No Creativity Today: (A Link to) Pickled Okra

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

-Pickles and Instagram. Quality blogging here at Vanilla Garlic.-

This week I looked in my fridge and realized I just didn't care about being creative this week with my food. I was tired and exhausted. I had hosted a potluck days earlier that had been smashing and where I had cleverly whipped up a rather smashing sweet potato and blue cheese galette using only detritus strewn about the pantry that had been long since forgotten. I am currently in the middle of my last week at my job, and as a celebration I busted out - sweet Jesus - cupcakes all because none of them had had them before and I had worked in a cupcake shop once. They had never had them so why not now?

(Also, I am lying. I freaking bought the cupcakes from the bakery I used to work at. Happy?)

Add that to trying to cook a decent meal every night and I realized - have you ever experienced this? - I just didn't care about whatever food I made. Or, I did. But I my brain was frazzled. An entire year developing recipes for book, blog, and any other number of venues and sometimes you just hit a wall. The left side of your brain just gives you the finger and retreats to the corner with a glass of scotch.

"Eff this noise." Or so says my brain.

-My brain has a drinking problem and I enable it.-

And so I just stared into the fridge. Blue cheese. Cranberry beans. Fresh oranges, somehow. A heritage chicken; a gift that apparently required special cooking instructions that I was waiting upon. White wine. Yogurt. Enough produce for a boarding school.

It was like when you get that one Christmas gift from an aunt and you have no idea what it is. Thank you, but what so I do with it?

First world problems, I know. Woe is me - I have a stocked fridge filled with heritage birds, duck fat, and heirloom Green Zebra tomatoes from the Farmer's Market. What should I make so that my blog won't suffer? Can you hear the violins humming out their sorrowful liturgy?

But still, game on and all.

So I sat and thought about what I really wanted to eat. What did I want to eat where surely some already crystallized recipe existed? Someone must have done the work for me and that sounded best.

And I wanted pickles. Okra pickles. Which is odd since I generally hate okra, but I recently tried it in pickle form I was rather smitten.

I adore the taste of okra - green and musky, the sits at the back of the classroom vegetable because it's too cool for the in-crowd like cucumber or whatever. However, it's a texture thing for me. You know what I refer to. The slime. Slime no es bueno. Taste good. Texture bad. Thus far I prefer my okra hidden in a stew where the slime vanishes.

The pickle, however, was all flavor. Okra! Vinegar! Spice! Salt! Yes! More!

It was a pickle you could admire, like Bette White.


And recently, my friend Elise made pickled okra. So I decided I would do that. I would rely on her recipe and just tweak things a bit. I have a premixed pickling spice form Penzey's I adore and I'm always happy to add a few more cloves of garlic than might be necessary or preferred from a holy-hell-you-reek-of-garlic standpoint. These alterations would be made to make a fine suit fit to form.

And fit it did. Creative tailoring? Not really. More just adapting to how I eat. Simple enough, right?

The pickles are fabulous by the way. They'll tweak fine enough as you like it. They were well received at a recent potluck where even the okraphobic begrudgingly admitted delight to the spicy spears as they nibbled with reckless abandon.

Even better, I had time to breath in a moment of quiet and as I ate my pickles and with that pause the ideas began to trickle in again. Sweet lord almighty...


  1. Hi Garrett, I can completely relate to your feeling of just not caring. I am the main provider in my household, husband earns slightly more than me but I do EVERYTHING. But one week last year I just had ENOUGH and did nothing, each night, got home, sat on the couch and waited and he provided! And then I was over it. So it does happen and we rest and we feel energised. You are right, FWP, but this is all we know. Love the blog, Chris :)

    1. Once in a while it's nice to be provided for. Landed a good one there, Chris.

  2. I hit a wall every now and then. It's usually because the food I've been making for a week or so just doesn't taste good enough. I either under-salt or over-salt. And then I finally get fed up and don't cook. My cure is trying new recipes, especially crock pot recipes. I do most of the work in my sleep before coffee, then I get home to something magical. It almost feels like someone else made it! (and we all know that food someone else cooks tastes infinitely better than food we cook for ourselves).

    ps Don't be chicken to cook a chicken ;)

  3. I just found your Blog from a link I discovered on David Lebovitz Blog. I like the way you write, thank you. Um, pickled okra is still slightly slimy. But the bold flavor of the pickling somehow makes it easier to take, I think.

    1. Ehh, very less slimy. If you cook it quickly then practically slime free. =)

  4. I am with you on the "over it" stuff. I can also relate to the feeling whiny because you have a fridge full of food and just don't want to deal with it.

    I live alone and cook from scratch almost every night. But I always keep canned chili and tuna around for those nights when I get home and don't want to chop ANYTHING. So lazy. Yet sometimes canned tuna is the best thing in the world when I don't feel like cooking.

  5. Garrett, man, if it's taken this long for you to reach the point where you stare blankly into the fridge, knowing that you have wonderful ingredients just waiting for your mind to come up with the perfect recipe and your hands to dig in and get to work crafting a superb meal - with everything you've done in the past year or more - then you are a far, far better man than I. All I have to do (aside from work and commuting and all of that banal stuff) is cook dinner 7 times a week and occasionally throw together a quick breakfast on weekends; and I still have difficulty. I ordered pizza from a national chain last weekend, when I had a fridge full of perfectly acceptable left-overs from the day before, because I couldn't even bring myself to throw them in the microwave.

    On the other hand, I made three lovely home made pizzas last night, because that chain pizza was horrible and I needed my fix. Here's hoping that your cooking block can be resolved quickly.

    1. Agreed. Sometimes you can have the world in your fridge and it just doesn't matter. =P

  6. Thank you for the early morning giggle and for ridding me of the Catholic guilt hangover for what I served for dinner last night.

  7. I so hear your pain. It's strange to hit a wall when you love what you do, but everyone wobbles at some point. Glad to hear you are pickling, though, and thinking of Bette White. All besto presto. Enjoyed catching up on your last posts tonight.

    1. Thanks, hun. Hopefully, next week will be recovery. =)

  8. I just found your blog via thekitchn and I just wanted to say that you are amazing. I never comment on blogs, but I felt compelled to do so this time because of how happy your writing makes me.

  9. There are definitely those days for me too that I just don't care whatever food I made. I just want to get through the day.

  10. Thank you for this. I've yet to try a recipe by Elise that wasn't great, and I've been wanting to try my hand at canning for a few years now. So between the two of you, I conquered my fears and gave it a go...and now I'm up at 3am eating pickles. Can't stop. They're divine!


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