Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ickle Me Pickle Me

A few weekends ago Tim and I celebrated our anniversary. We're terrible at remembering our anniversary, and particularly, what our anniversary date is. It's been a joke between us for years. Is it October 24th? 26th? Who knows.

The only way we can remember our anniversary date is because of our beloved handmade pottery bowl, a wedding gift by our family friend Dave Hendley of Old Farmhouse Pottery. (If you're in the market for some beautiful pottery, check it out.) Inscribed on the bottom of the bowl is our anniversary date. The key is to sneak into the kitchen, pull the bowl off of the top shelf, and flip it over to check the date without the other person busting you. Tim has the clear advantage because he's tall, so it's a little unfair, but whatever.

This year, our anniversary fell on a Saturday. We didn't even have a plan set the day before, and were discussing options at our daughter's school Halloween carnival when friends suggested a literary pub crawl, part of the weekend events at the Texas Book Festival. Since Tim and I are clinging to whatever sense of hipness we have left in us, and because it was taking place on Austin's East side, we figured it might be an interesting way to celebrate our anniversary. Plus, we like pubs and we kind of like crawling, so we agreed to give it a shot.

The pub crawl offered several different options so that you could map out your own custom crawl. One of the most appealing options was to check out Derek Waters, the host of Comedy Central's Drunk History. If you aren't familiar, the premise is simple but genius: wasted storytellers discuss historical events, and then famous actors act out the scenes using the drunk dialogue as their script.

Because we're lazy pub crawlers, I determined that if we stayed in one place, we could enjoy more pub than crawl, so we started at the first stop, then hurried over to the venue where they were playing Nerd Jeopardy. Nerd Jeopardy was Jeopardy with a literary twist -- definitely nerdy but hilarious all at the same time. Directly following Nerd Jeopardy was Drunk History, and by the time that was about to begin, the venue was totally packed out. I consider myself too old to stand at bars anymore, so as soon as we spotted six inches of available picnic table space, we landed like vultures and squeezed ourselves in.

Here's what the scene looked like. It was quite lovely. You might see us if were weren't sausaged in between 25 other people at the back table.

(photo courtesy of the Texas Book Festival website)

As we were figuring out how to adequately fold our butts without half-sitting on strangers, I checked out our table mates, and noticed that the girl across from me looked familiar. I also noticed the girl next to her looked exactly like her.

"I think I know you from somewhere," I said to both of the girls, studying them from across the picnic table.

We went through the various possibilities - school? Nope. Neighbors? Nope. Work? Nope. The guy next to me chimed in.

"Have you had her pickles, maybe?"

"Pickles?" I asked, getting tickled.

"She makes the best pickles I've ever had in my life," he said. "That's Sheena from Sheena's Pickles."

He said it like he was speaking about pickle royalty. The clouds parted and a host of angels squeezed in at the table behind us began to sing. His wife/girlfriend leaned in from down the table.

"Yes," she said, "Her pickles are TO DIE FOR."

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't know much about the pickle business. I've never had a huge passion for pickles. I'd consider myself to be a plain Jane Vlassic girl myself. But that wasn't going to stop me from learning. In a series of probably fifty questions, I began interviewing Sheena and her friends, and by the time it was over, I had a rip-roaring craving for pickles.

Here's what I learned that fateful night:

  • Sheena makes home-made, hand-packed pickles, and offers up four varieties: "The Dilly" (dill), "Texas Heat" (spicy), "Bread & Butter" (B&B) and "The Jefe" (a beer pickle made form an IPA that's usually a special order item)
  • She doesn't yet have a website, so to find her, you need to like Sheena's Pickles on FaceBook and you can message her there. If you order pickles from her now, she will deliver them to you. It's so great!
  • The sister who sat down across from us is Sheena's beautiful twin, a graphic designer responsible for Sheena's adorable logo and personified pickle logo, a pickle named Pete. Pete has a gap in his teeth like Sheena. I love this so much.
  • Sheena attracts amazing friends. She has a friend named Roxy who was also at the pub crawl that I want to somehow steal and bring into my friend world, mainly because when bragging on Sheena, Roxy said, "I swear to you, my pH is completely off because of these pickles. I'm like ALL vinegar now!"
  • Sheena hosts an annual Pickle Party. I'm hoping to purchase enough pickles to get on the invite list.

By the way, the pickle discussion was much more entertaining than the Drunk History session, mainly because it was really crowded, and Derek Waters tried to get someone drunk enough to read a funny version of The Giving Tree, but it wasn't really funny because the guy simply wasn't drunk enough. I thought that was pretty funny that it was hard to find someone drunk enough at a literary pub crawl. After all, writers and literary types are not exactly afraid of the bottle. I guess the timing was just off.

Either way, it was fate that we stumbled upon Sheena, her sister, her hilarious friends, and the news of her blossoming pickle business. I feel strongly that I was meant to meet Sheena, and that big things are going to happen to this gal. Let me explain.

While my husband plugged his ears, I told Sheena that she needed to touch my arm, because at one point in time, I went on some dates with a certain vodka maker who was just dreaming up his ideas for a vodka company. I met him long before he made it very big in the vodka world. My husband isn't wild about this story, but that's just because my husband doesn't realize he's the much better catch, and also because I don't really like vodka anyway.

But given the fate of the vodka maker, I like to think I have something of the Midas touch when it comes to meeting people before they make it big. I met Matt Damon when he was barely starting out as an actor. He was absolutely the nicest guy -- he told me how lucky he was to be getting paid to do what he wanted to do for a living -- and look what happened to him. I met Ashton Kutcher before he was Ashton Kutcher. He's certainly doing okay. Once, Andy Dick was behind me at Randall's, and well, he was three sheets to the wind and belligerent, and nobody likes him anyway. But if you ever need a volunteer to read The Giving Tree drunk, Andy Dick is your guy.

So after our fateful anniversary night, we ordered up some pickles from Sheena. When the order was ready, Sheena delivered our pickles to Pei Wei, where we were having an early dinner with our 10-year old daughter. We resisted the temptation to open them at the table at Pei Wei, but as soon as we got home, we cracked a jar open and WOW. Holy moly, they're delicious. All three flavors we tried (Dilly, B&B and Texas Heat) were fantastic, and we had to pace ourselves not to wolf down all three jars in one sitting. They were even better the next day after chilling out in the fridge overnight. Sheena suggested that we make pimento cheese, so that weekend I made my mom's pimento cheese recipe, served up crackers and pickles, and that was lunch. And it was delicious.

I believe that Sheena is going to make it big in the pickle universe. I'm absolutely rooting for her, and am excited to help spread the word about this pickle dynasty in the making. In honor of today, National Pickle Day, here's to Sheena's Pickles!

(photo courtesy of Sheena's Pickles FB page)

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