Food Culture Shock: A Lesson on UK Pickles from Haywards
After living in the UK for four years, many of the ‘cultural differences’ I once experienced have just become my new norm. I could probably name UK brands even easier than American brands at this point, which makes me both proud and ashamed.
That being said, I don’t claim to know it all and am always open to being surprised. With that in mind, Guy and I accepted an invitation to a cooking class last week with Haywards, the UK’s most loved pickled vegetable brand. Now I know this all sounds absurd but stick with me here.
In America (at least where I’m from), a pickle is this long green thing that you put on hamburgers and eat in slices at barbecues. It starts its life as a cucumber and is then preserved in vinegar or brine and boom, PICKLE. But there is a whole world of other pickled vegetables here that I had never explored. Brits LOVE pickling things.
For instance, Haywards sells pickled beetroot, pickled cabbage, pickled onions, gherkins (what I would call a regular pickle) and more. Is ‘pickle’ losing all meaning to you now or is that just me?
One of our first challenges at the event was to get acquainted with Hayward’s “Tang-o-meter,” which is a scale displayed on the front of the jar to tell you what type of tang to expect. We practiced by taste testing some pickled onions, which basically meant that everyone else was casually popping these things in their mouths going ‘oh, yes, this would probably be a mild tang’ and I’m just like, ‘What in the WORLD is a pickled onion?! You mean it’s like a whole onion pickled?! Who came up with this?!” I think mine was pretty high on the Tang-o-meter, but my taste buds had never experienced such a thing so I am not sure if they are to be trusted.
After my education in pickled onions, we began a cooking demonstration by a wonderfully engaging woman named Denise who taught us the best ways to use Haywards ingredients in dishes. Many people consider pickled vegetables to be salad toppers or side dishes, but every recipe we learned was a full, hearty meal that could be enjoyed on its own. Denise whizzed around the kitchen, popping things into pans and ovens and sinks and soon, it was our turn to try.
Guy does most of the heavy duty cooking at home, and by heavy duty I mean “more than 3 ingredients.” Part of the reason for the event was to get the men in our lives in front of the stove and cooking, so we were right in our element with Guy handling the recipe and me pretending to help but mostly having no idea what I was doing.
Our recipe was the Grilled Tuna Salad, which was super easy to make and only took 15-20 minutes. Guy took care of the slicing and cooking and plating while I ran around looking slightly crazed, taking selfies and eating pickles.
I did, however, put the salad leaves on the finished dish so I feel like that must count for something. We spent a while trying to make the dish picture perfect and pretending we were on Masterchef ready to present to the judges. Finally, we were ready!
After everyone had finished their dishes, we got a taste of all of the recipes and it was time to dig in. I really enjoyed the Goat’s Cheese and Onion Tart, the Brie and Beetroot Ciabatta Slices, and the Piccalilli Curry.
Haywards was kind enough to send us home with some jars of our own Hawards pickles and other pickle swag (including one of those pickle grabbing things which I am OBSESSED with). So now we’re going to recreate some of these recipes again at home so I can work on my love of pickling before applying for British citizenship in a few years. I feel like a pickle identification session must be a part of the test. “Sliced beetroot?” “WRONG, IT WAS BABY BEETROOT, GO BACK TO AMERICA!”
Thanks to Haywards to having us!