Roland B. Vendeland

Warmth, wisdom, and wit.

Roland B. Vendeland

Samuel's Quest for a Perfect Pickle

"You can't get a decent pickle in Pittsburgh. I haven't found anything close to my grandmother's homemade kosher dills." Samuel had heard his father's complaint many times.

"You can get a good pickle in Cleveland, a super pickle in Miami, and a heavenly pickle in New York City. You can even okay pickle in Philadelphia. Why can't you get a decent pickle in Pittsburgh?"

Samuel didn't know if he would ever taste a perfect pickle, or ever be free of his father's carping. "How can a self-respecting Jewish community survive without a quality kosher dill pickle?" exclaimed his father. "After all, a cucumber is nothing more than a raw pickle. This is an ethnic disgrace."

Samuel sensed a challenge. He didn't know if a perfect pickle really existed in Pittsburgh. If it did, he planned to find it. Since his father fancied himself as a pickle gourmet, Samuel would use him as his personal taster.

At the salad bar of the Eat "N Park Restaurant, Samuel; flicked through the potato salad and removed a chunk of pickle. "Hey, Dad, is this what you were talking about?" he asked. His father touched the chunk to his tongue. He gagged, "No, Samuel, this is a crummy gherkin. A real pickle is sour, not sweet." Samuel frowned, but then smiled. He had a new clue.

At a family picnic, Samuel reached into a jar and plucked out a plump pickle. He savored its sour flavor. "Hey, Dad, try this!" he exclaimed. "Hmmm, not bad for a pickle from a jar," noted his father. "But a real pickle swims in a crock of foul-smelling brine." Samuel was zeroing in. At the supermarket he spied a large crock. He yanked off the lid, but jerked his head as the stench from the crock reached his nostrils.

"This must be the stink Dad told me about." He muttered. He called his father over to boast of his find. His father shook his head.

"Sorry, son, I can smell the vinegar. I'm sure this is a fine pickle in its own right. It's just not kosher dill. A sour dill pickle gets its flavor the dill and the salty, cloudy brine."

"Vinegar!" He couldn't believe his ears. Everything was right: the crock, the odor, and the brine.

"Vinegar! I can't win," moaned Samuel. "Maybe I should give up." Several days later on his way home from Hebrew school, Samuel reconsidered his pickle problem. He pictured the perfect pickle. He imagined how it looked, smelled, and tasted. Samuel didn't pay attention to where he was going. He turned onto an unfamiliar street.

Samuel spotted what looked to him like a Jewish deli. It had a sign advertising smoked salmon under the Jewish-sounding name of the shop. Samuel strode into the store, but turned to leave when he saw the owners. He then saw the two clear glass crocks filled with pickles, half sours and sours.

He bought a sour dill pickle, bit into it, and squealed, "Wait until Dad tastes these pickles!" Samuel ran home. "Dad, I found the perfect pickle, but you'll never guess where," he gasped between breaths.

They rushed back to the deli. Bought another pickle. With his first bite, Samuel's father proclaimed, "Now that's what I call a pickle!" "Hey, Dad," mused Samuel, "Why didn't you tell me Koreans make the best kosher pickles?" The oriental faces of the old couple behind the counter beamed with pride.