Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Hot Damn

I've always hated okra.

My earliest memories of it were in Mom's gumbo, a dish I loved except for the slimy, nasty pieces of green gunge filled with seeds. I shudder at the thought. Okra was pretty much the only food I refused to eat, and as such, the only food I would choke down while holding my nose. Mom insisted holding my nose meant I couldn't taste it but she didn't seem to understand that my primary objection was to the texture, not the taste. Holding your nose isn't really going to help in that case.

In college, one of the local (awesome) restaurants was Bullock's Barbeque. Bullock's is - and this is without hyperbole - world famous Carolina barbeque. The pulled pork is masterful. Their hush puppies, long and finger-shaped rather than round, are to die for. If it could be fried, Bullocks would likely fry it. Of course, this included okra. I found Bullock's fried okra, cut crosswise into little rounds and dropped in whatever God-blessed batter they use to be palatable, but not exactly something I wanted more than a taste of.

So here I am, 12 (or so) years later, perusing Whole Foods on a Friday night. I discovered the following important bits of news:

1. Whole Foods is empty on Friday night. It's fantastic. Truly an excellent time for shopping if you have nothing else to do. No line at the meat counter. No defensively running the dairy case gauntlet just for a little yogurt. What?

2. Spicy pickled okra is sold in the olive bar.

I don't like that I don't like okra. I think because I love food so much, hating just one food feels a little bit like loving all God's children, except one. (We all know that one is the one who sits behind you in an airplane and kicks your seat for the duration of the flight, and who is old enough to know better, but I digress.) As a food lover, it feels like a character flaw to not be open to any and all foods. But maybe I'm too hard on myself.

Still, I had to try. Feeling optimistic, I put three pickled pods in a little to-go container and sealed it up. Game on.

Here's what dinner ended up looking like:

It's hot out and I didn't feel like cooking, ergo snacks for dinner. Clockwise from left: pickled okra, oil-cured olives,  genoa salami, manchego, figs with honey and ground pepper. The fig + honey + freshly ground black pepper is one of my favorite quick "desserts."

The okra verdict?

Delicious! Who knew?!? The seeds weren't gross or anything, somehow the pickling firmed them up. I actually like these better than regular cucumber pickles because they lack that slimy-seed factor. And the spicy heat was perfect. Not tongue-burning but enough to be a little bit sassy. I wish I'd bought more than three! Will have to go back for more soon.

Is it ridiculous that I'm actually kind of proud of myself for conquering okra? I am, though. I feel like I feel when I've run a really great client meeting, or when I've figured out the answer to a problem that's seemed unsolvable. Maybe it is a little ridiculous. I don't know. What I do know is that I'm taking okra off the farm box "do not send" list, effective immediately. And as soon as it shows up, I am pickling it.

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