Racing my bike through the streets of my small hometown was an integral part of my childhood; always en route to morning swim team practice with a towel wrapped tight around the center handle bars, the city park to roam and play, the fair grounds that connected a series of bike trails in the dense woods on the edge of town, the Wednesday matinee where I first held a girl's popcorn buttery hand, and at least one stop a day at either one of my grandparent's homes to raid their always fully stocked refrigerator. I could count on very specific foodstuffs, depending on my destination that day; my father's parents always had cold sliced cantaloupe, bologna, RC Cola, and frozen ice cream drumsticks covered in chopped nuts; while my mother's folks maintained a fridge chock full of cranberry juice, leftover bacon from breakfast, fresh peaches from the family orchard, fried okra and onions, pork rinds, the original Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, and a large Tupperware container filled with ice cold cucumbers and onions in white vinegar.
The refrigerator cucumbers were my favorite - fresh, cold, puckering tart, and utterly refreshing in the middle of those sweltering, humid Missouri summer days. I stood with the heavy door opened, propped against my skinny, tan legs - holding the cold Tupperware against my belly (yes, there was a time when I wore a half shirt in the early 80s) while I clamped thumb and index finger around the floating coins to plop into my mouth, one after the other. When I had my fill, I raced back into my care-free childhood, screen door banging loudly behind.
As complicated as cooking could be for the recipes and meals devised by the women in my family, these quick pickles were surprisingly simple and easy to prepare. Usually, the cucumbers were harvested from the garden, layered with sliced red or yellow onion, then covered with vinegar that had been embellished with a whisper of salt, sugar, and pepper. And that was it...
As much as things have changed, they've also stayed the same in many ways. I still stand mesmerized in front of an open fridge eating leftovers, drinking milk, or sometimes a cold beer in the middle of the night - but my favorite refrigerator ritual still involves standing in the glow of the intermittent light, munching with eyes rolled back on the nostalgic, tart, ice cold cucumbers from my childhood, albeit sans the half shirt, but now that I think about it, probably sans a shirt at all.
1 English Cucumber
2 Cups White Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Turns Cracked Black Pepper
Technique - Slice the cucumber into thin coins - place in jar or Tupperware container - cover completely with vinegar, add salt and pepper - chill for at least two hours - then devour,