Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You Might Say I *Relished* This Article

I'm not a big fan of mixing sweet and savory flavors in the same bite, as I've made clear in the past. For that reason, I've never understood the allure of sweet relish. Why would you want to ruin a perfectly good hot dog with corn-syrupy glop?

Tragically, it took until my 30s for me to discover dill relish, which isn't sweet. It quickly became a mainstay of our refrigerator and made me wonder what other foods had escaped me all these years. (Does savory ketchup exist?)

Then we moved to New York.

Somehow I can't find dill relish anywhere. It's not at Gristedes or other local markets, and it's not available at FreshDirect. It's odd because I would think New York City would be one giant pickle/relish orgy, where you get bombarded with every flavor and variety imaginable whenever you leave your apartment.

After all, this is a town that was once overrun with pickle pushcarts. According to the New York Food Museum, the city was home to the world's largest concentration of commercial picklers as early as the 16th century. Brooklyn was nothing but vast fields of cucumbers waiting to be barreled and brined.

Now it's 2013 and I can't even find dill relish?

When I complain to people about this, they're typically confused about what I'm even talking about. I guess I don't blame them; I spent most of my life ignorant about dill relish myself.

So it was with no small amount of excitement that I discovered this Gawker piece today. The writer questions why people should be forced to consume sweet relish when most Americans prefer dill pickles.
Last week, I went to a spacious, well-stocked Key Food grocery store to pick myself up a little dill relish. Like most Americans, I enjoy dill pickles, and, therefore, I also enjoy dill relish, which is little more than ground-up pickles. Indeed, the store offered a wide selection of dill pickles. But relish? No. The store offered brand after brand and jar after jar of SWEET relish only. There was not a single brand of dill relish to be found, much less a wide-ranging selection, concomitant with the selection of pickles themselves. 
Is relish some sort of alien substance? Should relish operate by a set of rules completely unrelated to the set of rules governing the substance from which relish is made? Hardly. If Americans prefer smooth peanut butter over chunky, you can be sure that the PB&J restaurant will offer smooth peanut butter in their sandwiches. If Americans prefer no-pulp orange juice over pulpy orange juice, you can be sure that the bar will offer no-pulp orange juice as a mixer for screwdrivers. But when it comes to pickles, it seems that Big Food has decided that America's preferences should be ignored. Does America prefer the "dill" variety of pickle first and foremost, above all other flavors? Yes. Does the relish industry therefore respond rationally by making the majority of its relish dill? No. 
What is your major malfunction, relish industry?
Amen, brother. I'm glad this injustice is finally getting the airing it deserves.

But really, this may just be a New York problem.

If this town can't offer the same selection as the Rockridge Safeway, it can't claim to be a world-class city.

UPDATE: My wife informs me that dill relish is available at the Food Emporium on East 59th Street.