Despite its lofty goals, Pickle Day was rife with the usual pickle fanfare. Horman's Best Pickles were back for another year serving pickles on a stick, while children had half sours painted on their faces and roaming costumed kosher dills entertained the lines of attendees. The usual chocolate-covered pickles were present, and Peanut Butter & Co. served peanut butter and pickle sandwiches to eager and hungry pickle enthusiasts. The homemade pickle ice cream of last year, however, was conspicuously absent. So, too, was the musical quartet that blows pickle brine bubbles.
Nevertheless, with its bike valet sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, a plethora of free samples, plus hip and ironic t-shirts and buttons, Pickle Day was, if anything, a celebration of the youthfulness and recent novelty of home preservation in a street fair well suited to the Millenial Generation.
"There's some sort of deep connection going on with pickles now," said Katy Tackett, known in the blogosphere as Pickle Freak. "It's a result of the dovetailing of the economic recession and the make-it-yourself movement coming out of Brooklyn," added Jen Catto, another pickle blogger known as Pickle Girl. Or as Liz Alpern, pickle lover and Jewish food enthusiast, put it, "there's an upsurge of food production from people my own age and I f--ing love it."
Photo by Sophie Barbasch
Like any industry event, the familiar faces--such as Rick from Rick's Picks and the McClure's Pickles guys--were there showcasing their innovative products, including Rick's Smokra (smoked paprika okra pickles) and McClure's spicy pickles. Adamah, the non-profit Jewish farm from Falls Village, Connecticut, whose slogan--"Young Jewish Farmers Changing the World One Pickle at a Time"--produced its fair share of smirks, was back again with their Old World-inspired lacto-fermented full sours and half-sours, reminding festival goers that the Jewish pickle tradition is alive and kicking.
There were four new pickle companies present out of about sixteen according to Nancy Ralph, the festival's organizer and the Director of the New York Food Museum. Two new kimchi vendors attended this year, as well. Mother In Law's Kimchi sampled an anchovy kimchi variety that was a startling but welcome surprise to my tastebuds.
In some ways this pickle day symbolized the passing of the torch from the old time picklers to the new. While Russ and Daughters, a New York Institution since 1914, was present for their fourth Pickle Day appearance, showcasing their pickled tomato and lox sandwiches and their legendary pickled herring, other venerable Lower East Side pickle companies, specifically Guss' and The Pickle Guys, chose not to participate this year. "They moved it [the festival] off my block. That's why I don't go there no more," said Guss' owner, Patricia Fairhurst. Fairhurst opened her doors a few blocks away and still commanded long lines on what she said was her busiest day of the year. The Pickle Guys, on the other hand, were advised by their Rabbincal Supervisors not to attend the event because it coincided with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.