Time in a Pickled Jar

~By Kate H. Knapp

The old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” can be aptly applied to my addiction to pickled eggs. Most turn their noses up in disgust at the “rubbery” snack, but I take pure delight in the crumbly yellow yolk wrapped in an elastic vinegar shell. If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, I’m sure at one point or another you’ve encountered them—bleached white circles swimming in a jar of murky liquid—in a dingy gas station somewhere alongside a forgotten highway.

To find them is pure luck. The powerful stench of vinegar burns your nostrils as you unscrew the lid; the lack of tongs causes a dilemma: Are you brave enough to grab one of the slippery suckers with your hand? (And how many people before you have had this exact same thought?) You wonder how long they have sat on the shelf without any refrigeration. But these are all merely side notes to the unexpected satisfaction just one of these gloriously pickled eggs can bring. With each buoyant and tart bite, I am not simply daring myself to eat something that could be hazardous to my health, but reminded of a happy childhood.

You see, my love affair with these steadfast eggs began at a very young age. Every Easter, after my brother and I slathered colorful dyes over the hard shells, we would watch as my father took our Technicolor tye-dyed creations and drowned them in a mixture of warm vinegar, fresh dill, pickling spices, and a few “secret” ingredients. Our mouths drooling from the aroma, he would be give us a few extra eggs to roll down a hill, appeasing our protests that it would take a week before we could even sample one. Almost every day, we would gather in the kitchen to swirl the jar and watch as the pastel colors created a tornado of anticipated deliciousness. It was one of my favorite Easter traditions, and it quickly dissolved after my parents divorced.

It wasn’t until years later on a trek to buy beer at La Tienda, a gas station right across the border from Utah into Idaho (Utah beer is only 3.2%, you can do the math), that I once again encountered the familiar smell (albeit coming from a foggier and more questionable liquid) of my beloved childhood treat. The jar was situated next to several larger jars containing pickled sausages, picked ham hocks, and, well, pickles. I felt as if I had found the holy grail of lost foods. There was no fresh dill to speak of, no happy splashes of colors, not even a hint of mustard seed, but the texture was the same and it immediately took me back to that first day after an entire week of waiting, which to my younger self felt like five years, when we would each take a slice of perfectly puckering hardboiled goodness and know it was truly worth the wait.

It was after this discovery that I began stopping more often at different gas stations in search of the elusive pickled egg. It has now become a road trip tradition of mine, and although I have since made my own pickled eggs, the ones in my fridge just don’t conjure the same excitement as finding a small piece of my past sitting in a jar in a random location alongside the road.

***

Pickled Eggs … Coming Soon

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