“Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke.”
Bette Davis in All About Eve
I have so loved artichokes, even since I was a young boy. I find their rather uninviting, yet intriguing exterior to be a wonder…..much like the lobster…who was the first person brave enough to decide that this was something to eat?!!? And then there is the eating process itself: pulling off leaves and sliding them between your upper and lower teeth to remove flesh, having to avoid the choke…because if you don’t …. you will….choke, that is! Finding the tender heart and snatching it out to slowly devour it, dripping with hot butter. Wow — sounds a bit ritualistic and frightening.
Rather than go into the bloody detail of it all, if your are interested in step-by-step directions, go to: http://www.wikihow.com/Eat-an-Artichoke
The more I think and write on this subject the more I wonder why I even began! So in my just-past-middle-aged wisdom, I decided to grow my own artichokes…… what else should an aging Tin Man do to entertain himself (?), my rusty knees can’t get in and out of an inappropriate sports car and it is too hard to keep a toupee on top of this funnel head! In my first attempt, I order plants [at a whim] and put them in the garden ….. during the drought, when temperatures remained over 100 degrees — did I mention that artichokes like cooler temperatures……so I nursed my plants through the searing heat, as they turned their burnt faces up to me every day and wondered why I was holding them hostage in this horrific hades of a place. As the temperatures cooled and they began to look as though survival was possible, a young lad offered to till the garden…………yes, you guessed it …..goodbye artichokes!
So as the Fall approached, with promises of a mild Winter, I began my quest once again….and found an amazing person who sends the most wonderful plants in the world: http://www.sweetheartartichokes.com/buy.htm Should you ever decide that you too want to wander down this path, I strongly suggest acquiring plants from her.
So the plants arrived and were so most lovely…………………… into the ground they went far from the garden, in a place the tiller could not go! Guess what……Spring is here and we have ARTICHOKES!!!
You, of course, know by now that I could have purchased approximately 300 artichokes for what I have endured; however, what satisfaction would lie in taking that route! I do know that if I am ever in possession of 300 artichokes at once, I shall give them to the flying monkeys to hail down on the head of the Wicked Witch of the West who lives at the bottom of the hill, in retribution for NEVER removing her garbage can from the curb! Click here for more information about that.
Moving on…………see how beautiful the plants have become……so lush and green, bursting with life!
…………..and now the fruit is bursting forth!!! Somehow, I am expecting a catastrophic event to put an end to this.
Did you know that the artichoke even has its own legend!??! It seems that according to an Aegean legend and in a song by the poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the first artichoke was a lovely young girl [Cynara] who lived on the island of Zinari. Zeus was visiting (as he often did) his brother Poseidon one day when, as he emerged from the sea, he spied a beautiful young mortal woman. She was not frightened by the presence of a god, and therefore; Zeus seduced her.
He was so pleased with Cynara the he decided to make her a goddess, so that she could be nearer to his home on Olympia [can’t you hear the church lady proclaiming: “isn’t that special!”] Cynara agreed to the promotion and Zeus anticipated all sorts of trysts with her when his wife, Hera as away…..oh the lives of gods and goddesses! But as luck would have it, Cynara missed her mother and was homesick, so she snuck back to the land of mortals for a visit. Zeus found this behavior appalling and hurled her back to earth and transformed her into the plant we now know as the artichoke.
In his journal of June 19, 1576, Pierre de L’Estoile writes:
“The Queen Mother ate so much she thought she would die, and was very ill with diarrhoea. They said it was from eating too many artichoke bottoms and the combs and kidney of cockerels, of which she was very fond.”
Eating an artichoke is like getting to know someone really well.”
“These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual “food” out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead.”
…………lovely thoughts………just had to share them, now go eat an artichoke!