The Most Stunning Carnival Deal with Would possibly Simply Be Pickle on a Stick – popculturebuzz

The Most Stunning Carnival Deal with Would possibly Simply Be Pickle on a Stick

Last May, I spent a few nights at a carnival in Woodbury Heights, New Jersey, with my dad and nephews. As we debated between cheese fries and funnel cake, a call caught my attention: “Get your pickle on a stick! Pickle on a stick for only three dollars!” As the line for this carnival treat grew longer, I found myself increasingly intrigued. It’s a pickle. On a stick.

What’s the appeal? I wondered.

“When it’s really hot out, they’re better than ice cream,” says Peggy Grodinsky, a writer and editor for Maine’s Portland Press Herald. Grodinsky wrote about pickle on a stick in the summer of 2020 after trying one at Snell Family Farm in Buxton, Maine. “I’m not dissing ice cream, which I love. It’s just that ice cream fools you into thinking it’s light, when it’s actually made with milk, cream, and often eggs. Many pickles are made with vinegar, and they just feel much lighter—even invigorating—when you’re eating them.”

Pickles are certainly having a moment, with pickling workshops available from San Francisco to Billings, Montana, and gourmet pickle shops opening in cities like Midland, Texas, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For many, the allure of cucumbers preserved in brine or vinegar is undeniable. They’re crunchy, thirst-quenching, and packed with sodium, which can help keep you hydrated on a hot summer day. However, they can be messy.

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“I think there’s a practical argument for pickles on sticks,” says Rod Phillips, a historian at Ottawa’s Carleton University who specializes in food and wine. “You don’t get your fingers coated in brine or juice, and it makes them more manageable, especially in casual eating situations like carnivals.”

Plus, as Grodinsky says, “it’s fun.”

A Pickle’s Journey Through History

The exact origins of pickles are unknown, but most food historians believe that these salted and brined vegetables date back to ancient Mesopotamia, around 2400 B.C.E. By the 15th century, pickles were already arriving in the New World thanks to Italian merchant Amerigo Vespucci, who before becoming an explorer, was known as the “Pickle Dealer.” He supplied trans-Atlantic ships with preserved meat and vegetables, including pickles, to help prevent sailors from developing scurvy. By the 19th century, pickles were considered a status symbol among middle- and upper-class British families, displayed and served in decorative jars called pickle castors.

Then there’s the kosher dill pickle, a cucumber fermented in garlic, salt, and spices, which has its own unique history. “Ashkenazi Jews came to the U.S. in large numbers from both Central and Eastern Europe, starting in the 1880s through the 1920s,” says Liz Alpern, co-founder of Brooklyn’s The Gefilteria. “We’re talking millions. It’s the Jews who really brought this style of pickling with them and popularized it in the United States.” Pickling vegetables was a survival tactic in countries like Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, from which many Ashkenazi Jews emigrated. Most of them settled in New York City. “The Jewish deli then brought all of these Ashkenazis together in an American context,” Alpern adds.

Pickles became a staple in deli culture, prominently featured on plates or wrapped in sandwich paper as a complementary part of the meal. “A pickle refreshes your taste buds,” says Alpern, “so each bite of a pastrami sandwich, with a bite of pickle in between, can be as exciting as your first.”

Pickles in Modern American Culture

Today, pickles are a mainstay from delis to diners, and festivals celebrate this beloved brined vegetable from Pittsburgh to Beverly Hills. Though tangy and salty, pickles come in various types, including sweet, sour, bread and butter pickles, and gherkins, or pickled baby cucumbers. Pickles across the U.S. are as diverse as the country itself.

In some Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi movie theaters, pickles are served in wax paper bags straight from the jar, a concession food believed to have originated with German immigrants. Meanwhile, in the Mississippi Delta region, some pickle enthusiasts stuff their dill pickles with peppermint sticks, a tradition that soul food scholar Adrian Miller says likely originated “in the 1940s and ’50s with kids just messing around.” According to Miller, local corner stores always had big jars of pickled foods on the counter, such as eggs, pigs’ feet, and large cucumbers. The latter were “really cheap,” he says, “as were the peppermint sticks. They would just push the stick into the soft part of the pickle and then let it dissolve. It was all about the sweet and sour combo.”

Kool-Aid pickles, also known as “Koolickles,” made by soaking dill pickles in brine with powdered Kool-Aid mix, is another Delta specialty. These fruity and colorful pickled cucumbers, often vibrant red (cherry Kool-Aid) or purple (grape Kool-Aid), are an acquired taste for many but are still available at gas stations throughout the region. Over time, they’ve also reached other parts of the U.S. “I think the spread of them first happened during the Great Migration,” says Miller. Beyond the South, “they never really caught fire anywhere else” until becoming a TikTok trend in 2021.

This “spirit of innovation,” as Miller calls it, also led to treats like pickle popsicles and fried pickles, which first gained popularity in the 1960s at the Duchess Drive-In in Atkins, Arkansas. Although the Duchess closed later that decade, fried pickles have since become an American culinary staple.

Pickle on a Stick: A Carnival Classic

While it’s unclear when pickle on a stick became a carnival treat, it has certainly joined the ranks of food-on-a-stick favorites like corn dogs, candied apples, and deep-fried Snickers. This trend can be traced back nearly a century to 1927, when U.S. inventor Stanley S. Jenkins applied for a patent for a “combined dipping, cooking and article holding apparatus” because, as he noted, foods like bananas, hot dogs, strawberries, and cheese just taste better “when impaled on sticks.”

However you slice it, pickles have a loyal following. And for many, eating this juice-filled delight—hands-free in the heat of summer—just makes it all the more appealing.

“It’s a bit goofy and nostalgic, eating food on a stick,” says Grodinsky, “but with a pickle, it’s refreshing, too.”

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