Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The heart of the matter

 I was ill-inclined to rekindle the ashes of what had been a brief and tempestuous relationship with the globe artichoke. Last year’s debacle - an event that quickly imploded into a spectacle of profanity and vegetable abuse, was blighted from the outset and resulted in an oversized thistle making a prompt, window facilitated exit from my life.

 Simple start this time: cut the stalk off, trim the top and boil for 35-45 minutes. After draining and resting the artichoke on a board I begin to peel off the outer scales - they fall away easily, my fingertips quickly pointing out that the inner layers remain hotter than the surface of the sun. A generous slab of butter over the steaming leaves prompts an unusual development - scraping the smooth, pulpy inside of a scale into the mouth with your teeth feels odd yet strangely satisfying. Still, not one to order on a first date. A recipe I’ve found in an old book enthuses the merits of chewing on the tough outer scales too, an opinion that upon reflection, seems misguided. They’re horrid. Spooning out the furry choke is the final step en route to the heart.

 “Is that it?” remarks a visibly disgruntled girlfriend, eyeing the heart suspiciously while offering a cusory glance at the heap of debris on the board. Nonplussed, I quarter the heart before adding a sprinkle of salt and few grinds of black pepper - it’s a brief but tasty affair.

 Having spent the best part of an hour unravelling its babushka doll exterior, I’ll concede that the resultant volume of ‘choke heart matter appears less than impressive. In its uncooked form an artichoke has a fantastic sculptural beauty; the aesthetic transition is the equivalent of arriving at the Albert Hall to find Dick Van Dyke on stage performing ‘The Planets’ solo on a nose flute. No actually, I’d pay good money to see that. Maybe it is worth the effort.

Posted on 24th April 2009

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