Why Dill Pickles Deserve Some Respect

When I was a kid, my parents used dill pickles as punishment.

I gave my little sister one of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Pepper, to be precise. Two tantrums and a lecture later, I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring down a single pickle served to me on the bitter plate of punishment.

It was touch-and-go for awhile. But I survived, and I stand before you now as a pickle aficionado of epic proportions.
The elite among us understand the singular succulence of a fresh dill spear. But I just stumbled across (not upon) something even cooler: the Dil Pickle Club.

Far from simply extolling the virtues of the vegetable, however, it represented a countercultural wave of freethinkers “swimming upstream” in Depression-era Chicago. The Dil Pickle was known as a speakeasycabaret and theatre, highly influential during the Chicago Renaissance.

In 1914, John “Jack” Jones, a former organizer for the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)) started several weekly forums at the Radical Book Shop on North Clark Street in Chicago. The forums discussed labor issues along with social concerns of the day. Soon, in early 1915, Jones needed a new venue as the capacity was exceeded at the forum.

Jones found a decrepit barn on Tooker Alley, off of Dearborn Street in downtown Chicago that he would name the Dil Pickle Club. Jim Larkin joined Jones, along with the “hobo doctor” and anarchist Ben Reitman. Reitman would be instrumental in getting regular news coverage of the Pickle in the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Tribune.

By 1917, Jones created the Dil Pickle Artisans by officially incorporating it as a non-profit in Illinois for its promotion of arts, crafts, science and literature.

According to Jones: The Dil Pickles was founded by several groups of people who were convinced that they, nor for that matter no other person or group knew all there was to be known about art, literature, drama, music, science, social or political economy or any other problems confronting or bothering the human race. The various groups responsible for the formation had one idea in mind: the thought that there should be some center where any idea or work would be given a respectful hearing and brought before the public, which in the last analysis are the best judges of what they want.

The club’s legacy has seen several reincarnations, including the revived Chicago Dil Pickle Clubthe Dill Pickle Food Co-opDil Pickle Press, and the Dill Pickle Club of Portland, OR, “an experimental forum for critiquing contemporary culture, politics and humanities.”

Their old slogan is my favorite part: ‘Step high, stoop low, and leave your dignity outside.”

Pretty cool to think a humble pickle inspired an intellectual movement of this size and staying power.

Yes, it’s a yodeling pickle.


EAT some pickles, for the love of God

CONSIDER what hidden potential consumer goods may be concealing

IMPROVE your sandwiches with the easy addition of dill

TRY dill pickles with weird foods and be surprised


4 thoughts on “Why Dill Pickles Deserve Some Respect

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