I’ve always been a fan of pickles. Dill pickles, to be specific. Pickles on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair, blue ribbon baby dills, extra pickles on my Chick-fil-A sandwich, pickles in a bloody mary (I eat the pickle and toss the rest out because, ew, tomato juice! *shudder), pickles sliced and pickles diced and mixed with miracle whip. Mmmm…pickles.
When I was little, aka up until last summer, I thought pickles were magic. How did pickles grow? On trees? In salt water near the coasts? And why were they so delicious? Now, that child-like wonder has been shattered. It turns out they’re not magic at all. It’s just cucumbers plus vinegar and time. (And not the homophonic spice.)
Vinegar’s good in its own right, I guess, but really pickles? I thought you were special. I thought you had something no other delicious condiment carried, something that would ignite the wonder in my soft and supple brain.
That innocent youth was shattered last summer when Nazgul invited me to do some canning with her.
Can you can? Nazgul can can.
We ground tomatoes, peppers, carrots and garlic until their juices ran off the table and onto the floor. We chopped onions until no more tears could fall. We lit a fire and steamed the jars and simmered the sauce until we had 12 quarts of winter salad and 13 jars worth of pickles. The canned vegetable stuff I got. The pickles were just too simple to comprehend. All you do is put some cucumbers and some dill in a jar, pour in a spoon of sugar and a spoon of salt and a spoon of concentrated vinegar, fill with water and then seal. That’s it. The only thing left to do is wait. It’s one of the most disappointing lessons I’ve learned in the Peace Corps.
It’s now May and all my pickles are gone. My last two jars I shared with the ladies who came to our village English teaching methodology training we hosted. The other jars had served me well over the winter, in those desperately cold and God-forsaken months where the closest available thing to a vegetable was the sole of my shoe that was falling off. (It needed more dill.)
Peace Corps—you opened this kid’s eyes to all kinds of wonder and amazement, but did you really have to steal one from me?
And then I put on my favorite movie soundtrack, Happy Gilmore, and Pilot takes me home…..
“Oh oh oh it’s magic!!! You know….never believe it’s not so!….”