I Judge You By Your Pickles


I recently found out that my childhood deli has closed. Now, as a vegetarian, you’d think I wouldn’t be all that bothered by the news, since I’m really not going to miss any of the delicious carcasses people swoon over.

Even when I did eat meat, I couldn’t handle eating anything that suggested the food might be made of an animal. My family always made sure that the whitefish stayed in its white butcher paper, shielding all the scales and fins and eyeballs. The lox, though slightly less animal-looking, stayed covered, too.

Still, being raised in the serious tradition of Chicago Jewish (Eastern European-type) deli and baked goods, I have strong opinions about this stuff, even if I’m not eating it. And this was good stuff.

My strongest memories are of the pickle barrels. There is nothing better than a new pickle (aka half-sour, aka cucumber pickle). You’d open the lid and get hit in the face with the salty, garlicky smell. Or, at least I’d get hit in the face with it because I was probably way too close to the goods.

In DC, I’m still seeking that cold pickle barrel to stick my head in. (I’m open to suggestions.)

Of course, our relationships to specific foods are not only about the taste, but also certain periods of time. We visit with long-gone times, places, and people with the right bite. And as I plan events here, it’s something I think about when figuring out the food.

If we have you over for bagels, or if we choose pretty, little creme puffs, we are sharing something. Probably a lot of it, because gawd forbid anyone go hungry.

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