Think of a food that you dislike. I mean, something that you would never dream of buying at the grocery store to prepare at home. Something that you would never order at a restaurant. Something you avoid like the plague.
Can you imagine completely changing your mind, so that this disgusting and distasteful glop becomes one of your favorite dishes?
Right. Neither could I. Until it happened to me recently.
In my case, the offending substance was okra. I have never been a fan, shall we say. The predominant texture of okra is slime, and I just could never get past it. So, no gumbo for me, thanks. No okra, no how.
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I went out to lunch at one of Houston’s wonderful Indian restaurants in the Gandhi District. I ordered their version of a “combo plate,” and I settled back in anticipation of eating a variety of delicious and complex flavors that I just love.
One of the side dishes was clearly a very crispy vegetable. I couldn’t tell from the shape exactly what it was — perhaps a green bean? A taste revealed that perfect combination of crispy and spicy, with not a hint of heavy oiliness that so often accompanies fried food. “What is this dish?” I asked the waiter the next time he came to refill the water glasses.
“That is okra, Ma’am.”
NO WAY! I HATE OKRA! (This thought silently rolled through my head.) Well, it was so delicious that I savored every bite as I gobbled it down. The term “Delicious Okra” seemed to be the ultimate oxymoron – but there it was.
That evening, I was on the internet looking for “Indian spicy crispy okra recipe.” None of the recipes quite seemed like what I had eaten, although all were informative and kept me thinking about my new culinary discovery – OKRA.
This week, I made my own version of the dish, and it was fantastic. My recipe, such as it is, appears on MoveSleepEat.com.
I started with a bag of frozen okra, thawed it, dried it as much as possible, added dry spices and a bit of chickpea flour to further dry it. I dumped it all onto a baking sheet and stuck that in the oven to cook. My mixture was still pretty wet — that slime is almost invinceable — so it took about an hour for everything to get good and crisp. It was absolutely fantastic. Two of us ate the entire batch.
The Feldenkrais angle on this story is this: Sometimes, it’s not the “WHAT” that matters, it’s the “HOW.” In my Awareness Through Movement classes, people constantly say, “I never thought I would be able to X (lift my head off the floor, move my shoulder like that, reach so easily, feel balanced, for example), but that felt so easy!” That is because we focus on HOW you are doing what you are doing, instead of “Just Do It” and focusing on the goal (the WHAT). Through the course of the lesson, each movement is deconstructed in an engaging way, prepared, and reassembled into a new-and-improved version of the movement. That’s why our students say that the Feldenkrais Method “makes the impossible, possible. . .”
Back to the okra. I learned that it is possible, and perhaps even usual, to prepare okra in such a way that it is completely unpalatable (to me). HOWEVER, I also learned that there is a way to prepare it so that I simply love it. Maybe even “serve it once a week” level of love it. It’s not the okra, it’s the style of preparation. It’s not the WHAT, it’s the HOW that makes the difference. It even turns out that okra’s inherent sliminess makes it very easy to bake until crispy, without adding extra oil to the recipe. The very characteristic that I thought was okra’s downfall, turned out to be an advantage. Huh.
A wise friend of mine says that a miracle is simply a change of perspective. By this definition, miracles happen all the time for people in Feldenkrais classes. Their perspective and outlook changes as they learn new “Hows” for the “Whats” of their daily lives. Perhaps the real miracle is that our minds can change at all, and that we can change them ourselves. Soon, these miracles and “Aha!” moments start showing up everywhere.
Even in the kitchen. Even with okra.