Florida: what do you think of? Your grandma in Boca? Bikinis in South Beach? The wild chickens of Key West? I didn't know what I was missing until I fell in love with a native Floridean who was determined to show me what she loved about her home state. Sure, we walked along the white Atlantic-side sands of Cocoa Beach and Delray Beach, and picked up shells from the Gulf of Mexico on the panhandle side. But mostly, we went inland, to explore the swampy, cypress-y, egret-y beauties of Central Florida, from the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge to Wakulla Springs (not to mention the Weeki Wachee mermaids, of course, but that's another story).
I'd read The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean, but I didn't realize how spot-on her reporting was until I watched a couple of sandhill cranes cavorting in a ditch alongside the highway. Lush nature was everywhere, creeping in between suburban developments and strip malls. Huge bushes of hibiscus and poinsetta. Stubby sabal palms. Anahingas perched on telephone wires, drying their wings. Alligators sunning themselves like piles of old tires.
I still hold an appreciation in my heart for the hidden treasures of this quirky, complicated state down at the bottom of the country, which meant I was instantly intrigued upon hearing about Hayley Downs' film Swamp Cabbage: A Dark and Sweaty Survival Guide, made with Bay Area artist Julie Kahn. Downs is a self-described "half-cracker," born and bred in central Florida, taught to hunt and fish alongside her dad in a place where hearts of palm don't come in a can and wild boar and venison are what's for dinner. "Spooky, dark, weird, unpredictable, beautiful," she calls it.
So what better way to raise completion money for such a film than to get help from the Bay Area's own huntin', fishin', and foragin' culture? This Saturday, you can support the film while grazing on unique eats you won't find elsewhere, at the 2nd benefit party hosted by Kahn and chef Ali Ghiorse of Savory Thymes, to be held in a private garden tumbling down a hillside in one of the posher bits of Marin. Part of the fun is in the discovery of different stations are set up throughout the garden for your nibbling pleasure.