Florida's Finest

Nosh on the latest literary offering from Chef Norman Van Aken.


Norman Van Aken is Florida’s culinary bard, minstreling across coasts and from northern marsh to Barbary Keys. His latest book, Norman Van Aken’s Florida Kitchen (University Press of Florida), distills the multicultural essence of Floridian cuisine into a well-flavored guisado of style and taste.

He shares the conversational rhythms that put Jack Kerouac on the road. Van Aken writes, “Those tasting our sauce who have [an educated] culinary background might compare it to a gastrique … Does that make it better? No. I learned it from a Cuban Italian woman named Rosa.”

Van Aken doesn’t include complex recipes just to show off his wizardry. While describing the Portuguese origins of Indian lamb vindaloo, he fully expects you to make the fiery paste, prep the lamb, and spend hours cooking same. And he expects it to be great.

He name drops people like actor Dustin Hoffman and Umatilla whiskey distiller Dick Waters (on the same page); master chef Dean Fearing, 4 Rivers owner John Rivers and the great songwriter Lowell George, all as if he’s known them as friends (which he usually has).

Densely laden with impeccable recipes and shout-outs to local producers, the book is a story of one chef continuing to discover the quilt of Florida cooking, for all of us.


Categories: Dining