For years, Florida was an open-range state, where the cattle roamed freely and former slaves showed Indian chiefs how to round up herds. Spring cattle round-ups drove the herds to ports for shipping. Cracker cow pens were scattered across the state, usually about a day apart, and a roundup could take weeks to months. In Florida, cow handlers are referred to as cowmen not cowboys, but are also often called Crackers.
Each cowman was responsible for his own food. This excerpt from Biscuits and ‘Taters, by Joe G. Warner, sums up dinner time: “ Before the roundup… women would bake dozens of biscuits and sweet potatoes…pack those with a slab of salt bacon, coffee and sometimes an onion for dessert.” A fire was started to boil the coffee and a slab of bacon was “…put on a palmetto stalk and broiled over the fire…if water was scarce, salt on the boiling bacon was washed off in the coffee…Greasy salty coffee was good…ate taters first, scraped mold off the hardened biscuits and toasted them. On extended drives, the meat and sausage were fried and then packed into five-gallon tins and then fat poured over it in order for the meat to keep.” Often grits and corn pone were a part of this campfire meal. An 1876 living-history cow camp at Lake Kissimmee State Park recreates what life was like at the time. The town of Kissimmee, once known as “Cow Town,” had a ride-in bar for those not wanting to get off their horses after a hard day’s work. In the 1930s, the Florida Cattleman’s Association and the Florida Citrus Commission were created.
(A Culinary History of Florida, Joy Sheffield Harris)