Ask The Rabbit: Were exercise pickles A Thing?
An old ad campaign from the late 1980s dared you to put pickles on your training table. But I'm having a hard time believing it, because pickles are trash.
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I am a hypocrite, because my favorite hat is this hat, henceforth to be referred to as The Pickle Hat:
I am not normally the kind of materialistic person who would fight someone in the aisles of Walmart over, I don’t know, a flatscreen TV. And yet, when I saw a coworker at my last job plucking The Pickle Hat off of the giveaway table, I FOLLOWED HIM AROUND THE OFFICE UNTIL I SHAMED HIM INTO GIVING IT TO ME. I have not felt this strong of a connection to headgear since I went through my fedora phase.
The hat comes from the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, which is proudly based here in North Carolina. Can you buy your own Pickle Hat? No! It seems to exist nowhere else, except from time to time on the crown of my head. I will never let this hat go. I will lock it in a safety deposit box between wearings.
I am proud of this hat. But sometimes my kids will ask this question to cut me down to size: Why do you wear that hat if you don’t even like pickles?
It’s true. I’ve been picking them off of my McDonald’s hamburgers since I was a kid. Back then, I hated a lot of foods, but I’ve reversed myself on most, if not all of them. I can even eat broccoli now! “What a big boy you are!” my wife will sometimes say whenever I shove it into my mouth without complaining.
And yet, I’m still a no on pickles. No on spears. No on slices. No on sandwiches. I’m a maybe on fried pickles, but only if they’ve been dipped in oil long enough to remove any of the offending taste. Pickles are bad. Pickles suck.
Maybe that’s why I had a hard time coming to grips with the below ad:
We can move on in a minute, but not before we stare long and hard at this.
So, here’s my question: Is it possible that pickles are not bad but, actually, good?
The Unbearable Lightness of Pickle Advertising
Pickle commercials always bring their own brand of whimsy. Claussen used to depict people snapping their pickles easily and audibly, while competing bands merely bent. Wimps! Vlasic has a cartoon stork. Cates Pickles, once produced in the small Duplin County hamlet of Faison, ran a television ad featuring a folksy farmer-type guy walking down the town’s main street, claiming that the locals were the best in the “U.S. of A.” at pickle making “‘cause we got nothin’ else to do.”
Ah yes, but all of these claims of crunchiness and ingrained civic boredom do not answer one important question: Are pickles healthy? Actually, how about: Are they health food? No no no, this one: Are you remembering to eat your pickles after every workout? You know, FOR YOUR GAINS.
In the 1980s, the Mt. Olive Pickle Company decided that yes, if you wanted to get fit, squeeze into a leotard, or appear in Flashdance, then their very own North Carolina-processed pickles were gonna help get you there. That ad you saw above above ran inside several issues of The State in 1987. It strongly infers that the family that works out together also follows up immediately by woofing down pickles. It’s as if to say: Sure, there’s a savings and loan crisis afoot, but we enjoy the finest of things, specifically spandex, crystalware, and exercise gherkins.
Note, too, that the words “Mt. Olive” appear four times. Comin’ on a little strong, guys.
Anyway, though, you can’t fool me. Pickles are bad and so they must be bad for you.
No, that’s wrong
I posed an open question — are pickles healthy? — on Twitter a few weeks back, and a lot of you decided to take the pickles’ side here.
It turns out that pickles are sort of healthy, just in supporting role. They’re low calorie, but high in sodium. They also contain nutrients like vitamin K2. And more and more people are looking to pickle juice as a way to lock in their gains from weightlifting. So much so that Mt. Olive is now selling INDIVIDUAL SHOTS OF PICKLE BRINE:
It looks like 5 Hour Energy, but just, ew.
You can also buy this stuff in a 64 oz. jug. “You said you could drink this by the gallon,” the description says, which is wrong, because nobody wants to do that.
Anyway, I guess pickle marketing in 2021 isn’t all that different than pickle marketing in 1987. People want to get swole, and pickles are the things that will get them there.
Mt. Olive, for its part, is still an independent, privately-owned company that’s one of Wayne County’s largest employers and drops a giant pickle every year on Main Street of its namesake town. But I’m guessing that their original late ‘80s ad campaign did not break pickles into the same eschelon as Wheaties and Gatorade. Even so, I give them a pass. We all made some regrettable choices in the 1980s (Strangely though, Matlock holds up), and pickle company marketing was just following the lead of a leg-warming, Bowflex-using populace. So laugh all you want at these Reagan-era Holderness family doppelgangers. I still think they all look good 34 years later, and they didn’t even need to preserve themselves inside a brine-filled jar to do it.