I often live vicariously through my friends. Fortunately, I can reap some of their rewards yet not pay the fines or do the jail time. So far.
Take for example, my sister, whom I adore above all others except maybe The Man. I got to buy all of the itty-bitty socks and skater shoes and toys for her baby, but I didn’t have to grow huge like a melon and then actually give birth. She’s the kind of ultra-patient, baby-sign-teaching, granola mom I would like to be … in theory, one day, when I’m ready. And as a granola mom, she’s also into all of those handicraft things that people used to do because they had to, because Wal-mart and the internet didn’t exist.
Our most recent gift from her incessant handiwork was a collection of “canned” goods which aren’t actually canned. More like jarred goods. Our favorite, judging from how quickly it disappeared, was the jar of pickled carrots.
I’m not a huge fan of pickles, but The Man is a cult-follower. He’ll eat just about anything pickled (anything vegetarian). Apparently people around the world have pickled almost everything they can get into a jar, pot, or bin over the last few thousand years. Things that Mother Nature never intended people to eat, what to speak of pickle and save for later. The WHO (World Health Organization, not the band) has issued a tentative warning that people who eat pickled vegetable as their only veggie source have an elevated cancer risk. So no, these don’t count as your daily source of vegetables apparently.
But they are fun garnishes and additions to meals. Especially the all-knowing, glorious sandwich. A few slices of bread, some gouda, mustard, sprouts, and these carrots–yum! And pickled carrots are a world away from ‘pickles’ as we Americans know them… suspiciously shaped and ridged cucumbers that are the butt of a few bad grown-up jokes (haha I said butt!). Pickled carrots retain their earthy flavors, and get infused with the salty, soury, dilly, peppery flavors of the brine.
My sister used the more traditional bay leaves, coriander, pepper corns, and dill in a basic brine, but added cloves of garlic and rings of jalapeno pepper as well. Not that they were spicy. They added a depth of character and lots of frilly notes to the basic flavor profile. And of course the love.
I can’t help but think about my sister spending a few days straight shopping, washing, cutting, mixing, jarring, labeling, and putting up this vast collection of veggies. The same sister that used to tag along behind me, whining at me to play with her, is now doing grown up things like raising a son and teaching herself old-world skills that women abandoned in the ’40s when god invented supermarkets and credit cards.
Eating home-canned pickled carrots out of a jar while sitting on a milk crate on the back porch doesn’t sound so glamorous. It’s not so far from our humble childhood. We used to talk about being career women in a big city, living in a trendy apartment and eating at restaurants every night. I’m happy that life happened this way instead. She gives me homemade gifts because she’s a grown-up these days, and I give her fart jokes because I’m not. It’s an even trade.