Creative Writing

Published on September 29th, 2013 | by Jesse Yancy


Local Food: Artichoke Virgins and Other Annoyances

Impulse buying is an especially bad idea when it comes to produce. Let me give you a good example.blooming_artichoke_wiki

In case you haven’t noticed it, supermarkets nowadays are laid out in such a way that the produce department is usually the first section of the store you tour. The coolness, the colors and the illusion that you are actually in some sort of open marketplace all combine to lure you into the more industrial parts of the store. Having said that, fruits and vegetables are an important part of anyone’s diet, but raw vegetables (and some fruits) take more preparation than others, and among the most labor-intensive of vegetables is the artichoke. An artichoke is the flower bud of a big-ass thistle; you even see some ornamental varieties used in expensive floral arrangements. Much like the oyster, it took a very desperate person to learn how to eat an artichoke, but once eaten, it became a delicacy.

Recently I found myself guided by corporate intent through the produce section of my grocery where I came upon a mound of beautiful, beautiful artichokes, and after a truly happy hour at a local pub, I just had to get one that was neither too tight nor too loose and had a bit of a purple blush about it, just like Martha (God bless her heart and all her other extremities) told me to select. Then I called to my drinking buddy, who was cruising the watermelons, to grab a bud of garlic and a couple of lemons. After picking up a few more items we headed for the checkout counter where he espied my artichoke.

“And what are you going to do with this?” he asked. I immediately suggested a physical improbability. Unperturbed, he replied, “No, really, what are you going to do with it?” He admitted that he’d never eaten a freshly-prepared artichoke.

Inebriation is a great initiator but a poor executor, which is how, about ten minutes later, I found myself alone in the kitchen with a beautiful artichoke, diminished incentive and a hungry guest. With reluctance, I brought a deep saucepan of water to boil. Now, you can plunge whole artichokes into boiling salted water (which takes a big pot, a hell of a lot of water and a long time) but, after trimming the stem and tips, I took the less strenuous route of steaming. This process takes about 15 minutes. Bring about a half a quart of water to boil in a saucepan, drop your dressed artichoke into it, cover and steam.

When you can pull a thick “leaf” from the middle of the bud without a lot of resistance, remove the artichoke and plunge it into cold water until it’s just warm. Drain it, scoop out the “choke” and coarsely dice the heart. Garlic butter takes little effort, but some attention: to a stick (1/4 lb.) of butter, use three crushed, finely minced garlic cloves the juice of half a lemon, and a dusting of white pepper. Heat until the butter is infused with the garlic. Some oddballs will put tarragon in artichoke dipping butter, but unless you’re fit to make a Béarnaise, give it up.

Serve the vegetable artfully arranged around a container of warm garlic butter and teach the virgin how to eat it. Then remind yourself never to snag an eggplant without thinking twice about it.


published in The Local Voice #179

May 2 – 16, 2013

Read more by Jesse Yancy:

Made in Mississippi: A Southern Gallimaufry of Food, Photography and Prose

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About the Author

Jesse Yancy is an editor, writer and photographer living in Jackson, Mississippi. A native of Bruce and a graduate of Ole Miss, Yancy is an 8th generation Mississippian who has lived and worked throughout the state.

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