At first glance, you find it impossible to tell where brine ends and Van Holten’s Hearty Dill Flavor Dill Pickle begins. In fact, if it weren’t for the “CONTENTS: 1 PICKLE” emblazoned on the bottom right corner of the bag, you would miss the yellowish lugubrious form entirely.
The single-serve vacuum-sealed pickle you’re observing is one of many immersed in an ice bath in the back corner of Tommy’s Value. The pickles resemble alien fetuses preserved for government inspection, bobbing in salty amniotic fluid.
Although visually unappealing, the pickle has a satisfying handfeel under a hearty squeeze. Cold brine rushes around your fingers until they firmly grasp a perfectly smooth piece of Food. You grab two bags from the bath and take them to the cashier. In addition to Hearty Dill Flavor, you buy Zesty Garlic Flavor because you are feeling Fun and Flirtatious.
There’s an air of mystery to the Van Holten’s pickle—thousands of milligrams of sodium lie beneath a thin layer of plastic, concealing a cucumber that has been radicalized. After all, no bacteria could possibly survive under such toxic conditions. It could be buried and eaten in 100,000 years.
But your harsh and unforgiving editor demands 400-500 words of pickle copy on her desk by Friday, and you cannot afford to wait that long. You break the seal on the Hearty Dill bag with extreme caution: The Van Holten’s company includes a generous helping of translucent brine with every pickle, clearly inspired by the syrup that comes in single-serve fruit cups.
As air seeps in, the bag expands like a sprawling middle-aged man on the T. Brine rushes to fill new volume, exposing the rounded end of a waxy pickle. A small scar marks where a young cucumber once suckled on the vine. Oh, how things change! Jaundiced, pruned, and covered in warts, the pickle reveals its dark past—horrible things. It, too, was once Zesty.
You push the pickle up from the bottom, like a freeze-pop (note: the Van Holten’s company also sells frozen pickle pops). The pickle looks up at you expectantly. The whole occasion is unfortunately erotic. Swallowing your pride and the Freudian weight of the moment, you take an enormous and crunchy bite.
The flavor is somewhat buttery, with light dill accents and a fruit-forward mouthfeel. Alas, this innocuous taste is undercut by an ocean-like saltiness. You have tasted nothing saltier in your entire life, and you once ate salt directly from the shaker. It’s as if you licked the hot belly of a sweaty football player, but the football player is preserved in brine.
You sit down, confronted by your own weakness. You are small, human, dependent on delicate chemical balances. The salt that just entered your bloodstream has already condemned you to death by hypertension. Before the Van Holten’s Hearty Dill Flavor Dill Pickle, you are nothing.
—Magazine writer Drew C. Pendergrass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pendergrassdrew.