Pickle-Ice Flavored Freeze Pops are, horrifyingly, exactly what they sound like. Van Holten’s—a company known for making the sloshy, individually packaged pickles you see covered in dust on gas station counters—has created an ice pop out of pickle brine and electrolytes. “A refreshing treat on a hot day,” typed the Van Holten’s intern on the product website, right before giving his work-issued laptop a big wink.
Selling leftover garbage juice as a refreshing treat is cutthroat and shrewd. This is the pickle-world equivalent of the hog industry’s “everything but the squeal” ethos. Even though I respect the game, I hate that Pickle-Ice exists. I hate even more that I bought an eight-count bag and froze it for my immediate consumption.
If I had been asked how to market Pickle-Ice, I might have suggested: “Dessert to Ruin a Dinner Party” or “Popsicles for Naughty Children.” Instead, Van Holten’s has puzzlingly chosen to present Pickle-Ice as the ultimate athletic rehydration and muscle-recovery supplement. The pouches feature powerfully thighed silhouettes running, biking, and flying through the air like vinegar-filled Michael Jordans, ready to dunk into a basket that one assumes exists behind the proscenium of the Pickle-Ice logo. Absolutely none of these athletes appears to be cramping.
The aforementioned pouches are terrible to the touch, made of cheap, non-insulated plastic. Otter Pops may slice the corners of your mouth like The Carver from Nip/Tuck, but at least you can eat one without fingertip frostbite. It’s clear that no one on the product-development team bothered to hold a prototype of Pickle-Ice, which is the kind of blasé work ethic I applaud.
Cutting open the pouch, the texture is that of the frost clump that’s been accumulating in the back of your freezer since 2003. The hardness of the ice means the acrid flavor is not given an adequate vehicle; after the briefest melt, the brine sinks, leaving you to gnaw on a piece of tasteless cold. This moment of culinary ennui is serenity compared to what follows: a rapid river of dill-pickle liquid launching itself into you. While this isn’t completely unbidden (you’re eating something called Pickle-Ice, after all), it is highly unpleasant—sort of like how you can buy a ticket to a haunted house but still not love it when a mutilated clown waves a chainsaw in your face. The juice tastes of sharp, chemical sour; it’s hard to pick up any nuances when it consistently bypasses your tongue to land directly on your uvula. If you do not enjoy coughing, this is not the snack for you.
Après-Pickle-Ice, you’re left with the dully medicinal feeling of leaving urgent care after a particularly strenuous strep throat swab.
So that’s that.
Except…a few days later, I find myself pawing through the freezer for another neon-green pop to give it another shot. And then again, the next day. And then later that afternoon. It’s only after I take the suggestion on the box to “try unfrozen” (i.e., drink warm vinegar from a flimsy tube) that I come to realize that I’ve landed in a Venn diagram of the mere-exposure effect and masochism, wherein the intersection of the circles reads: I’ve acquired a taste for Pickle-Ice Flavored Freeze Pops.
I wish I could blame Van Holten’s for luring me in with forbidden fruit, but it’s clear to me that in buying the forsaken product in the first place, a speck of potential darkness already existed within me.
As for my future hauling this pickle-shaped albatross around my neck? My enamel may erode and nobody may want to share snacks with me at the pool, but I’ll be damned if my dunk game doesn’t get sick as hell.