the pickle is nothing more than a giant, tasty resistor. essentially, the same thing as the filament in a light bulb, which aren't as tasty, i'd imagine.
a pickle is a much less effective filament. just ask ol' thomas alva. he tried just about everything.
oh yeah, he was a jersey guy, too!
stripping an a.c cord and plugging it in, for both troubleshooting and fun purposes, is affectionately called a death cord. ask any military or aerospace engineer. (it doesn't kill you, btw. well, not right away. that's how we seperate out the lower i.q's