Why is it that we nationally celebrate Christopher Columbus (a man generally acknowledged as a less-than-stellar individual), and not the pickle?
I’m wondering, of course, because yesterday was International Pickle Day on the Lower East Side. People enjoyed informational displays, samples, cucumber-green balloons for the kids. It’s an annual celebration of all things pickled. Bread & Butters. Kim Chi. Chutneys. Sauerkraut. Oshinko. The good old kosher dill. How great is that?
Pickling is one of the oldest known methods of food preservation. Pickles have sustained and enriched people’s lives across the globe for a few thousand years. They kept folks alive on long voyages. They offered something vegetal during those long, cold winter months on the plains. They dress up salads. They brighten sushi. They’ve made the Chicago Dog a stunning ballpark snack. Do they have a big day of observance and celebration? Of course not. Pickles get a sunny afternoon on a single city block.
Columbus has parks, schools, streets, expensive statuary and a national bank holiday. As far as I know, Columbus was simply a sea-faring prospector. He reported back to the Spanish royal court about a continent that all kinds of people already knew pretty well, while simultaneously delivering disease and slavery to the people he “discovered.”
What if we just do a search-and-replace? I’m all for endorsing Pickle High School, Kim Chi Circle and West Gherkin Boulevard.
Am I saying there’s direct correspondence between old Chris having a day of celebration and a sad underrepresentation in food preservation? Nope. Just want to point out the inherent lack of consistency at work in our government-sponsored observances. Why shouldn’t we link national celebrations to values that are thoroughly worthy of celebration? I also think Election Day should be a holiday, but that’s a topic for another post…
You’ll never know whether one of your great forbearers was fed and nourished with pickles, but it’s likely. You may, indeed, owe your existence in some small part, to pickles.
Pickles save lives.* Pickling evokes the technology of our ancestors. It represents thrift and good planning. And a jar of pickles humbly, eloquently symbolizes the concept of hope.
Think about that the next time you twist the top on a fresh jar of pickles and hear the peppy pop. That’s the tiny, briny bang of pickled preservation… a noise I can’t help but feel is worthy of pomp and fireworks.