Saturday, September 19, 2009

'd' is for dill

You may be thinking, 'hey, that's not dill, it's a dill pickle!' I know. But I really wanted to draw a pickle for Mimi, so there you have it. Dill is a member of the parsley family and is indigenous to southern Russia, the Mediterranean, and western Asia. The word “dill” comes from the Old Norse “dylla”, meaning “to lull," which may be why dill tea calms colicky babies, soothes insomniacs, and is thought to have been effective in ridding ill-willed witches of their desire to harm. Dill tea was also known as a cure for hangovers. Not that I would have any use for that sort of thing.

Which brings us to the dill pickle. Oh how I love big-city delicatessens and their giant dill pickles! The more vinegar, garlic, spices and salt the better. I'm particularly fond of the ones fished out of big glass jars and wrapped in paper. And don't even get me started on the deep fried pickle. I'm certain there is a vigorous debate raging somewhere regarding the sanctity of such a thing, but could there be anything more spectacular than a dill pickle spear clad in a coat of golden, crunchy, deep-fried goodness? No. I didn't think so.

My first pickle memory involves a McDonald's cheeseburger. Not a particularly highbrow food memory, but still. When I was young, I was a plain cheeseburger girl. Meat. Cheese. Bun. My heels were dug in on the matter. This used to drive my father crazy because 'fast food' establishments back in those days (a really really long time ago) were not used to customizing orders. Their food came one way and that was that (until later). If you wanted something different, you could order it, but were then required to pull out of line into the parking lot and wait say, 20 minutes, for your special, annoying little order to be executed. This pulling-out-of-line-waiting-in-the-parking-lot-experience was super awesome for my family on our driving vacations and was typically accompanied by a sea of rolling eyes and harumpfs. One time (I was probably about 6 or 7) the cheeseburger I received in the parking lot was not plain, but the garden variety standard cheeseburger. It had ketchup and mustard on it. And two pickles. Doom! But since we had already pulled out of the parking lot and there was no chance of returning, I decided to give it a try. I will never forget how good it tasted. I was transformed! I felt so grown up and sophisticated. Please stop laughing, I was 6. Anyhoo, the pickle encouraged me to become a more adventurous eater, which was a very good thing indeed!

Have you ever heard of the Dill Pickle Club? Far from an association of pickle-lovers, according to Marc Moscato in his essay The Tradition of Non-Tradition: The Dill Pickle Club as Catalyst for Social Change, its members were academics, social workers, hobos, prostitutes, socialists, anarchists, and con men. The club was formed in 1914 by John A. "Jack" Jones in prohibition-era Chicago and its members gathered weekly to share plays, poetry readings, and dance performances (and probably a good deal of forbidden spirits too - let's hope they had some dill tea on hand the next day!). The club was part of a bohemian social movement at the time that combined art, intellectualism and activism. A sign inside their meeting place read "Elevate Your Mind to a Lower Level of Thinking." I think I would have fit in just fine there.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this uplifting and delightful ode to the dill pickle. Enjoy!

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