Southern Living: The Joy Of The Simple Life, or Why I Love Okra And Hush Puppies

I’m a foodie. And kind of bougie, too. I’ve just decided to embrace it, though. Ergo, I have food journals in which I critique/take notes on the foods I eat (mostly from restaurants). Some of the entries sound kind of pretentious, but it’s because I like to relive the flavors, textures, smells, and looks of food. I like to take note of flavor combinations in my entrees, balance in seasonings and things like that; and flakiness of dessert crusts, pastry cream to fruit ratios in tarts, and the perfect tiramisu in my book has a rich, creamy bite that comes from both coffee-soaked lady finger cookies and mascarpone cream. So far, Publix is winning my “best ever tiramisu” contest.

For whatever reason, food has always been a tangible connection to great memories for me. Christmas is my favorite thing in the whole world, because it is a whole season unto itself that comes with a built-in excuse to bake every day if I want to. Chocolate pie and chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies remind me of time spent in the kitchen with my grandmother. Sugar cookies take me back to the Christmas I was around 7 or 8 and my sister, who would have been 3 or 4 at the time gave me my first ever baking set, that came with a plastic rolling pin, rubber spatula and cookie cutters (all of which I still have and frequently bake with, at Christmastime).

So it’s only natural that when I left work on Tuesday, I stopped to shop at a vegetable stand on the side of the road, run by a little old farmer man. He had a wheel barrow full of corn, several beautiful tomatoes, bunches and bunches of fresh okra, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I bought a butternut squash and a huge sweet potato, both of which I will turn into soups (butternut ginger and sweet potato chipotle) and a bushel ( I guess?) of okra.

Whenever I go visit my step grandmother in Alabama, we always go to the farmer’s market. We have a system. She gets her produce, which usually includes field peas. Then, we come home and watch the Lifetime Movie Network while I shell peas and she stews tomatoes. While I was shopping the vegetable stand I started thinking about why I love the simplicity of small town life so much: everyone at the farmer’s market knows who you are, people stop by on Saturdays and there’s always a slice of pie in the fridge to share.

Most of my favorite memories are tied to fresh produce and small towns. When I got home from the vegetable stand, I went to my perch on the kitchen counter with my laptop, put on How I Met Your Mother, on Netflix and got to work slicing okra. From the very first slice, the smell of fresh, green okra reaching my nose took me back to Alabama, to Walsie’s (my step grandmother) apartment and the Lifetime Movie Network, to my Pappaw’s garden, to my childhood home in Brasil, learning how to cook from my mom.

I put the okra in salted water for an hour, to draw out the slime so I wouldn’t have to use an egg to bread it, and then I mixed flour and cornmeal with a little salt, pepper, celery seed, garlic powder and chipotle powder; breaded half the okra and fried it up. I  froze the rest, then made some hush puppies, using the same spices, and served it all with some Ketchup. I never eat fried things, but this was just one of those times I needed to enjoy the simple things, in this case: cornbread, hushpuppies and a friendly game of Pirates of the Caribbean Yahtzee with my dad (I lost).

Take some time this week to enjoy your life’s most simple pleasures, whatever they might be for you 🙂

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