The problem with okra, if you’ll pardon the expression, is the slime. One reason it was used in gumbos was its thickening power, which is a nicer way of referring to that viscous property. My family just calls it what it is. It doesn’t bother them because they know what I can do with that--stuff.
Follow these directions closely. Use a colander, not a bowl, when you slice it. You will still get the goo on your knife and a little on your hands—my method won’t fix that—but it will disappear when you cook it.
Slice it about a half inch thick, discarding the stem end and the tails. If it has been in the fridge a few days, it might need a little coaxing to release some of its “juices.” If so, put that colander in the sink and scatter a few drops of water here and there from a wet hand. Don’t deluge it. If it’s already good and gooey, don’t bother. Sprinkle it with salt, then with flour, not corn meal. (My mother taught me that and we are both GRITS—Girls Raised In The South.) Stir it to coat. Now walk away. In five minutes come back. If it’s dry, do the water trick again, just a sprinkle. Add more salt and more flour and stir it again. Walk away again. You may need to do this several times, allowing the excess flour to fall through the holes in the colander into the sink where you can wash it away—loose flour will burn in the bottom of a skillet.
After about fifteen minutes and maybe as many as five applications of flour and salt, the flour will have adhered to the “slime” and, magically, the okra will have made its own batter. It will stick together in clumps like caramel corn, which is exactly what you want.
Heat a half inch of vegetable oil in a skillet—no higher than medium high. Put in one piece of okra and wait till it starts bubbling and sizzling. Slowly add only as much okra as there is room in the pan. Since it tends to stick together, you will need to mash it out to spread it around. Now walk away and leave it again. No fiddling with it, no turning it, no stirring it.
In about ten minutes you will begin to see browning around the edges. When that happens you can start turning it. The second side will brown faster, as will the entire second batch. Watch your oil; you may need to turn it down if the browning begins to happen too quickly. Drain it on paper towels.
You will now have the crunchiest okra you ever ate. No slime, no weird flavor, nothing but crunch. You cannot eat this with a fork—it rolls off, or if you try to stab it, it shatters. This is Southern finger food, a delicacy we eat at least twice every summer before we start pickling it or giving it away. Too much fried food is not healthy they tell us, but everyone needs a lube job once in awhile.
The trick to that okra is patiently using the problem itself to overcome it—given enough time, that slime makes a batter that is better than anything you could whip up on your own with half a dozen ingredients.
Patience is a virtue for Christians too, not just cooks. How do you make it through suffering? You patiently endure it (2 Cor 1:6), and you remember its purpose and use it for that purpose. Patiently enduring suffering will make you a joint-heir with Christ (Rom 8:17,18). It will make you worthy of the kingdom (2 Thes 1:4,5). If we suffer with him, we will reign with him (2 Tim 2:12). Only those who share in his suffering will share in his comfort (2 Cor 1:7).
But none if this works if you don’t patiently endure the suffering. If you give up, you lose. If you turn against God, he will turn against you. If you refuse the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, he will refuse you. We must use that suffering to make ourselves stronger and worthy to be his disciple. Just like I am happy to have a particularly “slimy” bowl of okra to worth with, knowing it will produce the crunch I want, the early Christians “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer,” Acts 5:41. They knew it would make them better disciples of their Lord. We can understand these things when it comes to something as mundane as fried okra. Why can’t we recognize it in far more important matters? We even have a trite axiom about this—when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you trials, make yourself a stronger person.
After suffering, Peter promises that God will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us (1 Pet 5:10). He is talking to those who endure, who use the suffering to their advantage and become better people. Remind yourself of the promises God gives to those who suffer. Remind yourself of the rewards. Remind yourself every day that it’s worth it. The New Testament writers did, so it is no shame if you do it too.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom 8:16-18.