Tag Archives: Respect

A Little Respect, Please


As we transition from summer to fall, vegetable lovers everywhere are mourning the season’s end of some of their favorites.  Perhaps the loss felt most deeply is that of the tomato, the vegetable that comes in more colors than Joseph’s coat.  No true tomato lover will bother with anything other than fresh off the vine.

However, one summer vegetable continues to grow to new heights:  the humble okra.  My plants are just over six feet tall now and will grow at least another two before I take them out for the year.

This stately garden giant is either loved or hated.  Often maligned for being slimy, okra has so much more to offer than the average vegetable.  It is the only one that provides a beautiful flower, evidence of its family relationship with the hibiscus–creamy, pale yellow petals with a deep burgundy center.

The pods can be pickled, canned or frozen.  They can be dried and make a great crunchy snack.  Stir fried with a little olive oil, garlic and salt is a quick fix for supper.  They can be stewed and play well with the above mentioned tomato.  Finally, if you eat nothing else fried, sacrifice your restriction for a little fried okra.  It should be hot, crunchy and not greasy.

You can make gumbo without the roux; you cannot make gumbo without okra.

Our newest neighbors from African countries often leave the pods in favor of cooking with the leaves.  And if you leave the pod long enough, it grows to what I call weapon size.  Oversized pods can be dried and used in a variety of craft projects.

We once had a guy come to the house to give us an estimate on putting in a new deck.  The okra plants were almost as tall as the deck floor.  I knew he was not familiar with okra when he looked at the plants, looked at us, looked at the plants again and then asked me, rather hesitatingly, “Is that hooch?”

Clearly, many among us have no respect for this versatile vegetable.  I hope this exposition on its many fine qualities will help bring some of you over to the sunny side of loving the humble okra.


What Knits Us Together


I went to a funeral service last week for Larry, the father-in-law of a good friend.  It was a pretty typical funeral service with one exception:  the folding and presentation of the US flag.

Larry was a World War II veteran.  I’ve been to a couple of funeral services for WWII veterans, but this is the first time I have witnessed this presentation in person.

Because of the heat, the family chose to have the commitment, usually done at the graveside, inside the church as the closing of the service.  After the last prayer, the ministers remained silent as a naval officer in dress whites walked down the center aisle and stood at the head of the casket, where the flag’s canton of blue containing the stars lay.  He saluted.

Then came a sailor, also in dress whites, down the center aisle.  He took his place at the foot of the casket, at the end of the red and white stripes.  He saluted.  It was totally silent in the church.

They grasped the ends of the flag that covered Larry’s casket and stepped to the front side of the casket.  They folded the flag once; then again.  Then with purpose and care, the sailor began folding the flag in a triangular pattern, moving toward the officer.

As he got close to the field of blue and stars, he stopped, clearly unhappy with the work he had done. He unfolded the flag twice.  He gently but precisely worked the fabric to get the stars aligned in the proper way.  Then he refolded the triangles.  The officer tucked in the end of the flag, just so.  The sailor then held the folded flag for the officer’s final inspection, at which point the officer saluted.  He then took the flag from the sailor, who saluted, turned to face the congregation and quietly strode back down the center aisle.

The officer took the folded flag and walked over to Larry’s widow and family.  He removed his hat, leaned over to present her with the flag, and spoke a message to her on behalf of the President.  He put his hat back on, faced the congregation, saluted and then made his way back down the center aisle.

To be a witness to such a tribute was deeply moving. We are a more informal society these days; in some situations, this has been a good thing.  But it was inspiring to see this formal act of respect and remembrance.  I appreciate that the sailor cared enough to redo the folds, to do it “right”, because “doing it right” matters.

Do you observe any rituals?  If so, hold them dear.  Take the time and make the effort to continue.  Make sure the children, the grandchildren, the in-laws are a part of it, even if they whine and complain.  If you don’t have one, start one.  Our rituals are part of what knits us together as a family, a membership, a nation.

And to the two naval representatives who gave of themselves in service to our country and to Larry and his family that day, thank you.