The reign of missiles continues unabated in the “world’s biggest military prison,” the Gaza strip. Meanwhile, over here in “the world’s biggest crybaby nursery,” Portland, Oregon, I have nothing more menacing to cry about than the acetic acid assault being wrought upon my palate by amateur pickle makers.
And what an assault it is. It’s not like I have my back to the sea, restricted access to fresh water, and a years-long trade blockade that prevents me access to all but the most basic of necessities, but would it kill these guys to read a fucking book or two on the subject? Here in Portland, we can get a copy of Katherine Plageman’s Fine Preserving, or Linda Ziedrich’s Joy of Pickling without having it
smuggled through an underground tunnel originating in the only contiguous, non-hostile, foreign power (CLOSED). Even in Gaza though, I’m sure someone could round up a tattered old copy of Hertzberg, Vaughan and Greene’s Putting Food By that hasn’t been torn asunder by decades of armed conflict.
Yes guys, fresh water! You know that dreadfully bland stuff that flows freely from every functioning tap in the city? You use it to flush the toilet? It’s not as if our only source is a rapidly disappearing aquifer that becomes more polluted every passing year by saline and sewage seepage, since that trade blockade prevents us from importing the materials and supplies we’d need to treat our waste water. And you can cook with it! You can use it to cut the acidity of the vinegar so that it’s a little less harsh, a little less abrasive to the palate. We have this ridiculously cheap and abundant luxury, so I’m not sure why you don’t take advantage of it.
You know what else is cheap and abundant here? Sugar. I know it seems sickeningly decadent to sweeten our food when life is already so sweetly devoid of privation. But pickles cry out for sugar. Like Tellason Jeans, or the knock knock bomb drop, sweet pickles are a fucking classic. (Oh wait, neither of those things are as classic as sweet pickles!) So I want you to go consult that Plageman, and learn how things were preserved before the relish tray became a hair shirt for the consciously comfortable.
And lets not forget that, even though we have a reliable supply of electricity, pickles are still a method of preservation, and taste better when given some time to settle into the brine. I never could understand the point of eating pickled versions of products that are fresh in season now. It’s not as if there’s a high likelihood that our cracked skulls will be pouring blood into the streets tomorrow—we can wait a little to crack those jars open.
To review: Water, sugar, recipes, time. But there’s one more thing: taste! Put one of those in your mouth. Drink a spoonful of that brine. Do you actually want to try it again? Or does the thought of it make you cringe a little? Because that’s how I feel with most of these pickle plates. One bite and I got Pickle Traumatic Stress Disorder, such is the sweetness of safety. But we’re building a culture here! Let’s make sure it’s one worth fighting for, should the need arise.