November 24, 2011

New Orleans. March, 1991

Okra. Love it or hate it. No in between. I love it. Seen here in the French Market in New Orleans, its mucilaginous (aka slimy) qualities are one way the natives thicken their gumbos. (I had less success with said qualities when I sliced up some of the pods to make soup once.) I also like crisp pickled okra, which I’ve found both in Middle Eastern and Middle Western venues. The Armenian markets in my neighborhood feature both homemade and commercial varieties. And the Talk O’ Texas brand (”makes your mouth happy”) can be readily found in pickle-loving communities nationwide. I’ve put up jars of my own with iffy results. Hell, even Martha Stewart’s got a recipe for them. In Istanbul, baby okra is strung into “necklaces” and hung up to dry, later to be reconstituted in stews and other vegetable dishes. Closer to home, it’s still a mainstay of Southern and Southwestern buffets, breaded and deep-fried, the perfect accompaniment to chicken-fried steak. On the “hate it” side: My friend Nick makes a face whenever i mention okra (maybe he remembers that gooey soup referenced above) and always hopes his okra-lovin’ friend Nancy will forget to order it at the Manhattan Vietnamese restaurant they frequent. For the especially vehement, there are several “I Hate Okra” websites and even a Facebook group. Enjoy.

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