Artichoke Virgins and Other Annoyances

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of anyone’s diet, but raw vegetables and fruits take preparation, and among the most labor-intensive is an artichoke, which–when it boils down to it–is nothing less than the flower bud of a big-ass thistle. Much like the oyster, it likely took an act of desperation for the first person to eat an an artichoke. The motivations of the first human to taste bovine milk are perhaps best left to speculation.

Once after a truly happy hour at a local bar, a companion and I stopped at the store on my way home and came upon a mound of beautiful, beautiful artichokes that were neither too tight nor too loose and had a bit of a purple blush about them, just like Martha says they should. I just had to get a couple. Then I called to my drinking buddy, who was cruising the watermelons, to grab a bud of garlic and a couple of lemons. After picking up a few more items we headed for the checkout counter where he espied my artichokes.

“And what are you going to do with these?” he asked. I immediately suggested a physical improbability. Unperturbed, he replied, “No, really, what are you going to do with it?” He admitted that he’d never eaten a freshly-prepared artichoke.

Inebriation, dear hearts, is a great initiator but a poor executor, which is how, about ten minutes later, I found myself alone in the kitchen with two beautiful artichokes, diminished incentive, and a hungry guest. Persevering, I heaved a vast sigh and began cooking.

To cook fresh artichokes, bring a half a quart of salted water to boil in a 2-quart saucepan, add no more than four truncated, trimmed, and stemmed artichokes, cover, bring to a rolling boil, and steam for about 20 minutes. When you can stick a toothpick in the heart of the bud without a lot of resistance, remove artichokes and plunge into cold water until cooled. Invert into a colander to drain. Serve with warm garlic butter, and teach virgins how to eat.

One Reply to “Artichoke Virgins and Other Annoyances”

  1. Artichokes are worth the trouble, no question. But often the prettiest, roundest ones are disappointingly tough, or have puny little smidgens of flesh on the leaf—hardly worth scraping with the teeth—whereas some really pitiful-looking ones can surprise you with their succulence!

    Question for you, Jessey, or another reader: do you know a source (farmers’ market vendor) that sells the tiny, tender purply ones like those found in Italy and France?

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