You can’t get more Florida Pioneer than making some pilau (pronounced “per-loo”) for dinner, supper, or a get-together potluck.
So what, you might well ask, is pilau? It’s really any meat and rice dish, and here’s what some historic figures have to say about it:
In the 18th century, naturalist William Bartram wrote of eating squab “made in pilloe with rice” while he was traveling through South Carolina. Of course he hadn’t gotten to Florida yet, but I daresay there were more cooks in South Carolina than in Florida at that time. And all that good Southrn cooking found a welcome home in Florida!
“Pilaus,” wrote Florida author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in 1942, “are almost a sacred Florida dish. No Florida church supper, no large rural gathering, is without it. It is blessed among dishes for such a purpose, or for a large family, for meat goes farther in a pilau than prepared in any other way.”
Pilau is truly an international dish just as Florida is the place where all nations meet: there are Ugandan, Kenyan, Indian recipes readily available online or in your favorite cookbook. What’s so wonderful about it, besides stretching the meat as Rawlings mentioned, is that you can make it your own. Some folks call it pilaf (well, I admit I did before I got to Florida), and some folks use poultry (see Bartram’s remark above), some use beef, sausage, pork.
I can never decide so I use chicken AND sausage. Over in St. Augustine they make a Minorcan version with shrimp and datil peppers. You can even start with a rotisserie chicken from the market (although I wouldn’t.)
You can even say it in your choice of pronunciation. Or call it paella, risotto, jambalaya.