15 April 2007

Lori Mason's Mom, Where Are You?

We once had a potluck in Mrs. Richardson's third grade class at Sellersburg Elementary. The mothers of the kids in class prepared something for this event. I can't remember the reason for the occasion, I can't even remember what my mother made for it. But I do remember Lori Mason, a small dark-haired, friendly girl, and the okra and corn casserole she brought to class.

It seems to me that I may have been reluctant to try the casserole because there had been an okra incident at home some years before. It was a stormy night involving lightning, thunder, a power outage and candles on the black and white Formica table decorated with white fleur de lis and gold glitter.

The power stayed on long enough for my mother to finish an okra and stewed tomato dish on the electric Frigidaire range. I remember Lisa, Tina and I sitting at the table each with a white melamine with grey speckles dinner plate -- ones which were part of the set that my mother had collected in 1958 from the Kroger on Baxter Avenue in Louisville where she and my grandmother shopped -- with everything gone but the okra and tomatoes.

A melamine gravy boat like my mother's.

We weren't allowed to leave the table until we cleaned our plates. I am sure we whined that we were full. Dinner took a very long time that night. I decided then that I was no fan of okra. But being the great teacher she was, Mrs. Richardson encouraged me to try Lori's mom's casserole. And, I loved it.

As an adult I have grown quite fond of okra. I like it just about every way I have eaten it with the exception of boiled (too slimy). I like it in vegetable soup. I like it pickled. I am very fond of a recipe for "Picaninny Creole" in one of my old cookbooks that includes okra, tomatoes, corn, celery, onions and green peppers. I have searched for a suitable substitute for Mrs. Mason's okra and corn casserole. I keep coming up empty handed. The few recipes aren't that great. I've tried creating it from memory. It ends up being good, but not as good as hers.

There are a few cobs of corn left from last night's dinner with Cleo, Greg and Nigel. Greg brought some ground beef from a breed of Dutch cow that has been absent in America for years which his father is helping bring back to our farms. He also brought a chuck roast from an English breed of cow. We got out the KitchenAid and its food grinder attachment, and ground the roast to make hamburgers. They were awesome -- the flavor was something like I hadn't tasted in years -- they were like the Ranch burgers we used to get at Ranch House when my mom would pile us all into the black Sedan de Ville and take us to get curb service under the wavy canopy.

An example of our 1956 Sedan de Ville

So, tonight I'm going to try making okra and corn casserole again. I know there is okra, corn and onions involved. I remember crushed saltines on top instead of buttered bread crumbs. I don't know if I should use a a canned cream of celery soup or make my own white sauce. I'll write down the steps I take and hopefully, this time, I'll be taken back to that first bite of Mrs. Mason's delicious casserole.

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