Have you looked at beliefnet? It’s a stew of online resources about faith, religious history, and denominations. There’s even a handy test for the deluded or merely un-self-aware ““ take it and discover if in your heart — deep down where you answer online questionnaires — you’re a Neo-pagan, a Muslim or a Jehovah’s Witness”¦.

Belief.net also fosters less theological discussions, for example a recent invitation to general antipathy.

I dislike “¦ the dog days of summer.

I dislike … sore calf muscles that keep me from dancing.

I dislike … guns.

I dislike OKRA!

Vehemence! Okra provokes that. Unlike potatoes or green beans, which inspire (if not complete unanimity) at least tolerance, okra is opinion food.

We suggested okra for dinner tonight and a handsome face instantly scrunched up. No need for an online test on this one. Yet our congenial dinner partner ““ also the shopper here ““ kindly returned as requested: with a pound a beautiful fresh pods, both green and purple!

The okra came from Finca Pura Vida, a 44-acre organic farm east of us, in Fayetteville, Texas. From our shoppers’ report, Pura Vida had so much summer produce they filled two booths at this morning’s farmers market. Pro-okra Central Texans, you are in heaven! And, unbelievers, may the lord ““ and this recipe — help your unbelief.

Okra from Finca Pura Vida, Fayetteville, TX
at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, June 30, 2007
Photo: Bill Bishop
Finca Pura Vida okra

Tomatoes and Okra

2 Tbsp of butter or bacon drippings

add and sauté until brown:
½ c chopped onions

add and sauté for 5 min:
1 quart. (or 1 lb.) of sliced okra

2 ½ cups canned or freshly skinned tomatoes
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp curry powder
2 tsp brown sugar

simmer covered until okra is tender (5-10 min.)

Our mother cooked with this recipe, from her 1946 edition of the Joy of Cooking. The book allows that green pepper may be added and notes the recipe is “good au gratin, too” though (here comes opinion again), Mother never cooks it that way and that sounds like an abomination.

For much, much more on every dimension of okra (with a shamelessly positive bias), see Ravi Kochhar’s okra pages. Ravi appears to work in the physiology department at the University of Wisconsin, but he is actually an okra evangelist. “If you hate okra, you are being cheated!” he pleads, and a very delightful sermon begins.

One look at Gayla Lyons's and Edgar Chavez’s fresh pods should sway the most rock-hard okra atheist. If you find okra “gluey” and can’t bring yourself to partake of it, then please check out what Suzanne Ivester of Knoxville, Tennessee, has managed with polymer clay. Eat your old potatoes, and get busy. Okra makes a fine “decorative lizard.”

okra lizards by Suzanne Ivester
Okra lizards, made with polymer clay, by Suzanne Ivester

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