Another Snowbird Visit With Jim Symington

Admittedly, I hate cold weather. I don’t ever remember really cold, nasty weather growing up in Memphis or in school at Ole Miss. Although I do recall one time when there was enough snow on the university campus for guys to “sled” down the hill behind Ward Hall on the hoods of old cars they had purchased from the local junkyard.

Getting out of New Jersey and heading to warm, sunny Florida is my idea of the way to spend winter. I like being a snowbird!

While some folks here in Venice are all consumed with playing croquet, I also enjoy time lunching with friends, attending history lectures, volunteering at the historic train depot, checking out the thrift shops and cooking. We recently had lunch at the Pink Elephant on Gasparilla Island with Jim and Sylvia Symington.

I’ve known Jim since my days as editor of the Daily Mississippian when James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi. Jim was an assistant attorney general under Bobby Kennedy, sent to check out the situation on the Ole Miss campus during those turbulent days. He later became a Congressman from Missouri; his father was Senator Stuart Symington.

Sylvia talked about their days of taking Amtrak overnight from Washington D.C. to Venice and then renting a car to drive to Gasparilla. When the train stopped in 1971, the Symingtons flew down to Florida, keeping a car at the Sarasota airport—then an open field. They left the keys to the car under the mat and amazingly no one ever stole the car.

Since the Symingtons were not familiar with six-wicket croquet, we took them over to the courts behind the Gasparilla Inn. A friend walked across the court to say “Hello” to Ken and me but stopped when he saw the folks behind us.

“Is that Jim Symington?” Oakley Johnson asked. He and the former Missouri congressman had a great time reminiscing about the days when Oakley’s father and Jim sang in a quartet in D.C.

Ken mentioned seeing Brit Hume reporting on Fox News from Boca Grande and wondered if he had a house on Gasparilla. “Oh, I don’t know,” Sylvia said. “We’re having dinner with him on Sunday.” Small world.

Always looking for new recipes to try when I have the cooking urge, I found one in the Winn-Dixie Flavor magazine. Of course, I made some changes. Here’s my version of a very tasty recipe that I cut in half for Ken and me.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 lb. peeled shrimp
2 limes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, one tablespoon olive oil, one teaspoon salt and half teaspoon pepper. Mix well.
Add shrimp, coat well and set aside.
Zest and then juice one lime. Cut the remaining lime into slices and set aside.
Heat the remaining olive oil and the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add shrimp and cook until just pink.
Add jalapeno, garlic, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro.
Combine well and remove from heat.
Garnish with lime slices.
Makes four servings.
Serve with rice and mixed green salad.


Sidna Brower
Sidna Brower Mitchell was the editor of The Daily Mississippian in 1962.

Sidna Brower Mitchell was graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963 and named to the Ole Miss Hall of Fame. She was editor of The Daily Mississippian when James Meredith integrated the university, receiving a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her editorials and a number of other honors and job offers.

The Memphis native worked for the World-Telegram and Sun in New York City and UPI in London. She held other media and public relations jobs as well as being a part owner of weekly newspapers in Morris County, NJ, for 25 years. She has continued to write a weekly cooking column since 1975. Sidna retired as deputy director of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a controversial state agency.

Still holding offices in several organizations, Sidna has taken up serious croquet in retirement and has participated in tournaments in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.

While she has never returned to the South to live, Sidna’s heart and cooking still have that Southern touch.

She can be reached via e-mail at sbmcooks@aol.com.

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