Pickles are more prominent in American life than you may suspect.
We used to say, “What a fine kettle of fish you’ve gotten us in”. Nowadays, more people say, “What a pickle you’ve gotten us in”. Most people don’t know what either saying means, but getting into a pickle is preferred 9-1 over getting into a kettle of fish. (This according to a recent Galloping Gerkin Poll.)
Pickles are also a part of church life. Whereas Episcopalians furnish worshipers with a wine list when they partake of holy communion; and whereas Baptists refuse to talk to each other at the liquor store; Presbyterians are those people who look like they were weaned on a dill pickle.
Some people play pickleball. Invented in the 1960s, it’s has become a favorite of the over-60 set. Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It’s played on a double-wide badminton court, but you do not hit a pickle with your paddle. You hit a perforated polymer ball similar to a Wiffleball. So, why is the game called pickleball? The people who invented it went for years without naming it. But then they had to call it something because the evening news was going to interview them about the new game in ten minutes. They were in a pickle, and so they called it pickleball.
Do you read the comic strip Pickles, drawn by Brian Crane. Septuagenarians Earl and Opal are growing old together. They have a grandson named Nelson, a daughter Sylvia, a cat Muffin, and a dog named Roscoe. And so why is this comic strip called Pickles? Their last name is Pickles. Make sense. Earl’s and Opal’s behavior is very much like that of people in their seventies or older. I think that Brian Crane modeled Opal after my wife.
What doesn’t make sense to me is the increased number of Americans who drink pickle juice. Maybe you noticed it this past 4th of July. You invited family and friends over to your place for a cookout. Each one came by the grill, where you served them a hamburger patty, and then they moved on to the fixings-table to add whatever they wanted of onion, tomato, mustard, mayo, catsup, and pickles.
As you surveyed your culinary kingdom with a sense of satisfaction, suddenly your eye noticed that the pickle jar was still mostly filled with stackers, but all the juice was gone. How could that be? It was a brand new jar of pickles when you set it on the fixings-table. Pickles should be disappearing, not the juice.
And then you do some detective work. You ask the little kids, the grandkids. They’re the ones who know what’s going on. And they say that your adult niece, Piper, the one known for her addiction to penne pasta, finished her Diet Pepsi before she got her hamburger patty, but she then carried the empty can with her. When she didn’t think anyone was watching her at the fixings-table, she poured pickle juice in her empty Diet Pepsi can. That’s where it went!
“Yuk,” said your eight-year old grandson. “No wonder she’s not married.”
You spread the word and the extended family decides to confront Piper with her pickle juice problem after the fireworks display. You remind her that if the reason she drinks Diet Pepsi is to help relieve her dyspepsia, pickle juice is only going to make it worse. But instead of Piper’s mom Julia backing you up by collapsing into a pool of tears, as she did when she found out that Piper was addicted to penne pasta, she hugs her daughter and says, “I drink pickle juice, too! I like the taste. So there!” This from a woman who sucks the salt out of potato chips instead of eating them in order to cut calories.
The rest of your friends and family recoil in horror. Oscar, Julia’s husband and Piper’s father, is so revolted that he collapses to the ground. You call for the paramedics – actually, you get the grandkids to do it because they can dial much faster – and upon arrival they quickly revive Oscar. But as they question what happened and receive answers, two of the four paramedics say, “Pickle juice? That’s it?…We ourselves drink pickle juice. No big deal.”
Actually it was a big deal. The two other paramedics were so offended when they found out that they had been riding with pickle juicers that they walked back to the station house, determined to find someone else to work with.
Turned out that both these pickle-juice-swigging paramedics run marathons. Pickle juice is big with people who engage in endurance sports. Something about your breath nauseates other competitors and gives you an edge. Other athletes believe that it replenishes your electrolytes better than other sports drinks. It’s also big with certain people who suffer from salt cravings, like Julia the potato chip sucker.
One of the grandkids went online and said that there were more than 33,000 Instagram posts containing #picklejuice, many showing people chugging it. There’s even a new Pickle Juice Slushie at Sonic. But none of the major pickle packers plan to promote and sell the juice apart from a bottle full of pickles.
This gave Piper’s brother Arnold, who lives across country from her, an idea. “We eat a lot of pickles at my house. So do the neighbors. I’m going to start collecting the juice after the pickles are all gone and sell it at the grower’s market!”
He’s in marketing. He’ll put a sticker on each jar that says, “Organic Pickle Juice.”
In any event, there’s a new tongue twister. Dyspeptic Penne Piper nicked a pail of pickled pickles. A pail of pickled pickles Dyspeptic Penne Piper nicked. But if Dyspeptic Penne Piper left the pickles behind, Where’s the nicked pickled pickles brine?
Here’s a clue. Smell her breath.