For health reasons, I’m not huge on fried food. Oh, I love it all right. But mostly I try to stay away, except when it comes to fried dill pickles. They are on the trendiest restaurant menus up here these days, though the Deep South discovered them first. When I first heard of them, the idea horrified me. Pickles are supposed to be sprinkled on top of a sandwich, not battered and tossed into hot oil. Bletch. But a couple of years ago, at a diner across the border in New Hampshire (a state often referred to as the south of the north), three fried pickle chips arrived beside our sandwich orders, and we nibbled. Edit that. We nibbled the first one and fought over the rest. Now, we order them where ever we can. (Cholesterol check, please!)
The thing is, this post isn’t supposed to be about fried pickles per se. It’s supposed to be about wonder, and creativity and who the heck was the smarty pants who first thought to coat a pickle and drop it into the deep fat fryer? Once, I heard an Au Jus sandwich was invented when a server accidentally dropped a roast beef sandwich into meat juices and the patron was in too much of a rush to wait for a replacement. Are all good things accidents, or calculated experiments by people smarter than me?
I mean, I love to cook. But, tell me. Who discovered baking soda makes cakes rise? According to my Google research, it’s been used since ancient times, but in the form of Bicarbonate of Soda since the eighteenth century. Before that, Potassium Carbonate (today, the main component of fertilizer) was made by leaching wood ashes and then evaporating the solution in iron pots, leaving a white alkaline residue called "pearl ash," a refined form of "pot ash." (Mmm. How tasty. If I do more research am I going to find out they made soap out of this stuff, too?) What possessed some entrepreneurial pioneer to collect the deposits, add some to a batter, mix in sour milk for the acid, and expect to come out with a leavened cake?
For that matter, who imagined wheat seeds could be ground down to flour, mixed with wet ingredients and baked? Or, take it further. A kajillion years ago, hunter gatherers ate their prey. Which caveman discovered it tasted better roasted? Oh dear. I Googled that one. Probably Homo Erectus after a forest fire killed animals and man decided they tasted better charred. (The world's first barbeque. Suddenly, I’m contemplating vegetarianism.)
There's a history class here, I know. I can look up bread or baking or cakes and find out about everything I need to know. Including fried pickles.
Oh heck. It's snowing today and I've got nothing better to do. Hey, Wikipedia?
“Fried Dill Pickles were popularized by Bernell "Fatman" Austin in 1963 at the Duchess Drive In located in Atkins, Arkansas. The Fatman's Recipe is only known to his family and used once each year at the annual Picklefest in Atkins, held each May.”
At least pickles come from vegetables. Oh, rats! Google again. I just learned a cucumber is a fruit.
Whatever. Thanks, Mr. Austin. I owe you one.