Thursday, April 15, 2010

In search of okra.

I'd been wanting to make a version of this gumbo for quite a while now; however, one gumbo essential was missing: okra. I've never seen it here. The French are so fond of their own food that it can be a real challenge to find foreign ingredients. You would die laughing if you saw what passes for the "international aisle" at my grocery store. It's pretty pathetic.

Since I can't get what I need at Carrefour, all the more reason to go on ethnic food expeditions in the St Cyprien neighborhood. Within walking distance of the apartment (and the city center) are lots of little boutiques advertising exotic products from Africa and the Caribbean, hair products and phone cards.

I'd seen the signs, but the odor of dried fish that emanates from these places had kept me out, until recently. Too bad there's no scratch-and-sniff function with the internet so I could recreate that for you... But if you can get past the stench, these boutiques carry not just okra but sweet potatoes, whole peanuts, black beans and black eyed peas. Jackpot!

Before I could set foot in one of these stores, I had to figure out how to say okra. Have you ever tried to describe okra in a foreign langauge to someone who's never eaten it before? I wouldn't recommend it.

Monsieur J
put on his listening face, as I rambled on about some UFO vegetable that "kind of looks like a jalapeno except it's not spicy. It's fuzzy on the outside and has a slimy texture to it and goes in gumbo. Did you ever eat gumbo when you were in Louisiana?"

He had no idea what I was talking about. Oh well, it comes with the territory.

If you're ever in Toulouse for more than just a day or two, consider crossing le pont neuf and venturing over to the other side of the Garonne. It's a great way to get a feel for every day living and yet there's still a fair amount to see and do. Between the various ethnic markets, the main covered market, the jardin Raymond VI and the musée des Abattoirs, you could easily make a morning of it!


  1. you should have taken a picture of okra with you!

  2. I am from the Southern US, now living in the Pacific NW of the states, and I have not seen okra that beautiful since I picked it off my grandmother's plants as a child! Tres Bien!

  3. Like catalpa, the French word is the same as the English: okra. I would love to visit that market!

  4. That's funny, my French friends had never heard it called okra before. It was someone from Guadeloupe who understood what I was talking about and he told me it's called gumbo. Then again, word reference lists it as "okra gumbo" so maybe both are acceptable?!

  5. Good on you for knowing what okra looks like. I think I've only ever eaten it fried?
    I'm so glad to hear that you all are doing well! I miss our fun food adventures in Montpellier.