Lagniappe! This week we are posting an additional article. This one is from ABG Managing Editor, Leigha Burnham. She is quite capable in the kitchen but recently she has been exploring healthier options with wonderful Southern food. Many of her choices are not necessarily what you might think of as Southern comfort food but, if we're honest, it may be a little more true to the traditions of the agrarian people that created the tastes of The South. Trust me on this one. She ain't lyin' about that okra.
As most of our wonderful readers know, the ABG family loves food. Not just any food, but true Southern-style home-cooking like grandma used to make. But of course, many of us Southerners no longer have agrarian careers or the physical activity of running a farm, which can cause a bit of a problem with our waistlines. I am no exception. In recent months, I've really been trying to make a change in the way I think about food and the way I prepare it, mostly in order to lose weight. In that process, I have come to the realization that my local grocery store (which shall remain unnamed) has about the worst produce ever. The selection is poor, the lettuces are usually dripping wet with that stupid automatic-water-sprayer-thingy, and the tomatoes are just mushy and flavorless.
What to do? Start looking for better produce. I mean, if I've gotta eat 6-7 cups of leafy greens a day, then they need to be packed full of flavor! My husband (and curator of this blog) kindly suggested that I try a local farm. Now I've driven past this farm times too numerous to count. I've commented to my children about all of the vintage equipment sitting out front. I've even "liked" the farm's Facebook page. But...I have never, in my 20 plus years of living in this town, stopped to purchase one thing. There is something really sad about that.
So I asked Sam to take me to the farm yesterday. And it was perfect. A typically hot Georgia day had the young man working the counter sweating in spite of the three ceiling fans running at full speed. There were tables of plywood filled with baskets and crates of the most glorious, brightly colored produce! I immediately reached into the basket of okra and the prickly, somewhat fuzzy, skin brought the childhood memories of picking and cutting okra with my mother back to my mind. And the tomatoes... They were plump, fragrant, and I assure you, their flavor was as tangy as any I've ever eaten. There was something transcendental about the experience of touching and smelling the produce that had just been plucked from the Georgia soil. Something almost holy. It is experiences like this that could keep me on my whole foods eating plan for life.
We returned home with our bounty and I quickly began thinking about the preparation of our evening meal. Most of what we bought, I planned to eat raw, but I had to think of a way to fix that okra. Mother always battered it and fried it. I chose to toss mine in a little olive oil and then roast it at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. It was divine.
It felt good to put quality food on my family table. It tasted even better. And the price wasn't that far off from what I pay for that dull, flavorless produce at the grocery store. Produce that is grown in some unknown place, picked far too early, boxed in a warehouse, shipped by trucks, and watered down by my grocer in an attempt to fool me into thinking it is equal to that which I can find fresh from the dirt, about 10 minutes down the road.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire