As a child growing up in the South, my summer favorites were swimming, homemade ice cream, homegrown tomatoes, and fried okra. Does the okra surprise you? Not if you’d ever tasted my mother’s fresh cut from the garden okra pods, sliced thin, dredged lightly in corn meal, then fried crispy in a huge iron skillet. Oh, soooooo good. Along with the okra, add her fried chicken to other garden delights like green beans slow-cooked with a ham hock, yellow squash casserole swimming in sour cream, and tomatoes picked ripe from the vine, and you had one delicious meal. No wonder so many friends stayed for supper after eating one of her home-cooked southern masterpieces.
While my mother’s fried okra never lasted long in the serving bowl, folks shopping for an attractive addition to their yard would pass over the lanky top-heavy okra plant in a heartbeat. Large irregular shaped leaves, exposed knees, prickly stalks, and lackluster blooms with no smell do not win beauty contests in the garden world. The key to discovering an okra plant’s potential is knowing what it can become. God takes the same approach with us. When giving the prophet Samuel the task of anointing the next king of Israel, God told him to reject the most qualified looking candidates (1 Samuel 16:7). “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” David, the eighth and youngest candidate, was selected because he sought the heart of God. And like David, seeking God’s heart provides us a way to become what God intended.
On this Southern-fried Friday, what are your favorite childhood summer memories?