurants. Bahn Mi? Check. Every kind of Pho you could possibly want? Check. Don’t want to go out to eat, want to cook Vietnamese at home? Just go to the Asian market and check.
When I’m in the mood for more traditional southern fare, I have no trouble finding it. The Fried Chicken, Sausage Gravy & Fried Egg on a biscuit at The Coop represents everything that is wonderful and terrible in Southern cuisine.
Mostly I’ve been exploring the areas close to my neighborhood, but I do live 30 minutes from Hogwarts. I think I need to grab my robes and wand and take a field trip. Look forward to a post involving butterbeer, chocolate frogs, and firewhisky.