Isn't that just lovely? Of course, artichokes don't often get to this beautiful flowering stage because they are picked that they might be sold around the country for $3 a piece. Now is this price too steep for the fun of sucking a small amount of edible "meat" from the leaves in one of the more labor intensive vegetable eating experiences I have encountered? Well, apparently not for some. For my part, the word on artichokes is: I just don't get it.
I don't understand why something costs that much when it is virtually tasteless (mostly just tastes like the butter or mayonnaise you dip it in ) and I'm convinced any slightly slimy thing dipped in butter would taste about the same. And clearly artichokes don't want to be eaten. They stab you with their razor sharp leaf spikes as you descend them into a boiling pot of water. More vicious than lobsters! Artichokes probably assumed (you know, if they were sentient beings) that they were relatively safe for all that. I mean who would look at them and think "Now that looks tasty. I'm going to need to eat one of those right now." My mother, an unabashed artichoke lover, has often mused on the first person to eat an artichoke and how they must have been exceedingly hungry to attempt it. There must have also been a great deal of trial and error involved. I can't imagine eating a leaf, discovering it was bitter, and then thinking "oh I see, you can only eat this tiny milimeter at the bottom; the rest is just compost!"
But enough of a rant on artichoke leaves, which if you couldn't gather, I was not a big fan of. The real reason people outside of my family seem to like artichokes is to buy the hearts, and just the hearts, in little jars of water or oil. The existence of hearts in artichokes has the added benefit of being fodder for many a cloying vegetable joke, the sort published in Reader's Digest, like "Why are artichokes so sweet?" "Because they're all heart!" No really, I think I've read that somewhere. And for the record, artichokes are not sweet at all.
The hearts, in addition to being much easier to eat and a source of questionable humor (yes, even I look down on anthropomorphizing from time to time) are a great deal more versatile. I tried them in salads, on a pizza, and they can also be put in pastas. They were admittedly better in this easier to eat form, but I still don't understand the reason for the extravagance. They don't really seem to taste like much, and their texture reminds me of a hard boiled egg. Eggs are so much cheaper. Overcook one, chop it up, and soak it in olive oil, and I doubt there would really be a difference.
I did try some artichoke dips because I always try to like at least one thing each week and that seemed like my only option. I got two: an artichoke garlic dip and a spinach and artichoke dip. The last one was perhaps a bit of a cheat because I already liked spinach dip, and honestly that was the predominant taste. And because I had the tasty spinach dip as a crutch, I tended to eat less and less of the straight artichoke dip, which without comparison, really wasn't that bad. See? "Not that bad"! There is some end to my artichoke bitterness.
So yes, to sum up: artichokes--just don't get the hype. I think after this week I need something a little easier. I've been thinking I should tackle beans (other than the previously friended "green beans" from many a week ago). I'd thought about dividing this category because there are so many beans to chose from, but the idea of a straight "lima bean" week wasn't particularly appealing. Still, it does seem rather difficult to cover the category in a single seven day period. I thought about maybe making it into two (possibly consecutive) weeks. Right now, my plan is to just start with week one and see how I go from there. So yes, I'm relying on the advice of my commenters on what beans to focus on! Thanks!
Next week: bean (feast) week!