Let me begin preface this post by saying that my friend LaRue is one of THE most talented, creative people I know. She is the one who gave me the nudge I needed to move forward with my new business and helps me see myself as the writer I want to be. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive, encouraging friend and partnership than I feel I have in her.
That being said, the woman chose the theme for today’s post and I knew exactly what she was doing when she suggested it. She was doing what she does best – making me stretch my creative muscle. But hey, she’s a teacher so….here goes nothin’.
Those who know me, know I love to grow stuff in the dirt. But when I was a kid, I h.a.t.e.d. gardening. Taking a hoe to the weeds in the garden rows was NOT my idea of a fun summer afternoon, and picking the garden was worse. Because bugs. Ew.
One job that I never got to do was cut the okra. My mom would put on gloves, get a small but sharp paring knife, and cut the strange, fuzzy vegetable from its stem.
As an adult, it’s not one of those go-to vegetables that I grab as a side dish. I like it, but I have never actually cooked it other than pre-breaded and ready to fry. Because that, in my opinion, is the ONLY way this little, slimy pod should be eaten.
I was actually doing a little reading about okra as I was preparing for this post and discovered that it is in the same family as the hibiscus, which is one of my favorite flowers. So at least it has that going for it. I’ve never tried it pickled, but I know people who love it. Wikipedia says that it’s actually a pretty versatile little plant, that it’s used in dishes all over the world, so maybe I should rethink my feelings about it. I don’t NOT like it, I just don’t LOVE it. There’s not too many vegetables that I feel that way about, so this post was challenging just because I don’t really have strong feelings on the subject.
How could I find a different angle for my okra post?
Blogging, for me, is not only a journal of sorts, but it’s also a way to express myself to others. I named my Blog “A Pensieve View” because I like to use it as a way of letting people see my thoughts. So, other than the above mentioned factoids, the more I thought about okra, the more it conjured up feelings of home. Memories of time with my parents in our gardens that we had when I was a child. Of Cajun friends who love to make a pot of gumbo. I have no doubt there’s okra in their recipes.
I’m going to also say that okra has symbolism for me. Yes, it does.
“Fascinating,” you say, “tell me more!”
It’s sort of like this: once upon a time, my mama wouldn’t let me handle the harvesting of the okra. I’m all grown up now, and I’m free to grow my own. Put on my own gloves, and use a sharp knife. I would only know to do those things because I watched her do them. Sometimes I think we forget how closely our kids are observing us in everything we do.
In our early years, good parents will protect us from that which can hurt us. Or from those things with which we might royally make a mess. Later, we’re left to our own devices. And by watching them we know what to do, and not to do.
Okra also, for me, symbolizes something seemingly ordinary, that maybe we should experience anew.
I’ve loved to write for as long as I can remember. It’s my passion. It’s what makes me tick. Even about okra. My writing is sometimes slimy. Raw. Sometimes it’s breaded with a lot of simplicity and metaphors – to make it more appetizing. Sometimes it gets drowned in a soup of ideas that I have a hard time bringing together. But I’m still learning how to use it in the way that works best for what I need it to in that moment.
And okra represents the idea that just because we don’t know much about something, doesn’t mean we can’t know something about it if we choose to.
Now that I have a daughter of my own, I try and get her to try new foods. And I do the same. I’ve done some interesting things with ground almonds, zucchini, and chicken the last few months. The versatility of a little thing like okra can be fascinating. So, I think I may give it a second look.
That’s the problem when you’re forced outside of your comfort zone – you might like it. And you may never look at okra the same way again.