August 29, 2008

Beach + Fried Food = An Almost Perfect Formula

Last weekend I happily munched on these greasy morsels of breaded okra at Carolina Beach, just 20-something miles SE of Wilmington. While I never really considered myself a beachgoer, I must admit that North Carolina's sandy coastline is the perfect location to indulge in a bulging shrimp burger with a side of fried okra. (If only I had a bowl of fried ice cream to go along with this oil-icious meal!)

First fried okra experience: Hmm...er...it was okay. Sort of. Well...

While I can't say that I LOVE deep-fried okra, I enjoyed it more than the raw okra I tossed into my salad earlier this month. (Surprise, surprise!) This batch of okra from A & G BBQ really stood up to the fry, and I respect that. While some veggies turn limp or grease-logged when bathed in oil, my okra stayed crisp, fresh and flavorful. However, the gumminess I complained about in "Okra Confessional" was still present in the fried version, and maybe this is something that one eventually learns to love--like onions, or our parents' dog. On the other hand, maybe I just need to come to terms with the fact that okra just ain't the pod for me. I hope this is not the case.

To set the matter straight, I'm going to give fried okra another shot. The flavor of a dish as seemingly simple as fried food depends on many factors: the cook's preferences (and mood), quality of ingredients, amount of ingredients, region, season, etc. Taking these factors into account, I don't want to dismiss okra after only two tastings. After all, it took me months to enjoy yerba mate' tea, and years to finally be able to stomach Brussel Sprouts. After all the agony I endured while growing up with these mini-cabbages, Brussel Sprouts are now among my favorite vegetables. So, who knows--maybe okra will soon have a place at the top of my culinary list!

This Southern cuisine deserves another chance in my own kitchen. Third time's a charm, right? (Or, as with my experience with Brussel Sprouts, the 87th time might be the charm.) A co-worker shared with me her recipe for fried okra, and in a week I'll be stockpiling my fridge with my not-so-favorite--yet!--green pod.

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