My love life and my love for pickles seem often to be on a collision course. “You’ll probably die and come back a pickle,” she once yelled. Even O, with whom I’ve managed to maintain a strong friendship, once laughed snidely, “Did you know you smell like pickles when you sweat?” Little did the girlfriend in question know that when she referred to a pickle disparagingly in my presence, it already spelled the end.
I love pickles. They are a distilled taxonomy of nations’ approach to cuisine: the French cornichons are delicate and petite with their mustard seeds and proprietary plastic trays that fish them out of the brine, while the bloated American deli pickles bob around in tasty, albeit neon yellow, brine. The Koreans have their kim-chi, the Brits their sad onions, and the Germans their heretic sweet pickles (NB: the only rule in pickling is to err on the side of salty or sour, not sweet). No one, however, matches the pickling prowess of the Russians. Here in Moscow, I am in pickle paradise. Every Sunday I visit the Dorogomilovsky market where a pyramid of stacked pickles offers tomatoes, various mushrooms, cucumbers with different degrees of pickledom, and garlic scrapes. “To be in a pickle” is an English idiom used to describe being in an uncomfortable position.
By PAYAM SHARIFI