published Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Braly: Our taste buds change as we get older

OKRA CORN BAKE

2 cups sliced fresh or frozen okra

3 to 4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, cooked

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup dry bread crumbs


Stir-fry okra in 2 tablespoons butter for 10 minutes. Place in baking dish, alternating layers with drained corn. Make a white sauce by melting remaining butter in a saucepan over low heat and blending in flour. Milk should be added all at once, cooking quickly and stirring constantly. Stir in cheese until blended. Pour this mixture over vegetables. Melt remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and toss with bread crumbs. Sprinkle buttered crumbs over casserole. Bake at 350 F for approximately 45 minutes, until the casserole is heated through and the crumbs are brown. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

As I’ve aged, by tastebuds have matured, and I’ve learned to like a number of foods that I couldn’t stomach as a youngster. But there’s still no love lost between me and boiled okra.

Growing up, my sister and parents loved it. Momma would cook whatever we wanted for our birthday dinners. For my sister, the menu was always the same: chicken livers and boiled okra. While my parents encouraged me to try new foods, they knew that there was nothing they could do to make me eat those two foods. I could not for the life of me figure out how anyone could consider those two foods edible.

But, as I said, I have learned, as an adult, to enjoy foods that I never liked before. So I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I could learn to love okra as much as my sister does and parents did. They found so much pleasure in the slimy vegetable. I just didn’t get it.

I was determined to learn to love it, so I planted four okra plants last summer, watered them faithfully and picked them when they were still young to ensure the most tender okra pods. As they grew, I rejoiced in the fact that this was one vegetable I could learn to love. It didn’t work. I just couldn’t get past the slime. So I cut them up and froze them to use in soups and stews during winter months. That poor okra sat in my freezer all winter long till I finally pulled it out and, admitting defeat, gave it to a co-worker who would appreciate it far more than I.

How does my garden grow this summer? Tomatoes, squash, green beans and onions. No learning lessons in it this year. And no okra. However, I did come across this recipe at southernfood.about.com that makes me want to try again.

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