Today’s guest blog post from Sean of the famous SeansRamblings blog!
Pickles are a big part of Pittsburgh. Heinz started selling pickles in Pittsburgh in 1869 and its signature pickle pins go back to the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. Picklesburgh has become a “must-attend” annual event and was named America’s Best Specialty Food Festival by USA Today in 2019 and 2020. So it would make sense that Pittsburghers should embrace and actually become the leader in the new-ish tradition of eating and tasting pickles at Chanukah.
Even if you don’t celebrate the Jewish holiday of Chanukah (or Hanukkah), you probably know the basics. It’s the festival of lights. It’s celebrated for eight days because, over 2000 years ago, there was only enough oil to light the menorah’s candles for one day, but it miraculously lasted eight days. Adam Sandler wrote and performed several versions of The Chanukah Song. So where do pickles fit into all of this? Let’s go all the way back to 1998 and the mythical and historic city of, um, San Diego, California.
The students and staff of Hillel, the Jewish student organization, at San Diego State University (“SDSU”) organized a Kosher Pickle Taste Test on a cool (for San Diego) December day. Hundreds of members of the SDSU community tasted a variety of pickles and rated their favorites. SDSU’s student newspaper, The Daily Aztec, featured a medley of pictures of the event on its front page the next day with the caption, ‘Students, faculty, alumni, and pickle men took part in the Chanukah tradition of pickle tasting yesterday on the north steps of the Free Speech Area.” Based on the proximity of the event to Chanukah, at least one person at the Daily Aztec thought that pickles were an essential part of the holiday, ranking up there with lighting the menorah and spinning the dreidel.
Now, 22 years later, this humorous error actually has become a tradition for some of the people involved in the taste test. And those people spread the tradition to their family and friends. So this Chanukah, which began last evening, keep this new tradition alive by eating pickles along with potato pancakes (latkes) and donuts. Dill, sweet, bread and butter, sour, half sour, or even gherkins. Any pickle will do. You can even try multiple types of pickles for your own pickle taste test. Plus, this is a perfect excuse to try pickles made in Western Pennsylvania like the Smithfield Sour Dill Pickles by Bridge City Brinery.