I recently had occasion to seek out the Afrikaans word for ‘piccalilli’ and was surprised to find how few Afrikaans people knew what it was, even less that there was a word for this fantastic fridge-staple of mine.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word to the middle of the 18th century when, in 1758, Hannah Glasse described how “to make Paco-Lilla, or India Pickle” The more familiar form of the word appears a decade later in a book for housekeepers in a section on how “to make Indian pickle, or Piccalillo”. The spelling “piccalilli” can be seen in an advertisement in a 1799 edition of The Times.
British piccalilli contains various vegetables— invariably cauliflower and vegetable marrow —and seasonings of mustard and turmeric. A more finely chopped variety “sandwich piccalilli” is also available from major British supermarkets. It is used as an accompaniment to foods such as sausages, bacon, eggs, toast, cheese, and tomatoes. It is similar to a sweet pickle such as Branston Pickle, except it is tangier and less sweet, coloured bright yellow (using turmeric) rather than brown, the chunks are larger, and it is usually used to accompany a dish on a plate rather than as a bread spread. It is popular as a relish with cold meats such as ham and brawn, and with a ploughman’s lunch. It is produced both commercially and domestically – the latter product being a traditional mainstay of Women’s Institute and farmhouse product stalls. Piccalilli is very popular with many Britons; in fact, Bill Wyman, the bassist for the Rolling Stones, mentions in the DVD ‘Stones in Exile’ that during the band’s relocation to France due to tax troubles in 1971, the thing he missed most was British food, particularly piccalilli. (All information sourced from Wikipedia.)
Someone recently asked on Facebook what items we compulsively stock up on and – aside from obsessively hoarding toilet rolls in case I get snowed in for an extended period of time – I always have countless jars of relishes, not just piccalilli. Since I’ve been living alone, a ham and piccalilli baguette is a quite-sufficient lunch. Or a piece of roast chicken with pickled cabbage and marinated mushrooms, eaten at my desk while I work.
Or – one of my very favourite things to eat while I read the Sunday papers; cold pork sausage and mustard pickles.
Speaking of toilet rolls and pickles, I was speaking to a friend the other day and she was saying that she hates starting a new toilet roll; it’s just a personal niggle she has. I know the feeling, sort of; we have these dispensers at work and – when the old roll is used up it’s no mean feat to get the empty tube out of the contraption. Then you’re confronted with the task of getting the new roll to drop down, only to find that there is no way of getting the thing to budge without digging your nails in and shredding it to bits.