Getting into a pickle over pickles

I got myself into quite a pickle this weekend. 

Not my usual weekend pickle, in which I find myself swimming in the Kamogawa, or in a city I don’t recognise, but an actual pickle. 

My friend Ryo works for the city office in Manno, a town about an hour outside Takamatsu, and part of his job is to arrange Japanese cultural experiences for foreigners, and report on it in the town newspaper.

This month’s cultural experience was, well… pickling. 

Late Sunday morning I braved the freezing cold weather to head to Manno, where Ryo informed me that it was snowing. He picked me up in the town car, which sounds a lot fancier than it really is, and we drove to the largest agricultural reservoir in Japan (slipping in a fun fact there!)

For some reason the local government decided the reservoir was going to be quite the tourist destination so they built a tourist centre and an udon shop. It isn’t exactly the bustling hotspot they thought it was going to be, so they use the space for things like our pickling lesson.

Ben, his sister Becky, and Yuko were there too, as well as the reporter from the local radio station, and the tiny old Japanese ladies who were our teachers. 

First, they told us, we would be making pickled ginger. My favourite!

Ben, who had done the grocery shopping, produced the huge amount of ginger we needed and we set to work with teaspoons and knives, carefully peeling the skin off and placing the roots in the bowl of water nearby. 

After twenty minutes, and finishing up the last of the ginger, Ben stopped peeling. 

“This doesn’t smell very strong,” he commented.

“In fact, it doesn’t smell like ginger at all. It smells a little bit like… potato….”

We all stopped. Sniffed. Put a little bit of the root in our mouths. 

Definitely not ginger.

The little obaasan came over to see why we had stopped peeling. She took one look at the root we were peeling and informed us that it was, in fact, a kind of potato and we could not pickle it. 

Ryo and Becky made a run to the nearest store for real ginger and the rest of us started on the daikon. We had just finished cutting up the five enormous vegetables when the woman asked where our sugar was. 

Ben managed to get Ryo on his phone just as they pulled up again, so we could see Ryo through the window stop walking, hang his head, and walk back to the car. 

Luckily the little old woman took pity on us and produced some sugar, so we managed to get the daikon pickling while we peeled the real ginger and sliced it ever so thinly. 

I’m not 100% sure what exactly went into the pickles after the daikon, ginger and sugar, plus a bit of yuzu juice and rind, but there was a big bottle of stuff and a smaller bottle of stuff.

I also got the answer to one of life’s big questions: why is sushi ginger pink?

Because it’s pretty. 

Seriously. We added some pink powder to the ginger, and some yellow powder to the daikon and now our pickles are pretty. 

We finished up by doing a short interview with the lady from the radio, before Ryo dropped me back at the train station laden with pickles and yuzu skins (apparently I can put them in my bath). 

I tried giving some of my pickled daikon to the friend I had tea with when I got back, but she wasn’t having any of it, so now my fridge is full of pickles (and not much else).

If anyone is interested in pickles for dinner, please come by. 

If it’s the other kind of pickle you’re interested in, I’m sure I’ll have more next weekend. 

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