Magic was involved. Had to have been because after one bite I knew I was going to eat the whole heaping plateful right then, with my unwashed fingers, from the driver’s seat, before I told anyone about its power because I was NOT sharing.
That first morsel whisked me back to Momo and Popo’s house on A highway in Ripley County. It was a red house with a white picket fence, a well, an outhouse, a pig pen and a huge garden. Images of the inside popped up as well: a living room with a pot-belly wood stove; a dining room with a bright yellow table set – the style with shiny chrome around the table and lots of silver studs around the bright chairs; two bedrooms – one really cold one with three big beds where all the grandkids slept under piles of quilts without complaints because Momo ‘hid’ her Christmas candy in that room; and the kitchen with the wood cook stove, before it started to look like Mom’s kitchen in the city.
By the second mystical bite I was playing in the yard with my brother while Momo and Popo picked bounty from the garden. Sometimes I ‘helped’ but there were turtles in there, and we didn’t like each other’s looks. I was better ‘help’ snapping peas on the porch.
The frames of childhood antics rolled by quickly, synced with each plate-to-mouth fingerful that seemed to get larger with each bite. I relived catching tadpoles on the banks of the back pond, racing to get the most lightning bugs in my jar, gathering with aunts and uncles and cousins for fish fries and homemade ice cream, yelping at a granddaddy longlegs tiptoeing up my arm, plotting to beat my brother to the washtub sitting out in the sun at bath time, standing watch for the pigs to root away from the outhouse before I pranced toward it in the nick of time, falling asleep to the crescendos of crickets and frogs and sometimes to the serenade of a lone whippoorwill that made me homesick.
Oh, no! The sacred delight was disappearing fast, as if I had hit fast-forward! I altered my tactics so to savor single perfectly-prepared morsels piece-by-piece, to slow down the childhood slide show. There was an end in site. I had to prolong it, to lengthen the stay in the theater of my mind and let my taste buds enjoy the travel back in time in slow motion.
But the end came. The plate was empty, even of the crumbs my index finger could trap. The movie was over though the nostalgic joy lingered.
Camper Jeff had gifted me the psychedelic treat prepared just as Momo did, or so it seemed. He offered his magic potion recipe. Picked young – no bigger around than my thumb, some a smidgen smaller – sliced evenly, dipped in an egg/milk wash, sprinkled with self-rising flour before being fried to perfect crispness. The spiny variety. Fresh okra.
Better than ‘take-me-away Calgon’ any day.