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(Yoknapatawpha, MS) Why is it that the Southern writers are often considered the cream of the crop in the United States? The answer may be as simple as a slimy vegetable called okra.

     According to a recent survey 89% of all Dixie scribes eat okra (when in season) at least once a day. They eat it fried, in gumbo and mashed up in salads. They eat it boiled, broiled and barbecued. Although the seemingly inconsequential plant has no obvious properties that may enhance creativity, the edible, mucilaginous pods are seen as brain food in some segments of Old South society.

     Authors such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings are said to have been virtual okra hounds consuming as much two pounds of the vegetable in a typical sitting. Other writers, such as William Penn Warren would not even sit down to a meal until it had been determined that okra was on the table.

     According to family members Erkstine Caldwell was even worse. While writing Tobacco Road he constantly munched on chocolate-covered okra and allegedly distilled a powerful intoxicant from the plant. The list goes on. Ellen Glasgow grew prize okra in her massive garden, Joel Chandler Harris gave tons of the stuff to trick or treaters at Halloween.

     “The noted Southern writers talked about what happened on a ramshackle front porch after dinner,” says Dr. Efram Pennywhistle of the Pea Green Literary Composium, “while other American writers (with the exception of Twain, Hemingway and Fitzgerald who used okra in a stream of consciousness technique) tended to render a message of greater proportions. Which was more effective, more entertaining? It’s like the difference between catfish and lobster.”

     According to academia okra alone won’t make one a great writer. He needs discipline, imagination and originality along with a bowl of pedantic gumbo.

     “It’s like a lot of things worth doing,” continued Pennywhistle. “Once one gets past the initial slime the rest of it goes down easy.”

– Small Mouth Bess

“Humor is the prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”  – Reinhold Niebuhr