Growing up, we never had artichokes. It just isn’t part of the Cuban cuisine, and really, anything that would require eating with your hands would have utterly scandalized my mother. For a time growing up she tried to have us all eat pizza with a fork and knife, until my father intervened.
I can’t remember now when I first had artichoke, but of course I loved it. It has a subtle flavor, gets dipped in sauce or stuffed with wonderful ingredients and when the hearts are mashed up, can make a crazy good artichoke dip.
Two nights ago, I made some for Jon and I. A super simple meal, I steamed the artichokes, made a chipotle ranch cream for dipping and then had a leftover bean and corn salad over a bed of lettuce. The truth is that the artichoke would have been enough for me to eat as a dinner, but one item does not a meal make.
We sat there engrossed in pulling each petal off the artichoke one at a time to dip and scrape clean with our teeth. I thought about my mother and how she so wouldn’t be into this scene. I laughed to myself, but then felt a bit sad. There we were, touching our food, lips wet from licking off the dip that would sometimes dribble down, discarding cleaned off petals, while we talked, practically cooing over how good it was. Everyone should eat food this way.
Its not just the taste though, is it? There is something so primal, sensuous, freeing even about eating food with our hands. I certainly feel it when I’m eating shrimp, or prying open a lobster leg with both hands and bringing it to my mouth to suck the delicious meat out. (don’t linger there too long) I think there is something to be said about how the utensils of our civilization separates us for the full sensory experience of eating our food.
The artichoke is a blossom, the ultimate finger food, but its also more then that. One by one you pull off its petals, unfurling this flower until you reach its heart. Its not just the destination that is significant here… its the journey. Each leaf, delicious and offering a teaser of what is to come. Its like this amazing ritual where you eat your way to the heart of things. I love to eat them slow, linger and somehow make the meal last as long as possible. I’m always disappointed when I’m done with it.
Best way to have them in my opinion is steamed unseasoned paired with a garlic aioli, melted garlic and herb butter, or like I made fresh on this night, a creaming chipotle dressing.
Touch your food… feed yourself from greasy fingers… then come back here and tell us about it!