Lakewood Ranch Herald

Taste of Myakka serves up country cooking

EAST MANATEE — After the swamp cabbage boils for almost five hours, tenderizing and extracting juices, Ella Kersey seasons it with salt, pepper and bacon. She adds milk and sugar and serves a tender batch of the traditional Florida cracker dish.

Kersey, 66, has been preparing swamp cabbage for 52 years and will have some at the Taste of Myakka on Saturday that will bring out an array of old Florida cuisine. Proceeds will aid a local cancer victim.

Gathering the swamp cabbage is a family outing for Kersey’s family. Her husband, Richard, uses an axe to split the tree and hack out the heart of the cabbage palm. “Nowadays some guys use chain saws,” said Richard’s daughter, Tammy Meador, who totes the hearts out of the woods. “Daddy is 66 years old and he cuts a cabbage in three minutes.”

The Taste of Myakka will be held from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Myakka Family Worship Center on 33420 Singletary Road. The event is open to the public and will benefit cancer patient Randy Ballard and wife Diana Ballard.

The menu will consist of delicacies from the Myakka culture, including swamp cabbage, fried gator tail, frog legs, green tomatoes, various types of barbecue, roasted corn, and homemade cobblers and cakes. Cost is $7 for a plate and prices of individual dishes vary.

For the auction, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch donated a deep-sea fishing trip and deer hunt, and Bill Booth from Outdoors Sports donated a gator hunt. A quail and hog hunt, donated by the Longino Ranch in Myakka, also will be up for auction.

There will be “bounce houses” for children, games, and live country and worship bands.

Tena Whaley, who will be collecting donations, said Taste of Myakka has been going on for almost five years.

“A couple years ago, we raised money for a boy who had cancer,” Whaley said of a child named Larry Betts, Jr. “We raised the money and now his cancer is in remission and everything’s good.”

Myakka resident Pepper Sellars, the administration director of the Myakka City Community Center, said for the fourth straight year she will indulge in the many Myakka flavors.

“My kids’ favorite is the bounce houses,” she said. “Me and my husband like a taste of everything. We go for all their cooking. We wear elastic pants.”

Mary Ann Street has been a Myakka resident for 16 years, and lives just a couple miles from where the Taste of Myakka will take place.

“I have to be honest, I’ve never been to one,” she said. “Personally, I’m a vegetarian so I don’t eat frog legs or things like that.”

But she will scarf down fried green tomatoes, okra, and roasted corn.

“Oh, yeah,” she said, “I can eat that stuff.”

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