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MJ Does Not Like Pickles

(You can listen to this piece on S2E20 of the podcast)

“You’re pickling what?” MJ asked. His grandma chuckled, not looking up from her canning jars boiling in hot water over the stove.

“You heard me,” she said, swiping an errant clump of coils from her forehead and tucking them under her bonnet. “Pickled green tomatoes for dinner tonight.”

“I don’t like pickles,” MJ said, sighing in the July heat, baseball glove sticking to his hand like the oven his grandmother stood over. Mississippi in the summertime was already hotter and stickier than Detroit’s without those boiling glass jars. But at least summertime in Mississippi was tasty. Grandma made things like biscuits in the mornings, egg sandwiches with fresh fruit salads for lunch, and smothered pork chops for dinner. A slice of caramel cake often followed for dessert. But he didn’t like pickles. MJ hated pickles.

“Have you ever had pickled green tomatoes?” Grandma asked. MJ shook his head.

“No. But I know I won’t like them,” he replied. MJ didn’t like dill pickles or bread and butter pickles or hot and spicy pickles or sweet and tangy pickles. He didn’t like pickles sliced or diced or whole. MJ detested pickled okra and pickled onions. Pickled carrots and pickled cabbage and of course pickled pig’s feet. Grandma was a good cook, but MJ’s stomach soured at the thought of her serving him pickled anything tonight.

“What about fried green tomatoes? I like fried green tomatoes.” MJ pleaded with his grandma.

She grinned to herself before turning to him. “Pickled green tomatoes are on the menu, and you’re going to love them.”

MJ rolled his eyes, careful not to let his grandma see him. He considered the glove and bat in his hand. He had a choice: lie or suffer. In an instant he made his decision.

Dinnertime at grandma’s house came soon enough, and MJ limped into the kitchen. He’d had an “accident.” A ball to the stomach while outside with friends. MJ would skip dinner tonight. MJ could not eat Grandma’s pickles.

“Oh honey, pickled green tomatoes will heal that belly right on up!” Grandma proclaimed. “Go on to bed, and I’ll be by to bring your supper real soon.”

Though MJ protested and pouted and sulked and silent screamed, MJ could not avoid his fate, so he slumped into bed and waited.

Grandma did as she promised. She brought dinner including those disgusting pickled chopped green tomatoes. He ate his catfish and white bread and beans. He savored them even. He ignored the pickles entirely. As he lifted the last bite to his mouth, grandma said, “Add just a bit of chopped pickles with the catfish and white bread, MJ. I promise you it’s good. It’ll heal you right on up. You’ll see.” MJ scooped a bit of pickles atop that last bite. Then he stared at the bite. “Go ahead,” grandma prodded. Left with no choice, MJ closed his eyes and stuffed the bite into his mouth. He chewed. Grandma waited. MJ’s eyes opened. He sat up straight in bed. Then he stood. Then he leaped.

“They’re delicious!” he cried.

Just the right amount of sweet. Just the right amount of sour. The right crunch the right crisp the right flavor the right smell. MJ turned to eat the rest of his green tomato pickles then took his plate to the kitchen to get more. He liked green tomato pickles chopped and he’d like them sliced. He’d like them whole, and he’d like them diced. He’d like them with white bread or wheat. With catfish or hotdogs or chicken and maybe even pig’s feet. MJ loved pickled green tomatoes so much, that he’d even eat it with stew. MJ loved pickled green tomatoes so much that he’d even eat it with gumbo roux.

“Stomach’s not so hurt anymore?” Grandma asked, arching her eyebrows with a knowing look.

“No,” MJ said with an apologetic smile. Just a taste was all it took.


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