Who knew? I was on my way to the office listening to an update about last night’s games when this story from National Public Radio struck me from across the airwaves. Apparently, from the dawn of the Olympic games until 1948, poetry was included as part of the competition.
According to Peter Armenti, this tradition began from the onset when the Greek poet Pindar composed victory odes for athletes competing in the Olympic games during the period circa 500 B.C.. His first, written to celebrate the victory of the racehorse Pherenikos, owned by Hieron, ruler of Syracuse concludes with this, ”May it be yours to walk on high throughout your life, and mine to associate with victors as long as I live, distinguished for my skill among Greeks.”
I am tickled at this realization while at the same time, remorseful that the tradition ended. The ancient Greeks saw complete connection between body and intellect and they sought perfection in both. The athletes would hire the greatest poets to write their winning odes and poetry itself, became a competition – one you could earn a medal for winning.
In my own private olympics, the competition is getting my family to eat okra. It grows well in a hot arid climate and as such, our CSA has an abundant supply during July and August. Like eggplant, it’s a difficult vegetable for many and it’s texture adds even more challenge.
What I have learned is that if you cook the okra certain ways, the sliminess can be reduced. One way is to blacken it. I’ve also had great success dehydrating it for use throughout the year in soups and stews. Tonight however as an ode to the summer games, I choose an international flavor. This Bhindi Masala is a fast recipe that uses a microwave to “dry” some of the moisture from the okra before putting the dish together. I used it as a main course for me and a side for others.
adapted from allrecipes
- 3 cups okra, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large tomatoe, diced (I used small yellow pear tomatoes halved)
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp salt
Place the okra in a large, microwave-safe dish and cook in microwave on High for 6 minutes. Heat the olive oil and cumin seeds together in a large skillet over medium heat until the cumin seeds swell and turn golden brown. Add the onions to the heated oil and stir for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the mixture and cook another 3 minutes. (If you like, this would be a place you could add other chopped veg like red or yellow peppers) Stir the okra into the mixture; season with the curry powder and salt. Cook and stir the mixture until hot, about 3 minutes more. Serve hot.
Alas, the okra is gone. My sons ate it up without complaint.
To modify the poetic words of the French visionary, Baron Pierre de Coubertin who revived the Olympic in 1912 and who took the gold medal for poetry in that year:
“O Okra, you are Beauty! . . . O Bhindi, you are Protein! . . . Ladie’s Fingers full of Goodness! Our bodies tremble in bliss upon tasting your fruit. . . . ”