Pickled Shrimp and Letting Things Pickle

It is not always easy for me to let things go. In fact, I have often been criticized on my habit of holding on to emotionally charged exchanges, incidents, memories, and outbursts for an unhealthy length of time. It is hard to explain, but I am not dominated by the moments I am not letting go of; they are not holding me captive. I would submit that it is, in fact, the other way around. I am safekeeping them to remind myself not to invest too much again, not to make the same choices that led to emotional meltdowns of the sort I am guarding, and most importantly, not to allow anyone or anything unravel my composure for reasons that really don't warrant such a reaction. 

I find then - in keeping these moments alight in my memory - that at some point or another, I find a lesson or two to savor from them and let the bitterness go. They pickle, so to speak, instead of stewing. It is a different kind of mental energy that goes into this specific effort, you see. When I let certain things stew, there is a conscious fire of resentment burning under that particular cauldron. Unpleasantness is bubbling and brewing and cooking and sputtering. It has, shall we say, rather different consequences that do not always result in amicable discussions. Stewing has its purpose however, and I try to reserve such a reaction for people who really matter to me. I let grievances concerning my loved ones stew so that they can bubble over, we can air our differences, and be done with the whole irksome business and move on. For subtler things, however, such as hurts I encounter without the intention of the one causing it, inadvertent misadventures of the heart let's call them, need a markedly different treatment.

Making Bon Appetit magazine's Pickled Shrimp was a quick and delicious substitute to cooking an elaborate meal, and thinking about the write-up I wanted to accompany this food post with made me think long and hard about 'pickling.' You take something raw, put it in different spices and oils and juices and what-have-you in mason or earthenware jars (or a bowl, like I did), and then you put it in a corner for a predetermined length of time. Lo and behold! When you open the jar, you have perfectly pickled, savory, special-somethings. 

It's kind of like that when I file things away, or if you really want me to tell you the full truth, hold on to them when I should really just forget them and move on. But pickling, like stewing, also has a purpose. I put these disagreeable events in a jar with helpful facts (it was not intentional, they really are good people, everyone makes mistakes, et cetera), and leave them there for a while. Eventually, I find that the event loses its rawness and takes on the flavor of the facts surrounding it. One day, I miraculously find it to be perfectly pickled, a different beast really from what I first imprisoned in the jar. It is easier then for me to move past it in a more savory manner. It is better for everyone involved. 

Try it - it does work, and by the way, the pickled shrimp was delightful.

Photos by Rebecca McCue