How could I resist when I found both pickles and chocolate in my morning browsing of the New York Times online, especially with my own periodic pondering on warped views of food, femininity, not to mention fiscal fitness?
Stopping by an opinion piece I thought dealt with economics – (it was illustrated by what appears as Uncle Sam-and-fam riding in quite the pickle) – it turns out that the article in question is a tale of immigrant foods and American assimilation.
In fact, the pickle in particular is traced through early 20th century scrutiny, and the story is a delectable one.
According to Jane Ziegelman’s article (a tasty read), highly seasoned foods were once considered sources of potential instability, and specific segments of New York’s immigrant population were targeted for crackdown on those crunchy and curvaceous comestibles we’ve long since come to know and love.
In other words, out with the pickled cukes and cabbage, and in with creamed corn and apple pie.
For those of us who adore our Kosher dills, our sweet gherkins, and everything in between – can you imagine our condiment cabinets if we’d been deprived of these once foreign and now “All-American” addictions? How lackluster the hot dog without its relish? How dreary the chili dog sans sauerkraut?
In a Pickle
And might I mention that according to this article on Examiner.com celebrating National Pickle Month (July), the item of interest dates back to Columbus finding his way to American shores, and pickles were conspicuously consumed by George Washington and Dolly Madison!
As an avid advocate for entertaining etymology, may I also share the origins of the word, not to mention the expression “to be in a pickle?”
According to the Free Dictionary, “pickle” is:
first recorded around 1400 with the meaning “a spicy sauce or gravy served with meat or fowl.” … it is somewhat related in sense to its possible Middle Dutch source pekel, a solution, such as spiced brine, for preserving and flavoring food… The word also took on a figurative sense, “a troublesome situation,” perhaps under the influence of a similar Dutch usage in the phrase in de pekel zitten, “sit in the pickle”
The UK Phrase Finder gives a gory literal and literary reference, suggesting that being “in a pickle” derives from the possibility of being chopped up and eaten. In a pickle, indeed!
Heart Healthy, Fitness Friendly?
Fortunately, the next tidbit I came across addresses the joys of one of our most sensual sweets. According to Tara Parker-Pope’s article in the Times, chocolate can help with our workouts!
As for the impact on our health, here’s a succulent snippet:
Researchers have known for some time that chocolate has healthful effects… people who regularly indulge in moderate amounts of dark chocolate are less likely to develop high blood pressure or heart disease or suffer strokes.
But the article really focuses on contributions to fitness routines and cardiac endurance. In a study of mice on treadmills, injecting epicatechin (a nutrient derived from cocoa) into one group, and water into the other, research concludes:
Epicatechin binds to the receptors and “induces an integrated response that includes structural and metabolic changes in skeletal and cardiac muscles resulting in greater endurance capacity”
As a woman, I have my own interpretation of these findings: I’m well aware that I feel better with a bite of the bittersweet. Like most of my sex, I’m noticeably more energized, more upbeat, more in the mood. Even the possibility that one favorite female food is heart healthy and helpful when it’s time to tighten and trim – isn’t this grand news?
(Inter)National Pride on the Side?
Still, cocoa isn’t native to the U.S. (or Canada). Should we be suspicious?
And what do we know of the mice in the study? Could they be immigrants?
Surely, if they responded well to the nutrient found in chocolate – with noticeable improvements in cardiac performance – these could have been Belgian mice, or possibly Swiss. As for the control group given water rather than the substance that spurred their competitors to superior results, if they were Canadian mice, wouldn’t they have revved their engines to extract of Poutine?
What if the mice were plucked from the streets of New York? Shouldn’t pickle juice be the substance of choice to enliven their little legs and revitalize their recreation?
Fun With Food, Cabbage and Chocolate
Yes, I’m having my fun (and eating it, too?) – with food and language, naturally. I mean no offense – as a fan of pickles, chocolate and poutine. All comely comestibles aside, I’m delighted that we’re continuing to research nutritional impacts on health.
Still – might we devote more dollars to those dealing with malnutrition or obesity, rather than what promotes pumping iron or spurs us on the StairMaster, especially since fewer of us can afford one? Certainly, we’re on a treadmill of sorts, but running in circles like the caged hamster, the guinea pig, and far from collective recollections on the majesty of Mighty Mouse.
In this household, we’ve recently incorporated cabbage into our regimen on a regular basis – for its budget-worthy, healthful, and tasty aspects. And as for chocolate, we’ve never given it up, and like so much in our economic realities today, our consumption is indeed bittersweet.