Yesterday I posted a brief essay in praise of okra and the results were interesting. Seems that, in the South at least, fried okra garners much praise. We adore okra in gumbo. We abide it when included with other things we like. When we boil it, heads begin to turn away and least one person indicated that you could chase him with a pickled okra.
One has to admit, though, that it is a versatile vegetable. It isn’t a “veggie.” Where that awful term originated I don’t know, but it is an insult to a robust delight such as okra. Real men eat vegetables, and the best of them like okra.
My father liked his boiled, (“bawled”) and my mother would fill a small saucer of it for him. The rest of us liked it fried. Don’t tell my wife, but nobody on earth could fry okra like my mother. How she did it is beyond me. My sister has a vague recollection but even her guidance results in product that falls short of expectations. It may be a lost secret.
A famous radio announcer in Little Rock, a man who created a persona called “Uncle Hal,” once summed up the general feeling about boiled okra. He said he didn’t like it because he didn’t want anything sliding down his throat before he was ready for it to.
As a youth, I had another issue with this plant. After picking it, one itched for several hours. Somehow, they bred the itchiness out of it so now the process is almost bearable. It is almost bearable except for one thing, it flourishes best when it is too damned hot to pick it. But never mind.
In my more mature years, I have come to appreciate okra in almost any form except that served in chain restaurants. If I am ever elected King, I’ll make that practice illegal. In the meantime, I like it boiled, steamed, fried, baked, sautéed, stir-fried and, this evening while I am “batching it” and can do as I please, I fully intend to try okra au gratin. Take that, Martha Stewart.
Try this wonderful food. If your kids won’t eat it at first, take away their cell phones until they do. They will thank you for it later. Remember, there is no such thing as a finicky eater. Armies found that out oh, say a hundred thousand years ago or so.
“I hate 'foodie' because it's cute, like pretty much all diminutives associated with eating. 'Veggies,' 'sammies,' 'parm.' I eat food, and I cook it: it's for eating, preferably with friends, and I don't make a fetish out of it.” - Steve Albini