Growing up in the 70’s, my mom always tried new dishes, from, sweet breads, tongue, calf’s heart, caviar, and liver. My family had a sophisticated palate. I on the other hand would complain if I tasted pepper. Although, my taste buds were not as sophisticated as the rest of my family, I was pretty sure I was exposed to a cultivated selection of food choice.
I was wrong!
Fast forward a bunch of years – I met my husband, a native Californian, 4 years my senior. After dating for a year, he invited me to come to sunny California to show me his turf.
I was a nervous young 20 year old girl who had never been to the West Coast. After stepping off the plane and being thrilled by the huge palm trees and luxurious homes. I settled in at my future in laws modest house. Looking out their dining room window, beyond their pool, was the view from LA LAW.
My future husband gave me a tour of his house and his backyard. Besides, the standard California pool, there were orange, lemon and fig trees, Birds of Paradise and stunning tropical flowers. As Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz said, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.” That is exactly what I was feeling; this was not the Atlantic Seaboard.
That week, I was your typical tourist, Rodeo Drive, Universal Studio, NBC Studio, Disney Land, Hollywood Stars, you name it.
Yet, what made me realize, that I was not as savvy as I thought, was not the avant-garde attitude of the West Coast, but what my future mother in law served at dinner, sitting on my plate was this bulky green flower. I had never seen this green pedaled bowl of food before. Everyone started peeling the leaves, dipping, scraping and discarding what appeared to be the whole piece. What was this leafy dish? My new prospective family was stunned that I had never eaten an artichoke before. I felt like the unsophisticated girl from the other side of the country. The Irony was that these people were the ones eating like animals. They were eating their food with their fingers and chucking their leftovers on their plate. And picking what appeared to be hair out of the bottom of the vegetable, and then proceeding to eat the base. Yet, I was the one to feel inexperienced and unrefined. What was going on?
27 Years ago, it was almost impossible to find artichokes at a super market on the East Coast. Before visiting California, I never had seen such a food. I came back home, and told my family and many others about this exotic vegetable native to the Mediterranean. Hardly anyone had heard or tasted it before. It is amazing how something so rare, over time has now become a weekly staple at our Shabbat table.
It took years for the artichoke to arrive in Maryland. When it finally did, one could only purchase this expensive edible bud in May at certain health food markets. In more recent years, artichokes are found at almost all super markets, at reasonable prices. I purchase them year round at Trader Joes for $2.99 for 4 artichokes. Although, it is a popular food in our home, I still find myself teaching many of our guests how to eat this thorny vegetable.
I am so thankful that 27 years ago I was introduced to this green plant. It is one of my favorite foods to eat. I am always trying new dips and usually go back to old favorites. Sophisticated or not, I found my prized fare on the pacific coast.
How to cook an artichoke
- Slice ¼ inch to ½ inch off top of artichoke.
- Wash artichoke well.
- Fill a large pot with 4-5 inches of water.
- Squeeze lemon over artichokes and water.
- Place a small plate over the artichokes, so the artichokes will stand up straight, cover pot.
- Cook for 25-45 minutes until outside leaf is easy to pull off. Remove from water.
- Mayonnaise, soy sauce, pickle juice, lemon juice and mustard.
- Sour cream and a bit of salt.
- Melted butter and salt
When was the first time you had an artichoke?
Note: Many halachic authorities do not allow the consumption of fresh artichokes due to the difficulty in checking for bugs. Please speak to your local Rabbi if you have any questions in this matter. If you don't eat fresh artichokes you can buy frozen artichoke bottoms and here you can browse through artichoke recipes.