Partners in Brine
Pickles and olives were hot—and divisive—topics over Easter weekend in Saratoga.
When I tagged along with a group of friends for dinner at Artisanal Brew Works this past Saturday, I wasn’t expecting to order any food—I’d already eaten. But then my friend Maddy said the only words that would change my mind: They. Have. Olives.
To be clear, I haven’t always been on the brined foods bandwagon. I was once offered $5 to merely lick a pickle, and only after much consideration did 8-year-old me decide that was too good a dill—er, deal—to pass up. After that, I swore off pickles—and pretty much anything pickled—for a decade and a half. But then I became a vegan, and, well, I can’t eat most foods, so I figured I might as well eat the foods I can eat. And now, with my new and improved plant-based palette, I’m making up for lost time.
Obviously, Maddy and I asked the Artisanal bartender how many warm, marinated olives come in the $6 appetizer (she’s a fellow olive enthusiast). When he said “probably 30” we were sold.
When they came out, we were delighted. Honestly, 30 olives for $6 might be one of Saratoga’s best-kept secrets. But, as expected, we were met by one of our friends with the typical response: “Ew, I hate olives.”
There’s no denying it: Pickles and olives are two of the most divisive foods on the planet. Either you love them or you hate them, and whenever someone orders them, you simply have to make your opinion known. (If you’re indifferent, it’s time to man up and pick a side in this age-old war.) Of course, the opposing opinions people have on olives, but especially pickles, sometimes have the effect of bringing (brining?) people together. Every couple, as the conventional wisdom goes, should be made up of one person who doesn’t like pickles and one person who will always eat the pickle hater’s pickle.
The fact that pickled foods are so divisive is actually backed by science. According to an article in Metro, about 25 percent of the population are classified as “super-tasters”; that is, they carry the TAS2R38 gene, which determines how sensitive a person is to bitter flavors. Those with the gene, it turns out, are more likely to dislike pickled flavors.
I ran my own little experiment to see if those numbers applied to the Saratoga population, and found, through some very scientific Instagram Story polls, that, indeed, 75 percent of @saratogaliving’s followers love pickles, 12 percent hate them and 13 percent think they’re “OK.” Olives, it turns out, are less popular in the Spa City, with only 54 percent of voters saying they love them and 32 percent saying they hate them.
I also asked around for any strong opinions locals held on the pickle/olive debate.
“Pickles = life,” Saratoga County resident Ian Flacke responded.
“No such thing as a good pickle, in my humble opinion,” countered Paul Hennessey, who recently facilitated a pickle debate at his Easter dinner in Delmar.
“My boyfriend HATES pickles,” wrote Kennedy Taylor. “Literally, if there’s a pickle on something, it’s ruined for him. Unless it’s a southern chicken sandwich, though? Very weird man he is.”
“I love a good brine,” said Andrea Zappone, who quickly made the conversation boozy. “I’d protect a pickle back shot over my children.”
I then asked the people of Instagram for pickle and olive recommendations—which local establishment boasts the best brined bites? That much anticipated list is here: