In Praise of the Pickle

Pickles know no boundaries. Photo credit: avrene via Visual hunt / CC BY

Pickles know no boundaries. Photo credit: avrene via Visual hunt / CC BY

Few foods send my palate soaring like pickles. The only definitive parts of a pickle include vinegar, salt and/or sugar, with the goal of preservation. Beyond that, let the fun begin. Any additional flavors are added for pure pleasure. Pucker follows the first bite, then a moment of the pickled object’s flavor, serenaded by garlic, cloves, dill, cinnamon, mustard seed, red pepper, bay leaves, cardamom, ginger, and so on.






Photo credit: It'sGreg via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: It’sGreg via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND


A need for food preservation prior to refrigeration led many cultures to the pickle; they make for a great international tour. Some of my favorites include Japanese pickles, such as the long thing carrots you might find in chirashi sushi plates, or the pickled pumpkin found in sushi, kanpyo. And what about the Moroccan preserved lemons? And so forth.


Then there are the pickles I claim as relatives, as old friends, as heritage. They are the pickles that extend the waning garden, or use the pieces of fruit you can’t otherwise eat. Green tomato pickles when the weather will no longer warm the plants enough to turn the fruits ripe and red. Watermelon rind pickles preserve the parts you would otherwise throw away, transformed into a sweet tangy delight, tinged pink.

Time for a cornichon.

The British Housewife by Martha Bradley, London, c. 1760, p. 6.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.

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