Fried Okra Memories

    My mother made the best. She didn't do anything fancy, just cut it up and tossed the okra in a bowl with flour. Then fried it in a black iron frying pan just barely covered with oil. The okra was perfect, and to this day, I have found none better. Of course, my mother being a southern girl raised on the farm knew all the basics of wonderful southern cooking. Vegetables were boiled with bacon fat and meats were fried and meals always served with corn bread. That was the way it was in the 40's and 50's, my childhood days. Okra was almost always in a daily meal. A few pods were boiled with the peas, black eye, zipper, lady peas or butterbeans. The okra was prepared according to size, smaller pods were boiled and larger ones fried. It seems there was never enough fried okra, since my sister and I gobbled that up first.
 
    My sisters and I had the daily job of watching for the vegetable vendors that came to town and drove up and down residential streets selling fresh picked veggies from the farms. One was an old gent that rode on an old wooden wagon pulled by his mule , which probably pulled the plow for his fields during planting season. Wood bushel baskets piled with corn, peas, squash cucumbers, etc were in the wagon and hanging from chains on a pole and noisily rattling was an old tin scale used to weigh out the vegetables. He was a favorite vendor, and we quickly learned, who had the best veggies. Most of the time, mother bought the okra from the "mater man". Now the "mater man" was a portly man with a red face and wore a sweaty straw hat and drove an old red pick up truck. He would even drive right up to the door step. Now his nick name came from the fact that he grew the best tomatoes in town, and he would be quick to tell you that he had the best maters on his truck. So us little girls would always run yelling "mamma, mamma, the mater man is here" I can just see her going out on the porch in her flowered, cotton house dress to look over the vegetables and buy for the evening meal. We spent a good bit of summer time sitting on the front porch shelling peas and shucking corn, especially if the price was right, and she would buy bushels of vegetables to be frozen for the winter meals.
 
    Later, after I left home for wide spread destinations, my parents bought five acres and built a home. My mother's dream could then become reality, for she then had her own huge garden to feed the family. We loved going home to visit and eating her home grown vegetables. Okra grows on tall stalks with leaves that make our arms fell scratchy and itchy, when you cut off the pods, but it did not bother my mamma. She would put on old garden clothes and always go out in the garden to gather and prepare our special favorites. Now that she is in her eighties and the garden has been long gone, you can still spot some stalks of okra growing in the flower garden. To this day, my nephew, William Waller, co-owner of Sugar Mill, often talks about his Grandmother's fried okra. She always fried up a pan full, when he was there, or would send raw okra back home with me to give to him. One of his fondest memories--Grandmother's fried okra. My dear friend, Armetta, just walked in and I asked her what she could tell me about fried okra. She said, "I love it and could eat it for three meals a day."

    So, if you have never tried it, fried okra is easy to fix. Just get out your iron skillet and give it a try. OH yes, don't forget to serve it up accompanied with some of those good, sliced maters!  

Annette Putnam  (Co-founder - loving sister & aunt)