About one week before Thanksgiving, I spent some time with Oklahoma City University President Robert H. Henry. The Henry family has deep roots in Oklahoma and his résumé in particular is as long as the Chisolm Trail. That interview will be shared later in the weeks to come, but today we have an appetizer of sorts. I noticed when we were talking that he had a love for gardening and cooking, and wondered out loud what he might “cook up” if he were to go home that evening and find a perfect made (or grown) in Oklahoma meal on his dinner table. Here is his answer but I’m providing it with a caveat – do not read ahead if you are hungry. You might be left with no choice but to leave what you are doing and seek out sustenance:
“If I could have anything I wanted, I would have tomatoes from my garden with smoked salt…Chardonnay Oak smoked salt, on a bed of fresh basil leaves with some sliced avocado and some vermouth or late harvest Riesling wine vinegar, and a little fresh ground pepper. And olive oil…that would be the salad.
If I wanted to have a soup, I would have Ratatouille made from eggplant, zucchini, peppers…and again, some basil and really good olive oil. [And] some grated Parmesan cheese.
For the main course I would have new potatoes, oven roasted with rosemary from the garden…and garlic. Then I would have, probably a brined bone-in chicken breast that was charcoal-grilled. And, for dessert I would have…I would have it be June, so I could have Oklahoma strawberries with either crème glacée, or a real homemade shortcake that looks like a biscuit; warm, with butter, piled high with strawberries and real whipped cream.
That would be it. In a younger day, I would have substituted really great fried chicken…maybe from Juniors, or from my own kitchen cooked in a real frying pan and, and double fried. Once ‘till it’s slightly golden, then cooled and then fried again. Real French frying is frying twice…[and I would add] some pan gravy with that. My age and my lowered metabolism causes me to go with the grilled chicken.”
As I listened to my digital recorder transcribing this particular portion of the interview, I was sitting in a diner-style booth drinking bad coffee. My thoughts turned toward my garden. “Could I squeeze in a few strawberry plants?” I wondered to myself.
Look for a two part interview coming up later this month. We’ll cover President Henry’s family history and how it is they came to care about the political culture and prosperity of Oklahoma. The second part will cover his thoughts about Oklahoma – where’s it’s been, and where it’s going. I’m looking forward to sharing his insights with you…