Hey ya’ll! I am from the South (duh)! I live in the part of the South where the word Sou-th is actually two complete and separate syllables. It gently “rolls” off your tongue like honey from a jar. And in the Sou-th where I live, okra is a B.I.G. deal! First of all, who would expect that such a gangly plant could produce such gorgeous flowers? And who would have expected that such luscious food could grow on the prickly stem? God made a masterpiece when he made okra. It is manna from Heaven!
First of all, I have to say that two people in my life started my love affair with okra. The first was my Nannie. I was lucky enough to have a Nannie that was pure country. When she visited-which was always during the vegetable canning season-she first introduced me to okra. Boiled okra. I know that some of you are saying “yuck yuck”. Well, let me tell you that once she sat me down with the small, tender okra pods that were gently boiled and paired it with fresh butterpeas, creamed fresh corn and a BIG slice of mater (tomato for you Yankees), I was hooked!
The other person who helped to intensify my addiction was the lady across the street from us. She was a sweetie. Her husband worked nights so she always cooked a big lunch and they ate mid-afternoon. Well as I was playing jacks (a summer favorite) on my screened front porch or reading, the most delicious odor would float right out her kitchen window and straight to my nose. I could not figure out what she was cooking. So one day I decided to stop by and see if her daughter was at home. I knew she wasn’t there! And Mrs. H invited me into her kitchen. When you went visiting at dinner time, you always talked in the kitchen while you sat on the kitchen stool and sipped sweet tea with lemon. Right before me was a big, black cast iron skillet filled with this wonderful little brown tidbits. It was fried okra. She was a QUEEN of fried okra. That seasoned skillet made every morsel crispy and flavorful. Then she offered me some on one of her Blue Willow plates and I was totally hooked. I swooned with each bite. Oh my! Then she began to call across the street when she had okra for lunch. From her front porch she would call–“Honey come on over, I have a little plate for you” And I would run and ask my momma and then head across for the best okra in the world. Thank you Mrs. H and Nannie for introducing me to okra!
I have to confess that I am an okra purist. The season is short and I must enjoy every okra opportunity. Now the purist rules. Okra is fresh from the garden. It is never frozen. Okra is coated with buttermilk and real corn meal-not that mix stuff with flour in it. The last rule is it is F.R.I.E.D. in a black cast iron skillet in oil. Period.
And yes, honey, we are having fried okra again tonight!