Eating Christmas

A Gherkin Christmas for This Girl

Once again this year, Chow Bella writers are gnawing on the holidays -- in the form of stories of Christmas and food. Hope you have some Alka-Seltzer handy. Enjoy.

I am a Midwestern transplant in a southern elementary school. I am 7. It's nearing Christmas, and I have a school assignment. I have to share a holiday tradition that's unique to my family.

Unique? I've got unique coming out of my ears. I have a bizarre accent, say words like "bubbler" and "davenport," and would much rather be traipsing around Disney World right about now. I refuse to wear pants. My last name might as well be written in early Cyrillic script. I am from a strange, distant place called Milwaukee. My parents are divorced. And I may or may not have told choice classmates that I have a pet raccoon that lives under my bed.

Maybe "weird" is a better way of putting it.

See also: Five Christmas Pinterest Trends to Avoid at All Costs

Since there's really no getting around it, I decide to roll with my weirdness. I'm gonna own it. I'll show off my favorite Christmas ornament -- the pickle one.

It's my favorite because it's a glass rendition of one of my favorite foods (alongside popcorn, peanut butter, and candy). I probably cannot consume an entire jar of bread-and-butters, but I am not beyond trying. Not much compares to the crunch of a dill. I even like sipping on the brine, straight from the jar.

Sour, salty, and not for everybody, I am what I eat.

Additionally appealing: There's no way anyone else is bringing a pickle ornament to school. I know this in my little, vinegar-loving heart.

In hopes of raising a few eyebrows and with utter disregard for the potential nicknames that I might earn, I remove the pickle ornament from the tree, wrap it in a wad of Kleenex, and carefully tuck it into the front zip pocket of my JanSport.

I explain to my classmates the deal with the pickle. "The parents hide the pickle in the Christmas tree. The first kid who finds it gets an extra present. It's a German thing."

Success. My tradition is one-of-a-kind in a sea of boring candy canes and cookies.

Emboldened by my presentation, the success goes to my head when packing up at the end of the day. One klutzy, thoughtless bump into another student in the hall on our way to the bus, and there's a muffled crunch of a shatter.

I broke my favorite ornament and our tradition into a bunch of tiny pieces. Forget my poorly concocted raccoon tale, I can't even keep my identity-of-the-day intact.

The tree was pickle-less that year. Eventually my mom bought a replacement. But it wasn't the same. Instead of the deep green glass one with a hint of metallic sheen, the new one was heavier and brighter. It wasn't the same. And I hated it.

I've never bought my own pickle ornament. A recent Google search revealed that I could have my mitts on one for around six bucks from Crate and Barrel.

But a Crate and Barrel ornament won't be my pickle ornament. Instead, I'll settle for a jar of gherkins.

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski