There was a time when fried pickles may have been considered controversial in some parts of the country, but now that it’s been suggested that you should put a pickle slice on your Oreo, that argument seems hopelessly passé. Now the question is, since we agree fried pickles are delicious, what’s the best way to eat them?
Fried food is a bit of a tightrope walk, and not just gastrointestinally: The crispy exterior should complement (not mask or overpower) whatever’s being dunked in the fryer. So when it comes to pickles, a fried spear offers a better ratio than a fried chip. When you bite down, you’re getting a good amount of pickle between that preface and epilogue of crunchy coating, with a good contrast of textures and a lot of briny flavor, which is probably why you wanted a fried pickle in the first place. The fried chips must be eaten by the basketful to really get your fill of pickle flavor, whereas just a few spears will satisfy.
The biggest complaint with fried spears is that they reach molten temperatures, thanks to their greater liquid content. This is true, and I have the scars on the roof of my mouth to prove it. But it’s a reminder that some of the best foods are worth your patience. A steak that needs to rest, a boozy Jell-O salad that takes time to set—all of it just sitting there, tantalizing but momentarily untouchable. You’ll have some of your best dinner table conversation while you cast about for subjects to distract you from your fried pickle spears until they’re safe to eat.
One of the hallmarks of bar food is that it’s meant to be eaten while you do other things, like drink, or watch sports, or fight. Your team does something good, you grab a fry or a chip in celebration. Your team does something bad, you grab a fry or a chip for consolation. You make a brilliant rhetorical point in an meaningless argument about a piece of trivia that no one else in the world actually gives a shit about, and you grab a fry or a chip and take a chomp for emphasis. Or toss it up and catch it in your mouth, like a trained seal. (Everyone around you will be very impressed, trust me.)
Bar snacks are also meant to be shared so you can save money and then show what a generous person you are by insisting that one of your companions simply must take the last piece in the basket, which means they’ll feel like a greedy pig.
Since fried pickles are a bar snack, and since they are delicious, the very best way to eat them is by the handful. You can only do that if your fried pickle comes in chip form.