Sally in the Zen

Confessions of a Befuddled Zen Buddhist

Pickled Whatevers

Faithful readers will know that I heart food.  I adore food. 

I proudly admit that whenever I’m in a food establishment, I sniff the air for scents of wondrous foods.  Never mind the looks that I get when I do this.

Sidebar:  the best smell EVER is the scent of fried food lingering in the air as we walk along the boardwalk at the beach during the summer. 

I proudly admit that when I’m a grocery store, I make a beeline for the bakery because I must drool over the fresh baked goodies and leave my paw-prints on the shiny glass display cases that house eye-catching, dreamy-looking sweet creations called dessert.


Why, yes, I am an adult. 

Why do you ask?

The very strange thing with my love affair with food is that when I was younger, I was picky.

And quite close-minded.

I despised brussel sprouts.  I loathed green tea.  I spat at spinach.

And most of all, I hated, hated, HATED anything pickled.

Pickled anything.

Pickled vegetables.  Pickled cucumbers.  Pickled radishes.  Pickled beets!


And now?  NOW??

I utterly adore them.

Could be hormones, but I really don’t think so.

The day I stopped hating them was the day I starting liking them.  And don’t ask me when that was because I really can’t recall.  I just know that now I am very much not unlike that of a Hoover vacuum cleaner. 

I suck in pretty much anything nowadays because most everything tastes good to me.

Except for beef, of course.

So when one day in early January, Zen Master proposed to do pickling, I was intrigued.

“What are you going to pickle?”  I asked Zen Master as I watched him strut around the kitchen, quite puffed up with pride at his idea.

“Pickled Chinese Mustard Greens.”

Zen Master and Zen Mum had gone grocery shopping at the Asian supermarket and came back with their loot.  Zen Master had split the veggies in half so they would dry out faster.  I had come home one evening and saw the table laid out with these fresh veggies, and had wondered what the heck was going on.

“I didn’t know you knew how to pickle.”  I said to Zen Master as he proudly displayed the fresh Chinese Mustard Greens all over the kitchen table.  “You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“Of course I know what I’m doing!”  He sniffed with indignation.  “I helped my mother — your grandmother — make some when I was growing up in China.  This is a family recipe.”

So after drying them out for a few days, the fresh Chinese mustard greens were stuffed into a large plastic container and a lukewarm mix of water, vinegar, sugar and salt was poured into it.  The container was then covered and the next step was time.

“The longer you leave it alone, the better the flavor.”  said Zen Master. 

And this past weekend, we cracked open the container and Zen Mum took out a sampling of our very first homemade pickled Chinese mustard greens.

Because the veggies are pickled, they need to be rinsed out thoroughly before soaking for a few hours in a cool water bath.  This mellows out the vinegar so that the sourness and tartness are lessened.

But Zen Master wanted to see how it tasted, this being his first batch of pickled whatevers that he’s ever made here in the United States.  So as soon as Zen Mum took out the veggies and laid them in the cool water bath, Zen Master was there, snapping off a piece and stuffing it into his mouth.

“ACK!!!”  Zen Master started jumping up and down, his face turning beet red, his face quite puckered like he had ate a really pickled vegetable.

Which, of course, he just did.

“ACK!!!  ACK!!!”

I almost peed in my pants, I was doubled-over laughing and crying so hard.

“So does this mean it’s no good?”  I finally asked as I wiped the tears from my eyes.

He downed a whole glass of water before answering me.  I couldn’t really tell if he was giving me the evil eye or the squinting was because of the vinegar.

“Of course it’s good!”  He said.  “Nothing’s wrong with it.”

And for dinner, Zen Mum made one of our favorite family dishes:  Pickled Chinese Mustard Greens with Pork.

And I Hoovered it up quite well.

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