22 October 2008

Cuban Pickle Crisis

When I think back to the 50s and 60s, I remember that it was the era of Flying Saucers and Green Men from Mars...Xenophobia was pandemic, and paranoia ruled the day.

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy made a speech from the oval office, and frightened Americans everywhere sat in front of their televisions watching as he informed them that "large...offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction" were aimed at our country. We were doomed.

October was a major month for canning, and that particular day, we (women and young girls) were all busy putting up pickles. 12 women from 4 families on Pease Circle did what women had been doing for generations. We preserved the harvest: corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans, mostly. We did this as a small community. We were military, so we didn't have generations of continuity - only a shared heritage of preserving foods.

The threat of annihilation didn't stop us. It didn't even slow us down. Every waking hour was spent slicing, blanching, sterilizing, and filling jars. In fact, the chance that we might spend the rest of our lives underground lent an urgency to our mission. Another jar sealed was another blow to Communism.

Once the jars were cooled a bit, they were divided among the 4 households.

About 4 or 5 hours after JFK's speech, pickles stored in kitchens and porches on Pease Circle exploded. For 20 minutes, there was pandemonium. A broken window, reports of a gunshot, yelping dogs, women in housecoats pouring from every home...some armed with bats, some with rolling pins. Mrs. Janek carried a .22, and Mrs. Gorgone a BB gun. The MPs were called in.

In the end, the Russians removed their offensive weapons, and we lived to can another day.

Naturally, some doggerel:

Housecoats made the uniform
for twelve domestic soldiers true,
and curlers were the headgear worn
by several of the kitchen crew.

October, Nineteen Sixty Two
forever we will celebrate
when weapons in our pantries blew,
and invading aliens met their fate.

Green men scattered 'cross the lawns,
these marinated men from mars
glowed eerily in morning's dawn,
done knockered by exploding jars.

The juice of pickles, kosher dill,
had foiled their commie pinko plans.
It slushed their brains, and broke their will,
and gave them really stinky hands.


Sandy said...

I love it!


Unknown said...

A truly brilliant post and a delightful story! I never thought of jars of pickles being weapons of mass destruction; however, as purveyors of mass hysteria I can understand!

Thanks for bringing memories to my mind and a big smile to my face.

Hobbes said...

What a wonderful post.

My father asked David Oistrakh, who had just come to the U. S. after a trip to Cuba, how they were doing under the embargo. He said the basics were getting through: food, clothing and rosin.

andrea said...

Wow. Fantastic post.

valerie walsh said...

aahhh the olden days! I remember canning days :) You are a wonderful writer!

Renee said...

Like are you a genius?

Love Renee