1. Use a meat mallet to smash okra, starting at tip of pod and working toward stem end. Place buttermilk in a shallow dish, and place cornmeal in another shallow dish. Stir desired amount of salt and pepper into buttermilk and cornmeal. Dip okra in buttermilk; dredge in cornmeal, shaking off excess.
2. Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a large Dutch oven; heat to 350°. Fry okra, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes or until brown and crisp, turning once. Remove okra, using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Add salt and pepper to taste; serve.