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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

But This Does NOT Mean That I Won't Someday Host My Own Talkshow

Show of hands here, y'all. How many of you have actually EATEN an okra? Fried, boiled, pickled, stewed, curried, whatever? How much do you really know about the okra?

'Cause lemme tell you people, Nana, Bean and I had an eye-opening experience yesterday at the local farmers' market that clued us in to the desperate need for a bit of, shall we say, a horticultural awakening among mid-Western farmers when it comes to that pod-a-licious wonderplant, the Hibiscus esculentus (le okra).

As we happily jounced across the countryside in the morning on our way to the market, the conversation turned, as it is wont to do when two or more of the women in my family convene, to our favorite subject, food. More specifically, What's for supper tonight? Already on the menu were barbecued chicken, twice-baked potatoes, and the sweet corn and sliced damaters we'd be buying at the market. Wonder if there'll any okra there today... pondered Nana. And my little heart skipped a beat. My mom fries a mean okra. I began to contemplate with relish the addition of a little of the crunchy goodness to our burgeoning dinner menu. Ooooooooooooh!, I salivated, I do hope there will be some!

With such a delightfully tasty prize in our sights, you can imagine how quickly and perkily we carried our little capri-panted selves past the first few stands at the market, peering expectantly beyond the potatoes and zucchinis and onions in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the unmistakeable, unique form of our favorite fuzzy vegetable. We barely even registered the sweet corn and damaters aplenty as more booths went by with not an okra pod in sight. Not good, my friends. Not good.

Dispirited but not defeated, I tramped over to the next booth, screwed up my best Why whatevah-do-you-mean-"You're not from around here, are you dear?" look, stared the farmer directly in the eyes and asked, "Ahem. Doesn't anyone here grow okra?"

The farmer attempted to smooth down a broad smile of what may have been incredulousness, but it stuck somewhere just north of benign pity and would fade no further. "Ah, no... No not really. I haven't seen anyone growing okra around here. I don't think the weather's hot enough up here for okra." I nodded as if I knew just what she meant and had been testing her all along. Inside, though, my heart sunk. Nana busied herself gathering up Bean to disguise her own awkward sigh of disappointment. And then...

From out of the silent, uncomfortable void came the voice of an angel. "Did you say okra? You're looking for okra? I was looking for it too and guess what?" WHAT! WHAT! WHAT! my heart thumped out rapidly. "A lady has some okra at the booth around the corner over there! I was so excited! I've had to have my Mom ship it to me from Oklahoma... I love okra and you can never find it up here!"

OH WE WERE SO EXCITED!!! We hot-footed our way around that corner after thanking the angel profusely. We were GOING. TO. GET. US. SUMMA. THAT. OKRA! Yes, ma'am!

Rounding the corner at a trot we stared keen-eyed at the array of vegetables before us, scanning each basket with careful discrimination. Okra?! No, peppers. Okra?! No, sugar snap peas. Okra?! No, tiny little cucumbers.

"May-GAN!" I was snapped from my visual veggie ransacking by my mother's voice beckoning my name.

Okra?!

"You don't want their okra..." she murmured under her breath and behind a hand.

HUH? WHY?

"Look."

And in the back of the vendor's van sat a basket of the biggest, meanest looking okra I've ever lain eyes on. Must have been seven inches long, this stuff. And as big around as a pickling cucumber. This okra was 3 times the size okra should be allowed to reach. This okra? Was RURNT. (Ruined, I mean.)

Now, we are Southern women. We do not take seven-inch okra lightly. (We do not take ANYTHING lightly.) We become appalled. There was tsking and gasping and fanning and hand-over-my-heart for I believe I have the vap-uhs and may swoon-ing. And then, after the initial shock of this... this... this... embarrassment to okrahood began to loosen its grip on our tongues, the hushed Southern-woman clucking commenced.

It'd be tough as shoe leather! Tsk. Like chewing on your own toenails! Tsk. They must not know a THING about okra. Tsk. Should we say something? Is there a kind way to explain the gravity of their error? Gasp. Don't STARE, she'll get her feelings hurt! Tsk. And I so wanted okra tonight. Sigh.

We recovered in time to enjoy a delicious dinner. We'd had all day to resign ourselves to the okralessness. But you better believe that both husbands got an earful about this Total Disgrace to Okra when we returned to The Manor after our marketing, and were duly wide-eyed at our tale.

Welcome to Chicago. What? No, OPRAH... The Home of OPRAH, dear.

17 comments:

  1. Have to say, I've had okra twice--once fried in Alabama, and pickled with my dad. Anthony and my dad used to polish off a jar of pickled okra in one sitting.

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  2. Last year, we grew Clemson spineless Okra here and it was delish! The okra we've found at the farmer's market here was pitiful and small and brown and not even enough to fry up enough for two people. Sad,really.

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  3. Girl, I've lurked on your site before, but I had to comment on this one. I'm outraged just reading about that okra. Yes, I have had okra: fried, boiled, stewed and raw. And I sympathize with your current state of okralessness. We currently moved from Oklahoma to New England. Enough said. ;-)

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  4. Love, love okra! My sweetheart won't touch it with a ten foot pole, even disguised as "fried mini zucchini!" I've given up the search for fresh and just make do with the frozen variety. Hey, it's washed, chopped, and available!

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  5. I have never had okra and until I met you never had the desire to try it. After all your talk, I would be willing to but - I live in Michigan. No okra here. It can grow here, because we had a neighbor that was from South Carolina and guess what he grew in his garden? Yes - lots of okra. I should have tried it then!

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  6. Had it fried. But not seven inches long. That's just not right. Profane even. Ewie!

    But I am thankful you kept your southern dignity in tact. Whew!

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  7. Not sure how I got to your blog, but I just had to comment. I LOVE okra!! Fried (my fav), pickled and even boiled! Heck I even like Stillwell frozen okra! I have a great fried okra salad recipe for it. But a 7" okra?????? don't think so!

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  8. I've never even thought about not being able to procure okra!!! I guess I'd better fry some up just b/c we can. I'm so sorry for your misfortune. My late step-father-in-law grew some okra one year that just TOOK OFF! By the end of season the "okra trees" as we called them were over 6 or 7 feet tall! BUT, we did not let the okra grow to any 7 inches.
    AND, might I say--rurnt is a word in my vocabulary. Only b/c some friends in college had the following conversation:
    (Taking meat out of freezer)#1: We cain't eat that! That meat is rurnt.
    #2 (city boy): Burnt?? Burnt?? How can it be burnt? It just came out of the freezer!
    #1: (getting in #2's face) I said RURNT! Not BURNT!

    Fine line, folks. Fine line.

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  9. I lub me some fried okra. I'm saddened by your okra-less dinner. Fortunately, WalMart makes a bag of the frozen stuff, which while not as good, is still okay.

    Monster okra? Sounds like the zucchini people have been foisting on me this week.

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  10. I live in the desert. Need I say more? Tomatoes, okra, zukes, they all pale by Southern comparison.
    And I LOVE your header. Who knew okra could be so bee-u-tiful?!

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  11. I'll be honest. While I knew of its existence (as in, the word) I have never seen (in person), smelled nor tasted an okra. Are we still friends? ;)

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  12. LOL LOL LOL!!!!!
    i'm in massachusetts and the only okra i can get my hands on is the battered/frozen bits, and that just won't do!
    sigh....
    i like my okra BLACKENED fried: cut into small pieces in the cast iron skillet sprinkled over with just a pinch or two of corn flower and salt, and "fried" in a dab of grease 'til the edges are black and crispy.
    you know about this kind of okra?
    :)

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  13. Love! Love! Love okra!! I'm a southern girl myself and it's unlawful to not have fried okra here. Down right just wrong!! You poor thing! Can't imagine being okraless - what kind of world do we live in? Somebody get the girl some okra!! :-)

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  14. okra was always big in my home growing up - grew it in the garden every summer.

    We are a southern family through and through.

    Blessings,
    Karla

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  15. Yes, I fry my very own okra out of the garden. I also sometimes bread it an bake it. It's healthier and easier that way, though not quite as tasty.

    Originally being from MA, I never heard of okra until college in SC. I still didn't actually bring myself to try any until well into my marriage. YUM-O!

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  16. Oh how I love fied okra. And stewed and whatever... How much do I love being a southern woman? So much! A Cajun southern woman, I'm blessed...

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Thoughts?