They were in love, and no matter what anyone said … no matter how many warnings they got about the trials and tribulations of “mixed” couples, Leah and Michael were committed to each other. One of them was brown, the other white.

They had not fallen in love at first sight; their love had blossomed from a friendship in which they discovered how much they had in common and how much they cared for each other.

They were both college-educated. Their parents were not. The family of one was agnostic, the other very religious. Leah and Michael were shocked by their families’ reactions to their commitment to each other. One parent fainted while another sobbed, “Have you lost your mind?”

Leah and Michael decided to get married by a justice of the peace with two friends as witnesses. There was no need to have a big to-do. Both sets of parents were beside themselves when they learned of the marriage, but since they lived hours away from Leah and Michael, their aloofness had limited impact on the newlyweds.

For at least a year, Michael’s mother refused to visit the couple, although Leah’s mother broke down and visited them occasionally. It was almost two years before the in-laws met each other, and this meeting occurred only because Leah and Michael invited both sets of parents to visit them during the holidays without letting the parents know the others might be there.

Leah’s mother came Christmas Eve without Leah’s father. He had to work, so he said. On Christmas morning, Michael’s parents arrived. Leah met her mother-in-law for the first time. They hugged and acted as though they had been in physical contact forever.

Leah introduced her in-laws to her mother. They gave each other cordial greetings, then sat down in the living room with Michael and Leah, who tried to engage everyone in conversations. The conversations were pretty much monologues by Leah and Michael with the parents occasionally uttering an “uh-huh.”

At last, Leah was able to excuse herself to get dinner ready. Leah’s mother excused herself, too, and followed Leah into the kitchen. Culinary duties gave Leah and her mother a common focus without the need for much conversation.

When dinner was on the table, Leah went to the living room and beckoned everyone to come eat. She directed everyone to their seats, having arranged it so that her mother and mother-in-law sat next to each other.

Food was passed around the table. Michael’s mother tasted the bread-and-butter pickles and commented on how delicious they were.

“Where did you get them, Leah? Did you make them?”

“No,”Leah chirped. “My mom made them!”

“Oh,” said Leah’s mother-in-law, “I tried to make them a few times, but they never turned out right!” Michael’s dad shook his head in agreement.

“I’d love to have the recipe,” Michael’s mom continued.

“It’s quite simple,” Leah’s mom replied. “You take 6 cups of cucumbers …”

“Wait, wait, wait a minute, Mom,” Leah said. “Let me get a pen and a piece of paper.”

While Leah wrote down the recipe, Leah’s mom and her mother-in-law talked about the size of the cucumbers and how thin to cut them, not to overcook them, etc.

They nodded and laughed and touched each other on the hand or arm and had to be reminded to eat the food on their plates. My goodness! Who’d have thought that these two estranged worlds would find communion in a pickle?

Bread & Butter Pickles

6 cups sliced cucumbers

1 pound onions – sliced

1 green pepper – shredded

¼ cup salt

Mix vegetables; add salt; cover and let stand 3 hours. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Drain.


2 cups brown sugar

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 TBSP mustard seed

½ teaspoon celery seed

2 cups mild vinegar

Mix ingredients, boil 5 minutes.

Add vegetables and heat slowly to just below boiling, stirring occasionally.

Pack into hot, sterilized pint jars, filling to top; fasten covers at once.

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...