by Chrysa Smith
You know I grew up in NYC—Queens, NY to be exact. That’s the land of Jerry Seinfeld, Fran Dresher and other rich and famous who I know right well, have had their fair share of kosher dills over the years. It’s only natural as a deli-goer in the Big Apple.
I share that part of their histories. As a kid, I would love going to the deli counter. I’d get the job of picking out the perfect pickle from the potent-smelling wooden barrel. It was always a challenge to get one that was symmetrical, uniformly colored and firm (can you say ocd anyone? because let me tell you, I was never taught anything about picking pickles). But over the years, with a stomach that might or might not accept megadoses of garlic, I abstained. That is, until this weekend.
This weekend, we were heading up to Penn State University—to move my son back into an apartment for his senior year. And like a good mom, I decided to pack a lunch for the trip, rather than fall prey to some greasy, junk food that might be the only option when everyone agreed to stop for a bathroom break. So, while at the deli counter, I saw a lady order a pickle. Order a pickle? Nobody ever ordered one—they picked one. And that was when I realized that the pickle barrel seems to be another remnant of my Americana—another victim of the sanitized 21st Century. It has now been removed from public handling.
Now I hadn’t intended to order a pickle–or pick one for that matter. But seeing this phenomenon brought it all back to me in one swift moment and before I could say ‘that’s all’, I asked for a kosher dill all of my own. And boy, did I enjoy that at the Farm service plaza off the PA Turnpike.
But the tale of the pickle didn’t end there. And no, it wasn’t indigestion. What happened instead, was that my husband came home the next night with a present from someone’s garden—a perfectly shaped, short, plump cucumber. ‘It’s perfect!’ I said. ‘I’m going to pickle it.’ What? I’ve never pickled anything in my life. Again, I was overtaken with enthusiasm at the moment. So tomorrow, after I take the poodles to be groomed, I’m headed to the grocery store. And for the first time in my life, while I love to cook, I will purchase the accoutrements for pickling. I suppose all I need are some spices, vinegar and a jar. Oh, and some patience.
It’s funny how I can be. Something from the past comes up, some need is unmet or some new trend presents itself and there I go—-off to knit blankets, pickle cucumbers, bead necklaces. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. Well, when any of my inventions, concoctions, products become the inventions of the century, I’ll let you know. Until then, you know where to find me.
Ever find yourself swept up into a new hobby? venture? Tell me I’m not the only one, please!
I believe the Churchville deli around the corner from me still has the pickle barrel. Next time I’m in there I’ll take a picture.
And you go, girl, with your pickling experiment. Let’s try everything! I’m in!
Chrysa, I love this story! I remember pickle barrels too, in little Warminster, PA, in the 60s. I’d go with my dad sometimes to the deli & see & smell the great aromas there, including the pickle barrel. I will want to hear how your pickling experiment goes!