The legend of the pirate Jose Gaspar, who once haunted the bays and inlets of Florida’s West Coast, is the inspiration for Tampa’s annual festival, Gasparilla. Just as Gasparilla is Tampa’s signature event, The Gasparilla Cookbook celebrates our unique culinary heritage.
First published in 1961, The Gasparilla Cookbook was The Junior League of Tampa’s first foray into the world of cookbooks – and a successful foray it was. Over the past 49 years, it’s been reprinted more than 20 times, has sold over a quarter of a million copies and has won several awards, including the Southern Living Hall of Fame Award. It contains over 700 recipes, all of which were submitted by League members, local restaurants, and residents of the Tampa Bay area. It’s one of the most popular League cookbooks to date
Of course, while seeing a copy of The Gasparilla Cookbook in the hands of one of the most famous and most recognizable women in the world, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, surely boosted sales, it’s the recipes that keep the book in print today. The Spanish Bean Soup is perfection; there are two recipes for Bolichi that are both out of this world; and there are two Picadillo recipes that are simply fantastic. These, and several other recipes in the book, are quintessential Tampa as they highlight the Spanish influence that’s prevalent throughout the area.
However, the recipes aren’t the only stars of this cookbook. The artwork that precedes each chapter of the cookbook was created by Tampa’s own Lamar Sparkman, who was quite the local legend. Since 1947, he regularly created cartoons for the Tampa Tribune sports pages about the University of Florida, Florida State, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His most famous work, however, could be seen every Sunday during football season on the helmets of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lamar created “Bucco Bruce,” the pirate who was the logo for the Bucs for 20 years. You can learn more about Lamar here.
Another celebrity of the times, Clementine Paddleford, came to Tampa one year during the annual Gasparilla invasion and festival. Clementine Paddleford was a food writer for the New York Herald Tribune whose readership numbers topped over 12 million during the 1950s and ‘60s. She flew all over the country in search of the best recipes and she was wisely brought here, to Tampa, by Byron Crowder, promotions chair for The Gasparilla Cookbook. After spending a week in Tampa and tasting several of the recipes in the book, Clementine returned to New York City and wrote a glowing article about the cookbook that no doubt had a hand in helping to build the successful sales history of The Gasparilla Cookbook. You can learn more about Clementine here.
The success of The Gasparilla Cookbook has been helping to support The Junior League of Tampa’s efforts to
better the lives of so many in the Tampa Bay area for almost 50 years and will surely continue doing so for many more. If you don’t already have a copy, or if your copy has seen better days, you can purchase a new copy here. They make excellent gifts and 100% of the proceeds from your purchase will be used to support the JLT’s ongoing community projects.