Month: February 2020

Author Interview: Author shares a taste of old-time recipes in ‘Florida Cracker Cookbook’

Many people have probably heard of the five love languages: quality time, gift giving, acts of service, words of affirmation and physical touch. I would like to propose a sixth: food.

Joy Sheffield Harris, author of “The Florida Cracker Cookbook,” agrees.

“This project started because I wanted to find out why we eat what we eat in different parts of the state,” she explained. “But I also wanted to capture the recipes from the foods I remember eating as a child growing up in North Florida.”

Harris will talk about the cookbook at Midtown Reader on Friday and Jeri’s Midtown Cafe is providing the snacks.

As we talked, I shared with Harris my fear that in this digital age, we’re losing the art of the hand-written recipe. I’m fortunate to have inherited my grandmother’s recipe cards and more from her mother and other women in our family, but what will the next generation inherit? My Pinterest boards? Harris chuckled.

“I don’t use a lot of recipes online,” she said. “I have my hand-written recipe cards and recipe notebooks. But that could also be because I’m not as computer-savvy!”

These recipes didn’t come easy, though. As Harris was putting the cookbook together, she struggled with them, trying to get them to taste the way they tasted according to her memory.

“My grandmother could look at something and just tell if it was right or if it needed more,” she said. “So many of these family dishes were made by taste, by feel… and it’s also difficult to replicate them exactly because the ingredients are so different now.”

In many ways, this cookbook is Harris’s own love letter, both to her past and to her future.

“My son will never have the experience of visiting my grandmother in her cracker cabin, but he’ll have these recipes,” she said. “If you have older family members, spend time with them in the kitchen. Ask them what they’re doing, why and how. I wish I had done more of that.”

This article was first published in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Author Interview: Tallahassee couple’s memoir tells entrepreneurial story in ‘Married to It’

If you or a loved one has graduated from high school or college within the past four decades, there’s a good chance you own a portrait taken by Bob and Gail Knight’s photography company.

The Tallahassee couple built a business empire, now called Iconic Group, by photographing graduates as they matriculated, capitalizing on their unique ability to process and distribute staggering quantities of photos in a breathtakingly short amount of time.

Bob and Gail Knight will tell their story and sign their new book, “Married To It,” at 6 p.m. Feb. 12 at Holy Comforter Episcopal School.

It wasn’t always a multimillion-dollar venture. Bob started his company on the campus of Florida State University, taking formal photographs for sororities. That’s how he met Gail, who was pursuing her degree in accounting.

“We met because she gave me a bad check,” he laughed.

“I was the treasurer for my sorority,” Gail added.

That twist of fate led to the development of a strong business partnership and a beautiful life together. Bob had the vision for the company from the beginning, and Gail worked out all of the administrative and process issues. And as their business grew, they set some ground rules.

“There was no business talk at home without prior consent,” Bob said. “We didn’t want our business world to take over our home life too. If you’re not careful, you can ruin a personal relationship if all you do is work.”

“The reason we were able to stay married, raise three sons and grow a successful business was that we had different skill sets,” Gail explained. “I didn’t want to get in his chili, and he didn’t want to get in mine.”

That careful prioritization and deliberate management also applied to the people they hired.

“We hired the person, not for the position,” said Bob. “Most of our employees were young people we met at restaurants and bars, and if we felt like their personality was a fit, we reached out.”

“Every now and then we’d meet someone and think, ‘We have to keep him or her,’” said Gail. “And many of them stayed with us.”

Their book, “Married To It,” tells not only their entrepreneurial story, but also their story as a couple who loved and supported each other through successes, failures, ups and downs.

“This isn’t a memoir so much as it is a legacy,” said Bob. “It’s a Tallahassee story and an FSU story; it started here and it’s still here. FSU helped us flourish.”

Bob and Gail hope their story offers a few lessons, both business and personal. And no one could argue they’re not experts.

This article was first published in the Tallahassee Democrat.