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The Zest: The Ever-Evolving Gasparilla Pirate Festival

Gasparilla pirate

Gasparilla started out at the turn of the 20th century as a sedate little music program. Then, organizers decided to throw in a pirate invasion to spice things up -- and they succeeded: the Gasparilla Pirate Festival is now one of the country’s largest outdoor festivals. Speaking on The Zest podcast, Andrew Huse, an associate librarian at the University of South Florida in special collections, says Gasparilla “is like Mardi Gras without the Catholicism.”  

The event started out very differently than its current form, Huse says.  “It was a celebration imposed on the city by the people at the top,” he says. “It took some time before the rest of the city realized they could misbehave, too. So, for a long time, it was a very orderly affair.”

Huse described two kinds of Gasparilla foods: the “picnic foods” that you might eat while watching the parade (like Cuban sandwiches,) and the food at the various parties at homes lining the route. You can find Huse’s recipes for Picadillo and for Crab Chilau at thezestpodcast.com.

THE ZEST: Check out recipes and listen to past episodes

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Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.
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