Three or four times a year my family would get in our De Soto (a two-toned beauty painted in yellow and gray with big fins) and head to Chinatown for a late Sunday lunch. Afterward our plan was to go to a nearby neighborhood and buy some dill pickles to take home.
To my mind as a little kid, this car was really “cool” – although I think the term at the time was “groovy.” Unlike other cars which had the gear shift attached to the steering column, the De Soto had a little push button transmission at the far left of the dashboard. How modern could you get?
Grandma and I sat in the back seat. Between us was the empty half gallon jar, nestled in its shopping bag which we would fill up from the pickle barrel.
When we got to Mott and Pell Streets for lunch, dad would always take a few minutes to look in on two of his clients who had stores on the busy street. There was always a lot of activity in the area which was filled with Chinese residents and tourists who had come to shop and perhaps dine.
It was a treat when Mr. Chen or Mrs. Liang, (dad’s two customers) could join us for lunch. On those occasions, instead of going to one of the restaurants which had menus written in both Chinese and English, we would go to one of their favorite eateries and they would do the ordering from the all Chinese menu. To this day, I have no idea what some of the menu items that we consumed were. But I do know that we always enjoyed our meal.
After lunch we would get back in the car and head over to the old Jewish district on the lower east side. This was far more serene than the hustle and bustle we experienced in Chinatown. Moshe’s Kosher Delicatessen was our destination and we were more easily able to find a parking space here than in Chinatown.
Grandma and I would set to work, retrieving dill pickles from the barrel which was set outside the entrace to the deli and place them in our jar. I would hold the jar and grandma would do the fishing. Moshe’s had a long set of tongs and a ladle hanging from the side of the wooden barrel for retrieving the pickles and adding some brine to our jar. Well – at least they hung there most of the time.
Every so often either one or both of these implements had sunk into the barrel and had to be retrieved. There was only one way to do that – by plunging your hand (and sometimes a fair portion of your arm) into the barrel. I guess that exposed everyone who purchased the dill pickles from Moshe’s to other people’s germs.
I thought about this the other day as I was walking through the cleaning supply aisle of my local supermarket. I needed to get some steel wool – but as I headed over to find my SOS pads, I started looking at the proliferation of products on the shelves. I was amazed at the variety and quantity of different cleaning products that were now on the market.
There were disinfecting wipes with and without scent – wipes which were for wood, wipes which for were marble and granite, wipes for children under the age of six, wipes for children over the age of six, wipes for young adults, wipes for the elderly, wipes for pets, wipes for the oven, wipes for the kitchen sink, wipes for the bathroom, wipes that were guaranteed to kill 99% of all germs that have existed since the world began. By the time I finished looking at them all – I was wiped out.
That there are people who buy into this hooey about needing a specific wipe for a specific job is unarguable – or these products wouldn’t continue to exist on supermarket shelves. I can only imagine the horror on the face of someone who uses these products had they seen us retrieving pickles from Moshe’s dill pickle barrel.
They would have had to go to the OTC pharmaceutical aisle and purchase a preparation to relieve stomach upset caused by pickle barrel diving and, just for good measure, shopped for a prophylaxis in the event that pickle barrel divers had breathed too close to them – thus spreading their germs to the unwary.
I’m pleased to report that my family survived our multiple experiences with the pickle barrel without succumbing to any sort of disease or illness. And the dill pickles from Moshe’s were the best that I have ever eaten.