Anybody who knows me knows I like pickles -- sour, new, kosher, dill, sweet, bread & butter, half-sour, gherkins -- the whole gamut. I can hardly eat a sandwich or a burger without a pickle on the side. It's in my nature -- call me Pucker, call me Sourpuss. Gimme salt, vinegar, allspice and dill over chocolate any day of the week.
So at lunch today I walked over to Lex and 35th, a few blocks from the Other Press office. It was a gorgeous early summer day, cloudless, and a Tuesday no less, Monday having already passed in peace. Pedestrians were strolling easily, as if their very legs knew they would only have to work a four-day week. The long weekend had been a joy. As for Memorial Day itself, forget it. An American Idol caterwauled for the cameras while the dead lay in the ground, unmoved. Sometimes I can't believe the country I was born into, its tasteless celebration of death, its commercialism, its warmongering.
But today I wasn't thinking thoughts like that. I was headed to D'Agostino's, that cramped, overpriced simulacrum of a modern American supermarket chain indigenous to New York. I usually go there to buy bottles of seltzer since they're still a lot cheaper than at the delis and corner variety stores around midtown. I had brought a sandwich from home for lunch -- thin slices of barbecued marinated London broil on a yeasty roll -- and thought that I'd get a small jar of pickles to go with it. D'Agostino's devotes about six linear feet of shelf space to pickles with a predictably lousy selection. I hemmed and I hawed. I had never tried the B & G brand "Sandwich Toppers New York Style" before, and everything else looked worse, so I added a jar to my basket and went to check out. This store hires the friendliest women to work the registers. They make you feel like you're in a small town general store. It's a little like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I paid for my water and pickles and sauntered back to the office.
I sat down at my desk, opened the windows -- yup, I can open my windows on the 24th floor and almost reach out and touch the Empire State Building -- set out my lunch, and took a big bite out of my sandwich. Mmm. Then I opened the pickle jar, extricated a slice, and bit into it. Shite. It tasted like nothing that had ever grown out of the earth. Oh shite. It glowed an iridescent yellow-green. This nasty shite was meant to kill things. A radioactive salt-lick. My throat constricted and tears came to my eyes. "New York Style" my arse. No pickle ever made in New York tasted like this. I spat it out, took a long swig of seltzer to cleanse my palate, and closed the jar. It took me a while to settle down.
I studied the label on the jar. In small print it read "Product of India." What? They're manufacturing this shite in India and shipping it here? B & G, a firm headquartered in New Jersey, a brand that we used to buy when I was a kid out on the Island, they're the bastards perpetrating this culinary crime? Indian kirby cukes? Indian toxins? Not to mention the amount of carbon it took to transport them here.
I sat their seething. A pox on globalization. "New York Style" pickles made in India for sale in New York is an effin insult. Screw you B & G, screw your pickles and your relish and all the other crappy condiments bearing your label. Screw you. I finished my sandwich, walked over to the window and looked westward to New Jersey. If people hadn't been walking on the sidewalk below, I would've thrown that jar out as far as I could.
Instead, I scratched another company off the list of those I'll buy products from. It's getting to be a long list but I don't care. Life is too short to eat shite, especially when it comes from 13,000 miles away.