Shut your Okro mouth and enjoy some Banku and Okro Stew
“Shut your okra mouth”!
Now if anyone ever screams or whispers that at you, you better gird up your loins and be prepared to hit back hard. It is the mother of all insults in parts of West Africa, notably Ghana! An okro mouth speaks of a character and a tongue devoid of discretion, deeply tactless, indelicate and thoughtless. A lose tongue that delights and finds pleasure in making up stories about others or one that is quick to air other people’s dirty linen in public.
Okro mouths do not get their titles without some heavy duty perspiration and toil. They’d need to have continually displayed their knack over as long a period of time as it would take me to get a PhD in Astrophysics. They tend to be your most trusted lieutenants. The ones you confide in. The ones you have cooked for. The ones you celebrate your birthdays and go on holidays with. They know you better than you know yourself. They’d be excellent P.R gurus and adept politicians, but they are far too busy in other people’s petty businesses to grab the purpose for which they were put on this earth.
I flinch in the knowledge that there is a link between okro and okro mouths. A half-wit with a troubled mind must have observed the slimy nature of cooked okro and the speed with which it slimes it’s way down hungry throats and oesophaguses and had come up with the euphemism – Okro mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I get the euphemism, but that’s not the point!
For some bizarre reason, cooked okro’s viscosity is seen as a gooey mess that others shy away from, notably in the West. Google “okro recipes” or “okro stew recipes”. Gather courage to cast an unflinching eye over them and one would soon find that the vast majority will bore you and assault your faculties in equal measure with techniques and methods for making your okro stew or soup less gooey. O how I wish they’d unclench their jaws a little, loosen their gooey okro stereotypes a little and they’d realise that gooey okro trounces it’s gooey-less sibling.
Okro itself is the most African of vegetables. It rested firmly and solely in the bossom of mother Africa, but not anymore. Okro now moonlights in India as bhindi, in the Arab world as bamya and in English speaking Europe as “ladie’s fingers”. Okra originated from the Nigerian Igbo word Okuru. The new world especially the creole world has championed it for centuries as gumbo. The word Gumbo I understand has its origins in the Angolan name for Okra – quimbombo, a meal I wrote about after a brief sojourn in Cuba where it mostly came in combination with rice and beans popularly known as Quimbombo with Arroz Congri.
I crave my okro stew or soup with as much viscosity as possible. This tends to be the favoured African method with the addition of sodium bicarbonate to make it even more slimy.
The recipe below is the traditional Ghanaian okro stew.
Click to Get the recipe for Okro stew