Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Hungry for Assimilation

The pickle, reviled by American food purists, was a staple of the Jewish immigrant diet

Print Email
Pickle!(Roger Higgins/Library of Congress )

It’s always tough being an immigrant. For New Yorkers a century ago, nothing was more noticeable—or repugnant—than the cooking styles different immigrant groups brought to the proverbial melting pot. Spices and seasonings used by newcomers went so far as to cause alarm for politicians and public health officials. Jane Ziegelman, who wrote 97 Orchard, a book chronicling 19th century immigrant groups in New York through their food proclivities, explores the challenges faced by immigrants looking to preserve elements of their heritage while trying to assimilate.

“In other words,” she writes, “to be a good American, you had to eat like one.”

One big problem? The pickle, beloved snack of the Jewish immigrant community. “Pungent beyond all civilized standards, toxic to both the stomach and the psyche, the pickle was seen as morally suspect,” Ziegelman writes. More problematic than its existence, however, was its rampant popularity among all sectors of the Jewish population:

“Consumption of pickles was highest in Jewish neighborhoods like the Lower East Side, where Eastern European peddlers sold them from pushcarts. Their merchandise included whole pickled cabbages, string beans, green tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, apples, watermelon and, of course, cucumbers. All of these goods were produced within the tenements, just a few hundred yards from the carts that dispensed them.”

Luckily for modern-day pickle fans, not even bilingual cookbooks or cooking classes held in settlement houses could eradicate the power of the pickle.

Immigrant Identities, Preserved in Vinegar? [NYT]
Related: Motor City Cured
On The Bookshelf

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

WordPress permalinks error. Long time since I installed a wp blog

[url=]casino[/url] [url=]casino online[/url] [url=]sex toys[/url] [url=]online casino[/url] [url=]Documents[/url]


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Hungry for Assimilation

The pickle, reviled by American food purists, was a staple of the Jewish immigrant diet

More on Tablet:

Wolf Blitzer Explores His Jewish Roots

By David Meir Grossman — CNN host visits Yad Vashem and Auschwitz for the network’s ‘Roots’ series