If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know full well that food is everywhere. We have more grocery stores, produce stands, and restaurants than we could ever possibly visit. According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans spend an average of $1.5 billion each day on dining-out purchases and our country has more than 945,000 dining-out locations that serve more than 70 billion meals annually.
Whew! That’s a lot of food.
And even when we’re not spending our money on food, we’re spending our time. We make grocery lists, pore over cookbooks, and share recipes with our friends. We travel near and far to visit even more restaurants.
Food is way more than a basic need; it’s a way of life.
And if your family’s like mine, food dominates our get-togethers. Mom has to make her oft-requested chocolate chip cookies; my sister-in-law can’t not make her famous cheese grits casserole; and my wife has numerous dishes that our friends and family request when we come over for a party.
Good food is a way of bringing people to-gether—and keeping them there longer.
If you want a guest to sit a spell, then pour a glass of iced tea and slice a piece of freshly baked pie. You’re almost assured of a leisurely conversation. Heck, I’m even writing this column in my favorite coffee shop, nibbling on a blueberry scone no less!
With all this attention paid to such a vital part of our lives, it certainly makes sense that we would devote a whole issue to the subject. We just haven’t until now.
After years of debate and months of planning, this month’s Ocala Style is our premiere food issue. Look for it to be an annual feature.
Our area, once you get past the ubiquitous chain restaurants, is rich with local eateries, the kind of places you take out-of-town guests and celebrate special events. The kind of places Southern Living would offer in its pages. We just beat them to it!
We’re proud to present a collection of features that not only showcase some amazing photography, but tell some equally amazing stories. A famous Seinfeld episode was built around the Soup Nazi, an outrageous character with bizarre rules that had to be tolerated because his food was so good. While none of the profiles contained within match his eccentricities, our area certainly has its characters. You’ll read all about them in a few minutes.
But let’s get back to the subject at hand—food.
I love Southern cooking and Central Florida has more than its share—blue crabs, sweet corn, fresh strawberries, ripe watermelon, and fried chicken, to name just a few. Our best restaurants take those raw ingredients and transform them into menu items that bring us back again and again.
Speaking of bringing you back, we’re already thinking of next year’s food issue, so send me your ideas. Tell us about local places you love, your favorite entrées, and any food-themed vacations you took recently. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be in these pages in 2009!
Until then, bon appetit.
All my best,