I really do love pickles, but that’s not the only reason I make them. I also make pickles to feel connected to my heritage.
My recipe for half sour kosher dill pickles comes from my great grandmother, Rebecca Eisner, and maybe it’s been passed down for generations before that. I love to imagine my ancestors eating the same pickles before they left Europe for America, before their last name was changed from Dosgozsky (I’m not sure about the spelling) to Davis at Ellis Island, before a quarter of the family tree was decimated by the Holocaust.
I’ve always been interested in my family’s history, and I believe that where my ancestors have been and what they’ve lived through has shaped who I am today. Typical of our mobile society, I grew up a several hour drive away from any family except my parents and brother. It was far enough that I didn’t see them all the time. None of my grandparents are alive now, and my extended family consists of one aunt, one uncle and two cousins. Really, that’s it, except for a great aunt in Pennsylvania I’ve met once. It’s remarkable the difference between my family and Andy’s. I think his family takes up a third of our wedding guest list.
When I was living in Costa Rica, I was struck by the large size and closeness of families in my small town. Extended families lived next door to or across town from each other. There was no option of forgetting where one came from. Everyone in town knew everyone else since birth. No one was anonymous.
In Costa Rica I thought a lot about family and community. Sometimes I felt sad that I didn’t have the kind of close extended family that I saw around me. But then I realized that I did have an extended family. They aren’t related to me by blood, but they’ve watched me grow up.
They’re called the garden group. It started at least 16 years ago when my parents and several other families decided to get together to help each other out in their gardens. Ever since, the garden group has gathered at a different house each month on a Sunday to work outdoors and then share a potluck lunch.
The garden group has weathered challenging times and experienced joy. Children have grown up. Hair has grayed. Some families have left and others have joined. But it’s always the same – mutual support then energetic conversation over delicious food.
It’s a simple model I think many others could follow. One of my greatest hopes is that when Andy and I settle down we can find a group of friends like my family has found in the garden group.