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Inviting Writing: Fear of Artichoke-ing

Ready for another chapter of Inviting Writing? Our theme this month is "food and fear." Some people need food to get over certain fears; others need to get over their fear of certain foods. And some people, like writer Elizabeth Bastos (aka blogger Goody Bastos), have rather frightening imagination...

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Ready for another chapter of Inviting Writing? Our theme this month is "food and fear." Some people need food to get over certain fears; others need to get over their fear of certain foods. And some people, like writer Elizabeth Bastos (aka blogger Goody Bastos), have rather frightening imaginations...

Artichoke-ing By Elizabeth Bastos

Courtesy Flickr user Thomas Hawk

“The artichoke is a flower that you eat,” my mom told me when I must have been about eight. “But, you have to be careful—" she said, pausing for maximum drama, “inside all those leaves there is a choke.”

A choke?

“If you don’t get all those little spiky leaves and hairs out, you could choke on them, that’s why they call it the choke.”

There was that word again. Choke! This was a dish that had possible death at its heart. Plus...it really had a heart. Is there anything more terrifying than a vegetable with a heart? It made the artichoke seem animate, mammalian. Maybe it even nursed its young; who knew?

So when my mom said, “Here, have a bite. Take a bite of this sweet and tasty heart, it’s the best part,” I absolutely could not. I had been learning about cannibalism; Call It Courage was my 2nd-grade required reading (I wonder now who on earth thought that was a good idea. It’s about a young boy fleeing from Pacific Island cannibals who presumably want to rip out and roast his heart).

I began to be afraid every time my mom served artichokes, even afraid of the benign pool of silken, lemony Hollandaise sauce that came with them. Either someone was going to choke or a heart would be eaten, and somehow, horrifyingly, it would not be a big deal!

Of course, now that I am an adult, I feel the fear and do it anyway. Artichokes are a spring delicacy I look forward to. And, vegetable cannibal that I am, I think the heart drenched in lemon butter is the best part. It's worth risking everything for.
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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