It's gardening time in Georgia, and some of my friends are sharing pictures of tomatoes, peppers, squash and all the other plants they're growing in their backyards. I love to see all this home gardening, but thankfully, I haven't seen any pictures of okra plants. Before I tell you about my hatred for okra, I'd better explain a bit about the proper pronunciation. It wasn't until I was in college that I learned that the itchy pods that we grew each year were pronounced "OAK-RAH." I grew up saying "OAK-REE," and I'd usually pronounce it with a strong red-mud accent on the "REE." "No ma'am, I don't want any more OAK-REE! I'm saving room for banana pudding." Okra can't compete with any kind of pudding. It's an unfair fight, no matter how you pronounce it.
There's a good reason I'll never grow okra in my backyard. Okra is one of the itchiest plants I ever met. I remember picking the pods as a child and being itched up one side and down the other. Our family garden - a sun-baked, red clay patch of land in Tucker during the late '60s - was an okra paradise, and that's where I learned to despise this nasty plant. Okra is itchy, it's a pain to harvest, and it's not nearly as tasty as banana pudding. But even though I knew better, and should have run from the sight of okra, my real hatred was solidified in 1980, when I found a box of frozen okra in the freezer.
When you're a college student, and you haven't eaten all weekend, frozen okra looks a lot more appetizing than it really is. I boiled the entire pack on the stove, and gulped it down in one sitting. And that was when I learned a great lesson: boiled okra is just about the last thing you want to eat when you're starving. To this day, I get queasy when I see boiled okra. In fact, on that spring day in 1980, I'd have been better off if I'd picked up a dead roadside 'possum and fried him on the grill. You might think it's a bit unfair to compare boiled okra to a dead 'possum, and I guess you're right. But 'possums don't read my column, and unless you tell them, they'll never know I compared them to something as vile as boiled okra.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers and can be reached at email@example.com