Sometimes Eating Local Means Keeping an Open Mind

Last week Bill and I were in the Florida Panhandle, also called “Florida’s Forgotten Coast,” which is probably one of the reasons we go there: lots of flora and fauna and few human beings. It truly is a wilderness with lots of places to explore.

While staying at the lodge at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, we meandered down to the Spring Creek Restaurant one night, which I had read about in a Southern Living magazine.  The article highlighted mullet on the menu–a fish known for jumping out of the water and inhabiting the Wakulla river, which begins at Wakulla Springs State Park.

While Bill ordered a beautiful shrimp cocktail with way more shrimp than you’d get in the North, I mulled over the mullet.

I thought: If I’m in Wakulla County, I may as well eat what the Wakullans eat. Usually breaded, like many seafood dishes along the Gulf Coast, mullet is served with the fish’s backbone right on the plate (according to the Southern Living article–although I haven’t found out why yet). So that’s what I ordered at Spring Creek. It also came with a nice big house salad, hushpuppies, and cheese grits.

Even though my family practically disowned me for growing up on the East Coast and disliking shellfish, I’ve always enjoyed fish–the kind that has a backbone. In fact, I don’t think I’ve come across one I didn’t like–anything from bluefish to swordfish to red snapper to anchovies. But mullet was pushing the limit. There was quite a bit of dark meat on it, which I didn’t eat because I learned to pick my way around the dark meat of bluefish, which is supposedly the part that harbors toxins. And the white meat had an almost metallic flavor. Maybe because it feeds on detritus? Honestly, I wouldn’t order it again. But I’m glad I tried it.

Thankfully, the rest of the meal was delicious. I even had a piece of key lime pie–homemade right there at Spring Creek. How could I resist?


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