Okra Is For Lovers
By Cappy Hall Rearick
I had been engaged for less than a month when I took my fiancée home to meet my family. It was a textbook example of what a Pennsylvania Yankee should not do when meeting his soon-to-be Southern relatives. It’s funny now but when it was happening? Not so much.
After sitting down to the mid-day meal at Mama’s house, the token Yankee had the gall to bad-mouth okra. He might just as well have peed on Robert E. Lee’s grave.
“What did he say,” hollered Aunt Polly who was blessed with selective hearing. “I thought he said that okra is slimy.”
That was exactly what he said. In addition, he ignored me kicking the daylights out of him under the table. The fool just kept digging a deeper hole for himself, a hole I so wanted to crawl into.
“How can you people swallow that stuff,” he’d asked. “It’s so slimy, how do you even get it from the fork to your mouth?”
I looked around my mother’s large round kitchen table where six of my Southern born relatives were staring holes straight through my intended. Uh oh, I thought. The South is fixing to rise again.
Aunt Polly chewed up and swallowed a mouthful of butterbeans and rice, pointed her empty fork at him and warned, “You better watch yo’ mouth, boy.”
I shoved a large dish of macaroni pie at the Yankee. “Have some of this. It’s extra good.”
Oblivious to the hostile glares directed at him from around the table, and having no prior knowledge that in the South we are not in the habit of serving macaroni pie as an entrée, he proceeded to fill up his plate.
“Boy, do I love Mac & Cheese,” he said, making almost the same Southern epicurean blunder as when he had asked for UN-sweet tea.
“Um,” I murmured. “Around here, we say macaroni pie, not Mac & Cheese. And this family recipe of Mama’s has been handed down since before the Civil War.”
Clearly disappointed, he said, “But I like the kind that comes in a box with a blue stripe. Make a note of that, Wifey before we tie the knot.”
Could things possibly get worse? I waited for Aunt Polly to make a testy comeback and she didn’t disappoint. “I do hope he’s not talking about that store-bought stuff in a box.”
Mama, striving for detente, glared at her sister and then attempted to change the subject. “Polly, did you eat the only pulley bone on the fried chicken? Didn’t I tell you to leave it for company? Where are your manners?”
Aunt Polly squinched up her face and pressed her lips together, her signature expression that made her look like a lizard.
Tossing her head, she quipped, “Yes ma’am, I sho’ did. Whatcha’ gon’ do about it? Pass me some more of that slimy okra while you’re thinking,” she added, “and another helping of butterbeans. Tell you what: I’d marry up with a okra pod quicker than I would a damn Yankee.”