In Praise of the Relish Tray

Growing up, family meals weren't complete without my grandma's relish tray. It was always served on a divided glass platter, and usually included pitted black olives, pimento-stuffed green olives, pickled okra, tiny sweet gherkins (though we just called them pickles) and radishes, and maybe some sliced cucumbers from my grandpa's garden or a few cherry tomatoes.

The relish tray was always set out as an appetizer and on special occasions might be accompanied by a homemade cheese ball and crackers. Starting at a very young age, I would go straight for the black olives, popping one on each finger and eating them until my stomach ached. When I got a little older, the pickled okra became my favorite.

The term "relish tray" is a bit old fashioned, but the practice of putting out bite-sized fresh and pickled vegetables before a meal has never really gone away. And how many restaurants are now incorporating plates of homemade pickles into their menus?

For me, a relish tray is heavy on the pickled items and doesn't include dip – that's for another platter. My updated version might include some homemade pickled green beans and carrots or maybe a few favorites from Rick's Picks, but it still wouldn't be complete without the olives, gherkins and pickled okra.

And these recycled glass servers from Viva Terra are a great eco-friendly twist on the classic glass platter.

How about you? Did you grow up nibbling on relish trays? Do you still incorporate them into your meals?

Related: Recipe: Pickletini

(Image: Viva Terra)