July 12, 2012
In A Pickle
On the Humble Pickle
This is week four of this column's tenure, after I wrote science fiction my first week and looked at what the contenders needed the two weeks after that (though not under the "In A Pickle" name). I think it's time to actually talk about pickles. I wasn't sure if I wanted to as recently as Tuesday night, but then Bryce Harper got into a pickle in the All-Star Game and "God Bless America" was performed by someone named Kellie Pickler. It's fate.
The first thing you have to know is that pickles are delicious. I've had a lot of good pickles at a variety of places, but the two easiest good pickles for me to acquire currently are at Canter's and Langer's in Los Angeles. Canter's cuts them larger—Langer's serves more traditional spears—but I love them both, even though neither is entirely imaginative. They're standard deli pickles.
For more imagination, maybe you want to visit A-Frame in Culver City, where Roy Choi will serve you a plate with much pickled produce: carrots, okra, radishes, Asian pear. Maybe some other stuff. And if you want these pickled items jarred, Gunnar and Jake's has you covered, though they don't, unfortunately, carry Asian pear.
Of course, the phrase that I rely on for my column title here has a non-food meaning as well. The Internet tells me that Shakespeare has the first written use of the phrase "in a pickle," in The Tempest. The usage is apparently explained by "pickle" having referred to a sauce of some sort, with the person in the pickle being as mixed up as the vegetables that were used in the making of the sauce. This sounds ok, right? The website I read this on is British, so I don't think it's in my purview to question it.
To the realm of sport: pickleball! How many of you played pickleball in gym class? I used to think my teacher made it up because it's a pretty low-rent game, an unholy union of tennis and ping-pong when neither sport needs any improving, but lo, there's a Wikipedia page that claims the game was incepted in the 1960's. My gym teacher was alive back then, but he wasn't a congressman with a vacation home on Bainbridge Island, so it probably wasn't him.
This is all well and good, except why is it "Pickleball"? Apparently because in crew (like, rowing, not just my posse), there's a thing called a "pickle boat" and this lady who was present at the invention of pickleball ... look, whatever, this is ridiculous. Rowing is the worst. The point is that pickles are so amazing that people will take every opportunity to name stuff after pickles. Pickle boats. Pickleball. Pickles the dog. (Read the Wikipedia, I'm telling you.)