My neighbor Brian Crawford sidled up to me at the Oak Park Farmers’ Market this past weekend. As though communicating something strictly on the DL, he said, “You should try the pickled okra at that stand over there,” motioning to a booth on the market’s northwest quadrant.
I went over and chatted with two vendors at the Elegant Vegan, who were offering a pleasant pate (classic recipe, with mushrooms subbing for meat) and Piquantly Pickled Okra, which presented the seed pod in a lightly sour liquid. I sampled one and was impressed that the vegetable retained a lot of texture and flavor despite the spiciness of the pickling solution, which was punched up with peppercorns and garlic.
Pickling is an excellent way to render edible a vegetable like okra that can be a little gummy on its own. In the Piquantly Pickled Okra, the mucilaginousness of the okra is balanced by the piquancy, and I could easily see eating this as a side with cheese or hardboiled eggs…but that actually wasn’t my immediate dining plan for the jar of okra that I bought from Elegant Vegan.
As I purchased a jar, Olivia Chase, who was one of those working at the Elegant Vegan booth, asked me, “What are you going to eat it with?”
Abashed, I admitted, “With barbecue… pork. I think the vinegariness of the okra will balance the fat of the meat.”
Chase said, “I think that’s an excellent use for it.”
Which I think is an excellent attitude.
Jonathan Foer in his enlightened, thoughtful vegetarian narrative Eating Animals, smartly observed that when confronted by vegetarians/vegans, many carnivores/omnivores feel “cornered.” The vegetable-only agenda, some meat-eaters conclude, is a direct criticism of those who choose to eat meat, a challenge and a threat. Sometimes it surely can be, but many times it’s not, and I appreciated Chase’s equanimous, nonjudgmental acceptance of my carnivorousness.
The okra with pork spare ribs proved a well-balanced pairing.