When I went to the market last week to pick up my CSA, I was instructed to take 6 adorable little cucumbers – pickling cucumbers. About 3-5 inches long and dark green, these lovely little veggies presented me with a very obvious, very mystifying agenda: I must make pickles.
As I’ve already said in my post about making strawberry jam, in my imagination, making pickles (or, to go broader, the act of pickling) is a steamy, fussy, dangerous endeavor. But surely, just as jam can be made through refrigeration, so too could pickles. Right?
I stopped on my way out of the market to take a picture of a ridiculous shelving label on top of a row of Baby-sitters Club books (my market has a small used book store attached to it). I loved those books when I was little. They tapped into that part of me that desperately loved babies and wanted so badly to be old enough to babysit. Much like with Sex and the City and other ensemble shows, it was always fun to figure out which babysitter I identified with. I’ll say, nowadays, Mary Anne, because I still tend to be a little more on the quiet side, and maybe a little bit Dawn. I always remember her as being into gardening and nature things, which I translate into adult terms of saying she’d definitely be a girl who buys fresh, local produce (or grows her own), cooks, etc. Or maybe she would have gone into the Peace Corps or something, which isn’t something I would do. That’s the beautiful part about those girls: they’re frozen in time, and that means we can imagine the most amazing futures for them.
The sign, then, on the shelf sort of bugged me in a way that surprised me. It labels a shelf that contains both the Baby-sitters Club books and also Boxcar Children. While my brother definitely wouldn’t have read Baby-sitters Club books, he was just as into the Boxcar Children as I was. He even bought a Boxcar Children Cookbook at one of the Scholastic Book Fairs when we were little. These books weren’t shelved correctly.
But truly, those shelves aren’t labelled correctly. What would have happened to all of us if girls only ever read “girl books”? And for that matter, what constitutes a boy book or a girl book? It seems an arbitrary distinction. In boy books, a character survives in the wild? So do all four of the Boxcar Children. In girl books, their are gushy relationships? How is that different from the relationships boys form with their dogs in boy books?
I think of friends of mine who do things that, historically, probably weren’t considered open to women. My friend Andrea used to run her own business where she took people out on kayaking trips, guiding them through weather, pointing out birds and trees, and traversing water like she was born in it. My girlfriend, Amanda, serves in the military, deploying on a carrier just like the boys. And I think those things happen because somewhere along the way, the divide between “boy books” and “girl books” disintegrated.
In high school, my dad introduced me to one of his friends, and as is the way with grown-ups who meet high schoolers, he asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. “I’m going to be a chef,” I said. No wavering. No tonal question mark at the end (I’m going to be a chef?). And no “wanting to.” I was going to. That was that.
The man grimaced and then looked at my dad. “You going to break the news to her, or should I?” he asked. Then he turned to me. “Women can’t be chefs.”
Gasp! Sacrilege! Keep that hate speech away from me!
Looking back now, I think that was probably a man who chose his books based on what was on the boy shelf.
I took my little pickling cucumbers out to the car, got out my phone, and looked up “refrigerator pickles” and started my search. I do traditionally “girl” tasks – I like gardening and cooking (so do a lot of men, I know, just follow me on this). My girlfriend describes the way I act in the kitchen as having a “quiet confidence,” which makes me happy. I also write, which I’m considerably less confident about. Both of those areas of life – cooking, writing – are historically male-dominated. In some ways, that domination still plays itself out, but mostly, it’s integrated. Boys and girls in the same kitchen. Boy books and girl books mingled (written by, or intended to be read by). And a jar of pickles for everyone!
After two days of pickling, I finally got to try my little creations today, and they’re wonderful. I’m so astounded when I try something foreign to me and it actually works. They’re spicier than I thought they’d be, so I might scale back on the garlic – but then again, I might not. It’s a pleasant spice. The dill shines through, and they are just vinegary enough. I’m very pleased.
Refrigerator Dill Pickles
Jar(s) with lid(s)
6 pickling cucumbers
10 sprigs fresh dill
4-8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
6 tablespoons white vinegar
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
Distilled or spring water
1. Wash and sanitize your jars and lids.
2. Slice the ends off the pickles, then cut in half lengthwise, then cut those halves in half, lengthwise. You should end up with four long quarters of each cucumber.
3. Depending on the size of your jar, you may be able to get all your ingredients into one jar; I had to use two. If that’s the case with you, divide your ingredients evenly between the jar, putting in the garlic, dill, salt, cucumbers, vinegar, and topping off (right to the brim) with spring water.
4. Screw top on tightly and give it a good shake.
5. Put the jars on top of the refrigerator for 24 hours. After that, give the jars a good shake again, then turn upside down, and leave for another 24 hours. After that, put in refrigerator, or open it up and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from a recipe that appeared on diyNatural.