"Do you want your Aunt Nell to cook some fried okra tonight?" Uncle Ralph asked this question about 2:30 in the heat of the afternoon, while I was scraping weeds out of the okra and beans and tomatoes and anything else he'd chosen to grow that summer. I figured I was earning me a trip out on the lake in his boat to catch some fish that Aunt Nell could also turn into a religious experience. I didn't know I was placing my vote where supper choices were concerned.
"Yes sir, that'd be good."
"Use 'Sir' when talking to your daddy. I don't need that. If you want some fried okra, look on the porch, get a bucket and come back out here and pick some."
Okra - for those not afraid of hot weather and home-grown anything- tastes like someone picked heaven, cooked it and served it up fried, boiled or pickled. To this day I not only enjoy its taste but realize it's part of what makes me, well,,,,,ME. It has much in common with the way I pronounce certain words and love hot weather.
I ran to the porch, grabbed a bucket and picked as much as I could. "If it ain't as long as your middle finger, don't pick it" he said. I cheated several times and picked some way short.
"That's enough for supper...go back there and wash off unless you and Alan are going swimming after while..." ("After" probably being pronounced "Atter" and Alan a reference to the cousin I spent most of my formative years following around on lakes and in woods and anywhere else he went.)
But before I made it to the shower, Aunt Nell stopped a shirtless me and screamed at her husband "PA! You didn't tell him to wear a shirt before he went out and picked okra???!!!" I had welts up and down my chest, stomach and back where I'd been picking. As was par for the course, my dear uncle just laughed and said "Well, he won't do that again." Okra, you see, has this fuzz on it that's very much akin to the insulation we use to secure our houses from the elements. If you're not careful while picking it, you'll soon need a bath of Witch Hazel or Calamine Lotion (I vote for Witch Hazel because Calamine makes you look like you took a bath in Pepto Bismol) I didn't care if acted like battery acid upon my skin. A taste of okra is worth any hardship that you have to endure to get it on a plate.
I see a lot of commercials these days dealing with "What do I feed my kids??!". There's great mention of chicken fingers because they're so easy.. The women that I grew up around would've said "chickens don't have fingers....what do you want for supper?" I know times are different. Both parents have to get out and make a living. So I reckon 2:30 p.m. inquisitions about "what do you want for supper?" are as antique as turntables and VCR's. This makes me sad...and also makes me want okra for supper....