The title to the Junior League of Jacksonville, Florida’s cookbook A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is based on a little known fact—that the hometown river of the St. John’s River is one of only two rivers flowing north in this hemisphere.
(And, in case you are wondering—as I was—how or why those two rivers run backward, I learned from Google that “Unless the land is totally flat, rivers of water run downhill. The vast percentage of rivers on the planet flow in a southerly direction because the source (usually in the mountains) is to the north of the mouth. If the source of a river is at a higher elevation than the mouth, that river will run from the source to the mouth. However, if that (higher) source is to the south of the mouth, that river will then flow to the north (downhill).
And actually—if you start digging deeper—you will find there are numerous other examples of rivers in the USA flowing north instead of south. I found the following on Google:

“How can a river flow north?” the real estate lady asked me. ‘I mean, it’s impossible. The offending river, within whose watershed I proposed to buy a house, is the Wallkill. It rises in Northern New Jersey – near Sparta – and passes by Middletown, NY, and through Montgomery, Walden, the eponymous town of Wallkill, New Paltz, Rosendale, and finally (with a complication) drains into the Hudson River at Kingston, NY – approximately 100 miles north of its source….” (There is a lot more but I’ll leave those up to you to find out for yourselves…sls)

You are invited to tour the hometown river and beach communities of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida in the Junior League’s collection of regional recipes, area history and family memories.

I was especially captivated by the reproduction of many old-time photographs, especially one of the old St. John’s Lighthouse, the oldest building in Mayport, built in 1858, and learned that two earlier lighthouses were abandoned and removed due to “their perilous proximity to the ocean.” There are a number of other equally interesting illustrations, some of which appear to have possibly been reproduced from old post cards. Many have been provided by the Jacksonville Historical Society Archives.

Published by those creative people at the Wimmer Company, “A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD” is beautifully composed and printed—and easy to read (a must for me nowadays—if I can’t easily read the print in a cookbook, I won’t buy it.)

And, A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is packed with a delectable collection of recipes; whether you fancy Madeline Maude’s Molasses Cookies (try saying that one five times real fast) or Nutmeg Ice Box cookies, Cinnamon Honey Squares, or Caramel Oat and Chocolate Bars (the nutmeg ice box cookies sounds like a good cookie recipe to add to your Christmas cookie baking list)—other sweet treats that sound enticing include a chocolate flan and a holiday sorbet made with fresh or frozen cranberries.

I tried Nancy’s Veggie relish and can personally vouch for it—plus, it’s easy to put together and lasts a long time in the frig—I was first introduced to this particular recipe by a girlfriend in Covina, California, who had relatives in the south – in Georgia and Florida. This recipe is well worth your time; keep it on hand as a standby relish or side dish.

I’m looking forward to trying Bourbon–Laced Sweet Potato Puree—I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect mashed sweet potato casserole—only please don’t top it off with marshmallows! I’ll try Grated Sweet Potato Souffle as soon as possible too.

What else sounds good to me? Asparagus with warm tomato Vinaigrette—I think it could be served as a salad or a side dish. The Glazed Red Cabbage which contains raspberry jam sounds delish to me too.

Also in the side dish category are several mouth watering Vidalia Onion recipes (if you are as partial to Vidalia Onions as I am!)

I have marked with post-its recipes for Chocolate Truffle Cake and Bunny’s Carrot Cake (I can’t wait to make this—finally!! A carrot cake that doesn’t contain two cups of cooking oil!) – and for next Christmas, I will be making MereMom’s Favorite Fruitcake—this recipe contains pecans, dates, candied cherries, candied pineapple—and no other candied fruit. I also found a recipe for Nutmeg Ice Box Cookies that is not in my ice box cookie collection.

Look for a great sounding Tortilla Soup recipe and something called Dragon’s Breath (also a soup!); Chutney Chicken salad and Pensacola Pasta Salad—the latter would make, I think, a fine addition to a holiday buffet.

Another fine feature of THE RIVER RUNS BACKWARDS is a
section of suggested party menus (the recipes, of course, can be found in the book).

Another little section is devoted to local restaurants with some of their specialty recipes; be sure to check out the steak marinade from the Beech Street Grill!

The Junior League of Jacksonville was formed in 1923 ; its charitable purpose has remained constant while its specific undertakings have met the challenges of each generation. At the time A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD was published in 1995, volunteers of the Junior League have focused on children’s issues, teen pregnancy and literacy. One project, the Family Visitation Center, developed in conjunction with the HRs and the Children’s Home Society, provides a homelike atmosphere for parents and other relatives to have supervised visits with their children in foster care. With each endeavor.

The League strives to encourage and celebrate a healthy community. The Junior League of Jacksonville was proud to present their unique and delicious collection of recipes to share with all those who enjoy a passion for cooking, tempting aromas, and memorable parties. They urge us to allow their river of recipes to flow back towards us.
Along with the many recipes, presented in a hidden spiral binding, there are reproductions of old black and white photographs including a copy of an 1858 Mayport Lighthouse and Keeperes residence from a 1900 photograph shared by the Beaches Area Historical Society Archives.

A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD is available on Amazon.com; you can order a new copy for $11.66 or a pre-owned copy starting at $1.01.

And, If you are interested, the Junior League of Jacksonville published an earlier cookbook in 1982, titled Jacksonville & Company. I think the price of a new copy (starting at $ 51.69) is another example of overpricing, but pre-owned copies start at $5.50 or a collectible copy is listed at $8.77. Jacksonville & Company was priced at $12.00 when published in 1982. This cookbook is also a fine example of well-thought out publishing; it was printed by a company in Memphis that I am not familiar with—but it’s a nice thick cookbook!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith


2 responses to “A RIVER RUNS BACKWARD

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