Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Today's contributor, Virginia Willis, is the author of cookbooks "Bon Appétit, Y’all" and "Basic to Brilliant, Y’all." She is a contributing editor to Southern Living and a frequent contributor to Taste of the South. She also wrote Eatocracy's most-commented post of all time.
In this series for the Southern Foodways Alliance, I am examining iconic Southern foods that so completely belong to summer that if you haven’t relished them before Labor Day, you should consider yourself deprived of the entire season. My plan is to share a little history and a few recipes that I hope you will enjoy.
This week, it’s all about okra.
Ok, I know, I know. Stop. You either love okra or you absolutely hate it, and you’ve already decided to click away. Stay. Please, please stay. I’ve got this, really, I do. Okra is the new asparagus. Seriously. I’m certain of it.
Vegetables are leafy, crunchy, luscious, colorful little presents the earth gives out to say it loves us. They're packed with the vitamins and nutrients we need to keep from perishing of all manner of dreadful pirate diseases like rickets, scurvy and beriberi.
The least we can do is prepare them as deliciously as possible. Here's our best advice for making the most of the season's bounty.
Vegetarians are (mostly) not here just to ruin your good time. Really. I swear. I was one, myself for seven years and all I wanted at a cookout was to hang out with my friends, and not have to worry that the omnivores would gobble up all the meat-free sides before I got to the table.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate the bounty of the season and make sure all my guests leave full and satisfied - no matter how they choose to chow down.
Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Let Mario Batali pronounce it for you.
The first time my mother ever cooked for my father, she made okra. If the cuisine of my childhood provides any indication, there's an excellent chance that she defrosted a cube of pods, chucked them into a pot and boiled until floppy. Neither she nor my father is Southern or Indian in upbringing. Okra is not their birthright; they were clearly tempting fate.
My father chewed dutifully, likely made the appropriate "yummy" faces - until my mother took a bite and bolted for the sink. He quickly followed suit, and the story became the stuff of family legend - not to mention a family phobia.