Monday, May 3, 2010

Some food groups are better than others

I recently started using a veggie/fruit co-op in my area. I really like it, because you don't get to pick what you get, and while sometimes, there are weirder veggies in the mix, mainly there is normal stuff in it to offset the oddness of kumquats.

Considering I usually always eat the same things, I am finding myself branching out into the unknown, looking up things I don't recognize on the internet (lavender lettuce with dark green edges?) and finding out how to use or cook said items.

My most recent foray into the veggie world was into the unknown goodness of artichokes. I've never cooked or eaten one in my entire life, and there were four in my basket this last weekend. I didn't want them to go to waste, as the last time I got a couple, I put them in the wrong part of the fridge and they froze into uselessness. I decided to look up how to clean and cook them, and do it right away.

I had them steaming while I was doing other kitchen duties when one of Audrey's friends' Mom called me. We were on the "whatcha doing?" track and when I mentioned "artichokes" she almost swooned through the phone...right before she let out a "You've NEVER eaten one before?" tsk tsk. She advised me to melt up a little butter and use that to dip the leaves in to eat them. "Just look at the base of the leaf, you'll figure it out," she said.

I have to admit some skepticism at this point. First of all, they are kinda weird looking. And even when they are in the spinach-cheesy dip, the only way I've ever encountered or eaten them before, they didn't bring out any oohs or ahhs from me. I have been told by others that they are just too much trouble to deal with, lots of work, little reward--so I was thinking that this exercise might turn out to be futile.

Once the time elapsed, and I had melted a little pat of butter all ready, I started peeling the leaves off. The first one made me gag a little--too close to the stem. I doggedly made my way through the rest of the leaves, finally figuring out late in the game that you can't really manhandle the leaf and start scraping it too far up with your teeth because nothing happens. Nope, the real goods are right at the tip of the leaf, and you have to be a little gentle or you'll miss the good stuff. I got to the middle and proceeded to try and remove the choke as effortlessly as I have seen it done on t.v. to get to what I'd heard was the real prize, the heart.

I looked at my meager bit of grayness in my hand and wondered why someone would work that hard for such a small return. I was unimpressed. What's all the fuss about? I thought to myself. I mean, if I am dipping something in melted butter, it had better be orgasmically good, otherwise, why bother?

I tried again with a second artichoke.

This artichoke was fleshier, and as is the natural course of things, the fleshiness made it that much better. I'd added a little lemon juice to the melted butter; by the time I got to the third leaf, my eyes closed, I let out a little sigh, and I let my tongue help coax the flesh out of the leaf juuuust so. It was heavenly. And I could see what the fuss was about. Yet I still mauled the heart into a pile of furry stuff and gray goo.

So I had to eat a third one.
I did much better this time, and the heart was worth the patience I forced myself to take with the choke. Wow. A reward at the end of all that work? Nice!

I am a little ashamed to admit that I did eat the fourth one, too. I felt somewhat hedonistic sucking the lemon butter off that last leaf, but I managed it without blushing, a tummy ache, or a cease-and-desist from the vegetarian lobby.

I don't know what got me, the warm caress of the leaf on my lower lip, or the melted lemon butter. (Seriously, you could dip a paper towel in melted lemon butter and it would be the best thing you ever tasted, wouldn't it?)

All I know is I am ready for more.

Bring it on, weird veggies. I got a steamer basket and a squeeze of lemon waiting for you.


Mrs. L said...

I thought I was old when I had my first artichoke at 11. I hated it and didn't have another until I was in my 20's -- so BRAVO for not giving up!!! And yes, without butter, lemon, parmesan, ANYTHING, artichokes taste like soggy cardboard.

Remo said...

Congrats! You've discovered food porn. If you film it, you could make a mint on you-tube. :)