I love to cook and bake. I don’t do nearly as much now that our kids are grown and gone, but I still enjoy trying new recipes. Although I don’t subscribe to any recipe-related websites, articles regularly show up in my inbox with titles such as “20 meals to make in 30 minutes or less,” or “Twelve things to make in a muffin tin besides muffins.” I usually skim through them, and often find a few that I want to try.

One that caught my eye recently was a recipe for Pickled Peppers. As soon as I read it, I found myself thinking, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” (I’ll bet you did, too!)

That’s when something occurred to me: As often as I’ve recited that old tongue twister since first learning it as a kid, to this day I’ve never had any idea what pickled peppers were. No clue as to what they looked like, what they tasted like, let alone how many were in a peck. Or, for that matter, how Peter Piper could have ever picked pickled peppers in the first place. Wouldn’t he have had to pick the peppers first, and then pickle them?

I realize, of course, that none of this was ever meant to be taken literally, and that the Peter Piper quotation was originally a means to help students practice proper pronunciation. Still, this all made me very curious about pickled peppers themselves, so I printed out the recipe, bought some peppers, and set about pickling them.

They turned out okay, but in my opinion – and my husband’s – were nothing special. They may be an acquired taste, or the perfect accompaniment to something else that I don’t know about. But I didn’t think the recipe was worth keeping, so I tossed it after one try. Still, I’m glad I made it once, and I’ll now picture actual pickled peppers whenever I hear a reference to Peter Piper’s Pickled Peppers.

This whole episode got me thinking about things we hear or repeat often, without ever stopping to wonder where they came from, or what they really mean. Song lyrics we know by heart, but that make no sense when we actually stop and analyze them. Common sayings like “That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” or phrases such as “Rule of thumb.”

Just for fun, I’m going to see if I can catch myself saying or thinking any of these strange-but-common quips and quotes. If I do, I’ll stop and analyze them, and perhaps even Google them to determine their origin. I doubt that I’ll discover anything earth-shattering, but it will make a good mental exercise, and I’m sure I’ll learn a few things I never knew before. And that’s always worth something.

Even if it’s not a peck of pickled peppers.

October 4, 2021
©Betty Liedtke, 2021

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