Okra has an ardent proselytizer in Virginia Willis, the Atlanta-based chef, author and Southern food authority.
“I will cajole, entice, and seduce doubters into becoming believers,” writes Willis in “Okra” ($18), one of the latest books in the Savor the South Cookbook series published by the University of North Carolina Press.
“I rejoice converting people to the joys of cooking, eating and savoring okra. I’m an okra missionary.”
But then there’s what Willis calls “the proverbial elephant in the room” when talking okra: slime. It’s that famously mucilaginous texture – or the threat thereof – that turns off people to okra, she says.
Fear no more. Willis offers a list of “slime-busting” tips in her book.
With her guidelines in mind, you can dig into the 50 recipes in “Okra.” Just over half are Southern, as one would expect for a vegetable so long associated with that region. The rest girdle the globe, demonstrating how the cooking and appreciation of okra has spread through Africa, Asia and Latin America.
“It was really fun for me,” she says of the book. “I was able to explore this very Southern ingredient in other cuisines.”