Posted tagged ‘Okra’

“And believe me, a good piece of chicken can make anybody believe in the existence of God.”

June 27, 2017

What was a lovely summer morning with a cooling breeze has become a cloudy day with a dark sky, a rain threatening sky. I shut the window behind me as I felt a bit chilly. The breeze has turned cold.

Yesterday I was able to cross everything off my to do list. That doesn’t usually happen. I felt accomplished.

Gracie got her first tick yesterday. I was patting her ears when I found one on the underside of one ear. It was small and hadn’t embedded yet. I hope it can swim.

I can hear the swishing of the leaves on the oak trees. That is the only sound. I wonder where the birds went.

I once raised chickens. My first laying hen was a gift from a Ghanaian friend. The hen was white and hatched 5 chicks. She was a horrible mother and the chicks began to disappear, eaten by one predator or another. Her second hatching was much the same. I ate her for dinner a couple of nights. Such is the fate of a bad mother hen.

I like to shop at farmers’ markets, especially the one in Bass River. Mostly I buy fresh vegetables though I have also bought cheese, local honey, candles, fresh herbs, desserts, jams and jellies and once some lamb. The market is set up in a circle so I do one loop. It is held every Thursday and Saturday.

One of my favorite places in Ghana was the market in Bolga. Every third day was market day. I had gone to my first market during Peace Corps training. It was a disaster. I got sick from the smells, but, by my live-in in Bawku, three weeks into training, I had stopped noticing. I loved my market. I’d bring my woven shepherd’s bags which stretched and fill them with tomatoes, onions, eggs, garden eggs, okra, oranges, bananas and pineapple. A chicken, bound by its feet, I’d slide onto the handle bar of my motorcycle. Sometimes I’d find a surprise. Once it was a watermelon. I could buy cloth, sandals, pots and pans, dishes, glasses and so much more. I always thought of the market as an adventure.

“Sunday is the core of our civilization, dedicated to thought and reverence.”

October 6, 2015

We have anomalies today, and I haven’t quite interpreted their meanings. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. What do these heavenly signs portend? Might they be heralding the end of time and the destruction of all we know and hold dear? Or might this be just a sunny day, and I’m over-reacting?

My neighbor brought me dinner last night. I dined on rice, chicken and an okra dish, the best okra I’ve ever had with not a bit of the slime I’d come to associate with okra. That was a vegetable I didn’t even know existed until Africa where I ate okra soup many times the slime notwithstanding. I’m now adding okra to my list of favorite vegetables.

My brother had the job of emptying the baskets into the barrels kept in the cellar until trash day. It was his only job. I didn’t have a job though sometimes I’d set or clear the table if asked. I think boys and trash were a natural pairing when I was a kid. Back then girls had a certain behavior protocol which didn’t include trash. Any kitchen work was appropriate. Girls also had a stricter dress code than boys. I had to wear a dress or a skirt going to church which also meant I had to wear nice shoes and socks and a hat. I always felt over-dressed, and I was never one for prissy. My brother wore a collared shirt and nice pants. That was it. I envied him the casualness of his Sunday clothing.

Now that I look back, I liked having a Sunday. Every other day of the week was filled with school, playtime, movies, bike riding, watching TV and the so many other fun things we did to pack our days. Sunday was truly a day of rest. We were expected to stay around the house. We had that great family Sunday dinner. It was always special, not the usual fare. The one constant was mashed potatoes.

Sunday has lost its identity. That’s too bad as we all need to stop to take a breath, look around and be amazed at all we can see. Sunday used to be that day. It was special. I even wore a dress.

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

August 16, 2014

The sun is in and out of the clouds. The day goes from strikingly sunny and beautiful to cloudy and dark. The weather in the paper said partly sunny. I guess I didn’t think about the other part.

On Saturday, the day before I left for the Peace Corps, my mother asked me what I’d like for our last family dinner together for a long while. I answered right away: roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy, all my favorites, and that’s what we had. It is still one of my favorite meals. Mashed potatoes are the height of comfort food for me. My mother’s mashed potatoes were always fluffy and lump less. She used a hand masher, one of those metal ones with a flat grill bottom. I sometimes watched her. She wielded that masher as if it were a weapon in the hands of a master swordsman. She’d add butter and milk and keep mashing. I even remember the bowl she always used to serve the potatoes. It was a wide, not tall, bowl. She’d add the potatoes and put a few pats on butter on top. It was a thing of beauty.

My favorite ice cream changes. When I was a kid, we didn’t have all the choices and exotic flavors we have now. Back then my favorite was a dish of plain old chocolate made exquisite by adding Hersey’s syrup. When I was in high school, it was mint chocolate chip in a sugar cone with jimmies all over the ice cream. I used to buy it at Brigham’s. Mocha chip was my favorite for a while, and I still sometimes buy it, but lately I have been into coconut topped with dark chocolate sea salt caramel sauce. It tastes as superb as it sounds.

I like vegetables, quite a change from when I was growing up. Back then I ate potatoes, peas, corn and French green beans, all of which came from cans. I also ate carrots but they were disguised and hidden in the mashed potatoes. In Ghana I couldn’t get many vegetables. I ate garden eggs which are small egg plants, okra, tomatoes, yam, onions and one year I had green peppers grown from seeds I got from home. I really missed vegetables which I wouldn’t ever have imagined when I was a kid. My favorites are still peas, but corn on the cob and summer tomatoes are on my list of favorites. Just no beans ever!

Traveling gave me the chance to try new foods, and I tried all sorts. I didn’t even know the names of some of them. The food didn’t have to look good as I had grown out of the stage of judging foods by its appearances. I think maybe it was Ghana which taught me that.

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”

April 8, 2011

Warm weather is coming. Starting tomorrow it will be in the 50’s for the next four or five days. My only wish is that the wind takes a break and stays off-shore so we can enjoy the weather. Gracie and I have a few things to do this morning then we’ll be back to watch the Red Sox play their home opener. Never in my scariest nightmares did I expect them to be 0-6 to start the season. Maybe playing the Yankees this afternoon will raise them to a higher plane.

I don’t cook for myself very often. It just seems too much trouble to pull out the pots and pans. Most times I just fall back on cheese and crackers or a sandwich. I keep hummus in the fridge, and there are always eggs, but, if the truth be told, my diet is sadly lacking in vegetables though I do take vegetable credit for coleslaw with its cabbage and carrots. I really like vegetables so there are no reasons to avoid them. I swear it’s just laziness as most go best with a meal to complement them. Carrot sticks might just be my salvation.

I don’t think I have had okra since I was in Ghana, but okra stew was one of my favorites though I had to overcome the slime when I first ate it. In the far north where I lived, it was often served with tuo zaafi, better known as T-zed in English. T-zed is like a thick porridge and locally it was made from millet. I’d grab a piece of T-zed and then dip it into the stew. It was delicious. Groundnut stew was another favorite to eat with T-zed. I never would have imagined a soup with a peanut butter base, but it was wonderful. Usually it came with chicken.

In Bolga, chop bars lined the lorry park. They were hole-in-the wall places to eat with unmatched tables and rickety stools or chairs. In the back, the sound of fufu being pounded was a sign dinner was nearly ready. I’d buy my fufu with whatever stew was available, place it in a pot and drive it home on my motorcycle holding the pot with one hand and steering with the other. I guess I’d call it take out.

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