Oh, for the glory of pickles!

Not everybody shares my delight in pickles, at least the kind you put on sandwiches, but I pile them on, when I can. I’m not much for lettuce there, by the way – I prefer that as a separate salad.

I like the crunch and acidity the pickles add, or even the sweetness, depending on the variety.

My wife grew up in Mount Olive, North Carolina, where many of these originate today.

My eyes were opened to this reality the year we went largely vegan when we practiced the Eastern Orthodox feasting for Advent. The hardest part for me was finding snack food. (Well, that plus a satisfactory creamer substitute for my coffee and something in place of cheese and … the list goes on.) Fortunately, my wife makes a great humus, and the wraps can be filling, though bland over repetition. And that’s when the pickles took center stage. A row of the green orbs in the torpedo was truly heavenly.

Not that I stop there. When we’re out to eat, the rest of the family puts their kosher pickles on my plate. Not that I’ll argue.

And then there are the summer pickles, meant to be consumed shortly after the cucumbers taken from the garden and put into canning jars. Sometimes it’s a challenge to keep up with the harvest. As if I’m complaining.

Only in the past few years have I begun to appreciate other kinds of pickles – beets, green beans, and eggs, for instance – dishes that used to appear on family dinners at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Especially on big events like Thanksgiving and Easter. Just how far back in our heritage does that go through generations of farmers?

Anybody else love that pickled ginger they serve with sushi?


12 thoughts on “Oh, for the glory of pickles!

  1. The wife, being Japanese, introduced me to sushi and picked ginger more than 50 years ago. What would sushi be without the ginger? But pickled gi ginger is something I now have with a great many other foods as well. We buy it in 1 kilogram packs from a local oriental food market.

    The Wife makes some wonderful ‘fresh’ pickles – ones that must be consumed within a few days if making. They have less vinegar or other acid so don’t keep for long. In particular she makes a Japanese cabbage pickle and a diakon (Chinese turnip/radish) pickle, both of which we consume great quantities of in season. My personal favourite pickle is beetroot. One of my earliest memories is sitting on a beach as a 3 year old assembling a sandwich with a filling of pickled beetroot slices, lettuce and slices of roast lamb.

    1. Yes, definitely, with the ginger. Also as “fresh” pickles are the ones my wife makes, called summer pickles. As a three-year-old, by the way, I was a long, long way from my first taste of lamb. Lucky you!

      1. And we thought we were lucky when we had any meat other than lamb! Back then there were around 3 million people in Aotearoa New Zealand and around 60 million sheep. The cheapest meat by far was Sheep meat, usually in the form of roasts. Beef was around 50% more expensive, and chicken and pork were reserved for very special occasions such as Christmas due to the cost. Some of my father’s acquaintances were keen hunters, and occasionally some wild pork would find its way to our table. Our other significant source of protein was fish caught by my father – he was a keen surfcaster. Bought fish was slightly cheaper than chicken or pork, but more expensive than beef if I recall correctly.

      2. So that helps explain why lamb at the market in America in usually imported from New Zealand or Australia. I’m still shocked by the difficulty I face when trying to find domestic.

      3. Given that in 2022 there’s 70 million sheep in Australia, 26 million in NZ, but only 5 million in the US, and our respective populations are 26, 5, & 330 million, it’s hardly surprising that you’ll find very little US sourced sheep meat.

        Perhaps because there are agricultural subsidies in the US, the market gets somewhat distorted. NZ is one of very few developed economies where there are no Agricultural subsidies at all.

      1. Hmmm. My wife’s from North Carolina and has never foisted a fried pickle on me. Coincidentally, she’s from Mount Olive, the pickle-packing stronghold.

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