Pickling Our Fancy

 

What tickles your fancy gastronomically speaking?  It might be chocolate, cheese or even avocado toast if you are trendy.  But only pickles can pickle your fancy.  And there has never been a better time to be a pickle aficionado than right now.

Pickles are front and center of limited time offers at fast food restaurants this summer.  Just this past Monday Kentucky Fried Chicken (commonly known as KFC) debuted pickle fried chicken.  Apparently KFC customers were demanding more and more pickles on their chicken sandwiches, so KFC decided to top its sandwiches with a special sauce.  No, it isn’t the same special sauce that McDonald’s uses on its Big Macs.  It’s (GASP!) pickle sauce.  What’s so special about this sauce?  Well, it tastes like pickles, although no pickles were harmed in the making of the sauce which is prepared with dill and vinegar flavors, onion, garlic, buttermilk and a black and white pepper blend.  But, alas, the DILL-icious sauce is only around for a short time, which will leave its fans in a pickle once the promotion ends.

Sonic is also cashing in on the public’s fancy for pickles but in a vastly different product.  Their summer special is not a sandwich topping but a pickle juice slushie.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A pickle juice slushie–as in frozen pickle juice.  Cringe if you like, but I’m predicting the drink will be a big hit.  Why do I say that?  Because one of the most popular items on the menu when I worked the concessions stand for my kids’ middle school band years was frozen pickle juice.  The juice was even more popular than the pickles themselves which we also sold.

But it isn’t just fast food restaurants that are cashing in on the pickle craze.  The Pickle Juice Company is marketing Pickle Juice sports drink.  The salty stuff in this beverage is supposed to help with muscle cramps by replenishing low sodium levels.  Forget water breaks on the football field; we’re probably headed to an official time out for a pickle juice break.

The popularity of pickles comes as no surprise to me.  My family has always been big pickle lovers.  When I was growing up, Mom would routinely have a small bowl of pickles on the lazy susan in the middle of our table at each meal.  Even my daughter jokingly remarked that her oldest son is definitely related to her because he adores pickles.  He’s in gastronomic heaven when he can make himself a pickle sandwich.

So what’s the big DILL–er, deal, with pickles?  They are not a Johnny Come Lately on the food scene.  In fact, they’ve probably been around longer than most anything else on a fast food restaurant menu.  Christopher Columbus stocked pickles on the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria for its passengers to eat to prevent scurvy.  This would have been way back in 1492 according to the well known poem about these ships sailing the ocean blue.  Kentucky not yet being in existence then, the pickles would not have been served as a topping for a KFC sandwich.

Pickles may have been the secret ingredient to the Roman army’s success at world conquest.  Julius Caesar ordered pickles be added to the Roman Legions’ diet because they were thought to be invigorating.  We may not be in Rome, but a great many of us are doing as the Romans did and eating pickles.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2014, the average American consumed nine pounds of pickles each year.  And pickles are most often consumed as a sandwich accompaniment.

What exactly is it that we are eating when we pop those green things in our mouths?  A pickle is a cucumber that has been “pickled” in a brine, vinegar or other solution and left to ferment for a period of time.  Dill pickles are the most popular type of pickle.  Kosher dills are made with a hefty addition of garlic and dill to the salt brine. The demand for pickles is so great that pickling cucumbers are grown in over thirty states in the U.S. That’s a lot of pickle patches!

It’s possible that some people have consumed so many pickles that their brains have been pickled.  Demonstrative exhibit A for my proposition is the existence of the “Kool-Aid Pickle.”  Yup!  Someone actually thought that pickling cucumbers in a mixture of brine and Kool-Aid would produce a DILL-icious treat.  The Kool-Aid pickle is a particular fancy of those living in the Mississippi Delta region.  Doesn’t that sound like a must try snack, y’all?

Big fan of pickles that I am, I did run across a must try pickle recipe some time back.  I mean who could pass up the opportunity to whip up a batch of dill pickle soup?  I couldn’t, but I should’ve.  The recipe reviews were very positive, so I just had to try it.  I was puckering up while eating the soup, but it wasn’t because I wanted to deliver a kiss of delight as a thumbs up.  Most of the soup pot ended up down the drain rather than down in my stomach.

Here’s a novel idea. Why don’t we just eat pickles as pickles instead of turning them into some crazy menu item?  Call me a pickle purist, but with the average dill pickle only being 15 calories, there’s lot to be said for simply consuming a plain pickle.  Mmmm!  A crisp, cool pickle.  That pickles my fancy!

Just WONDER-ing:  Would your world be less green without pickles?  Are you going to try KFC’s pickle fried chicken? Sonic’s Pickle Juice Slushie?  What pickle related treat would you like to see on a menu?

 

 

 

Getting A Kick Out Of The World Cup

While Americans are eagerly counting down the days until college football season begins, the rest of the world is going crazy over another type of football, i.e., what we call soccer.  The 21st FIFA World Cup is underway and will continue through July 15th.  It’s not March Madness–it’s match madness!

Even if you aren’t a sports fan, the World Cup offers plenty of opportunity for you to be entertained.  Not up on all the rules and procedures of the sport?  No problem.  Those who don’t know a yellow card from a greeting card can still get a kick out of the much ballyhooed World Cup series. Consider the following tidbits.

JUST THE FACTS.   Thirty-two countries are participating in the World Cup.  Thirty-one had to qualify, but the host team, Russia. got a pass.  This is the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe, so Russia is really PUTIN on a show. The host country has spared no expense, and, at a cost of around $14.2 billion, it will be the most expensive World Cup ever.  Matches are scheduled in 12 different stadiums in 11 different Russian cities. Moscow being so important, it has 2 stadiums located there.

SHOW ME THE MONEY!  If you think the 32 teams are playing simply for the love of the sport, you are naïve. The green in the player’s eyes is not the grass in the sports arena but the prize money available.  The team winning the World Cup receives $38 million dollars.  The runner up team takes home $28 million dollars to soothe the “close but no cigar” blues.  Teams who place 17th through 32nd receive a paltry $8 million.

THE SPACE RACE.   While Donald Trump is touting plans to start up a U.S. Space Force, Putin is leaving him in the space dust.  The June 14th opening ceremony for the World Cup featured the presentation of an official match ball which had been sent into space with the International Space Station crew (that’s ISS not to be confused with ISIS) back in March and returned to Earth in early June. That ball seen in the sky during that time may have been the match ball and not the moon.

LOOK, UP IN THE SKY!  While the soccer matches might provide nail-biting drama, just getting to the stadium can be pretty dramatic.  The Saudi Arabian national team’s plane experienced an engine malfunction on a flight to Rostov-on-Don.  Flames were seen coming out of one of the engines prior to the plane landing in the southern Russian city where a match against Uruguay was to be held. The team landed safely but apparently flamed out too soon as they lost to their South American opponent 1-0.

USE YOUR HEAD!  In the U.S. the phrase “use your head” is uttered to encourage someone to engage his brain when handling a situation.  But soccer players use their heads all the time to knock the ball around the field; sometimes their brains are not engaged when this heading occurs.  Take Morocco’s  poor Aziz Bouhaddouz for example. In a forehead slapping move, he headed the ball into his own team’s net to hand Iran a 1-0 victory over Morocco in the opening round of the World Cup. Oops!  And, yes, his blunder made HEAD-line sports news.

THE AGONY OF DE-FEET!  Iran may have had a win handed to them by Morocco, but it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Iranians. Just days before their opening match, Nike, who was to provide cleats and footwear for them, announced it was withdrawing its support of the Iranian team due to global economic sanctions against Iran. You might be able to tiptoe through the tulips, but you need soccer shoes to play in World Cup matches.  Iranian players scrambled to beg, buy or (hopefully not) steal appropriate footwear.

NO GIRLS ALLOWED!  The more fans the merrier, right?  No, not in Iran where women have been banned from watching men’s sports for 38 years.  Iran’s clerics imposed this ban in 1979 following the Islamic revolution, but it was publicly reinforced in the country earlier this year. Iranian fans protested the ban during Iran’s opening World Cup match against Spain when banners reading #NoBan4Women” and “Support Iranian Women to Attend Stadiums” were unfurled. Thank goodness the Iranian players found footwear so (GASP!) the Iranian women who are no doubt secretly watching their televised matches did not gaze upon any bare male feet.

THE SPY WHO ROOTED FOR ME!  Due to the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil, Britain announced that no British ministers and no British royals would be attending any World Cup events.  No mention was made as to whether any British spies would be on hand to keep an eye on things.  If they are, they might return from Russia with–no, not love–but some good intel.

Like it or not, the World Cup will be dominating sports news until mid-July.  If you can’t get a kick out of watching the ball being kicked around a Russian stadium, you can still get a kick out of the interesting news surrounding the World Cup events.  You can have a ball either way!

Just WONDER-ing:  Are you planning to watch any of the World Cup?  If so, for what team are you rooting?  If not, would you be watching if the U.S. was playing in it?

Name That Day!

 

Americans may be able to name that tune, but we are behind many countries when it comes to naming the days.  Yes, sure we have names for the days of the week, but we don’t have people’s first names assigned to specific days of the year.  Gasp!  We here in the U.S. have overlooked the name day celebration.

How is this oversight even possible? If we have Hug Your Cat Day (6/4), Sewing Machine Day (6/11), Meteor Watch Day (6/30), Lazy Day (8/10), and Pickle Day (11/14), shouldn’t we observe name days as well?  You’d think retailers would have jumped on another opportunity to empty consumers’ pockets due to crass commercialization.

While Pickle Day may a silly celebration, name day celebrations are respectable and venerated observances in numerous countries including, but not limited to, Germany, Russia, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Spain and France.  The tradition involves having one day of the year  associated with a person’s given name.  Its observance is similar to a birthday, but it has nothing to do with age.

Name day is a custom which developed in the Middle Ages.  It is widely observed in Catholic and Orthodox traditions because it originated with the Christian calendar of saints.  Catholic believers who were named after a saint would celebrate on the saint’s feast day while Orthodox believers would (morbidly) celebrate on the day of the saint’s death.  The church was inclined to celebrate name days over birthdays as the latter was viewed as a pagan tradition.  Although name days are still observed today, there is no longer any direct connection to Christianity.

So, how is a name day celebrated?  The answer depends on the country in which the event is being observed.  In Greece, these days are huge events and are celebrated much more than birthdays.  In most cultures name day celebrations take the form of open house parties.  Of course, there’s no birthday cake.  Doesn’t that take the cake?

In Hungary, women typically receive flowers to mark their name day. Sticking to the name theme, perhaps it would be fitting for Rose to receive roses. Iris to receive irises, and Daisy to receive daisies on their name day.  Men, on the other hand, generally receive a bottle of alcohol as a name day gift.  Jose Cuervo coming up for Jose!  Jim Bean on the way for Jim! Children often take sweets to school to share with fellow students on their name day.  The teacher, however, might not find it so sweet to have her pupils hyped up on sugar.

Name day appears in some literary works such as Anton Checkov’s  play “Three Sisters.”  Act I finds Irina celebrating her name day.  Good move on the playwright’s part to cleverly work in a name day celebration so we know what the character’s called.  Not familiar with Chekhov’s story?  Well, you are in good company as I haven’t read it either.  I’d lose big time on “Jeopardy” if the category was Russian works written in 1900.

Name day was a huge hit with the Russian czars and emperors who typically celebrated the event in a lavish way.  Alexandra Fyodorovna, spouse of Nicholas II, decided to have a sumptuous luncheon on her name day in 1897.  The menu listed four types of wine (including champagne). duck, trout, and mutton chops, but no cake.  The Russian imperial family also followed a tradition of giving name day gifts such as diamonds and pearls.

And how does one know when to plan his big name day celebration?  Official lists are issued with the current assignment of names to days.  These name day calendars vary by country.  Don’t want to spring for a name day calendar?  Not to worry.  In Hungary, at least, the name of the day is identified in the daily paper.  Better read all about it to make sure you aren’t missing your name day or that of someone near and dear to you.  Don’t subscribe to a newspaper?  No problem.  Name day calendars for the country of your choice can be found on line.

Since it is a small world after all, I am considering celebrating my name day on each day it is observed.  Never fear if you missed wishing me “Happy Alice Day” back on June 6th (German calendar) or on June 11th (Austrian calendar).  “Happy Alice Day” will occur again on September 16th in Estonia, on December 16th in France, on January 9th in Italy and on January 15th in the Czech Republic.  In a nod to my name, you may want to give me an arrangement with alyssum, a flowering plant which caterpillars love but bunnies won’t touch, as a name day gift.

While a name day might be fun, I am not sure that such an observance would be easy to establish here in the U.S.  Let’s just say that there are plenty of unusual names out there.  Would an individual be emotionally scarred if forced to celebrate a name day designated for odd names beginning with Q? Moreover, most of us are so busy on a day to day basis that we are doing well to know what day of the week it is much less whose name day it is.  Why don’t we just enjoy each day as it comes and treat all those around us with kindness like it really was their name day?

Just WONDER-ing:  How did you get your first name?  Is that a story worth celebrating? Would you celebrate name day if it was observed here in the U.S.?  If so, how would you celebrate?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Are You? Who? Who?

 

Ever stop to ponder the answer to the question posed in the song lyrics for “Who Are You?,” the title track on The Who’s 1978 album?  Coming up with the answer may be harder than you think.

I was forced to confront this question when drafting a cover letter for a proposed article being submitted to a magazine.  The publication required that the piece I wrote be accompanied by a letter explaining to the editors who I was.  Apparently, the obvious answer–author of the article being submitted–was not a sufficient explanation.

Typically the first thing I tell anyone about myself is my name.  But a name is merely a form of identification, one I did not even choose for myself.  A name might reveal something about one’s parents, i.e., they might have a strong sense of family if their child is a Junior or named for a relative.  In my case I am named for my paternal grandmother.  Nevertheless, my  name does not convey to someone who I really am as a person.  In fact, with some names today, you may not even be able to tell a person’s gender much less his personality or character.

People confuse the question “Who are you?” with “What are you?”  Yes, my occupation will give some insight into me.  Obviously I am not a dummy if I obtained a law degree; however, I could be book smart, but lack common sense.  (Thankfully, I do have common sense.)  What I do for a living is not who I am  In fact, I rarely let people know I am a lawyer when I first meet them.  I want them to get to know me for me and not from a starting point of preconceived notions about attorneys.

When telling someone who I am, it is common to indicate where I live or where I am from.  Just because I am a GRITS (Girl Raised In The South) does not mean that you have a wealth of information about the real me.  You might suspect that I like to eat grits (I do) and that I love sweetened tea (I don’t–unsweetened with lemon, please), but so what?  While growing up I spent my time in the Yankee part of Georgia (also known as Atlanta).  To paraphrase a famous line from “Gone With The Wind,” I don’t know nothin’ about living on a farm or a plantation either for that matter.  No one even thought I had a Southern accent until I moved to Ohio where I was dubbed “Georgia Peach.”  And, gasp, I don’t even like country music.

Describing who I am may encompass a relationship title.  Yes, I am a mother. Yes, I am a wife.  But my personal identity is neither determined by nor dependent upon these relationships.  I thought it funny when I would attend officer’s wives meetings and the civilian spouses would act like extensions of their husbands.  Just because your husband has eagles on his shoulders (i.e., has the rank of colonel) does not make you who you are–or better than I am.  I’ll admit that I did answer to “Heather’s mom” or “Kevin’s mom” when my kids were young, but that does not mean that I did not have a separate identity from my offspring.  My son found this concept hard to accept and repeatedly asked me what I would do with myself when he graduated from high school.  Hmmm.  Probably the same things I enjoyed prior to becoming his mother….

Who I am may depend on the situation in which I find myself.  That’s why when references are sought, an applicant is often asked to give references from different spheres–home, school, work, church.  If you deal with me in a professional setting, you would likely assume I am an extrovert.  Nope!  That’s me acting in a professional role and being friendly and engaging with clients, other attorneys, etc.  If you know me from a personal encounter, you would think I am a shy, introvert.  Yes, that’s me.  Many would describe me as quiet and reserved.  These are obviously people who have never been present with me as I watched my beloved Georgia Bulldogs playing football.  GO DAWGS!!!!

So how do I tell someone who I am?  I respectfully suggest that a one page cover letter accompanying a piece of my writing is not going to cut it.  Want to truly get to know me?  Take a trip with me.  You can them observe how I am under different circumstances and at different times of the day.  I am a morning person who cannot function without coffee to start my day and some alone time to end it. I do not do well when I am hungry or tired. I am a planner and am uncomfortable proceeding by the seat of my pants.  Spending time with me is the best and only way to get an accurate picture of who I truly am..

The bottom line is that every individual is like a jigsaw puzzle.  The finished picture is only achieved by fitting together a myriad of pieces to achieve the whole.  Observing one or two of the pieces of the puzzle may give you some idea of what the big picture is, but it is an incomplete view.  Who I am and who you are is a product of our experiences, vital statistics, relationships, etc.

If you have read to the end of this post, you have learned a few things about me.  Obviously I like to write, I am an attorney with children, and I have a sense of humor.  (Well, hopefully you think I have a sense of humor.) But do you know the real me from merely reading this post?  No, and neither will that magazine editor who reads my one page cover letter.  If you want to know who I am, spend some time with me.  If you want to know about me, just read the cover letter for the proposed article I am submitting for possible publication.

Just WONDER-ing:  What’s the first thing you tell people about yourself?  What would people be surprised to learn about the real you?