June 10, 2010
We joke about it a lot, just how different Jill and I are on paper.
There’s the age difference (19 scandalous years), the skin color difference (she’s white, I’m brown), the religious difference (she was raised Pentecostal, I was raised Hindu), and too many personality differences to count. But rarely do these differences occur to us as stumbling blocks; in fact, they rarely occur to us at all.
We forget our age difference—“Oh wait, you wouldn’t remember that, you were three in 1985,”—and I have, more than once, asked Jill to borrow her concealer, only to realize that “pale beige” isn’t really going to work for me.
Truth be told, the biggest difference between us, or at least the one that occurs like the biggest, is the class difference. Jill was raised in a solid, blue-collar family in Shreveport, Louisiana; I was raised in a decidedly white-collar suburb of Memphis, Tennessee. We may both be Southern women, but the ways of life to which we grew up accustomed are very different.
Jill grew up gardening, hunting, pickling, and canning—that’s how her family got their food. And though her parents, through their frugality and hard work, could easily now afford not to do any of that anymore, they still do. Because it was never just a strategy, it was (and remains) a way of life.
Of course, this way of life has recently become trendy. More and more people are starting to see the value of growing their own food, or at least knowing where it’s grown. Food writers like Michael Pollan and Hank Shaw are helping to remove some of the ignorant stigma against those who have the courage to kill their own dinners. And pickling and canning have seen a real resurgence in the last few years, one which I suspect will only grow.
Last month, in May, I was asked to participate in an incredible grassroots event here in Houston, Outstanding In My Backyard (OIMBY). The event featured local chefs and home cooks using local ingredients to create a literal backyard feast. We raised over $5000 for the Houston Food Bank and hope to double that number when cookbooks featuring recipes from the event go on sale later this summer.
It seemed only appropriate for an event like OIMBY that I cook a dish that has always been Jill’s signature—deviled eggs—using the okra that her parents grew, and that she pickled & canned. For Jill’s family, this “new” emphasis on local, fresh, and organic isn’t new at all, it’s the way they’ve lived for generations.
serves 6-8 as an appetizer
2 dozen farm-fresh eggs, hard-boiled
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 dozen pickled okra spears, roughly chopped*
2 T pickling juice from the okra
smoked paprika (optional)
Slice the eggs lengthwise & gently turn the yolks out into a large bowl. Mash the yolks with the mayonnaise, mustard, okra, & okra juice. Stir mixture until it’s fluffy but not wet, adding more okra juice if necessary.
Spoon a rounded tablespoon of filling into each hollowed-out egg white half, mounding it up as high as you like. Continue until all of the eggs have been filled; garnish each egg with a generous sprinkling of paprika.
*Substitute cucumber pickles. Note: I prefer the texture of hand-chopped pickles to that of pre-made pickle relish.