Published: March 2007
David Burnett

What was one of your best experiences in the field covering this story?

What we now know as Orlando is actually made up of scores of little villages that became towns and then started bumping into one another and eventually formed this huge beast of a city in the middle of Florida. One of them, the African-American community of Eatonville, achieved some little fame as the childhood home of the writer and storyteller Zora Neale Hurston. They even have a small festival for her there. Driving through the town, looking for shots, I saw this little diner called The Homestyle Soul Food Café. Figuring it would yield some good photos, I went in and began setting up my camera gear. Then I checked out the food bar and made my real discovery: the best braised short ribs I've ever had the pleasure of eating. As often happens in my work, I formed an immediate bond with both the people and the food of this delightful diner. On my next and last trip, I returned to Eatonville for more of those short ribs. I would never return to Orlando without paying a visit to the Homestyle Café.

What was one of your worst experiences in the field covering this story?

Driving around, I noticed a lot of cars at a community center and stopped to see what was happening. I went in and found that a couple was celebrating their tenth anniversary and renewing their vows. I asked if they'd mind posing for me, so they came outside, where I found a shady area next to the parking lot that offered good light. "Stand there," I told them, pointing to a good spot. All of a sudden the wife, who was wearing this beautiful long white dress, started swatting at her legs. Well, it turns out I'd planted her right over an anthill. It was not a pretty picture, this ant attack on one of my hapless subjects. In fact, it got rather nasty before the ants were repelled. That experience was right up there in the "I'm sorry this happened" category.

What was one of your quirkiest experiences in the field covering this story?

The quirkiest thing I saw was in yet another Orlando suburb, a town called Oviedo. There, in a little shopping center near the town's main street, I watched in disbelief as a bunch of wild chickens strutted around the parking lot of one of their favorite hangouts: Popeyes Chicken Restaurant. Turns out there's a large population of these free-roaming feral chickens in Oviedo. And there they were at Popeyes, where people are driving through, saying "I'd like a 12-piece, extra spicy." You can almost sense the chickens' discomfort—though apparently they're immune from ever getting served up. What a sight! They were in the bushes, on the sidewalk, and all over the place.