Ways to Craft a Pickle

Mandira Pattnaik

  1. one pint-sized Mason jar, fresh vegetables like carrots, beans, cauliflower florets
    Saiba mustn’t mistake the carefully chosen words for her employers’ kindness; she must keep dumb, working tirelessly to take back the girls some food in the evening. A wintery dusk draped over their hillock with the promise of snow is no excuse to turn the heat down and rush home. Ma’am’s stew simmers in the pan, the fresh vegetables cuddle and smile underneath the broth. She feels herself inside an air-tight Mason jar, soaking in residual brine, refrigerated and forgotten.
  2. five basic pickle ingredients: vegetables, water, vinegar, salt and sugar, spices
    That day, Duksu was away cutting logwood for the Master. The Master, having called out for him twice, had ventured to find him and lash him proper. They were living off his benevolence of course. He was found the next day, crumpled beneath the boulder by the roadside. Saiba herself is only one of the five. The other ingredients she’s used for preserving the state they’re in: her daughters, pickled grief, a belief in reincarnation, a photo frame of her husband and a secret ingredient she’s not even shared with her daughters.
  3. ½ cup water; ½ cup vinegar; 1 tablespoon sugar; 2 teaspoons salt to prepare the brine. Make sure it fills the jar, no room for air
    Ma’am’s tongue is often vinegar, often a sprinkling of salt on a wound oozing pus. When she’s done with her caustic words, sometimes she uses water to dilute. She uses sugar. Like, ‘It is all destiny’. Like, ‘I’ll buy your girls new pairs of clothes’. Like, sermonizing about the ‘event’ years ago, when water had breached a glacial lake several hundred meters above in the mountains causing the entire place to be washed away, and if it hadn’t breached, Duksu and Saiba would never have to migrate down the hills in search of livelihood. Like, if she’s willing, she can marry the man Hagret guarding the gates of their estate. The old man Hagret learnt of this, and now she often spies him by the kitchen window, offering to fill the empty space in the Mason jar, or following her down the dirt road home.
  4. White vinegar gives a more traditional pickle flavor, while apple cider vinegar adds a touch of sweetness
    The axe forgets but the tree remembers. It’s time to measure her secret ingredient, add it to the stew just before the pan is to be brought off the fire. Revenge doesn’t die. Like vinegar, stays the same. She now feels herself outside the Mason jar, wipes off the remnants of pickle stuck to her limbs. Wondering if she really did the unthinkable, if she really did scrape the bottom of the refrigerated Mason jar, she stirs the pan. Now she’s vigorous with the ladle, her secret spice is tasteless, an essential ingredient in today’s sweetened broth. It wouldn’t take too long to take effect. With the lid firmly affixed, and the pan placed on the table where the Master sits with his wife ready for dinner, she walks home.
  5. Screw the lid onto the jar and place in the refrigerator for one to three days. Enjoy the tangy flavor and a crisp-tender texture.
    No one discovered the bodies for three days, not until decomposition had started, by which time, Saiba and the girls were on a train to the south, her littlest munching on a packet of tangy potato chips and she, preserved for so long, poking her head out the window and letting the crisp air dry the sweat beads.

If you liked this story please consider purchasing a pdf or print copy of issue 8. Purchase options are in the sidebar at right.

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay