The Trouble with Okra 

by on April 2, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Bread: Broken" by Tyler Malone

Troy was raised by a mother who grew the family’s summer vegetables in a large garden behind their house a couple of miles below New Iberia, Louisiana. Dinners consisted of fresh fish or roasted chicken, fresh greens and, at least twice per week, okra that was roasted or cooked on the grill. He loved his mother, and he loved her okra. After finishing college, he moved north to accept a job and found that he missed her cooking.

He met Ginny at a work conference and found that they lived just 15 miles apart. It took only three dates for them to admit to each other that they were in love. Their marriage was a small affair, held in a pretty little white church with a few friends and close family attending. They honeymooned for two weeks in South America, taking a small cottage in a small town of friendly natives who shared meals with them and laughed as they tried to converse in broken English and Spanish. It was a happy beginning to a life together.

After returning home and to work, they would meet at restaurants or pick up prepared foods at the local grocery so that they could eat supper together. Sharing meals as a family was important to both of them. Several weeks after they returned from their honeymoon, on a Saturday night, Ginny decided to surprise Troy with a special meal, of the kind she had grown up with in western Mississippi, in a small town outside of Jackson.

Troy came home after a day of helping a friend build a backyard shed. He was dirty and was famished. After a quick shower, he came into the kitchen as Ginny yelled, “Surprise,” and moved plates of food from the countertop to the table. The aroma was intoxicating. She’d prepared well-seasoned roasted chicken, fresh greens, mashed potatoes, and a side dish of boiled okra. She poured wine for both of them, raised her glass and said, “To us.” They each took a sip, smiled at each other, and began to eat.

Troy thought the chicken was wonderful, just as his mother had prepared it when he still lived at home. The greens reminded him of her garden. And then he took his first bite of the boiled okra and visibly gagged. Ginny noticed.

“I thought you said you loved okra.”

“I do. It’s just that this is cooked differently than what I’m used to. But it’s good.” He took a second piece and had to force it down. “I really like it roasted. It’s a little slimy boiled.”

“That’s how my mom cooked it, and we loved it that way,” she said.

“I’ll get used to it,” he said, taking a forkful of greens and a bite of the chicken and saying, “Mmm.” Then, as she watched closely, he bit off a piece of another okra pod and chewed. This time, he simply couldn’t swallow it.

“I’m sorry but I just can’t do this. I love everything else you cooked, but I just can’t eat the okra this way.”

“Well, I’m sorry, too,” she said as she stood and ran into the bathroom.

Troy sat at the table, downtrodden. A tear formed in the corner of his left eye, slowly slid along his cheek, rested for a moment on his chin then fell to the tabletop.

Ginny moved out that night. It was the last time they spoke to each other, except through their lawyers. It turned out that love did not conquer all.

editors note:

Eat your vegetables because you need to grow big and strong to battle all that life gives you. Traffic, day-to-day ethical restrictions, and the cooking of others. ~ Tyler Malone

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