How to Cook an Artichoke

Submitted by Virginia Watts on Mon, 09/08/2014 - 15:59

Today the news is full of predictions. The end of natural food sources, the end of water supplies, the grim fact of more global warming than previously predicted, the unsolvable conflicts in the Middle East, the immorality of the corporate world. So my choice is not to focus on any of those particulars but to get right down to the business of offering my experience with cooking artichokes. How mundane. But I think you will see my point as you read along.

When I was newly married and honing my cooking skills, I asked my grandmother how to cook an artichoke. Looking back on her answer from the distance of forty years, I am not sure she understood the question. But she answered it anyway. She told me to soak the artichokes for forty-five minutes in heavily salted water in order to make sure they were clean and there were no bugs. Then I was to put them in boiling water for the same length of time. As I recall I did not follow her advice, but my own good sense and simply rinsed the artichokes and simmered them until they were tender. Sometimes you have to fall back on what you just know in your gut. I never told her I didn't follow her advice. Since then I have discovered that there are growing numbers of recipes for cooking these amazingly delicious and challenging thistles. Of course. And don't get me started on ways to peel an onion.

Humans are resourceful. I think that one fact probably is more important than many, many others. And humans can make good choices about how to manage their daily lives, their nutrition, their relationships and their ways of earning a living. Good choices for each human means good choices for the planet. Good choices about planting, harvesting, storing, and preparing food for our families are good choices for the planet. The problem is how much of the time we are handed answers from those who would profit from our personal decisions.

I'm not saying my grandmother was going to profit from telling me how to cook an artichoke, not that at all. But she was going to hold onto her place as the one who had answers, was going to be viewed as the wise one because that was the place she had earned. There are a lot of people and corporations who want to hold onto their places because it continues to give them status, power, profit. Even the non-GMO, organic, granola people. And I do believe that our food choices should be local, non-GMO, and healthy. But sometimes I wonder about profit-motives behind the corporate granola people too. It's become a very popular selling point, at least in my part of the world. And we will pay a lot for the advertised health and ecological benefits.

My religious background teaches moderation in all things (well, some of the time). And although I am no longer involved with any religious institution, I still think this particular dictum a wise one. So I am practicing moderation. It not only saves my frayed nerves when trying to do the right thing, but it also saves time, money, and effort. But the good choices I make for myself may not be yours. Your good choices will be good for you.

I hope that if you eat artichokes you have your own great process for cooking them. And I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labor with whatever delicious dipping sauce you feel is right. My choice would be "drawn" butter, and that is my grandmother's phrase. Plenty of melted butter can be good on just about anything.