Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lessons from a Jar of Pickles - Introduction

After working my way through my series on strengths, it feels right to move on to another series. So now, dear readers, I will begin a series that was inspired by a jar of pickles.

Every summer there is a produce stand on a corner that is on my way to/from work. It's called Sweet Corn Charlie's and they sell a variety of great produce, including (as their name would suggest) lots and lots of sweet corn. I do live in Indiana, after all, and summer in Indiana isn't complete without freshly picked sweet corn.

Two summers ago, in July or August of 2010, I stopped by the stand and was picking up my usual items - some corn, a few tomatoes, a cantaloupe, and some green beans - when I noticed some sprigs of dill next to a bin marked "pickling cucumbers."

One of the things I enjoy in life is experimenting in the kitchen. I love learning to make things from scratch and do things the "old-fashioned" way. I've made pudding from scratch, canned my own tomatoes, I love making my own chicken broth from scratch, and, although this isn't an edible item, I also make my own laundry detergent. There is something empowering about knowing that I can do these things without the aid of a box or a can.

So when I saw the dill and the cucumbers I was inspired to try canning my own pickles. I took all the dill that was left and gathered up some cucumbers and went on my merry way. (But not before I paid. In case you were wondering.)

That Saturday morning I assembled all the ingredients - those I had purchased at the produce stand and some I had picked up at the store. I went about making the pickles only to discover that I didn't have enough of the dill. I considered the situation for a minute and instead of running to the store to pick up some more, I decided to make do with what I had.

So I made the pickles and let them sit for the prescribed amount of time (two weeks, I think.) Then I anxiously opened a jar of them and took my first bite of pickle.

It tasted terrible.

All I tasted was garlic and soggy cucumber. Blech.

I put the opened jar of pickles in the refrigerator and left the rest of them (three jars) in the pantry.

For 18 months I kept those jars in the pantry. About once a month I'd have to shuffle them around to make room for jars of spaghetti sauce or cans of soup or boxes of granola bars. And every time I shuffled them I thought I should get rid of these.

In December 2011 while I was home for Christmas break I had a cleaning spurt and decided to clean out the pantry. I took everything out of the pantry and purged relentlessly. When I arrived at the jars of pickles I sighed a very deep sigh. Oh, those pickles! Why had a I kept them for so long? Why couldn't I just bring myself to throw them away? Why had I allowed them to take up space on my shelf for 18 months?

I took them out, popped the sealed lids off, dumped out the awful, garlicky juice, then coaxed the soggy pickles into the trash can. Finally - freedom!!

Later than night, as I was journaling about my day, I thought about those pickles and the many questions about why they had caused me so much grief. Surprisingly, my pondering led to four or five "aha!" moments that were pretty significant.

Since I wrapped up the strengths series I've been thinking about what I should blog about next, and the other night while I was looking for something in the pantry I was reminded of those awful pickles. And that's when I knew I should write about them.

Next up in the series - redefining wastefulness.


Monica said...

I sincerely hope you don't leave us hanging for too long! :)

mom said...

Amen Monica!

WES said...

Good intro, Erin! I'm in.

Erin K. said...

Thanks everyone! The next post will be published on Friday morning. :)