ON SECOND THOUGHT

By Carol Ferguson



When was the last time you ate a Kool-Aid pickle?

Better yet, have you ever heard of Kool-Aid pickles?

Until recently, my answer was “never,” and you may agree.

I learned about this out-of-the-ordinary food item in an article which stated that it’s a particular favorite of folks living in Mississippi. Now as a Yankee, I can be excused for my ignorance, but since Texas is only two states west of Mississippi I thought surely native Texans and long-time residents would know what I was talking about.

Wrong.

In a mini-survey around the office, I found no one who had ever heard the words Kool-Aid in conjunction with pickles, so I gave them a sample.

The Internet gives the recipe which is pretty easy: Empty and discard the juice from a 46-ounce jar of whole dill pickles. Cut the pickles in half lengthwise, and put them back in the jar. Stir together one cup of sugar, two cups of water and two envelopes of either cherry or strawberry Kool-Aid, and pour this over the pickles. Put the lid back on and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.

Walking through the building with my little samples speared with toothpicks, I felt like the women at the supermarket who hand out samples of sausage or whatever to shoppers. I did come up against some resistance from co-workers who were put off by the sight of red pickles and wouldn’t give them a try. Names of those people in the Cowards’ Hall of Fame will not be revealed.

Responses from those adventurous folks who did take a taste ranged from “yuk” to “not bad.”

Cheri Baker in the business office said “I think they’re pretty good,” and Stephanie Harden agreed, but Jackie Dawson in classified turned up her nose and said they should be followed by Trident chewing gum. Both Linda Shook and our publisher, Lisa Chappell, called them weird, while Leslie McMannis, ad director, said she liked the flavor.

New advertising employee Lee Hyatt said the pickles would be better if the sweet and sour flavors blended better, and Tobbie Davis went so far as to say, diplomatically, that with their red hue they would add color to a salad. Andy Peele told us, “I hate pickles, but they’re not bad.”

In the news room, Danny Walker, ate a sample, called it “odd,” and then several hours later said it came back to bite him. Warren Morrison said, “It’s different; I like it,” but new reporter Chad Blackshear grinned and said, “I make homemade pickles, and I would never make these.”

The only person in the newsroom who has lived in Mississippi is Royse City Herald-Banner editor David Wilfong, a resident during his childhood years. His reaction: “I knew there was a reason I left Mississippi.”

Perhaps the most practical comments came from reporter Brad Kellar and business office manager Mary Standfield. Brad said, “It’s a long way to go to create something that doesn’t taste like anything special,” and Mary commented, “They’re OK, but I wouldn’t spend the time to make them.”

Apparently Mississippi residents will indeed invest the time. According to what I’ve read, the Kool-Aid pickle fanatics reach practically a cult-status in that Delta state.

Our eldest son, who had driven through Mississippi many times over the years on visits home, made a terrible face after eating a pickle sample during the July Fourth holiday. He commented that residents of the state could better spend their time improving their roads than fooling around with pickle flavors.

No one knows who first decided that pickles could be improved by soaking them in red Kool-Aid, but I suspect he (or she) may have been off his medication at the time. The practice has caught on, however, and this version can be found at community fairs and school fund-raisers. Some Delta grocers have begun selling jars of the ready-made pickles, and others sell jars of dill pickles with Kool-Aid packs attached.

The folks at Kool-Aid’s corporate offices are tickled pink, or red, as the case may be. A senior manager was quoted as saying they endorsed consumers finding innovative ways to use the product.

My own reaction to Kool-Aid pickles? After trying them several times over a period of a few days, I am disappointed. I had hoped they would be something like the homemade watermelon pickles my mother used to make which were almost addictive — a wonderful blend of sweet and tart.

These are not, and I doubt I will bother with them again.

Pickles seem to be a current culinary topic, however, for a peanut oil manufacturer has just e-mailed me a press release suggesting that the perfect side dish to a meal is deep-fried pickles. The recipe says I’ll need to use two gallons of cooking oil, and then it dwells on the extreme care that must be taken in using an outdoor deep fryer: Never leave it unattended, keep children and pets away, wear oven mitts, and on and on.

Frankly this doesn’t sound like my idea of a relaxed, enjoyable experience.

I think I’ll just continue to eat commercially prepared pickles from the grocery store — dills, gherkins, bread and butter pickles, whatever.

You know that old saying: “A pickle a day keeps the doctor away.”

What’s that? You say it’s an apple a day?

Sorry. I seem to be confused.

I’m probably having a sugar fit from all that Kool-Aid.



Ferguson is a feature writer for the Herald-Banner.

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