Flora Mae Hunter
1988 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Flora Mae Hunter (Tallahassee) was an African American plantation cook, renowned in Leon County for her knowledge of traditional Southern foodways. Hunter was born in 1911 on the Springhill Plantation, and moved when she was three to the adjoining Sunnyhill Plantation. At age fifteen she quit school to help her mother, the cook for the Sunnyhill Plantation, a lodge to which northerners came to hunt. She worked with her mother for four years, learning her cooking secrets.
In 1929, she was hired at the Springhill Plantation for her first cooking job. During her career, she worked for four adjoining plantations—Sunnyhill, Springhill, Foshalee, and Horseshoe. She cooked for the Baker family at Horseshoe until her retirement in 1969, treating wealthy and distinguished guests to dishes prepared in the style of Hunter’s mother and grandmother.
Hunter seldom used written recipes, depending on recollections of her mother’s methods. Basking in her mother’s glory as an excellent cook, Hunter usually used the same reliable, traditional recipes to create her own tasty home-cooked meals. Nevertheless, she occasionally created her own recipes as she “went along.” Hunter also wrote a cookbook, Plain and Fancy Plantation Fixin’s, which showcased her knowledge of Southern cuisine.