10 May 2007

Pickles: Evolution or revolution?

This is about a pickle evolution or, some might say, a revolution.

"A nickle for a pickel" - and you're back on New York's Lower East Side.

Nice olive-y green, delicious full-sour pickles, preferably from a big barrel, but more often today from a glass jar. None of those wimpy half-sours, thank you.

OK, I'm not quite sure why I'm posting this.

It doesn't have much to do with genealogy except gastronomically.

Pickles occupy an honored place in most Jewish ethnic cuisine, such as the classic Ashkenazi deli sour pickle, the Israeli garlic-y pickle, the Persian garlic pickle (actual cloves of garlic pickled, by tradition, for seven years called seer torshi; run, do not walk, to try these!), mixed pickled vegetables and fruits from around the world.

It was also a great way to preserve an abundance of vegetables and fruits for the winter before refrigerators were invented.

I'm not sure whether I am simply horrified or amazed by this particular creation of American ingenuity.

Those pickles were once mere dills. They were once green. Their exteriors remain pebbly, a reminder that long ago they began their lives on a farm, on the ground, as cucumbers.

But they now have an arresting color that combines green and garnet, and a bracing sour-sweet taste that they owe to a long marinade in cherry or tropical fruit or strawberry Kool-Aid.

Kool-Aid pickles violate tradition, maybe even propriety. Depending on your palate and perspective, they are either the worst thing to happen to pickles since plastic brining barrels or a brave new taste sensation to be celebrated.

Take a bite out of this New York Times story.

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