By John Post, Russellville Courier
ATKINS, Ark. — Bernell Austin wanted to create something new.
It was the summer of 1963 and Austin, known more affectionately by the moniker of “Fatman,” had opened a restaurant called The Duchess three years prior across the street from the Atkins Pickle Plant. That proximity was no coincidence. Austin wanted to create an innovation, and he wanted to innovate something the town of Atkins was known for — pickles.
“Business had gotten slow, and so he was sitting there trying to think of something to try to pick business up,” his son Gerald said. “He said, ’There’s got to be a way to cash in on that pickle plant.’”
One day in July, Austin wondered what would happen if he took the town’s specialty and gave it the true Southern treatment of deep-frying it. He didn’t know it, but it would be the birth of a staple to Southern foods, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year at Pickle Fest.
A fried dill pickle might’ve sounded crazy half a century ago, but it wasn’t that outlandish to people who knew Austin and his penchant for zany ideas. He had also tried frying other Southern delicacies, including mashed potatoes.
“Dad was one of these guys, he always tried to think outside of the box,” Gerald said. “For years at The Duchess, he’d run a crazy special each weekend. During the football season, the player that caught the most passes might win a hamburger basket, or the one who got the most tackles. He could come up with different ideas faster than anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Fried mashed potatoes might not have caught on, but fried dill pickles certainly did. What started initially as a gimmicky side item became an instant hit that had people buying as many as 10 orders at a time.
“He put it on his menu, and it just started selling like crazy,” Gerald said. “He never imagined it would do what it did.”
During football season, it became an industry in itself — fans traveling through Atkins on the way to University of Arkansas Razorbacks games made The Duchess an important pit stop along the way.
“They got real popular with people going back and forth to the Hogs games. They got where they were buying five, 10, 12 orders at a time,” Gerald said. “It got so popular that we hired an employee whose only job was to bread pickles on the weekend. It kept one person busy from Friday afternoon until after the game on Saturday.”
The popularity of the fried dill pickle relied on its innovation but also its recipe, one that took Austin a countless amount of hours to perfect. Initially he tried out hamburger slices, before taking a pickle and slicing it longways.
But the biggest challenge was finding a breading that both complemented the pickle’s flavor and would hold together when fried.
Eventually, he found a breading that stuck.
“When he put it in the grease, and the breading stayed complete on it, when it stuck around the pickle and was crisp, he knew he had what he wanted,” Gerald said. “Up to that point, the breading was flaking off and crumbling, and that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted it to stay stuck with that pickle.”
Austin opened a new restaurant, The Loner, in 1968 to take advantage of traffic that the new interstate would divert.
He closed The Duchess down two weeks later, after an 18-wheeler crashed into the building, and sold The Loner in 1978, taking the coveted fried dill pickle recipe with him.
He passed away in September 1999, but his recipe lived on and has become a family tradition for the Austins, one they take part in every year at Pickle Fest.
A chance to buy a pickle for Schickel
Ky. senator’s fundraiser embraces old nickname
What happens when you are a kid and your last name is Schickel?
A nickname including “pickle” usually follows.
Kentucky State Sen. John Schickel embraced his childhood label “Schickel Pickle.” It sometimes surfaced when he was Boone County jailer or at meetings such as the Florence Rotary Club.
So when Schickel became the state senator serving the 11th district in 2009, he decided to have a fundraiser. And why not take advantage of his childhood name?
“I have been to a lot of political fundraisers, and well, some of them are boring,” Schickel said. “I wanted to have a family event that offered some fun.”
With that in mind, the Republican also decided it was time to unveil a secret interest he had kept somewhat under wraps from the media.
“When I was Boone County jailer, the inmates grew their own garden. We took the cucumbers and made pickles. I learned the brining process,” Schickel said. “Each year, I grow my own cucumbers in my garden in Union and make about 35 quarts of pickles.”
The purpose of the political fundraiser, of course, is to raise dollars for Schickel’s Kentucky Senate campaign.
Although the state senator may work the crowd and be happy to talk about natural resources and energy or perhaps transportation concerns, when it comes to Schickel’s dill pickles, he evades any probing questions that relate to ingredients.
“It’s top secret,” Schickel said. “It is the recipe my great-grandfather Wilhelm (William) Schickel brought over from Germany on March 15, 1870.”
The 4th Annual Pickle And Wiener Feast takes place from 5:30 p.m. until dark Friday at Cornerstone Horse Farm in Richwood. Schickel’s pickles will take center stage along with six state senators, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky basketball legend Jack “Goose” Givens, and Walton’s own Nashville recording star Troy Brooks and his fiance Kassie Jordan.
“I come from Nashville and play a lot of shows back home in Northern Kentucky throughout the year. However, one of the dates I always make sure I’m available is the day John Schickel does his Pickle Feast,” said Brooks. “John is a great person, and I’ll play as long as he has me. Plus … it sounds fun to hear you are playing at a ‘Pickle Feast.’ ”
On the menu with Schickel’s pickles will be hot dogs, fried pickles from Barleycorn’s Restaurant, craft beer from Lexington Small Craft Brewery and a keynote address from Massie.
State Sen. David Givens of Green County, State Sen. Chris Girdler of Somerset, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Scott County, Sen. Jared Carpenter of Richmond and Secretary of Agriculture Jamie Comer are also expected to attend.
Steve Brooks, owner of Brooks Meats in Walton and Troy’s dad, has been Schickel’s partner in organizing the fundraiser since its beginning. Brooks Meats sells a variety of German specialty sausages, but Brooks has kept it simple.
“We serve simple hot dogs,” said Brooks, who agrees he wouldn’t want his hot dogs to upstage his friend’s pickles.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
Donations received will benefit the Schickel State Senate campaign.
Every year, $1 ham raffle tickets are sold for the Special Olympics, Area 7.
Since the start of the event, Special Olympics has received $3,000.
Q. Why are pickles in sandwiches so polite?
A. They’re well bread!
Q. How can you tell when there’s 1,000 pounds of pickles under your bed?
A. Because you’re closer to the ceiling!
Q: What’s green and wears a mask?
A: The Lone Pickle!
Q. What happens when a PICKLE is bored?
A. He becomes very DILL!
Q: What do you call a pickle you buy at a great price?
A: A sweet Dill!
Q. Should you ever eat pickles on an empty stomach?
A. Yes, but it’s better to eat ‘em off a plate!
Q. Who does a boy cucumber dig the most?”
A. The PICKLE DISH!
Q: What is green and carries a gun?
A: Marshall Dill!
Q: What is green and swims in the sea?
A: Moby Pickle!.
Q. When can you put pickles in the door?
A. When it’s AJAR!
Q: What is green and goes through walls?
A: A pickle, But you have to throw it real hard!
Q: What is green and flies through the air?
A: Super pickle of course!
Q: What is the difference between a pickle and a psychiatrist?
A: If you don’t know you should stop talking to your pickle!
Q. Why did the cucumber need a lawyer?
A. Because it was in a pickle!
Q: What do you call a pickle who is a bad loser?
A: A sour pickle!
Q. What is green and dangerous?
A. A thundering herd of pickles!
Q. What’s green and sour and swims in an aquarium?
A. A trop-pickle fish!
Q: What do you call a frozen pickle hanging from the roof?
A: An Icepickle!
Q. What is green and pecks on trees?
A. Woody Wood Pickle!
Q. What’s black and white, black and white, black and white, and green?
A. Three zebras fighting over a pickle!
Q. What is black and white and green and black and white?
A. Two penguins fighting over a pickle!
Q. What’s red and green and guides Santa’s sleigh?
A. Rudolph the red-nosed pickle!
Q. Why doesn’t a pickle like to travel?
A. Because it’s a JARRING experience!
Q. How do you prepare a pickle sunDAE?
A. You start getting it ready friDAE and saturDAE!
Q. What business does a smart pickle go into?
A. He opens a DILLY-catessen!
Q. What’s green and red all over?
A. A sunburned pickle!
Q. What do you get when you cross an Alligator with a pickle?
Q. Why do gherkins giggle a lot?
A. They’re PICKLish!
(CNN) — The agitated sandwich shop customer disliked the pickles. Now she’s in one with the cops.
A Massachusetts woman who ordered a steak-and-cheese sub at a subway station was so angry about “too many pickles” on her sandwich that she punched an employee and shoved two jars of pickles at her, transit police said Monday.
The jars shattered and the customer fled — without the sandwich — but the brine-covered employee managed to catch up with her and hold her until transit and local police arrived, according to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Police, who said they plan to file assault charges against her.
The incident happened Saturday at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs at the Quincy subway station, the transit police said.
After Tina Drouin, 49, ordered the sub, she immediately complained the employee was “putting too much s***” on the sandwich and shouted “other derogatory comments regarding the preparation of the steak and cheese,” police said.
“It appeared the Nathan’s employee could simply not please Drouin,” they said.
Drouin demanded a refund, and when the employee told her she couldn’t get one, Drouin punched the woman in the face and then pushed large jars of pickles on her, knocking her to the ground, police said.
“Drouin fled from the station, however the sub maker determined not to let Drouin escape justice gave pursuit catching up to her” and held her until police arrived.
CNN could not reach Drouin immediately for comment.
Pickles are a popular snack, side dish, and condiment. But did you know that pickles are also a healthy part of your diet? There are many different pickle recipes out there, but each version has its own healthy benefits depending on the ingredients that went into the pickle and the method used for pickling, whether fermented or packed with vinegar. Pickles are great for most diets because not only are they low in calories, and low in fat or fat-free, many versions are also low in sugar.
Pickles are also a healthy edition to your diet for other reasons. Pickles, being made from cucumbers or other vegetables, are high in fiber which is necessary for digestive health and fighting cancer. The cucumbers and other vegetables also contain antioxidants, which fight free-radicals, and depending on the veggie, can be a good source of calcium, magnesium, and iron. The recommendation by most health professionals is to eat five servings of vegetables and fruit each day. Eating pickles is a great way to get a daily serving or two of your five-a-day!
The spices with which pickles are made are also healthy. For example, dill and garlic, both of which are popular in pickles, both have the ability to regulate bacterial growth. Dill and other spices also contain flavonoids, which is a healing addition to your diet. Mustard seeds are known to be good for digesting foods and even turmeric powder has medicinal properties and is believed to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fermented pickles also have good bacteria that can control harmful intestinal microbes. When pickles are fermented, lactic acid is created. This acid helps to lower fat in the bloodstream, improve circulation, and lower high blood pressure. It also helps to support a healthy digestive system, reintroduces good bacteria into the intestines, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, and is beneficial for diabetics. In fact, one study even found that eating fermented products regularly contributed to lower rates of skin problems, asthma, and auto-immune disorders.
Many pickles are made with vinegars. This healthy liquid has several positive properties in addition to its tangy taste. Vinegar is known to boost the immune system, ease digestive disorders, and can break down calcium deposits in a person’s joints. In addition, vinegar is known to decrease high blood pressure, and help treat urinary infections. It is even said to re-mineralize your bones, balance your blood pH, and fight infection. Vinegar is also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It inhibits the growth of the E.coli bacteria, and when used in conjunction with salt, which is common in pickling, the anti-bacterial properties are amplified.
Another common item used for pickling is apple cider vinegar. It has several additional health benefits as well. Not only does it contain several minerals, thirty-plus nutrients, and pectin, which is good for your heart, it also contains several essential amino acids, all of which are a great addition to your diet.
Pickles can be a tasty snack eaten with the confidence that you’re having something healthy at the same time – what could be better? Hey, even Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, and Cleopatra believed in the health benefits of the pickle, and Hippocrates utilized it for one of the first medicines! So if you ever needed a reason to eat more pickles, now you have it.
Copyright 2006 Jonathan Heusman