Well, today was a magnificent day. I rarely choose such a word and flaunt it, but it truly was so. In the course of finding
2 hours of alone time, I wasted them not and headed to the farmers’ market–the big one, the one with multi-stalls, the place where I met Mr. Arrowood.
My first stop was to visit Ms. Betty and LJ. They are the older couple that I referred to in my first blog on farmers’ markets. Once I spotted the heirloom tomatoes, I began craving Caprese salad (another recipe for another blog!). As I was filling my bag, I observed an older gentleman out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t help it; he looked like one of those mountain people I aspire to be in 30-40 years.
On his head, a navy blue, plain canvas ball cap perched upon snowy hair. It tilted a bit to his right so that you could catch a glimpse of his azure eyes. Thin, black spectacles framed his gentle demeanor. His beard and mustache seemed to have grown into creases of the years etched in his face–laugh lines and all. It was trimmed but not neat, implying he had more important things to tend to. But his shirt, yes his shirt, was what caught my eye–a brilliant shade of royal blue that some North Carolinians might refer to as “Duke blue.” If I worked at Crayola, I would have called it “deep blue ocean.”
He wanted to purchase heirlooms too, and he asked Ms. Betty about them. Ms. Betty’s not one for talking so she remarked on their price and started tabulating. As I shoveled okra into my brown bag, I heard her ask him, “Do you have a dollar?” Ms. Betty likes to make perfect change. For the senior adults, she rounds down. For the rest of us, she asks us to “pick out a little more” and rounds up to the next pound.
Bob didn’t have the dollar. I looked at Ms. Betty then handed her a dollar. Bob smiled and asked if I was sure. “Of
course,” I affirmed, “glad to help out.” He looked over at the bag I had stuffed to the brim. “Whatcha gonna do with them okra,” he asked. And that started our conversation.
Mr. Arrowood used to live in North Carolina. At 85, he noted he couldn’t remember where he’d been born, but he currently lived with his son in California. I told him that I was taking home my okra and going to pickle them–I was hoping to earn a 2nd blue ribbon at the state fair this year. He smiled and said he didn’t know people my age still made pickled okra. I asked him how he ate his okra, and this is what he told me:
Bob Arrowood’s Recipe for Okra and Beans
“Some people don’t like cooked okra like I do. They call it “slimy” or some other words, but this is the way I like it. Take you some beans and put them in a pot like you would cook your green beans. [If you don’t know how a mountain person in the South cooks beans, it literally takes all day. Cut the ends off your green beans, put in a pot filled with water and 2 strips of bacon. I like to add some bullion cubes or use broth instead of water–more flavor that way.] Lay your okra on top. That’s right. Lay your okra on top–don’t mix it in with the green beans. Let ’em cook with your beans. You’ve never tasted okra so good. Most people don’t think about it, but okra and beans are some good
I asked him if I could take his photograph, and his face lit up as if no one had expressed that much interest him in awhile. I told him about my homesteading, my farm, and my blog. He didn’t know what “blog” meant, but he said if it helped young people carry down the traditions of cookin’, cannin’, and picklin’ then he could be fine with that.
His photo wasn’t the only thing I took. I took his address down too. I’ll be writin’ Mr. Arrowood and letting him know how the beans and okra are. And I’ll thank him. That’s right. I’ll thank him for taking a few steps with me on my journey as a mountain mama, a suburban farmer, and a teller of tales.