The chap at the market stall was incredulous. ‘Why would you want to buy that? I wouldn’t. It’s just a little bit in the middle that you eat isn’t it (okay – he said ‘innit?’)? I’ll leave it to them Italians!’ But at £1.50 a pair of huge, round, intriguing, foreign looking globe artichokes I thought I’d take a risk.
I was born and brought up in Cold War Poland where broccoli was exotic; The Weather Man in the deepest Yorkshire where they had never seen aubergines. We are philistines in Mediterranean conviviality of simple food. We tend to guard our selfish individual portions on the plate with a knife and fork. Sharing is suspicious and wearisome – there’s never an even number of bits and each sharing plate ends with the tedious: ‘this is yours’, ‘no, the last bit is yours’, ‘you have it’, ‘are you sure?’ litany. (I do like to exaggerate HUGELY)
Artichokes are all that, and more. I was very unhopeful trimming and steaming them, mixing the fancy mayo dips as I thought it would just end with taking a bite; going ‘bleurgh’ and in the bin.
Again it transpires those Med nations know a thing or two about how to eat. What you do with the chokes couldn’t be simpler: steam or boil them and dish them out with some spicy dips. It’s messy – finger job no doubt, and since the heads stay on the communal plate, there’s scrabbling to pull out tasty leaves and drown them in spicy mayo, then scrape the flesh off the leaves with your teeth. And at the end the main prize: divvying up the heart of the choke.
Not pretty; not much food and absolutely no fine dining involved. Tremendous fun. And BTW - we're eating thistles in case you didn't realise.