I went dove hunting at the Sparks Farm in northern Mississippi a week or so back with Dr. Pete Sparks. His brother Joe and nephew Mitch live in Memphis and they pour their hearts into managing this farm in Mississippi for gamebird hunting opportunities.
It was the most sincere dove field I’ve ever seen, with patches of sunflowers interspersed with top-sewn wheat. It looked birdy.
But, alas, the doves really didn’t materialize. I haven’t dove hunted in years. The boys in the know said Hurricane Ida blew them out. I can see that. Doves can be fickle. The boys had hunted a farm in Arkansas the day before where they’ve killed hundreds of doves in the past and they shot 5. So what happened on our hunt wasn’t a surprise to them.
Still, when you hang out with the Sparks gang and their buddies, you have fun, whether there are doves or not. This was not just a hunt. It was one of those dove hunts that is also a social event, with a huge spread of food before the hunting commenced.
I’ve been on an okra kick all year. For awhile, I was buying okra and squash at least once a week at the Farmers Market.
Joe’s wife Trudy is an excellent cook and she’d made pickled okra. I couldn’t stay out of it. It was so good. She also had homemade salsa that was excellent as well.
Pete and I were among the first to get situated at our dove field stations. I think Pete ended up shooting 5 times and I shot once. Pete did kill a dove. I saw it. But it fell in a 15-foot deep ravine filled with debris from a timbering operation. Retrieval was out of the question I’m afraid to say.
A few hours into our adventure, with the skies devoid of birds, Pete announced it was 5 p.m. and we headed back to camp for a light beverage and bull with the boys.
Joe and family friend Donnie Mayfield are excellent gardeners and they’ve had a great garden going on the farm all year. There was a big basket of jalapeno peppers and a huge sack of okra on the table for the taking.
I sat down and struck up a conversation with Gary (his last name escapes me) and he got to telling me about the bacon-wrapped grilled okra he does for this big party back in Memphis.
My ears perked up. Bacon? Okra? Two of my favorites combined into one certainly got my interest.
Gary was getting okra from the sack for his party.
“Why don’t you take part of this okra and try it?” he said. He didn’t have to twist my arm.
It’s such a simple dish. You take the bacon and cut it half.
“It doesn’t need to be expensive bacon,” Gary said. “Get the cheapest bacon you can find.”
Then you wrap the bacon around the pod of okra and stick a toothpick through it to hold it on. After that, sprinkle it top and bottom with the seasoning of your choice. Gary said he used All Spice. When I tried it, I used a nice Cajun seasoning. It was what I had on hand.
“You put it on the grill,” Gary said. “When the bacon is done, the okra is done.”
The day after our hunt was Labor Day and we were having a family barbecue lunch at my mom and dad’s. On a spur-of-the-moment whim, I made bacon wrapped grilled okra.
My old grill only has 2 speeds it seems, barely burning and inferno. It had flamed up and kissed the okra a time or two while I was cooking and I really didn’t know how it was going to turn out.
When my wife Mary sampled a piece, she said “Oh my God” and I knew we had a hit. She and my daughter Anna enjoyed it so much that I had to make another batch a couple days later.
Fried is still my favorite way to cook okra and I am plotting to try my hand at some pickled okra soon, but bacon-wrapped is delicious too. Gary also told me about a recipe for sausage-stuffed jalapenos, but I haven’t had a chance to make them yet.
You’re supposed to eat bacon-wrapped dove breasts after you go on a dove hunt. For us, bacon wrapped okra turned out to be a nice consolation prize.